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George Henry Tinkham.

History of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres online

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John C. Fremont and in his battalion was a soldier named James W. Marshall. He
crossed the plains with his family in 1846 and soon after the close of the war he
traveled to Sutter's Fort looking for work. Captain Sutter gave him employment, as
he was a good mechanic, and in December, 1847, the Captain sent Marshall into
the mountains to find a good location for a sawmill. He found a good site at a point
now known as Coloma and the workmen began erecting the frame work of the mill.
In digging a mill race, January 24, 1848, Marshall found some pieces of gold. The
workmen, many of them Mormons, immediately left their work and began digging for
the golden nuggets.

Gold Found on the Stanislaus

The land on which the gold was found belonged to Captain Sutter, who had
obtained the grant from Micheltorena, the Mexican governor. The land now be-
longed to the United States and to hold it Sutter sent two messengers to Monterey
carrying with them gold specimens with the request that Governor Mason confirm
Sutter's claim. On their way the couriers stopped at Tuleburg (Stockton) over night.
They had been instructed by Sutter to show the gold to no one nor tell of their mis-
sion to Monterey, but they disclosed their secret and showed the settlers the pieces
of gold. The hunters and trappers were wild with excitement. A company was
organized under the direction of Captain Weber and they started for Coloma to dig
gold. This was in March, 1848, the news not having reached Tuleburg until that
date. Accompanying the party were twenty-five Indians of the Jose Jesus tribe,
Weber having requested the chief to furnish the Indians as laborers. Captain Weber
was a shrewd business man and early that year he had established a general mer-
chandising store at Tuleburg. It was his object to instruct these Indians in gold
mining, so that they could prospect along the Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers for gold.
Tf it were found in paying quantities then there would be a rush of gold seekers for the
Stanislaus. As a natural result Tuleburg would become a big trading depot for the
miners, as it was the nearest navigable point to what was later known as the southern
mines. Learning how to look for gold they were sent back to Stockton with instruc-
tions to prospect in the Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers. They found gold evervwhere
in the Stanislaus and they brought in specimens to their "major domo," as Captain
Weber was called. This gold, in all probability, was found not lower down than
Knights Ferry.

California Suddenly Populated

The news of gold at Coloma traveled slowly over the territory, but it flew with
lightning speed to every part of the civilized earth. In less than two years 100,000
people inhabited California. Two-thirds of the number sailed through the Golden
Gate, so named by Captain Fremont, while thousands came down the northern Sierras



HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 43

or up by the Santa Fe route. The first arrivals by the ocean route sailed up the river
to Sacramento, then on to Coloma. In the meantime parties began searching for
gold south of Coloma. They found the golden nuggets at Murphy's Camp, Mokelumne
Hill, Angels Camp, Sonora, Knights Ferry and as far south as Mariposa. Then the
human tide of gold seekers broke away from Sacramento route and tens of thousands
began their march to the southern mines by the Stockton route.

General Riley Calls a Constitutional Convention

The chaotic condition of society, the need of some form of government, the neces-
sities of laws for governing trade, and for punishing the criminal element compelled
the citizens to request Gen. Bennett Riley, the military governor, to call a constitutional
convention for the organization of a territory or state. For some length of time he
refused to comply with their request. He gave as his reason that he had no instruc-
tions from Washington to organize or give permission to others to organize a state
government. As it was an emergency case for which no "red tape" had been provided,
he finally complied with their request. For the purpose of electing delegates to the
convention he divided the territory into seven districts. Each district was to elect as
delegates a certain pro rata of the population of their district. It was a guess, the
number of population in each district. The San Joaquin district, which included the
entire territory east of the Coast Range and south of the Consumnes River, elected
eight delegates. One of the number was Ben S. Lippincott, later of Paradise City.

Organization of a State

The convention assembled September 1, 1849, at Monterey. There were in that
convention men who later became famous in state and nation. Among them stood
William S. Gwin, later a United States Senator; Rodman M. Price, who became
governor of New Jersey ; Henry W. Halleck, a famous California lawyer and general
in the Civil War, and Lewis Dent, then elected a delegate from Monterey, and two
years later a resident of Knights Ferry. The convention framed a state constitution
and called an election for state officers. The election took place November 13, 1849,
and 12,064 votes were polled. The San Joaquin district elected and sent to the
Legislature six senators, among them Ben S. Lippincott, and six assemblymen, two
of them were R. P. Heath, who established a ferry on the Stanislaus River, and J. W.
Van Benscroten, the founder of Grayson.

