Chicago Standard Genealogical Publishing Company.

A Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away online

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Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 15 of 108)
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\\n\\ I-'. 1878. and is now married and has a son. named Garnett: and Hugh.
who was burn April 6. 1881.


After his marriage Air. Garnett located upon the farm wiiere he now
makes his home, tiie place being pleasantly located three miles southeast of
Willow. He carried on general farming and has become one of the most
extensive land-owners of this section of the state, having twenty-two hundred
acres. Of this he rents one thousand acres, while upon the remainder of the
tract he carries on stock-raising on a large scale. He is a very enterprising
and progressive business man, whose success is due to his own well directed
efforts, his enterprise and perseverance. For a time he was a director of the
Central Irrigation Company, and at all times has been in sympathy with the
measures and movements which contribute to the general good.

Mr. Garnett has always been a stanch Democrat in his political affiliations
and does all in his power to promote the growth and secure the success of his
party. While in Colusa county he was elected supervisor, in 1876, and held
the office for three years. Since his marriage he has been a member of the
school board and is now serving as the president of the high-school board.
In 1894 he was elected a member of the board of supervisors of Glenn county,
and so acceptably and faithfully discharged the duties of his office that he was
re-elected in i8g8, and is therefore the present incumbent. Socially he is
connected with Laurel Lodge, No. 245, A. F. & A. AI. He and his wife
and their children are members of the Baptist church, and he has assisted in
buikling every house of worship of this locality. He has also served as the
superintendent of the Sunday school, and, like him. his wife is active in church
work. Extensive reading and observation have made him a well informed
man and he is regarded as one of the representative citizens of this section
of Califorina. All that he has is the reward of his own labors, and his life
illustrates most forcibly what can be accomplished through determined and
honorable purpose.


The history of the pioneer settlement of northern California would be
mcomplete without the record of this gentleman, who from the early devel-
opment of the state has been an important factor in its substantial growth
and improvement. When California was cut off from the advantages and
comforts of the east by long, hot stretches of sand and barren clay and the
high mountains, he made his way across the plains, braving all the trials
and hardships of pioneer life in order to make a home on the Pacific coast,
rich in its resources, yet unreclaimed from the dominion of the red men. The
year of his arrival was 1849, and to this state he brought his family in 1851,
so that his residence here has been continuous for half a century.

Judge Brown was born in St. Charles county, Missouri, on the loth of
January, 1816. His father. Thomas Brown, was born in Richmond. \'ir-
ginia, and was an early settler of the state of Missouri. He was a cabinet-
maker by trade and also followed the occupation of farming. He wedded
Mary Elizal)eth Ribolt, a native of Missouri and a lady of (lerman lineage.
They had two daughters and four sons. In i8_'o, when our subject was


only four years of age, tliey removed to Illinois, where the father died in
his thirty-fifth year. The mother afterward married again, and died in
1830. at the age of thirty-two years. Judge Brown became famihar with the
experiences of pioneer life when a boy in Illinois, for the prairie state was
then on the border of civilization. He pursued his education in a little log
school-house such as was common at that period; but reading, observation,
experience and study in later years added greatly to his knowledge and made
him a well informed man. In 1832 he removed to Wisconsin, and later he
served in the Black Hawk war as a member of the militia. He followed
lead-mining in the Badger state, and on the 26th of February, 1837, he was
married there to Miss Philippia Williams. In 1849 he bade adieu to his
little family and crossed the plains to California in search of gold, for the
previous year the precious metal had been discovered on the Pacific slope, and
to that section of the country emigrants from the various eastern states
were flocking. After his arrival Judge Brown engaged in placer mining in
Shasta county, and to him is due the honor of naming the town of Shasta.
He met with fair success, and, resolving to make California his permanent
home, he returned for his family, making the journey by way of the water
route. — namely, by way of the isthmus to New Orleans and thence up the
Mississijjpi river. Severing all business connections in Wisconsin in 1851,
he once more crossed the plains, accompanied by his wife and six children,
all of whom are now deceased with the exception of twn: a daughter who is
the widow of A. Askey. and Mrs. Margaret Folger.

