In 1846 the United States moved against its neighbor to the south and in
so doing launched a land war resulting in changes which were already
underway and likely to occur without the bloodshed which was to follow.
At issue, viewing with the advantage of hindsight, were the highly desired
lands of Texas and Alta California, properties which then stood between
the then existing U. S. frontier and the Pacific Ocean, and unrestricted
access to the Far East. With the War's end in 1848 the U. S. was well on
its way to possessing virtually all the land "from sea to shining sea".
Scarcely had the United States Government acquired the prize lands of
California when it took steps to dispatch its functionaries to the
continent’s west coast. The developing scenario was substantially
enhanced when, also in 1848, word reached the East Coast of the discovery
of gold at Sutter's Mill, near Sacramento. The overwhelming response to
this news brought literally droves of people to California in search of
gold; many others with a commercial bent would follow the mining trails
and profit from the success, needs, and ultimate vulnerability of the gold
seekers. Among this group were merchants, bankers, clergymen, educators,
lawyers, whores, teamsters, sea captains, publishers, and physicians.
With the population increase, the supply and demand situation was perfect
for the enterprising. Of the entrepreneurial talent that had arrived, not
the least were those who recognized the value of the land itself,
especially when these properties were considered in terms of large,
Lastly, in the wake of the gold-crazed came the farmers, ranchers, and small businessmen, those intent upon actually settling the land. Many of the miners, finding the land bountiful but the gold fields unyielding, stayed on in one of these other capacities. The eyes of the world were now on this far western edge of the continent, and men of vision were quick to see the potential inherent in this new land.
The Early Arrivals
Prior to the War, scarcely a handful Anglos actually resided within California. The native population, with the unctuous assist of the clergy, had conveniently died off. By 1840, due mostly to the venereal diseases brought in by the invaders, the native women ceased to give birth to live babies. On the other hand, there was still no ambudance of Mexicans within California either, since the grants made by Spain benefitted relatively few men, and most all had been parceled out as large ranchos, each of which was occupied almost exclusively by the extended family of title. It was unlikely that those in a position to do the granting could have realized that the area covered by California was over half that of Spain, and the entirety of Alta California considerably larger than their own country. While the rural occupancy was sparse and largely confined to the coastal environs, the population of the two original pueblos, as well as the presidios, had remained modest in size.
Of the Anglos present, their number was made up primarily of those men whose purpose in the new world was to enhance or protect the interests of their respective, and various, mother countries. Some were here to exploit the burgeoning mercantile trade between the visiting sea merchants and the Californios. Of the remainder, there were the nameless sailors who had abandoned ship, and a few mountain men trapping animals for their fur. Among these early occupants, a few are worth mention.
James Alexander Forbes
The United States, Great Britain and France each had representatives residing in Alta California. These men were officially stationed, but infrequently resided, at the port of Monterey. Among them was James Alexander Forbes, a native of Scotland, who had lived in California since 1831. While holding his government post, he was equally employed as the agent for the Hudson Bay Company.
In 1834, at the age of 31, Forbes married Ana Maria Galindo. This union would make him a brother-in-law of Vicente, youngest son of Luis Peralta. The marriage has been described as an unfortunate one for Ana Maria, who was cast by Forbes into the role of servile attendant. Forbes had a reputation for preferring refined company, and he enjoyed entertaining those guests who he believed to be of sufficient station to receive his hospitality. His wife was not permitted to speak to the guests but was compelled to wait table along with the hired household servants.
Forbes was appointed British Vice-Council in 1842 and his official duties began in October of the following year. His presence and participation became very much a part of the California life, and his growing expertise in matters of Mexican law and custom were later to become valuable in the period following California's statehood.
Forbes was a man of delicate tastes and considerable extravagance. Inclined to find his income in any way he could, his reputation of being a liar and a cheat, more often than not in considerable debt, and a thoroughly disreputable businessman eventually resulted in the alienation of those who, at one time, had enjoyed his friendship and expertise. Forbes was known to be a confident of Luis Peralta.
Presuming friendship, although Forbes was a full forty four years his junior, he served as one of the three witnesses to Luis Peralta's final will, and later, when he was well into his '70's, functioned as the state translator on the original deed between John Clar and Vicente Peralta. Forbes was later to be given gifts of land by at least two of the Peralta brothers at the time of the sales. And not a clue remains to tell us why.
