John Vonderlin: 1863: Colorful Character Isaac Graham knew Daniel Boone

Story from John Vonderlin
Email John (benloudman@sbcglobal.net)

1863 Daily Alta Obituary
Death or an Old Resident.— Captain Isaac Graham, an old mountaineer, trapper and Indian fighter, and one of the earliest pioneers of this State, died last evening in this city at half-past eight o’clock, aged sixty-four years. The details of this man’s life, if correctly told, would be of value to the historian, and of absorbing interest to the lovers of romantic and thrilling incident. He was born in Botetourt county, Va., from whence he removed, at an early age, to Kentucky, becoming schooled in the rough and dangerous scenes of border life in infancy for his subsequent years of activity and adventure among the savage tribes of New Mexico, the Kovky and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Capt. Graham was one of those links which connected the present generation with the past, he having been intimate with many of the veteran explorers of the West, among whom was the renowned Daniel Boone, at whose death he was present. He has been for over thirty years a resident of California, living for the most part in Santa Cruz county, whore he possessed valuable estates. He leaves several children and numerous friends; who will sincerely deplore his demise. Thus another of the great landmarks of the age has crumbled away. A hero and a warrior sleeps, unsung but not unwept. His friends can view his remains at the rooms of Nathaniel Gray until three o’clock P. M..to-day, when they will be conveyed to the steamer Salinas for removal to his home at Santa Cruz.

Trivia: In the 1830s Isaac Graham established one of the first American communities west of the Rocky Mountains, Roaring Camp in the Santa Cruz mountains. He was a fur trapper and nephew to Daniel Boone. He was said to have created the first highway in the west; it is now known as Graham Hill Road!

November 14, 1863, Santa Cruz Sentinel
Capt. Graham: This old resident who for thirty years has been identified with the history of this vicinity, and especially with its earlier traditions, died in San Francisco the 8th inst.[sic] His remains were brought to Santa Cruz and buried in the cemetery[Evergreen]on Tuesday.
Although only 64 years of age, at his death, his entire system both mental and physical, had been breaking up for a number of years. This early decay may be partly attributable to the vicissitudes of a frontier life full of adventure and excesses.
He was born in Boutetourt county Virginia, but removed early in life to Kentucky, then the “dark and bloody ground” where he was conversant with the explorers and heroes of the border, among them Daniel Boone at whose death he was present. He afterwards went to Texas where he married, and Mexico; subsequently he roamed for years beyond the limits of civilization, through the immense Territory bounded by the Mississippi and Gila Rivers, the Pacific and British Possessions, and figured in many thrilling incidents, with the mountainers and trappers. About thirty years ago he came to Santa Cruz where he has since lived.
Before his decay by age he was engaged as a lumberman, distiller and ranchero, and was at one time very wealthy, but through litigation and excesses, very little of his property remained to him at his death.
He had a powerful frame, a persuasive address, an unerring eye with the rifle, and that daring which is always a concomitant of strength and power.
He was of litigious spirit and in his prime had both friends and enemies, but his last years of child-like age had pacified all enmities and he left none but friends behind him.
Late 1818 – 1820
Travels to Marthysville, Missouri, where he spends time with the famous trapper, explorer, and politician Daniel Boone. Daniel Boone died on Sept. 26, 1820, with Isaac Graham and others at his bedside. His wife buried him on a hilltop overlooking the Missouri River. Years later his body was taken back to Kentucky.

Isaac Graham, a frontiersman, came from Hardin County, Kentucky, in 1833. Three years after his arrival he assisted Juan B. Alvarado in expelling Governor Guiterres with the understanding that the country should be free from Mexican domination. However, shortly after Alvarado came to power, Graham and his associates were arrested as dangerous foreigners and placed in confinement on a boat in Monterey Harbor. A few of the group were released before Dan Jose Castro sailed with the prisoners for Mexico and all were released by Mexican authorities after their arrival. It was reported Isaac Graham received $36,000 as indemnity for the outrage done to him. With this money Graham cast his eyes on the Zayante Tract. Graham, along with his friend Henry Neale, induced Joseph Majors who was a Mexican citizen, to apply for the grant. Majors was named as grantee of Zayante and the adjoining San Augustine Rancho of 4,436 acres.Majors actually procured the land for a syndicate of “foreigners” who declined to become Mexican citizens.

Zayante
Named after an Ohlone tribe
, this canyon was the first settlement in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Isaac Graham, a colorful and somewhat infamous rogue, ran a huge and notorious logging and moonshine camp. Graham may be most famous for assisting the empire of Mexico to overthrow Monterey land barons in the ‘Alta California’ revolution.Graham and his ‘riflemen’ as they were known helped create one united state of California under Mexican rule in 1839. By 1850, with tremendous land grants, he was one of the county’s richest men.

 

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About June Morrall

1947 - 2010
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