Judge Brown took up his residence in Jackson in 1851, and is now
one of the oldest living settlers of the town. His son. George W. Brown,
who was born in Jackson, is now a progressive business man here and a
worth}' representati\-e of the nati\e residents of the state. The wife and
mother, however, has been called to her final rest, having pas.sed awav in
April, 1896.

During the early years of his residence in Jackson Judge Brown was
engaged in merchandising, bringing his goods by team over the mountains.
In August, 1863, Jackson was visited by a great conflagration and the whole
town was burned to the ground, destroying about thirty tenement houses
for Judge Brown. He was then at a loss to know what to do, for all he had left
was his beautiful two-story brick house which he now occupies. It was
not long, however, till he decided to rebuild and soon the burned structures
were re])laced with new ones. At this time Judge Brown, for the first
time in his life, found it necessary to borrow money to carry out his inten-
tions, and of a friend he borrowed one thousand dollars, which was soon paid
back from his rents. Since that time he has met with other by fire,
but smaller, and has them all replaced by finer structures. Judge Brown had
read law in early life and had been admitted to practice in Winconsin. and
had served as a member of the state legislature there. After his arrival in
California he resumed the jirosecution of his profession, and in 1876 he was
elected the probate judge of .Amador county, which jiosition he acceptably
filled for five years, when he resumed the private practice of law, which


lie ciintinued until 1897. In 1887 he was admitted into the supreme court
of the state of California. He received a good patronage, and his skill and
ability was manifest in the many favorable verdicts which he secured for his
clients. As the years have passed he has made judicious investments in real
estate, and is now the owner of a number of excellent houses and lots in the
city, together with other property. Now, at the ripe old age of eighty-five
years, twice a day he makes his way to his office to supervise his property
interests. The habits of industry are strong within him. His life has been
one of energy, perseverance and resolution, and these qualities have brought
to him a well merited competence. He gave his political support in early
manhood to the Whig party, and on its dissolution became a Democrat,
since which time he has been identified with that political organization.
In 1863 he was his party's choice to represent them in the state legislature,
and so honorably did he discharge his duties that in 1865 he was re-elected.
In 1869 he was again Imiii .red to represent his party in the state legislature,
and at the ex]iiraiiMii ni" tln> term he declined further honors tendered him by
his party and resnmcil liis law practice in Jackson. He is now well advanced
in. years, yet with him old age is not synonymous with inactivity or help-
lessness. On the other hand it is often a source of inspiration and encour-
agement, as it gives of its rich store of learning and experience to others
wliose journey of life is but begun. Judge Brown receives the respect and
veneration of all who know him, and well does he deserve honorable men-
tion upon the pages of his adopted state.


Conditions in some jiarts of the west ha\e lieen such as to de\-elop a
class of professional marshals and slierift's, — men ready to take their lives in
their hands in the defense of law and order and safely to be depended upon
at any moment. In its issue of March 5. 1899, the Los Angeles Sunday
Times referred to "Ben Tliorn of Calaveras," as the "last of the race of
professional sheriff's in California." Mr. Thorn's career is in many ways
so unique that it could not be passed by in a work of this kind.

Of Danish and English ancestry, Mr. Thorn was born at Plattsburg,
New York, December 22, 1829, a son of Piatt and Elizabeth (Piatt) Thorn.
his nidthcr having been of a family of early settlers at Plattsburg, for whom
the tnwn was named. In 1833, when Mr. Thorn was four years old. his
parents removed to Chicago, Illinois, then a small, muddy village with some
tiiree or four thousand people living there and thereabouts, one half or more of
whom were the Pottawatomie tribe of Indians. While they remained in
Chicago, the family lived in the old Clayborn House, and "Ben," as he has
always been known, was for a time a pupil in an infant school ; but they
soon removed to Ottawa, Illinois, and there lived in a little log cabin, whose
walls were pierced with one window containing a single pane of glass, and
with several loop holes, through which the inmates of the cabin could defend
themselves from the attacks of the Indians. About one hundred feet from


llic cabin were the graxes of sixteen wiiite settlers wiio had been massacred
by the sa\aijes V)ut a few months prior thereto, and all buried liastil}^ in one
common mound, as there was no sawed lumber in that country with which
to bury them otherwise.