John (or Juan) Clar, an early visitor to California played a cardinal role in the dissolution of Rancho San Antonio. It was he, in the wake of several unsuccessful attempts on the part of several land speculators, who was able to devise the first purchase of Peralta land.
Clar was born in Minorca, Spain, in May of 1813. He entered the U.S. Naval service in 1832, serving for 15 years as a linguist and mathematician. In 1836, on the occasion of his first of many visits to California, he described the village of Yerba Buena to consist of no more than a lonely cluster of three houses. While Clar's career took him into and out of California over the next thirteen years, he returned finally at the time of the Gold Rush, arriving at San Francisco harbor aboard the "Alexander von Humboldt", on August 30, 1849. He retired from the Navy during that same year, at the age of 34. His earliest civilian activities during this period remain vague, but in 1851 he surveyed the village of Sausalito on behalf of William Richardson, and in October of 1852 he was employed as clerk in Surveyor-General King's office, occupying both the position of Keeper of the Archives as well as that of Translator. Between 1853 and 1857 he occupied this position under the directorship of John Coffee Hays who would succeed King as the political appointee. At that time the U.S. Land Office, possibly for California at least, the most influential agency of the U. S. Government, was the responsibility of the Surveyor-General. Clar maintained this post, under Hays, until October of 1857. John Clar was a man of very substantial connections.
John Clar married in 1853, and became a naturalized citizen in 1855. Later, in 1860 he relocated to Santa Barbara, became the Superintendent of Schools and a Justice of the Peace. In 1863 he and his family returned to San Francisco where he served as Archive Clerk and translator in the General Land Office, later trading this job for that of surveyor for the State Tidelands Commission, appointed as Third Assistant Engineer. He died in April of 1884 and was buried, eventually, at the National Cemetery in the Presidio at San Francisco. It has been alleged that he was a close friend of William Heath Davis. Clar did seem to have the capability of being in the right place at the right time, and in proper possession of highly desirable skills and credentials.
Thomas Oliver Larkin, the United States counterpart of the British Alexander Forbes, came to California in 1832, and was appointed U.S. Consul in 1844 (he served in this capacity until the end of the war). He played an active role as "secret agent" in the U. S. Government's effort to secure California's independence during that period prior to the outbreak of declared war.
Neither Larkin nor Forbes were overburdened by their consular duties, both had time in abundance for other pursuits, and both were active in the mercantile trade which had increased in its breadth and volume since the Mexican liberalization of the Spanish trade laws.
It should be recalled that prior to the declaration of Mexico's independence in 1822, Spain had forbidden all foreign trade between its colony and other countries, reserving the New World yield for the good and welfare of Spanish interests, alone. While Mexican rule permitted increased but not unlimited trade, the illegal exchange of goods which followed on the heels of liberalization resulted in commercial activity that far exceeded those limits that were officially imposed.
During the years of Mexican rule, the merchants, farmers, trappers, and ranchers of Alta California were visited by trade and whaling ships from the Far East, Russia, the United States, South America, Hawaii, the South Pacific, France, and England. The merchant ships were supplying to the Californios the products of their countries' industries, such as much needed fabric and hardware, as well as exotic hardwood that were desired by and affordable to the still untaxed Californio. In exchange they were carrying away the lumber harvested from the coastal hills, wheat, fur, hides and other animal products, as well as those provisions needed for the ship's crews. The trade between these foreign ports and the Californios was lucrative, and constant. Still, with California's sparse population, it attracted only a handful of enterprising merchants during those years prior to 1849.
William A Richardson
Of those merchants, the most prominent was the Englishman, William A. Richardson. He settled in what is now Sausalito as early as 1822, and moved to the still tiny village of Yerba Buena in 1835, where he was appointed Captain of the Port by Vallejo. Richardson built a home at what is now the corner of Dupont and Clay Streets (his being one of the three noted by Clar on his first visit to San Francisco). In 1844, out of this "Casa Grande", Richardson operated the first customs house under the aegis of the Mexican Government. He married the daughter of Ignacio Martinez, then the Commandante of the Presidio, and in doing so became the brother-in-law of J.J. Estudillo, Wm. Hinkley, Sam Tennant, William Smith, and various members of the Castro, Berryessa, and Peralta families. Senor and Senora Martinez had spawned a profusion of daughters.
