Kelsey, Nancy (1823–1896)

Nancy Kelsey was the first white woman to cross the Sierra Nevada and arrive in California with an overland party. She was only 18 when she, her husband, Benjamin, and his brothers, Andrew and Samuel, left from Missouri in 1841 to travel to California as members of the Bartleson-Bidwell Company. Kelsey was one of five women in the party who traveled together, under the guide of Thomas Fitzpatrick, to Soda Springs, Idaho. Here the party separated, with a majority deciding to travel the better-known route to Oregon instead of the unknown way to California. Her husband decided to continue on to California with Nancy and their baby daughter, Martha Ann. The trip was perilous and the group encountered Indians, some helpful and some hostile. They ...

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