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
May 16, 1840
The ship arrived at San Blas on May 16, 1840. For the foreign prisoners, again they denied them food or drink for three days, locked in a castle jail cell. Thomas Jefferson Farnham met the prisoners there and planning to join the prisoners as they traveled overland to Tepic.
The conditions the prisoners faced during the beginning of their 60-mile trek overland to Tepic was another experience of utter horror for the foreigners accused of treason. They wrapped heavy chains about their limbs. Most men wore no shoes and again they denied the men food. Farnham again came to the rescue supplying a few donkeys that the men took turns riding alleviating a little of their ordeal, then they allowed the men one night lodging, again thanks to Farnham, who convinced two Englishmen, Forbes and Barron to subsidize the men's lodging. There is some evidence, however, that at the beginning of the journey, when Farnham's pleas for human treatment befell Captain Castro's ears. Castro had openly talked of finding a way to kill Farnham, yet, never followed through with his threat.
They arrived in Tepic. Early in September, by that time the torture ship, Joven Guipuzcoana, Captained by the former American, Snooks, was back off Monterey. Snooks reported to Alverado that the men who conspired against the Mexican Government were safely confined in Tepic and Captain Jose Castro was traveling to Mexico City to report to the higher officials regarding the foreigners' arrests.
The minister of the Interior then reported to Alverado on the disposition of the foreigners and went on to praise the governor on his actions regarding the arrest of the men. And praised the governor for saving the province from the conspiring foreigners. He went on to say that no foreigners would be allowed to enter Alta California unless they agreed to follow the Mexican law of immigration.
He did, however, warn the governor that he must be careful in the future to send along with any arrested foreigner's legal proof of their conspiracy to avoid trouble with countries such as England and the United States. Then the man said that Graham, Morris, Chard and Bowles would remain in the prison at Tepic. Yet, those that had become naturalized Mexican citizens or married Mexican wives would be freed pending an investigation by authorities. The remainder of men arrested during the original foreigner round up, would be deported out of Mexico and advised that they were not welcome to return.
In all probability, Governor Alverado surely didn't expect a man like Thomas Jefferson Farnham to be in Monterey at the time of Isaac Graham's apprehension by his soldiers. Farnham reportedly was feeling ill and decided to come to Mexican Monterey looking for a healthy climate to live in for a time. When he arrived, he didn't see the friendly, laid back people he had heard about from other travelers who had previously visited the province. Arriving only one day before Graham and the other men were taken to San Blas. He saw the way these men were railroaded in Alverado's kangaroo court trial. And it became personal to him. He decided immediately that he was not going to allow these Americans and Englishmen to be treated so badly simply because they had not come from the same culture as the local residents.
It is my opinion that the arrest of Isaac Graham and the other foreigners would be the beginning of a chain of events that would eventually lead to the fall of Mexico as the ruling government of the land that would later become American, California. One of the first persons Farnham contacted upon decided that the men were being treated unfairly was Thomas O. Larkin. Farnham persuaded Larkin to join him in getting the word out to the American authorities as to the way American citizens were being treated, the two men surely recognized that the United States government would love to have an excuse to come into the area and show their force of arms.
Larkin, contacted the State Department in Washington, D.C. Notifying them as to the arrest of the Americans and their exile south, he then sent a petition signed by fellow merchants requesting that a ship be sent to the Monterey harbor as insurance to their own safety from the local government that had continued to speak boldly after dealing with Graham and the other men. The United States government wasted no time and sent immediately the ship, St. Louis, under the command of a Captain Forrest, to the Monterey Bay, the ship was ordered to remain permanently, stationed off the West coast of the province.
However, before the United States ship arrived. A French ship, the Danaide, thinking, Alverado had arrested French citizens along with the English and Americans. Floated in the Monterey harbor with its gun ports open, until they learned that only one French foreigner had been detained, and was soon released, closed its gun ports and relaxed its stance.
For the Americans part, Captain Forrest questioned government officials about the treatment of American citizens. Alverado had run away upon seeing the American ship, giving the feeble excuse that there was some Indian trouble in the interior. Forrest was informed that the Americans were arrested for disturbing the peace, and had entered the country of Mexico illegally. The officials went on to tell Forest, that the only American to have his property seized was Isaac Graham. Forrest, then questioned and gathered testimony from merchants and other Americans in the Monterey area, then appointed, Ethan Esterbrok to be a consular agent in hopes to appease the Americans and their fears.
While Captain Forrest was dealing with the Monterey authorities. The newly appointed United States Minister to Mexico, Powhatan Ellis, demanded the men receive better treatment and the immediate release of the prisoners confined in Tepic. Thanks again to Thomas Jefferson Farnham, who had steadfastly remained on the side of Isaac Graham and the other men; he had already consulted with the British Consul's, Eustace Barron, and Alexander Forbes. In turn, the prisoners had already begun to receive better and better treatment as the Mexican authorities began to understand that these men were becoming a much bigger concern by their home governments than they had previously assumed.
May 24, 1840
Thomas Jefferson Farnham, having received information that the foreigners would soon be well taken care of while in custody awaiting trial, departed from Mexico. Isaac Graham and the other men met with him in order to thank him for everything he had done for their benefit. The authorities had begun to question the motives for the reason of the men's imprisonment in the first place.
Even Vallejo, got involved with the investigation, writing to the Minister of War, April 25, 1840. Saying he agreed with Alverado's action. Because Graham and his men were indeed planning to seize Alta California around the San Francisco Bay area.