While occupying for many years a seminal position in the flow of Pacific coast trade, Richardson’s hegemony did not survive long after the influx of new citizens, and he died, at the hands of an assassin, heavily in debt in the Spring of '56. Of the few other merchants similarly occupied, most were at one time or another partners of Richardson.
While Richardson controlled trade on the coast, Johann Augustus Sutter played a no less entrepreneurial role with respect to the inland trade. Sutter, a native of Switzerland, came to California in 1839. He built a trading post in the central valley on an inland waterway (close by what is now Sacramento) and offered respite to the inland traveler. For many years he held a virtual monopoly over commerce in the central valley area.
The first overland wagons did not arrive at Sutter's until 1844. These were the members of the Townsend-Murphy party which were the first to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains with family, household goods, livestock, and heavy wagons. However, by the end of 1845 there were more than 250 Americans who had come over the Sierras, and within the next year there would be 1500 more that would successfully traverse that formidable barrier. A stopover at Sutter's Fort was included as a "must do" on everyone's itinerary.
Diminished somewhat in prominence by these two commercial giants, there were others who played slightly smaller roles in California's early mercantile ventures. Of these, the partnership of Leese, Spear, and Hinkley enjoyed a respectable portion of the foreign trade.
Jacob Leese, the senior partner and originally a business associate of William Richardson, had built his home next door to Richardson (number two on Clar's early itinerary of architectural points of interest) and in doing so doubled the number of habitable units in that neighborhood. He married a daughter of Don Vallejo and they together issued the first child born in Yerba Buena since the Indians stopped reproducing.
William Heath Davis
William Heath Davis (An epitaph) William Davis was the nephew of Nathan Speer, one of Leese's partners. Davis has managed to endure in the historical archives as a man of very considerable importance in his day; his durability and esteem being in all respects the result of his own self aggrandizing promotions. Initially employed by his uncle, he worked the West Coast from north to south, transporting and trading, involving himself with nearly everyone then residing in the area. Popular among his peers and clientele, this early California gadfly traded not only in material goods but information, news, and gossip. Apparently an insufferable bore, Davis would come to fare less well as he ran through a succession of business partners, all of whom, unlike himself, continued to prosper beyond the term of their association. As the years and providence eroded his personal fortunes, he became a noisome, opinionated relic of California's earlier days.
As a young man, Davis married into the Estudillo family, establishing an initially successful merger which served him a distinct advantage for many years. With Senor Estudillo as father in law, he additionally acquired Mr Richardson as a brother in law, and with this further advantage located the business offices of his uncle's shipping firm, of which he was then in charge, in Richardson's "Casa Grande". Davis was later divorced from everyone, including his wife and her family, and spent the balance of his days reliving, in reminiscence, his early successes. He was devoted especially to the chronicle of his life that he was forever in the process of writing, an effort that was based upon the plethora of notes he had made of and during his various activities. Davis was always ready to share the residue of his past with others, given the least opportunity to do so, and became slave to the occasional interest shown these memoirs. Unfortunately, as an aging bore with an irritatingly singular purpose, his nearly completed writings were lost under provocatively suspicious circumstances. The disappearance occurred on the occasion of the earthquake and fire of 1906, from a building which had suffered no damage. Following his lonely death, his surviving notes were compiled and published.
Ultimately, the credit is his. He remains, as a result of that great quantity of notes which he left behind, a window to many of the events and personages of California's past. Determined to cast himself as hero, his story remains nonetheless one of little personal success.
John Charles Fremont
Of the early American inhabitants of the California territory, there is yet another outrageous character worthy of mention. While contributing little of esteemed value, John Charles Fremont, an officer of the United States Army and a forever a belligerent military presence, wrecked political havoc up and down the Pacific Coast during the days prior to the Mexican War. Known as the "Pathfinder of the West", Fremont lived the life of an adventurer, and kept about him a following of like-minded men. Fremont provoked unnecessary trouble between his countrymen (who he was certain had God on their side) and the Mexican (whose rights to what was destined to be American soil he regarded as something short of negligible). He vigorously agitated for California's independence in a manner which would eventually embarrass the government he pretended to represent. Fremont played a starring role in the precipitous Bear Flag Rebellion, an imprudent action which accomplished little more than to further alienate the few remaining sympathetic Mexican citizens.
