Captain Isaac Graham
by Michael F. Kinsella
Captain Isaac Graham - Time line biography of his life that was written by Mr. Kinsella. The pages use to be available on the internet at another location and are no longer there. I have created these pages because Isaac was a true California hero worth knowing. I once played Isaac at the Everygreen Cemetery in Santa Cruz on May 1st, 1999. - Floyd D. P. Øydegaard
April 23, 1840
The ship Vallejo supplied to take the prisoners south, was the Joven Guipuzcoana, this was once the ship, Roger Williams, under command of a former American who had renounced his citizenship and had sworn his allegiance to Mexico. It was after Graham was placed aboard the ship, when an American sailor, John Chamberlain, was ordered to put the prisoners in shackles, attached by the leg to bars of iron of groups from nine, to two. Chamberlain was promptly told that if he didn't proceed with the action, he to would join the men in their exile. So with misgivings he did so. And after the ship's sail faded into the distance. The 20 sailors and guards onboard held Thanksgiving service to thank God for delivering the province of Alta California from the evil foreigners and the danger they had brought. The following day after the departure of the Joven Guipuzcoana, Governor Alverado published a proclamation to announce that, "a sordid and venal faction, gotten up by some ungrateful foreigners, whom you have welcomed to your hospitable soil, attempted to strip us of the most previous treasure, country, and life...."
Orders were also issued for the disposal of all property belonging to Isaac Graham and the other men who were on their way to San Blas.
After the men's arrival in Tepic, Meadows, Morris and the British Consul, Lawrence Carmichael, gathered depositions as to the treatment of the men while aboard the ship. All accounts said that the ship was a place of utter horror to the foreigners accused of treason. They shackled the men below decks in a cramped space, which caused the tropical heat to make the conditions unbearable. The guards gave the men only enough water and food to keep their already fragile bodies alive. Often, the men would eat what little food they had off the dirty floor. According to the reports the men gave, the only thing that kept their spirits soaring was that they would alternate singing the Star-Spangled Banner, Rule Britannia and Hail Columbia, that is until the Californio, Jose Castro, sent with them to "protect them," issued orders to those guarding them, that the next man to start singing should be stabbed to death so the other prisoners would get the word and their one source of sustenance was denied them.
The ship first stopped at Santa Barbara to pick up an additional five foreign born prisoners. It was here that Isaac Graham began to regain his fighting spirit and great sense of survival he had mastered while in the wilds of the open country between the United States and Mexico;
"....But I reckon these villains will see me die like a man. And if I do die, I wish you to go to Tennessee and Kentucky and tell the boys of our suffering, my bones on the stake, and their riffles will make spots on their vile carcasses. Two-hundred Tennessee riflemen could take this country; and it's a mighty pity it should be held by a set of vagabonds who don't regard the honor of god or the rights of man. I have been here now seven years; have always been a peaceable man, except when I took part with the Californians against the tyranny of government officers sent up from Mexico. And now, I am lassoed like a bear for slaughter or bondage, by these very men whose lives and property myself and friends saved. Well, Graham may live to prime a rifle again! If he does, it will be in California!"
While in Santa Barbara, the men were taken from the ship and put into a dungeon beneath the Mission and again were given only enough food and water to keep their now skeletal frames alive. However, after a few days, one of the priests had pity upon looking at the men and their predicament and gave them more food and allowed them to bath themselves. Which since it had been many days since they had the opportunity to do so, might have been for his benefit and the prisoners.
After the voyage resumed, the men were put in their now customary place among the filth below decks. However, Captain Snooks, being a seasoned sailor, new it was not wise to tempt a spread of decease among his ships' crewmembers if the prisoners were kept in such terrible conditions, so he issued orders that would relieve their suffering a little bit. He ordered that the men would be allowed to exercise a bit on the top deck. Isaac Graham and Morris, though, had to be kept separated from the other prisoners and conversation mute kept that way at the point of a bayonet.
Jose Castro, then came up with a plan that in his mind prevented any trouble for the Governor. His proposal was to scuttle the ship and allow the men to be killed and blame everything on natural causes. Yet, Captain Snooks vetoed his idea, only because they could not agree upon a proper settlement for the loss of his ship.