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Free Men. Free Soil. Frémont!

Miscellaneous articles by Bob Graham relating how the study of navigational and hypsometrical technologies available to navigators and surveyors of earlier historical periods can lead to the discovery of lost sites, or the identification of disputed sites, and other neat stuff.

You can search the entire website for keywords above.
See also the recents button.

goWho mapped the course of the Humboldt River on the Frémont-Preuss 1848 Map of Oregon and Upper California?
Preuss was not on the third expedition.
Was Frémont there on the Humboldt?

go Measuring the angular diameter of the planet Jupiter without optics.
Without getting out of bed.
go And a 16C determination of longitude in the South Pacific on Drakes circumnavigation.

goFinding the vantage of 3rd expedition artist Edward "Ned" Kern's beautiful 1846 drawing of the Sutter Buttes identified. Also called The Buttes of the Sacramento, and Los Picos de Sutter, the Buttes were Frémont's headquarters during the days that led up to the Bear Revolution--a rallying point for the settlers because they could be seen for over 100 miles in any direction. They are sometimes referred to as the world's smallest mountain range, and sometimes as the southernmost volcano of the Cascade Volcanos.
And also an exact correlation with the 1841 drawing of Lt. Emmon's camp at the Buttes, as drawn by Wilkes Expedition artist Alfred T. Agate.

go Never determined or put to map before, the route of Frémont's 3rd expedition as it crossed the Sierra into California in December 1845. The route taken to beat the snows of coming winter by Frémont and a 15-man detached flying column was across the pass used by emigrants that became known as Donner Pass. However, his exploratory descent route taken from that pass to Sutter's Fort was south of the emigrant road, and actually anticipated the route of the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR) and the wagon road built in the 1860s to build that railroad, today's Interstate 80.

COMING. The exploratory route of the spring of 1846 from Sutter's Fort up the Valley as far as Redding--this has also never been put to a map.
This valley route will make use of deseños (land plats) of the Mexican grants made to settlers in the 1840s.
Here a portion of a contemporary sketch made of Lassen's Rancho Bosquejo by William B. Ide. Some of the science done here was as follows:
"From the 30th of March to the 5th of April, the mean temperature was 40° at sunrise, 52°.5 at nine in the morning, 57°.2 at noon, 59°.4 at two in the afternoon, 58°.4 at four, and 52° at sunset; at the corresponding times the dew point was at 37.°0, 38.°1, 39.°6, 44.°9, 40.°5; and moisture in a cubic foot of air 2.838 grs., 3,179 grs., 2,935 grs., 3.034 grs., 3.766 grs., 3.150 grs. respectively."

And on April 14 and 16, astronomical observations were made which became one of the four Astronomical Stations upon which the 1848 Frémont-Preuss map of the west was constructed: N39° 57' 04", W121° 56' 44".
To follow this will be the route from Peter Lassen's to Klamath Lake.

My daughter Clara came up with ther idea of using the Google® API.
go Here is a beginning of the 1846 exploration of the Sacramento Valley. I will be plugging in data for positions and paths for some time to come :-)

go Frémont's contributions to the new sciences of meteorology and climateology.

Richard. V. Francaviglia, Mapping and Imagination in the Great Basin: a Cartographic History, University of Nevada Press, Reno, 2005. "A description of the daunting physical realities of the Great Basin with a cogent examination of the ways humans, from early Native Americans to nineteenth-century surveyors to twentieth-century highway and air travelers, have understood, defined, and organized this space."
In this very excellent book of early maps and mapping of the Frémont's "Great Basin," author Richard V. Francaviglia suggests and discusses the possible explanations for just what was intended to be represented by a nonexistent transverse range depicted on the watershed 1848 Frémont-Preuss map of the West.
go Here we take a further in depth look at how that range was originally depicted, how the Great Basin was defined, and how Frémont himself corrected the map on his 5th expedition.

go HYPSOMETRY: A study of the mid-nineteenth century methods of determining elevations used by Frémont in his surveys, the source of the errors which resulted, and how they can can be corrected to yield new and valuable information.
I have just added the results of a simple practical experiment in the use of the thermometer for determining elevation. It will be found at the bottom of this article. go Go to it directly
Also new links to Brewer's and Williamsons's work.