No sooner was Fremont appointed Military Governor of California by Commodore Stockton but General Kearny differed with this decision and, after arresting Fremont, proceeded to transport him to Washington as his prisoner. Fremont was soon to confront a court's martial, be found guilty, and be dismissed from the Army. He was later granted a pardon and continued, but now without his military credentials, to effectively represent the hawk in early California politics. With William Gwin, he was elected as one of the State's first two U.S. Senators. While ultimately an historical embarrassment, his influence on the events of the time were substantial.
U.S. Intervention into California
At the outbreak of war with Mexico, the U.S. Government proceeded to take immediate possession of California. With the landing of troops in July of 1846 under the command of Commodore Sloat at Monterey, the United States effectively guaranteed protection and broad licence to any U.S. citizen who was or would be residing on what was still technically Mexican soil for the next two years. There seemed to be little doubt regarding how the war would come out. The raising of the American Flag over Monterey, at the declaration of war, represented the beginning of American sovereignty in California. That particular flag was personally raised by a young man named William Toler, a seaman serving under Commodore Sloat, and a good friend and pupil of Juan Clar. Toler retired from the Navy at the War's end in 1848 and was named Asst. Alcalde of San Francisco in 1850. In 1852 Toler married the daughter of Ignacio Peralta and settled on the Peralta property. He did much to help to secure it against the acquisitive American entrepreneur. He retired from active business in 1870.
Prior to occupation, the Mexican government had not been especially hospitable to the intruding foreigner, leaving unmolested only those who were willing to marry into Mexican families, embrace Catholicism, accept Mexican citizenship, and occupy a position that was in some way useful to Mexican interests. With U.S. occupation, that would be a state of affairs effectively relegated to the past; the perks of proprietorship were not, however, relinquished gladly or amicably.
The Mormons and Sam Brannan
In 1846, only a few days prior to the U.S. occupation, a passenger ship landed at Yerba Buena carrying Mormon entrepreneur Sam Brannan and his flock of religious pilgrims seeking a life without repression. While the pilgrims may have had the search for asylum as their principal concern, Sam clearly had his eye on personal profit. The Mormons had come by sea with a plan to travel eastward and meet the Brigham Young's pilgrimage near Sutter's Fort, and there to establish a settlement. The bad news, discovered upon their arrival, was that the overland party had decided to end their journey in Utah, apparently thinking little of the disappointment of the sea-going contingent. The revised settlement plan, of course, became Salt Lake City.
The Brannan group, in consideration of these rapidly evolving circumstances, decided that they could do just as well without the Utah Mormons, and held to the original plan of terminating the journey in California. Some did venture inland, following Brannan, who had by now become the head of their congregation and collector of tithes (none of which made it to the church itself). They settled in New Helvetia, the community developed by Sutter in the Sacramento valley. Others remained in Yerba Buena, and a handful came across the Bay, settling in the area near Mission San Jose. This handful of pilgrims would be the first American settlers in what was to eventually become Alameda County. Their community grew into the towns of Alvarado and Irvington. Changes in California's Population Until the early 1850's, there were virtually no women in California apart from the wives and daughters of the Mexican dons. Altogether there were a few thousand Europeans and South Americans concentrated in Los Angeles, Monterey, Yerba Buena, San Jose, and what has since become Sacramento. Soon this sparsity of populace and the laconic tempo of life were to undergo a radical change, a change that took place virtually overnight. Two events contributed to the dramatic evolution of California's population. The most immediate, and slightly subtler reason, was the change in California's nominal ownership and the proprietary interests of its new landlord. As rapid as these political changes were wrought, they were partially mitigated by the fact that while the U.S. Government had for some time been interested in the territory, it entertained an insufficient notion as to what had been acquired. The second impetus for change in the California ambiance was the announcement, virtually simultaneous with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, of the discovery of gold at a location near to Sutter's Fort. While the plan was to keep this knowledge as local as possible, the news was promptly delivered to a world wide audience by the indiscrete but fiercely entrepreneurial head man of the Mormon community, Sam Brannan. This announcement would prove a profoundly peremptory influence over all that would soon and forever take place. It is remarkable that with these two events the ratio of Mexican to American was immediately and dramatically reversed. This astounding population upheaval occurred within the period of a single year's time. The era of California's moderate life had effectively ended and it can be easily imagined that these events had a singularly unsettling effect on the established citizenry. Those who failed to accommodate to the new regime were doomed to virtual extinction. It would be some years before the dwindling Mexican population would be augmented by the influx of new blood from across the border. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government proceeded to gaze in awe at the West Coast phenomenon from its distant point of vantage.