The boy was brought up to farm w(jrk, amid such primitive surround-
ings, and was sent to the best school Ottawa afforded at that time; and,
considering how hard it was for pioneers to make a living in Illinois at
that time, the boy was not badly situated. Produce brought very low prices,
and exhorbitant prices were charged for such domestic supplies as it was
necessary to buy. When Ben had grown to be a "chunk" of a boy he became
a clerk in a store at Ottawa, and when he was sixteen he began teaching
school at Plattville, Illinois. Some time later Mr. Thorn sold his farm and
removed to Ottawa, where he built a large tannery and carried on the busi-
ness of tanning, giving employment to many men, until the time of his death,
in 1859, in the fifty-ninth year of his age. His wife died at the age of
eighty-four, at the residence of her son at San Andreas, Calaveras county,
California, November 2, 1890. '1 his worthy couple had six children, of
whom Sheriff" Thorn and his brother, Dejuity Sheriff" Abbott Thorn, are the
on)}' survivors.

Sheriff Thorn crossed the plains to Califnmia in 1849 and encountered
many of the hardships of such a journey. Several members, of his party
w^ere victims of cholera, and several of them died on the way: but though
Sheriff Thorn was constantly expo.sed to tlie influence which brought the
others low, and watched with one of them (Charles Zeliff) during the night
lirecedin.g his death, he fortunately escaped the disease, even in its mildest
form. i-Ie arrived at Deer Creek, Lassen county, California, where he
remained in camp three weeks with his company.

In September he commenced mining on the Yuba river, some twelve
or fifteen miles above the site of the present city of Marysville. Yuba county,
and continued on Yuba river, without much success, as a "rocker" cost a
hundred and twenty-five dollars, and he and his companions took out only
about eight dollars" worth of .gold, per man. per day, and each of them could
have hired out at sixteen dcjllars per day. as that was the wages paid at the

In the month of November following he left the Yuba, and went to
Sacramento city, where he purchased a winter's sujjply of provisions and
went to \'olcano, Amador county, and there mined during tlie winter of
1849-50, taking out an average of two ounces of gold dust per day to the
man in Indian Gulch. In February. 1850, he went to Mokelumne Hill,
Calaveras county, and from there to I'pper Rich Gulch, some six miles
distant therefrom^ where he mined a short time. Then he removed to San
Antonio camp, in Calaveras county, where he located and purchased several
mining claims on the San Antonio and Calaveritas creeks, and employcl
several men, mining for him, until 1857.

In .April. 1835, 'i^ ^^''^ appointed deputy sheriff' by Charles A. Clarke,
then the slierift" uf the county, in order that he might have authority to d.i


what he could to rid the county of gangs of Chilanoes, Mexicans and otlier
desperadoes and cut-throats, who infested the mining camps with no better
objects than plunder and murder; and from that day to this, with the excep-
tion of four years, he has held the office of sherifT, or deputy sheriff, or
foreign miners' tax collector. In the fall of 1855, while a deputy
sheriff, he ran and was elected ce)nstable of the township, in order to
secure the official business of the justice's court, which in those days
reached a considerable amount. Immediately following his appointment,
young Thorn started to hunt down and bring to justice the absconded mur-
derers who had prior thereto committed many murders in San Antonio
camp_ and immediate vicinity, and he was not long in locating and arresting
John Phipps, who had killed Morales in San Antonio Camp^ in 1854, with
an a.x, and who was hung for the crime at Mokelumne Hill ; also Pedro y
Barro, who killed a man and woman at the same camp; also Bratton, who
killed Thomas Titcomb; also Howard Maupin, alias "Pike," who killed
James Dill, and four Mexicans who murdered a German on Indian creek
for his money, some of whom were convicted and sent to the state prison,
as many jurymen in those days were disposed to deal leniently with the
criminal element, — besides many others arrested by Thorn for lesser crimes.