Creation of Tuolumne County
The Legislature divided the state into twenty-seven counties, and one of them
they named Tuolumne County. Its boundary, as defined by the Legislature, was as
follows: "Beginning at the summit of the Coast Range at the southwest corner of
San Joaquin County and following in an easterly direction the southern boundary of
said county to the summit of the Sierra Nevadas; thence in a northeasterly direction,
following the summit of the Sierra Nevadas to the dividing ridge between the Tuolumne
and the Merced rivers ; thence following the top of said ridge down to the plains at a
point equally distant between the said rivers ; thence in a direct line to the San Joaquin
River at a point seven miles below the mouth of the Merced River; thence up the
middle of the San Joaquin River to the mouth of the Merced River; thence in a due
southwest direction to the summit of the Coast Range, and thence in a northwest
direction following the summit of said range to the place of beginning."

Origin of Name Tuolumne
The Legislature having divided the state into counties and given a name to each
county, appointed a committee to learn the derivation of the names. One of the
committee appointed was the native-born Spaniard, General Marino Vallejo. As
most of the names were of Spanish or Indian origin, no more competent person could
have been selected. The committee in their report said that Tuolumne was a corrup-
tion of the Indian word "Talmalamne," pronounced Tu-ah-lum-ne and meaning in
English, " a cluster of stone" wigwams. We may question the adaptation of such a



44 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY

name. Mrs. Nellie Van de Grift Sanchez, however, in her "Spanish and Indian Place
Names of California," says, "Some persons may doubt the belief that the Tuolumne
Indians were 'cave or cliff dwellers,' but Father Pedro Munoz, who accompanied the
Moraga expedition into the San Joaquin Valley, wrote, 'On the morning of this day
the expedition went towards the east along the banks of this river and having trav-
eled about six leagues, we came upon a village called Tautamne. This village is situ-
ated on some steep precipices inaccessible on account of the rough rocks. The Indians
live in their "sotanos" (cellars or caves) ; they go up and down by means of a weak
stick held by one of themselves while the one who descends slides down.' "

Scheming for a New County
The Legislature of 1849 declared Stewart, later known as Sonora, as the county
seat of Tuolumne County. About this time small settlements had been made along
the Tuolumne River and farmers began taking up land and sowing grain. It was a
long journey across the valley, a day's journey at least, which the farmers were com-
pelled to travel in answer to any summons from the court or to pay their taxes.
And before many months had passed there was an increasing discontent against having
a county seat so far distant from the center of the population. The politicians and
rhe office seekers, sizing up the situation, began the agitation of a new county with a
more advantageous county seat. As the proposed new county was sparsely populated
they schemed to take in a large part of Mariposa County, now known as a part of
Merced County. There resided a large number of prosperous farmers. Between the
politicians, the real estate owners and the discontented tax payers, the plot was well
planned, and they petitioned the Legislature of 1854 to create a new county.

The New County of Merced

Evidently wishing to rush the bill through as quickly as possible in the first
week of the session, B. D. Horr, an assemblyman from Tuolumne County, introduced
a bill "to create a new county to be called Merced, out of portions of Tuolumne and
Mariposa counties." The bill was referred to the committee on county and county
boundaries, of which Assemblyman Horr was a member. The boundary lines of the
new county were as follows: "To commence at Knights Ferry on the Stanislaus and
run across Tuolumne County, crossing the Tuolumne River at or near French Bar to
Phillips Ferry on the Merced River in Mariposa County ; thence down said river to
the mouth ; thence along the southern line of Tuolumne County, to the northern
boundary of Monterey County ; thence along the Coast Range to the eastern boundary
line of Santa Clara County, to the southwest corner of San Joaquin County; thence
to the southern boundary of San Joaquin County to the place of beginning."