William Cary Jones
At the War's end, in February of 1848, the United States Government dispatched troops to occupy the newly captured land, as well as agents to assay what exactly was going on and what really were the spoils of war. The job of U.S. agent was given to a man named William Cary Jones, son-in-law of the outspoken, western expansionist Senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton, and the brother-in-law of California's chauvinist hawk, John C. Fremont. Jones was directed by the Secretary of the Interior, a Mr. Ewing, to visit the new territory and to make a report on the presumptive ownership of those lands. More to the point, the U.S. Government had, with the Treaty, magnanimously promised to honor the title to lands previously granted Spanish citizens by both the Spanish and Mexican Governments, while at the same time conferring citizenship upon these same indigenous folks. Jones was to "investigate" the validity or substance of the claims made by the new Mexican-Americans and to report to Congress on this singular matter of paramount importance. In actuality, there were few in or out of government who seriously entertained the idea that Mexicans ought to own the land that had now become the rightful property of the real Americans. Jones' implicit directive was to devise a scheme by which the land could be legally confiscated. Ewing had picked the right man for the job.
The Jones report was submitted in March of 1850 and it included his recommendation for the creation of the U.S Land Commission, an agency whose nominal task would be to clarify Spanish title. Its true objective was the effecting of only one inevitable outcome, that being the end of the "foreign" ownership of choice California real estate. The actual plan, detailing the purpose and operation of the U.S. Land Commission, was submitted to the Legislature by California's first state Senator, William McKendree Gwin. There are few legislative acts which have had such a profound and lasting effect upon the region. Senator Gwin, along with Jones, would soon be found prominently among the new owners of Rancho San Antonio.
After the completion of his government assignment, Jones remained in California to become a self employed attorney within the legal partnership of Jones, Tompkins, and Strode. This team ranked highly among the more successful in the brokering of much of the East Bay property. They were, as well, the original proprietors of the community of Alvarado. Jones success rested partially on the fact that he was one of only two men in the territory with a valid and exceedingly utilitarian expertise in Mexican law (three, counting Forbes). He shared this distinction with a man named Henry Halleck. Both of these gentlemen would play major roles in the vigorous, rapacious, but legal divestiture of the Mexican land owner, a process which was to culminate in the inexorable transfer of Mexican holdings into American hands.
“Captain” Henry Halleck disembarked in Monterey as a lieutenant of the engineers accompanying Company F, Third United States Artillery on the transport Lexington, on January 28, 1847. Also aboard this ship was William Tecumsah Sherman. Shortly after his arrival Halleck was asked to serve as Secretary of State, with responsibility for the Government Archives, from 1847 to 1850. In 1849, at (military) Governor Mason's request, Halleck prepared a report on the laws and regulations concerning public lands in California, which included an assessment of the Mission lands as well. His report was submitted at about the same time as was Jones'. He was also in attendance at the Constitutional Convention that same year.
Halleck resigned from his government position in 1854 and with considerable insight into the possibilities inherent in what he knew to be ultimately vulnerable land titles, he created the law firm of Halleck, Peachy and Billings, a firm which represented more than 80 of the cases brought before the U.S. Land Commission. In a word, Halleck made his fortune representing those he knew to be the probable losers in this litigation. Halleck rejoined the U.S. Army in 1861, and served as Commander-in-Chief for the Northern Army in the War Between the States. Serving under General Sherman, Halleck earned himself the reputation of being a conservative, slow, and generally ineffectual military leader. He died in Louisville, Kentucky in 1872 at the age of 56 years.
Frederick Billings, Halleck's legal partner, was a native of Vermont, a graduate of Yale University, and is reputed to have been one of the leading San Francisco attorneys of his day. He worked toward the creation of the College of California along with Day, Benton, Wiley, and Hunt beginning in 1849, and he was a Trustee of the College of California when it was finally begun under the directorship of Henry Durant. Billings is credited with suggesting the name of Berkeley for the community which was designed to surround the new College. He later served as California's Attorney-General, and he returned to Vermont in 1864 at the age of 41.