In 1867 he was elected sheriff' of Calaveras county, and has held the
office continuously by re-election since except during the period mentioned,
when he engaged in quartz mining and was not a candidate. Whether a
candidate'on the Democratic ticket or an "independent" candidate, has always
been a matter of indift'erence to him : be has been elected by flattering-
majorities. Sometimes he has had no political nominee in the field against
him. while twice some of the would-be leaders of the Democratic party wanted
to give the ofifiee to some one else, for obligations thus acknowledged, and
his name did not appear on any ticket; but just before election he announced
himself as an independent candidate and was the only such candidate in the
field, and he was re-elected to the office by his usual large majority, — of
from four to fi\-e hundred. Forty-fi\-e years have elapsed since he was
first appointed a deputy sheriff and thirty-three since he was first elected
sheriff of Calaveras county.

From T855 '•"■'til the office was segregated from the sheriff's office, he
was foreign miners" tax collector, and deputy sheriff' of Calaveras county, and
was elected to the office of ta.x collector and assessor for three terms, after
it became an elective office, up to 1S67, when he was elected sheriff' of the

Politically ^Ir. Thorn is a Democrat, but not a strong partisan, and
cares little for politics when it comes to filling local offices with good or
poor men. His public spirit is such that he has always taken a helpful
interest in every movement which in his good judgment has promised to
benefit the town and county.

Sheriff Thorn's official history is one of peculiar interest, and there is
enough in it that would make exciting reading to fill a volume. His success
and popularity have been well earned, for he has many times risked his life.


ag;ainst great odds, in the interest of order and justice, and lias almost invar-
iably captured the criminals lie went to lake, and recaptured the onK- criminal
who during his long career as sheriff was successful in breaking jail. He
has never shrunk from any duty that confronted him, and has never asked
any man to do any dangerous or disagreeable work for him. Xo amount of
money could hire him to hang a man, nor would he hire any man to hang a
man for him ; but in pursuance of his official duty he has hanged and assisted
in the execution of five in the same spirit in which he would have met any
other obligation to the public. Xo officer in California has accomplished
more than he in ridding the state of desperadoes, who have made life and
property insecure, and he has always commanded the respect of the criminals
he has arrested, and no mob has ever taken a prisoner from him, although
three different attempts have been made.

Some of Sheriff Thorn's most dangerous experiences may be l)riefly
referred to here, and the writer regrets that there is not space to relate
them in detail. In the month of June, 1855, soon after he was appointed
deputy sheriff, the notorious Sam Brown, or "Long Haired Brown," as he
was sometimes called, and Bunty Owens, killed two Chilanoes over a monte
game at Upper Calaveritas, and in fleeing from the place were closely pur-
sued by the infuriated Chilanoes, upon whom they turned and fired, mortally
wounding one of them, when the pursuit was abandoned by the Chilanoes.
A messenger was then dispatched to young Thorn at San Antonio, notifying
him of the affair, who immediately summoned to his aid one of the men
employed by him in mining, by the name of Edward Hopkins, and going
before Judge Spencer, some three miles distant. Thorn swore out warrants
against the murderers and started in pursuit, traveling ahout all night in
search of them, and early the following morning obtained information that
they were at John Hick's cabin, on O'Xeil's creek, with four of their friends.
Proceeding thereto, and arriving in sight of the place. Brown ajipeared with
rifle in hand, wdiich he immediately raised to his face, taking aim at the
ai)])roaching officers : but Thorn, thinking Brown too brave a man to fire on
them before hailing them kept right on, while Hopkins, apparently not pos-
sessing that confidence in Brown, stayed back in the rear. Thorn had pro-
ceefled but a short distance toward the place when Brown lowered his rifle
off of him. and Thorn said that he never felt so happy as he did about that
time. Arriving at the cabin. Thorn placed Brown and Owens under arrest.
and Brown remarked to Thorn that he had just arri\ed in time, as he iiad
intended "skipping llie country." using his language, immediately after eating
his breakfast.

