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About this blog

This blog commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Whitney Survey. Over the next four years we’ll be posting excerpts from the journals of William H. Brewer, field leader of the Survey, in real time plus 150 years.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2011 1:45 pm

    If you would like any images or scans for this blog from our archives please get in touch.

    • William H. Brewer permalink*
      February 24, 2011 4:27 pm

      Thanks, Andrew. I will definitely be in touch.

    • Wanda Guibert permalink
      June 20, 2011 8:21 am

      I received your post through a Google alert about San Juan Bautista. Can I subscribe to your blog? This is very interesting!

      • William H. Brewer permalink*
        June 20, 2011 4:21 pm

        Thanks for the kind comment, Wanda! I looked around some and it appears that if you register with WordPress (free), then you can subscribe to any WordPress blog (the Subscribe option will be at the top of the screen when you visit here). Subscribing doesn’t appear to be an option if you aren’t registered with WordPress.

  2. Carol permalink
    November 25, 2011 11:58 am

    I’m working on a project that this blog specifically addresses. I’m very interested in it. I am trying to find maps to tell me if these trails or paths or roads were actually there around the turn of the century. Were these surveyors following a compass, or a road, trail, etc., or a combination of those? This is an old post, so I’m not sure you’re still checking for communication, but I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!

    • November 28, 2011 8:57 am

      Hi Carol,

      I’m not sure I have much information for you, but I’m happy to give it a try. The general answer is, it depends; their early travels were mostly along wagon roads (although the stretch from Ventura to Santa Barbara sounds like more of a trail), while later on they got into areas (in the Sierra, e.g, in 1863-64) they got into areas that had no established trails. If you’re asking specifically about the Panoche road, this was definitely an established wagon road as of 1861, serving the New Idria mines (I don’t know if there was a road continuing east from the New Idria junction at that time).

      Feel free to e-mail me at tvhilton [at] gmail [dot] com if you have specific questions about the route they traveled. And thanks for reading!

      Tom Hilton

  3. May 19, 2012 10:31 am

    This is so great. Imma huge California and Brewer enthusiast. Might I suggest that you also publish this on a Facebook page so that more people might follow this amazing journey?

  4. Dr, Dean Taylor permalink
    February 13, 2013 10:48 am

    for several yrs beginning about 1994 I spent considerable time curatingthe Brewer and other Geological Survey plant specimens at UC Berkeley; I have written detailed notes for their travels 1861-1864 and would be happy to give you my analysis of Brewer’s route if you would email me

    • William H. Brewer permalink*
      February 13, 2013 10:58 am

      Thank you! Will send e-mail shortly.
      –Tom Hilton

  5. Marsha permalink
    March 20, 2013 12:59 pm

    I came across a copy of Brewer’s book Up and Down CA a few years ago and have enjoyed and recommended it to many people and CA history museums up and down CA since-if they didn’t stock it. I just found your blog and really enjoy your photographs. You are a great photographer and your pictures of flowers and locations 150 years later complement Brewer’s writing. Is there a CA flower/plant pocket guide that you can recommend for cross referencing the scientific to common names when hiking?

    • William H. Brewer permalink*
      March 20, 2013 3:14 pm

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

      I don’t know of a great pocket-sized guide that covers the whole state. I’ve used the Peterson Guide, which I like in a lot of ways, but it’s way out of date on a lot of the scientific names (which have been changing a lot over the last few years). The most comprehensive is the Jepson Manual, of course, but it’s expensive and not exactly portable.I think your best bet may be to look for something focused on the area(s) where you hike the most. Sorry I can’t be more help…
      –Tom Hilton

  6. Marsha permalink
    March 21, 2013 8:58 pm

    Jepson does look like a classic reference book with a hefty price tag. I’m going with Peterson’s guide unless I find a nice overlooked lower priced version in a used bookstore.
    Thanks for your suggestions.
    Looking forward to seeing your future blogs and pictures. Ima fan. Marsha

  7. May 16, 2013 2:06 pm

    This is wonderful! Is it ongoing? Or has it come to an end? I wish I’d discovered it a few years ago. What a terrific idea this is.

    • William H. Brewer permalink*
      May 16, 2013 2:13 pm

      Thank you! It’s still going on…Brewer still has a year and a half of traveling to do. Check out the main page for current postings. (There’s also a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, if those are more convenient ways to follow.) Enjoy!

  8. June 12, 2013 9:13 am

    This is quite a remarkable project – thanks for sharing 🙂

    • William H. Brewer permalink*
      June 12, 2013 9:44 am

      Thank you! Glad you like it.

  9. July 23, 2013 11:24 pm

    Just saw a PBS program on the local Sacramento station about the history of the Western States Trail which was an important emigrant and miner trail across the Sierra in the 1800s. The program talks about Brewer and Co. using the trail in late August (28/29), 1863 and the disparaging comments he had about the trek. Interesting. The DVD of the 1 hour program is available on the Tevis cup website for only $5. A bargain for a fascinating account of an important piece of western history.!/~/product/category=2896064&id=4875538


    • William H. Brewer permalink*
      July 25, 2013 12:51 pm

      Thanks for the tip–sounds like a fascinating program. Sounds like it ran a ways south of today’s I-80; late August is when Brewer passed through Michigan Bluff and Foresthill.

  10. November 16, 2014 10:49 am

    This has been a terrific journey for me. Because of life, I’ve missed numerous posts, but have read along as I can. I don’t know who else has been along, but I’m grateful that you did it.

  11. July 30, 2016 11:49 am

    Tom/WHB: I really love what you did/have done with this. Brewer was a great observer and fine writer, and the travelogue he provided in his letters still seems fresh. You make his narration come alive with your photography. Very impressive all the territory you covered to document the territory he covered.

  12. July 30, 2016 11:52 am

    What a trip to see this blog pop up in my email, again! @Dan Brekke–it really was a wonderful thing following along.

  13. Brian Burke permalink
    August 10, 2016 6:35 pm

    I also enjoy this book, I listen to it on my walks. I am interested in the techniques and equipment they used ( a barometer in a large box) which they carried up to the top of mountains and measured the height.
    Anyone have any pictures or written procedures?
    I believe what they did was to keep a careful written record of the barometer as they traveled from sea level up into the mountains. They also has a second barometer back at camp and the camp person recorded the barometer reading at each hour so that when the expedition arrived at a mountain summit, they would set up their second barometer and record the reading on the next hour according to their pocket watch. After returing to camp the two sets of readings at the same hour would be compaired and a height could be calculated.

    Please comment. What a tremendous task!!!!

    Second question: is there any way to ‘search’ this blog for any discussions of this nature?

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