Archibald C. Peachy
C. Peachey was, like Billings, born in Vermont. He came to California as a "Forty-niner," and later served two terms in the State Senate. He died in 1883. All in all, there is not a lot known about Peachey.
William Cary Jones
William Cary Jones served as an attorney for 25 of the cases brought before the U.S. Land Commission on behalf of the Californio. His legal efforts included the title issues surrounding the Fremont/Las Mariposas claim. In this case he acted primarily on behalf of the interests of his brother-in-law, General Fremont, serving as his attorney as he did during the earlier court martial proceedings.
The land claims were all, by governmental design, routinely appealed by the U.S. attorneys whenever legal title for the Mexicans was confirmed at the local level; the full legal process often extending as far as the U.S. Supreme Court. The inevitable result of this procedure was the accrual of unmanageable legal expenses for the land poor Mexicans, who were obliged to meet their inflated legal debts by offering mortgages in lieu of money. The natural outcome of such arrangements was nothing less than the transfer of land title to the attorney of record. This development was not quite ironic, for the law had been written with no other purpose in mind.
Of the attorneys employed in the defense of Mexican title, Jones had the reputation of being among the more relentless, persistent and successful. While representing himself publicly as an outspoken advocate of the Mexican's right to the land he had been granted, he managed in his unending advocacy to multiply his own sizable wealth. In September of 1850 Jones formed a land company with the somewhat less than enthusiastic Patten brothers and Moses Chase. These men were squatters who became the eventual owners of the land east of the San Antonio Slough (East Oakland). This is property that they had first rented and later purchased from Antonio Peralta.
In 1852 Jones and partners founded the town of Alvarado, designed as the entertainment and recreational center for idle miners and lumbermen. This wild west enterprise was especially busy during the otherwise slack winter months. Alvarado offered drink, drugs, women, gambling, and other activities during the early and middle '50's, a period during which there was little else for men to do on the east side of San Francisco Bay. Alvarado later became the location of the first seat of Alameda County government. While William Cary Jones was the first and among the best of those who successfully exploited the circumstances that prevailed during the early days of California's statehood, he was not, however, the best of his breed.
In 1849 the State's Constitutional Convention in Monterey was already in full swing. Here a full complement of politicians, many newly imported from the eastern U.S., were in feverish pursuit of a constitution suitable for the governing of the impending new state. A conspicuous number of the Mexican leaders participated in this process, their tenure shaky but for the time, established. Local politics were miles ahead of federal planning for the new U.S. acquisition, the accelerated pace of events having created an urgency for governmental organization that was exceeded only by the zeal of territorial imperative. As it turned out, the paradoxical result of the political initiative was to bypass the usual territorial status which formally precedes statehood, and to create county governments in advance of the (patriarchal) state governmental structure.
John Coffee Hays
Arriving with the tide of humanity which preceded statehood was Colonel John Coffee Hays of the United States Army. Col Hays was accompanied by John Caperton, his friend, his sidekick, his able assistant. The Colonel, best known for his fearless exploits and heroism displayed during his military service, would soon serve in various governmental capacities. Hays had seen action against both Indians and Mexicans, and earned his fame as the colorful, consummate, Texas Ranger.
Hays, a slim, active, wiry man of average height, came to San Francisco in 1849 at the age of 32 accompanying, and supplying meat to, U.S. troops on their way to California. He was born in Cedar Lick, Tennessee in January of 1817. At age 15, upon the occasion of the death of both his parents, John traveled westward, finding work in the surveying of the swamplands in Mississippi. We know that he did not linger there long, but continued west to Texas, becoming a soldier and a border fighter. In the fight for Texas independence, he worked as a spy and as a scout, even volunteering his services when he could not be paid. His exploits in these endeavors became legend. While in Texas he met and married Susan Calvert and with her had six children, naming one after his good friend John Caperton. Upon his arrival in California, he settled first in San Francisco, on the value of his reputation he quickly developed some impressive and lasting political connections, and successfully secured the position of County Sheriff. This job lay beyond the command of his political adversary, David Broderick, the political boss of San Francisco. While acting as sheriff, he earned local distinction on the basis of his dealings with the Vigilance Committee. His campaign for the job of sheriff has been told many times in colorful prose, and is recounted in terms of Hays' striking heroic poses, demonstrating his skill with side arms, and relating exploits of border fighting in Texas. As such, his credentials were impeccable.
