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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A year of American travel

Jessie Benton Frémont (1824-1902), the daughter of a Missouri Senator and wife of explorer John Charles Frémont, first came to California in 1849, when she and her young daughter spent six months at her husband's newly-acquired ranch at Mariposas, 140 miles east of San Francisco. The Frémonts also spent the years 1851-1852 and 1857-1861 at the Mariposas ranch before moving to St. Louis during the Civil War. They returned to California in 1887 and made Los Angeles their home for the rest of their lives. A year of American travel (1878) was written by Mrs. Frémont to earn badly-needed money for her family after her husband went bankrupt in 1873. Here she describes her first trip to California in 1849: the voyage and crossing at Chagres, life on the Mariposas ranch, visits to San José and Monterey, the life of women in California, the plight of the Mission Indians, the slavery controversy in the territory, and the Monterey Constitutional Convention of 1849. The book closes with the Frémonts' return to the East when Frémont assumed his seat in the U.S. Senate.



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