On leaving the place with his prisoners, to take them before Judge Spen-
cer's court, some three or more miles distant therefrom. Brown asked the favor
of Thorn to be allowed to pack his rifle along with him, as he believed that they
might be attacked on the way by the Chilanoes, and which under the circum-
stances was granted him. The examination before the justice of the peace
lasted two days, and was one of the most exciting that ever occurred in the
county, as alxnit one hundred Chilanoes gathered about the place, liesides which


over forty of the prisoners' friends were present; and, as the ill feelings
between the two opposing factions were at a fever heat, it was all that Thorn
could do to prevent a hliiody cmtlict. It became an open secret that Brown's
friends intended to take liini away from Thorn; so the latter called on some
of his friends to remain with him during- the night; but they all framed
excuses for not so doing; so he sat all night alone on a box, with a six-shooter
in hand, to prevent the execution of their intentions, and stop the sale or giving
away of li(|uors to anv one there, which was olie^'ed liy the proprietor of the

At the conclusion of the examination before Orrin Spencer, justice of the
peace of the township, when they were committed a friend of Brown's, by the
name of Lafavette Choiser, attempted to hand him a loaded revolver, which
Thorn snatched and knocked him down. Another friend of Brown's, by the
name of Alfred Richardson, then swore out two warrants on false accusations
against two Chilanoe desperadoes, who were standing wdth their kind in a
crowd close by, and who it was believed would try to kill Thorn, if he
attempted to serve them. TlK.irn understood the situation perfectly, but the
warrants had been issued and placed in his hands, and it was his duty to
serve them, and he served them without hesitation and came out of the affair in

That day Thorn, with tw^o assistants, took Sam Brown, Bunty Owens and
the two Chilanoes referred to, to Mokelumne Hill, and placed them in the
county jail. Brown was sent to San Ouentin only for a few years, after
which he returned to Calaveras county, and in a short time went to Carson
City, and Virginia City, and was afterward killed by \'an Sickle, on Carson
ri\er, who had a record of seventeen men that he had killed in his life-time !

A blacksmith by the name of Anderson and another man were killed at
Greenwood \'alley, Eldorado county, in 1857. or thereabouts, by a Chilano
desperado named Santiago jMolino, wdio made his escape and for whom large
rewards were offered for his arrest, dead or alive, by the citizens of that
place and Georgetown, and notices sent to the officers throughout the state.
Deputy Sheriff Thorn used his best efforts in the case and finally ascertained
that Molino was at Col-o-ro, a small mining camp in Mariposa county, in
company with three more of his countrymen of the same ilk. Selecting Fred
Wesson, a worthy assistant, they started and arrived at the above camp hi
two days thereafter, and late in the evening ascertained the cabin in wliich
he and his associates were stopping, a short distance from Col-o-ro, to which
they went, and, entering the cabin, found only two of the occupants therein ;
but Thorn soon recognized one of them as the man wanted and commenced
asking him a few- questions wdien suddenly Alolino sprang from his bed, seized
his six-shooter and attempted to use it : but they wrested it from him and
inf(Mnied him that they were officers and that he was their prisoner.

On leaving the cabin for camp. Thorn took charge of Molino. while
W'essiMi took charge of the other man, and on the wav Molino made a des-
perate break for liberty, closely pursued by Thorn, who fired at him with
fatal effect; and on Wesson's arrival at the scene, with the other Chilanoe in


charge, Thorn requested him U) go to the camp to procure tlie help of tlie
only three Americans in the place, to take the hody to camp, while he remained
there. Some fifty or more of the Chilanoes came pouring into the little place
and looked daggers at the officers, who watched their actions closely ; but no
denn)nstrations were made on their part. The coroner's jury rendered a com-
plimentary verdict in the case to Thorn. Xo reward was e\cr asked for, or
paid by the parties offering it.

About this time, while Jesus Be-a-lova. a Mexican horse-thief and mur-
derer, was under sentence of death at Alokelumne Hill. and. three days l>efore
that set for his execution, was taken out by Thorn and an assistant officer,
to be photographed, at the request of his mother; and on the return back
to the jail, some little distance away, Thorn's assistant, claiming that he had
forgotten something, left Thorn alone to proceed back to the jail with his big
burlv and unironed prisoner, when, like a fiash. he turned on Thorn and seized
his pistol; whereupon Thorn threw him down and alighted astraddle upon
him, and, catching hold of the barrel of the cocked weapon, turned the muzzle
from his person, and ramming his finger of the other hand up the Mexican's
nostril, held him securely until assistance came !

One night at a toll-house near West Point. John McDonough and Gwin
Raymond was badly shot through a window from the outside. The house
was then entered by the two would-be murderers, and robbed of considerable

Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 15 of 108)