County Scheming Politicians
The consideration of the bill was considerably delayed by two important meas-
ures that took up the entire attention of the Legislature, namely, the Capital removal
bill and the Broderick election bill. The Capital was then at Benicia. Many legisla-
tors, however, were dissatisfied with the location, especially after Sacramento citizens
appeared among them with gold in their pockets. Sacramento wanted the Capital
seat. David C. Broderick, then the leader of the northern wing of the Democratic
party, had sprung a sensation by introducing a bill to elect a United States Senator
one year before the usual time. The Sacramento Union surmised that one object in
creating a new county was to obtain more votes for the Broderick bill, for the contest
for and against would be very close. In a short time the two questions were settled.
The Capital was removed to Sacramento and the Broderick bill was defeated.

Opposition to a New County

It was this legislative fight in all probability that caused the exclusion of the
proposed part of Mariposa County and blocked the rapid progress of Stanislaus
County for many years. The editor of a San Joaquin County newspaper which circu-
lated in the proposed new county said on January 27 : "There seems to be a strong
probability that Dr. Horr's bill will pass. The Tuolumne press is silent upon the



HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 45

subject although it is of the greatest importance. The farmers and other settlers
on the Merced River seem to regard the measure in a favorable light and we believe
that a petition for its passage will soon be sent to the Legislature. The country em-
braced in the proposed new county is thickly settled by an industrious and thrifty
population whose interests will be substantially served by the change."

Was the editor hypnotized by Dr. Horr, who was a warm personal friend, or
was he in the political scheme, a Democratic paper advocating the creation of a new
Democratic county? His opinion was not concurred in by all of that "thrifty popula-
tion," for a few days later a correspondent wrote: "It will be readily seen that quite
a slice of territory is being carved out or lopped off from the county of Mariposa and
upon the surface of the amputated limb resides a quite extensive population who wish
to be understood distinctly as being down on that bill. We flatter ourselves that our
Legislature will oppose that measure until we can petition them adversely."

The Creation of Stanislaus County
The opposition now made a lively protest, the Mariposa legislators strongly
opposing the annexation of any part of their county to the proposed new county and,
in March, Assemblyman Horr introduced a new amended bill which declared : "There
shall be formed out of the western portion of Tuolumne County a new county to be
called Stanislaus." The bill which passed both houses of the Legislature and was
signed by Governor Bigler, April 1, 1854, reads as follows: "Commencing on the
Stanislaus at the corner of San Joaquin and Calaveras counties; thence running in a
southwest course to Spark's Ferry on the Tuolumne River; thence to the boundary
line between Tuolumne and Mariposa counties ; thence west along said line to the
San Joaquin River; thence up said river to the Merced River; thence in a due south-
west direction to the summit of the Coast Range; thence in a southwesterly direction
following the summit of said range ; thence to the southwest corner of San Joaquin
County ; thence northeasterly along the line of said county to the place of beginning."

First County Election

In the original act and in the amended act it was declared that George D.
Dickerson, John W. Laird, John D. Patterson, Eli Marvin and Richard Hammer
should act as a board of commissioners to designate the election precincts of the new
county. Assembling at Dickerson's Ferry, May 26, they named the following precincts:
Arroyo, Orestemba, Graysonville, Keeler's Ferry, French Bar (La Grange), Empire
City, Burneyville, McHenry's, Tuolumne City, Hill's Ferry, Oatvale, and Turner's
Ferry. From the press correspondents we learn of the campaign. One correspondent
wrote on May 25 : "We are enjoying high old election times in this county and candi-
dates are as numerous as the stars, if not so luminous. Our mutual friend, Ben Shipley,
is out for the office of sheriff, and in a speech the other night he said: 'Boys, I want
you to vote for me. If you don't — you can just do the other thing.' One of the
candidates for the office of judge advocates his election on a reduction of salary.
What do you think of that? No party organizations were created, but political meet-
ings were held and Judge Marvin made»a good speech and an effective one."

Among the candidates were H. W. Wallis, John G. Marvin and H. G. Leggett
for county judge; S. P. Scaniker for attorney; W. D. Kirk and Ben Shipley for clerk;
William L. Dickerson, surveyor; T. J. De Woody and Silas Wilcox, assessor; John
Bradley and E. B. Beard, treasurer; J. J. Royal and William H. Martin, public
administrator, and Heth Williams, coroner.