This article is adapted fromTHE CROSSING. This site, and many of the articles in it, are a companion to the book at right. The New Edition November 2000.

go The MOUNTAIN BAROMETER. A description of Frémont's barometers and of a remarkable field repair in 1842.

go Handy formulas to determine elevation by barometer or boiling point and to reduce upper level barometric readings to mean sea level equivalent.

go Hypsometrical results from the 1855 Sierra Nevada wagon road survey by George H. Goddard and Sherman Day.

Frémont Peak, or Mount Woodrow Wilson? Which was it?
Much new material has been recently added: including a link to a new page which examines the approach route from the astronomical station established on the New Fork River near Two Buttes.
Four different opinions presented, including an examination of Bonney & Bonney's 1960 determination for Mt. Woodrow Wilson. Includes a record of the baromeric determinations made on the climb, compass bearings recorded, and a summary of Expedition movements in the area.
Much is added re the routes and new DEM renderings.

go THE OTHER FREMONT PEAK: "Facts more terrible than thunder! Lightning, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions! Hear! Hear! Great news! War! Capt. Frémont of the United States Topographical Corps with sixty or more mounted riflemen has fortified himself on the heights between San Juan and Don Joaquin Gomez' rancho..." Capt. Weber to John Marsh.
The beginnings of a new and deeper look at the location of the Gabilan [Gabvilan, Hawks] Peak incident of March 1846. This is in progress, and will contain input from Darrell Boyle, a local landowner (Gabilan Cattle Company) and California State Parks historian Matt Bischoff. There will be photos added after a perusal of the area.

go GPS, LATITUDE, and the Discovery of Frémont's Long Camp.The Long Camp was reached by the advance party on February 10, 1844 and was occupied through the 19th as the road up from Markleeville (nearly twenty miles) was constructed to get the horses and mules up the steep canyon and across the deep snow. It was the base used for explorations ahead. From the nearby peaks the Central Valley was in view to the west, and Lake Tahoe was first seen to the north east.

An examination of previous attempts at location the route and camps added.
go Hiking directions to Frémont's Long Camp.

Frémont's Long Camp is now a GEOCACHING site.

Click the GEOCACHING icon to visit the page.
Anyone with a GPS device can participate in this popular new hobby. There are probably many geocaches right near you. Geocacher LFlood found it: Thank you for your scholarship and efforts to preserve our history. This is a highly deserving cache location. I'm glad it is still in its pristine state.

go MOUNTAIN HOWITZER: Lost cannon parts found? Herb Kuehne of Kirkwood, CA tells us of items on display at the Humboldt-Toyage National Forest Ranger Station in Bridgeport. Herb took photographs of the parts and of three iron tires. They have been identified by Lt. Col. Paul Roswitz as the axle strap and trunnion plate of a pre-1848 US-made copy of the French mountain howitzer carriage. There is much to this story, including probable verification of previous discovery and removal in the mid 19C.
Moving gif image by Clara Graham when 12 years old.

go Brief biographies on some of the men: Frémont, Carson, Preuss, Godey, and Fitzpatrick.

go THE ROUTE FROM MARKLEEVILLE: A walking examination following Frémont's narrative of the 1844 winter route from Markleeville to Charity Valley and the first view of Carson Pass. Contains photographs, maps, and the location of a new campsite discovery. The place where Washoe Indians told Frémont that he could not make it across the mountains -- "Rock upon rock. Snow upon snow."
go Also, an assessment of the route itself, comparing it to later wagon roads.

go AN OVERVIEW OF THE 1844 ROUTE FROM MARKLEEVILLE TO CARSON PASS. This presents an examination of a determination of latitude on February 5th, 1844 which is the key to the route and to the reported distances traveled. It reconciles the travel distances reported in the narrative with the distances reported in the Table of Distances. It reconciles the stages/camps shown on the expedition maps with the actual campsites as reported in the narrative. This answers what had been my own biggest puzzle for five years!