Colonel Hays was a Southerner, a member of the Chivalry, and as such an important local cohort to many influential men of similar affiliation. In 1853 Hays was appointed by newly elected President Fillmore, under the privilege afforded the President by the political spoils system, the position of U.S. Surveyor-General. This appointment came while he was still serving his tenure as San Francisco County Sheriff. In the Surveyor-General position, he had working under him at that time both John Clar (who had his job prior to Hays' appointment, and whose salary was immediately raised upon the acquisition of his new boss) and Julius Kellersberger, the latter being the man whom he later assigned the job of surveying the northern portions of Rancho San Antonio. With the election of President Buchanan in 1857, Hay's position was forfeited to the same spoils system, a change resulting in the loss of position by all three men.
Col. Hays was to be principally involved in the acquisition of all of the land owned by Vicente and Domingo Peralta (as well as a share of Antonio Peralta's holdings, namely the Town of Alameda). He settled in Oakland in 1856, building a home on his property just west of Lake Temescal. He was a founder and director of the Union Savings Bank, and served for a time as a Regent of the University of California. He died at his Oakland home in 1883, at the age of 66.
John Caperton, known principally through his association with John Hays, served with him in the Army and under him as a deputy sheriff. He relocated to his Kentucky home in the early 1850's and did not return, although he continued, in absentia, to be active in his local real estate interests through his assigned power of attorney.
Arriving shortly behind Hays and Caperton was Richard Pindall Hammond, the brother-in-law of John Hays. Hammond was then employed by the U.S. Army, and served later as the U.S. Collector of Customs during which time he came under the professional scrutiny of J. Ross Browne. Brown in 1855 was a U.S. Treasury Agent employed to investigate the irregularities of Hammonds' office. Hammond was professionally associated with William T. Sherman as a surveyor. Somewhat later he served as a member of the State's Assembly, during which time he quite actively participated in the early land transactions involving Rancho San Antonio.
William T. Sherman
Sherman, known best for his later "march to the sea", had arrived at Monterey in 1846 with the U.S. Army, was stationed in San Francisco in 1847, and served during the U.S. occupation in the capacity of an army surveyor. An observer at the Constitutional Convention in 1848, he retired from the Army and elected to remain in San Francisco with his wife, finding employment as a banker with the firm of Lucas, Turner & Company. He too would become involved in the ownership and development of Rancho San Antonio lands, principally those in Berkeley. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he returned to the East and served President Lincoln and the Union cause.
Among those who harkened to the beckoning call of fresh opportunity, not
surprisingly, were the clergy. Once the territory was open to settlement,
and statehood became the topic of the hour, it was apparent to many that
this virgin land was a spiritual void ministered to by only the powerless
vestige of the Spanish Catholic Church. The new and growing population
offered an abundance of potential converts and the delicious promise of a
Christian (Protestant) community; here was opportunity for a virtually
unlimited church expansion.
The Presbyterian Church was among the first to be represented. In February
of 1849 the 28- year old Reverend Samuel Hopkins Wiley stepped off the
boat "California" in the burgeoning port of Yerba Buena. Born in New
Hampshire and completing his college studies at Dartmouth in 1845, Wiley
was accompanied on the voyage by a Mr. Bigelow and a Mr. Van Voorhies, two
men with very substantial futures in California's political life. These
men would also prove influential in the various ambitions of Reverend
Wiley. Wiley arrived in time to offer his clerical contribution at the
State Constitutional Convention in 1849, sharing these honors only with
the Catholic padre. To his dismay, he found that Catholics continued to
comprise a plurality among the citizenry, augmented by a somewhat smaller
contingent of Congregationalists.
Eventually, in concert with the Reverend Henry Durant (who had not yet arrived in California), Reverend Wiley would occupy a significant role in the cultural and educational development of Oakland and Berkeley. In the meanwhile, Wiley set up shop in San Francisco where his flock continued to grow and to afford him an increasingly secure foundation upon which he would pursue his destiny, both sacred and profane.