The election was held June 10, 1854.' There were 495 votes polled in the county
and the following county officers were elected: James W. Coffroth, joint senator
with Tuolumne County; C. W. Cook and J. Colbreth, assemblymen; H. W. Wallis,
judge; William D. Kirk, sheriff; Robert McGarvey, clerk and ex-officio recorder;
S. P. Scaniker, district attorney; W. H. Martin, treasurer; Silas Wilcox, sur-
veyor ; J. J. Royal, public administrator ; Heth Williams, coroner ; E. B. Beard, asses-
sor and superintendent of schools.



46 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY

Thomas Leggett, the opponent of H. W. Wallis for county judge, was very much
dissatisfied with the vote for judge. He was defeated by two votes only, and in
August contested the vote, claiming that Wallis was illegally elected. The case was
tried in the district court, Judge Charles M. Creanor of Stockton presiding. Wallis
was represented by Henry A. Crabb, then the state leader of the Whig party, and two
years later beheaded in Mexico while a prisoner; he was the leader of a filibustering
expedition there. Leggett was represented by John G. Marvin, and after the trials
the case was dismissed.

Unwise Legislation

At the time of the proposed creation of Stanislaus County the Stockton Times
said, editorially: "The bill will receive the strength of their counties provided that
they could be convinced that the number of inhabitants in the territory set off, is suffi-
cient for that purpose. Both of these counties (Stanislaus and Merced) may be set
off for the convenience of the people, but it may not be pecuniarily profitable at the
present time. However, the people are presumed to know what they want." Six
years later, 1860, the people had learned that the creation of their county was not
"pecuniarily profitable," as they had anticipated, and a petition was presented to the
Legislature which was approved by the county committee asking the legislators' permis-
sion to introduce a bill annexing the eastern part of San Joaquin County, about 140
square miles, to Stanislaus county. The annexation would include Knights Ferry
with its 400 population. The claim was made that Stanislaus County was completely
disorganized. There was but one qualified justice of the peace in the county and he
was soon to leave for a more populous locality. There was no court of sessions nor
constable. The county polled 500 votes only and one-half of the number were voted
at La Grange. The county had assumed a part of the debt of Tuolumne County,
amounting to something like $12,600, and they had not been able to pay even the
interest on the debt.

A Slice of San Joaquin County

The approval of the Legislature was obtained and January 24, 1860, Assembly-
man Miner Walden and his associate, S. P. Scaniker, introduced in the assembly an
"Act to annex a portion of Calaveras, Tuolumne and San Joaquin counties to Stanis-
laus County." The bill was so strongly opposed by the legislators from the two mining
counties that Assemblyman Walden withdrew the original bill and substituted an
amended bill annexing a part only of San Joaquin County. For some reason that does
not appear the citizens of San Joaquin did not strongly oppose the bill, probably be-
cause of the social and trade relation between the two counties. The act passed both
houses and April 1, 1860, was approved by Gov. John G. Downey. The act declared
that "So much of San Joaquin County as is embraced in the following lines shall
henceforth be a part of Stanislaus County: Commencing on the Stanislaus River at
the corner of Tuolumne and Stanislaus counties; thence running along the boundary
line between San Joaquin and Calaveras counties to McDermott's bridge on the Cala-
veras River, where the range line between ranges 9 and 10 intersect the eastern
boundary of San Joaquin County ; thence along said range due south to the Stanislaus
River; thence up said river to the place of beginning."

The law declared that George E. Drew and P. B. Nagle, surveyors of San
Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, are hereby appointed commissioners to locate the
boundary lines and complete their survey by June 1, 1860. For the purpose of adjust-
ing the affairs of the two counties on a just basis the board of supervisors of each
county shall appoint one commissioner to meet in Stockton, February 22, 1860, and
ascertain the amount of the indebtedness due to San Joaquin County.

