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

Part 14 - Marriage

June, 1842

All of those remaining men who had originally been sent south charged with treason were found to be not guilty by the tribunal, and a decree was issued that said that the injured and innocent men are entitled to compensation for their losses. Many of the men were promised to be paid $250 for their pain and suffering. Thanks to the efforts put forth by Consul Barron. He was told also that eventually the innocent men would receive more. Isaac Graham had said while chained, that if possible he would return. So with his new freedom, Graham indeed decided to return to Alta California. The Mexican authorities supplied a ship, the Bolina, as well as passports to the formerly imprisoned men and all who wished to return to the far off province, was free to do so.

July 20, 1842

Isaac Graham and the others aboard the Bolina, return to Monterey. Not long after Isaac Graham's return to the province, he and Naile immigrated across the bay to the mountains nine miles above Santa Cruz. Purchasing the Rancho Zayante. Originally, Rancho Zayante was granted to Joaquin Buelna, on July 18, 1834. Yet, He in turn sold the land to Francisco Moss for $80.00, who received title on September 6, 1839. On April 22, 1841, Governor Juan Alverado issued the Natividad grant to Joseph L. Majors, who was a naturalized Mexican citizen. Majors allowed Graham, Naile, and others to use his name as owner, since they were not allowed to own land, because Juan Bautista Alverado failed to follow through with his equal rights promises made years earlier. In 1852, Majors testified before the United States Land Commission saying, "It was granted in my name because I was a Mexican citizen and could hold land but I held it for Graham and others who not being Citizens could not hold it in their name."

Graham and his partners, Naile, William Ware, Frederick Hoegel and Peter Lassen began a new operation on Zayante property, lumber. They became what was called at the time, sawyers. The Zayante ranch was full with ripe trees to be felled, and plenty of water for their proposed water powered sawmill, which would be, arguably, California's first.

September 14, 1843

Isaac Graham petition's for the title of his Zayante ranch. However, Governor Micheltorena denied the request and the ranch remained in the name of Majors. Graham and Naile choose to use, 'GN,' representing Graham-Naile, as their cattle brand. Yet, old habits died hard in the, 'Old Tennessean.' And the pair of men opened another distillery on the ranch. In order to facilitate their transportation of hides, lumber and yes, whiskey, Graham and Naile built a road from the Santa Cruz Mountains down through Branciforte that would become, 'Graham Hill Road,' that is still in use to this day.


Isaac Graham weds Catherine Tallatha Bennett in 1845, when Graham was 45, and Bennett was twenty-one-years-old. Since there was no Protestant minister handy at the time. The couple drew up a contract of marriage. And in a due course, two daughters were born to them. The Bennett family Isaac Graham married into was originally from Georgia and immigrated to Arkansas where they had ten-children. In 1842, the family with now only eight surviving children, packed their belongings and traveled to Oregon with the Langsford W. Hastings party, and then a year later decided to go a little farther, settling in the California province. Apparently, Tallatha's father, Vardamon Bennett became a scoundrel in Mary Bennett's eyes. She separated from him, bringing her children to Santa Cruz at a ranch near Love Creek, just above Isaac Graham's. It was in the surrounding hills that the 45-year-old Isaac Graham won as his bride the 21-years young, Tallatha, (who preferred to be called Catherine). The couple exchanged vows at his Zayante Ranch house.

With no available Protestant minister to perform the wedding ceremony, the eager couple chose to perform the ceremony themselves with the signing of a contract of marriage. At that time in Alta California, a legal marriage could only be performed by a Catholic Priest. Although, unbeknownst to the couple, it turns out that they could have avoided a lot of future trouble by traveling to Monterey and having the Consul for the United States, Thomas O. Larkin perform the ceremony. Attending the event at the Graham ranch was William Ware, Graham's old friend and Catherine's eldest brother, Winston Bennett.

"Marriage in the year 1845 Isaac Graham of Santa Cruz and Catherine Bennett of San Francisco were married at Sayant by banns this 26 day of September in the year one thousand eight hundred and forty five by one who was requested to read the ceremony. Henry L. Ford"

Mother Bennett upon hearing of the makeshift ceremony reportedly went into a rage of activity to make the wedding either legal, or receiving her daughter Catherine back to her legal, immediate family. Mrs. Bennett went directly to Thomas O. Larkin demanding that he make the marriage legal. Larkin, always a man to recognize a strong willed person when he encountered one. Wrote a letter to Jose Antonio Bolcoff, the justice of the peace of Santa Cruz, asking that Bolcoff separate the couple immediately until the situation could be sorted out. He wrote on November 19, that the two were, "living together as married people, without being legally married.....their children (in case they have any) are illegitiment.....unless their parents are married by a competent authority...."

Larkin's reply from Bolcoff came on December 4. Bolkoff told Larkin that Isaac Graham flatly refused to comply with the Consul's request, "Graham said that they were well married and that he would not separate from the side of Bennett, that he would lose a thousand lives before he would give her up...Other gentlemen approved of his marriage, that nobody could force a separation, and included in Bolcoff's letter was a statement which is pure, Isaac Graham, he said that he was to sick to travel the distance to Monterey. Bolcoff finished his letter to Larkin summing up his experience with Graham. "He never likes to obey authority." Bolcoff informed Larkin, that the matter was in his hands to do so as he pleased, ending with, "Graham talks much against whoever it may be."

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