go Excerpts from The Crossing. This will change to other days from time to time.

go Mount Diablo--Carson's the little mountain? An examination by Bob Graham and Peter Lathrop.


go LAKE TAHOE DISCOVERED! Two accounts: Frémont's narrative of February 14, 1844, and a recent climb of Red Lake Peak by Peter Lathrop of Carson City, NV.

go SNOWSHOES. Frémont used them to scale the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1844. Where did he get them?

go How bad does a starved mule taste without salt?


go Frémont's contributions to METEOROLOGY; seminal work, but a Definitive result.
Includes evidence of possible climatic changes.

go Frémont's contributions to BOTANY. "Among Frémont's most lasting and important works are those in the field of botany, a field large largly ignored by his boigraphers." Stanley L. Welsh

go Frémont's contributions to GEOLOGY.

go BUNCOMBE DEPARTMENT: "Jessie really wrote the Report." Calumny lingers still.

Note: Alan H. Hartley, a researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary, from Duluth, Minnesota, tells us at longcamp.com that Frémont's Reports (The Expeditions of John Charles Frémont, Jackson & Spence edition), Geographical Memoir upon Upper California, and Memoirs of My Life, and Torry's Plantae Frémontianae have yielded nearly 600 citations for possible inclusion in the OED.

go The FIRST (and little-known) biography of Kit Carson, 1847.

go LONGITUDE AND THE BUENAVENTURA RIVER, or Frémont's Determination of Coordinates. A study of the mid-nineteenth century methods of determining positional coordinates used by Frémont in his surveys.
Was Frémont really looking for the Buenaventura River?

goHOW DID FRÉMONT BECOME A SURVEYOR AND MAP MAKER? AND, HOW GOOD WAS HE? A look at his education and training in mathematics and science.

How polaris has moved 2 degrees closer to the celestial pole during recorded California history, and why Frémont got up at 3:00 a.m. and stand in the snow to sight polaris--hadn't it there all night long?



go FRÉMONT BIOGRAPHICAL information start here.

go A MAN TOO POPULAR: Frémont's Capitulation of Couenga and Emancipation Proclamation.

go THE FAMOUS RIDE of Frémont, Jacob Dodson, and don Jesús Pico.

go From the 2000 edition of THE CROSSING: A HIGHWAY GUIDE to the route across the Sierra in 1844. Visit many of the sites by automobile. 

I have added some information and photographs on the roads through the canyon of the South Fork of the American River along the route that the Frémont Expedition traveled between February 23rd and 26th in 1844. From 1852 until present, this has been an area of intense road building. Under construction.


An article describing a study of the navigational methods of Francis Drake on his voyage of circumnavigation. The source of errors that Drake unavoidably made in his determinations of latitude can now be corrected, and the sites of his landfalls which have been in dispute by historians can now be located with precision. A particular focus of this article is the verification of Brian Kelleher's identification of Drake's landfall on the northern California coast in the summer of 1579 at Campbell Cove on Bodega Head.

Also available as a pdf download (27 pages, 756KB) for viewing or printing.

This is a followup to the proceeding article, in which the conclusions made therein are put to practical test that may be repeated by anyone wishing to go to the trouble.

A lunar eclipse observed in the Pacific near the western entrance of Magellan's Strait on September 15, 1578.

go A DAY AT THE COVE: An actual on-site demonstration of the determination af latitude with an astrolabe at Campbell Cove before a group of interested spectators.

go See a comparison of the TABLES OF SOLAR DECLINATION by Martin Cortes with those of William Bourne.

How polaris has moved 2 degrees closer to the celestial pole during recorded California history, and why Frémont got up at 3:00 a.m. to sight polaris--wasn't it there all night long?


go Here is one at IronOrchid that I originally did in 1990 for The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association:

go And one from the Mocotagan website on Thoreau's observations on birch canoes and canoe building.


©1999, 2014
Bob Graham