For some reason the citizens of San Joaquin County made no determined effort
to prevent the annexation of Knights Ferry to Stanislaus County. The two counties
at that time were quite closely connected, as there were families, a part of whom
lived in San Joaquin and a part in Stanislaus County. The farmers did their
principal trading in Stockton, and the moneyed men banked in that city. Some of them
were directors in the Stockton banks. Socially, even to this day, there are blood and
marriage relationships between the families in the two counties.



HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 47

Stanislaus Annexes More Territory

It was at this time that the southwest corner of San Joaquin County, which in-
cluded Grayson, was annexed to Stanislaus County. The boundary line between the
two counties was not definitely settled until 1868. In that year the board of super-
visors of Stanislaus County ordered their surveyor, A. G. Stakes, "to establish that
portion of the line between Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties west of the San
Joaquin River. In June it was reported that Surveyor Stakes and John Wallace, sur-
veyor of San Joaquin County, had surveyed the line and set monuments one-half
mile apart the entire distance."

In that year, in April, the Legislature fixed the boundary line between Stanislaus
and Merced counties as follows: "Beginning at the monument established by A. G.
Stakes at the southwest corner of Tuolumne County and the southeast of Stanislaus
County; thence in a straight line to a point on the San Joaquin River, seven miles
below the mouth of the Merced River ; thence up the center of the San Joaquin River
to the mouth of the Merced River jthence in a due southwest direction to the summit
of the Coast Range Mountains."

Land Grants

The Mexican Government, soon after its independence from Spain, passed a law
giving free of cost grants of land to Mexican and naturalized foreign citizens. Many
foreigners took advantage of the law. They became Mexican citizens, married native-
born wives and took up large tracts of land. None of these tracts were less than 1000
acres and in most cases they ran up into thousands of acres. The land then was of
no value, it was believed, except for the grazing of stock. This was true. But when
the territory came into the possession of the United States then immediately the grants
became valuable, those along the coast especially, or near the centers of population.

In the articles of peace, signed at Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 2, 1848, our
Government agreed to recognize and respect all Spanish or Mexican grants of land,
within the territory, and protect the owners in possession thereof. As a rule, these
grants covered the cream of the land in the districts where land was considered by the
Mexican settlers as worth holding. In many cases the boundary lines were poorly
defined and much litigation followed in after years when adjoining property became
valuable, and it became necessary to establish new lines. Then there were some
grants which proved of fraudulent origin and there was more litigation to establish
the fact. To straighten out these titles and confirm if possible all of the genuine
grants, in 1854 the Government sent a board of land commissioners to California.
They held sessions in San Francisco and confirmed hundreds of grants. The secre-
tary of that commission was the young attorney, Henry M. Stanton, later Secretary of
State under President Lincoln.

Land of No Value

The lands, as I have stated, were of little value for several reasons. First, there-
was scarcely any population outside of the pueblos or towns, and it takes population
to make land valuable. There were no transportation facilities anywhere along the
coast, no wagon roads, bridges or ferry boats across the rivers. Then there was
danger from the attacks of wild animals and perhaps attacks from Indians. So of
what value was the land? As one immigrant of 1849, John Doak, said to Captain
Weber: "I wouldn't give you ten cents an acre for all of the land between here
(Stockton) and Sutter's Fort (Sacramento)."

Stanislaus County Land Grants
In the taking up of these land grants, each man was his own surveyor. Mr.
Walthall, for illustration, would select some tract of land that he fancied. It would
be near some lake or river or some point where water was available. Then he would
proceed to measure off the land he wanted. There were two methods of measurement,
first, by the reata or rawhide rope plan, and second, by the time method. By the first
plan, accompanied by a friend, he would start from a given point horseback, and
measure the land by a fifty-foot reata, dragging it behind them. After traveling



48 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY

several miles in one direction, marking the end of the line by a certain tree, rock, brush-
wood, or perhaps distant mountain peak, they would travel on thus marking the four
lines. By the time plan they would walk a horse by the watch along the line, noting
the time it took to travel the distance. In this manner they would survey the grant.
Then going to the Mexican governor they would make application for a certain grant,
naming the general location and giving the grant a distinguishing name. Then giving
the Governor a little money, which he pocketed, in time a deed would be given to Mr.



Online LibraryGeorge Henry TinkhamHistory of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres → online text (page 4 of 177)