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
July 24, 1832
The men were under the leadership of George Nidever, and had joined for a time with a splinter group of men headed by Fraeb. Yet, near the Great Salt Lake, the Nidever group decided to try their luck trapping along the Humbolt River in Nevada. And the company reportedly had success in their work and remained there for what was left of that season. Before winter, the men went back to Green River, planning to spend the cold months at their previous quarters. However, upon arriving they had to make other plans because Snake Indians had already chosen the site for their own spot, leaving the men to wonder the winter between place and place. Traveling the headwaters of the Colorado River and trapping beaver between the Platte and Green Rivers, that specific winter would prove to be one of the toughest for Isaac Graham, who along with the others in the group would suffer from the extreme cold and their precious horses being stolen by Indians.
The Nidever group again found themselves along the familiar Green River area, after first trapping for a time along the Platte River, preparing for the 1833 rendezvous again being held at the prearranged site, where in a short time 300 trappers would again converge in July. This event would mark the end of most concrete information regarding Isaac Graham's activities before arriving eventually into Spanish California. However, it is clear that the 1833 rendezvous would be the place where after years of camaraderie between the Nidever group men, would be the place where they would split up and join with various other companies.
1833 - 1834
Regarding Graham's entrance into California, there is no real consensus. Some have written that he arrived in the southern part of the state in 1833, or others say, 34. Hubert Howe Bancroft said that William Ware probably arrived in California with the Walker party in 1833. Ware would become one of Graham's most steadfast friends along with Joseph L. Majors. In a report, it is said that Majors left Tennessee with Graham and Ware, reaching California in 1834. In another report it is said that Graham came to California with Job K. Dye, as a member with the 1832 Ewing Young trapping party.
However, In 1888, Jessie Graham, Isaac's son, said that, "Forty years ago there lived a man in Harlin County, Tennessee, a man by the name of Isaac Graham. He had married and as the fruit thereof had two sons and two daughters. One daughter died young, the other married a man by the name Marshall and now lives at Santa Cruz. One son, I. W. Graham, lives at Round Rock, Texas. The other son, the principal character in this story, resides in Fresno. In 1829 Isaac Graham, the father, left Hardin County and went into Arkansas where he joined a trapping expedition bound to the great Northwest. The party he was with finally arrived in Oregon, and disbanded. Graham worked hard with varying fortunes, but was unable, owing to the Indians to retrace his steps across the continent. He accumulated some money, however, which he loaned to a man in Oregon. The latter finally ran away for California, then under Spanish rule. Graham followed him into California and hunted him up and found him on a race course running a horse race under the customs of the times. In the race his horse bolted, threw him, and he was killed. Graham again found himself destitute and went to work again, living at what was then know as Yerba Buena, and again by slow degrees accumulated some property..."
Graham's daughter, Matilda Jane Rice said that her father entered the state with a Mexican passport that he had obtained in Chihuahua, Mexico. Whatever the facts about how Graham entered Alta California, By 1833, he was in the country of Mexico and the province of Alta California. In-fact, on file in the city of Salinas's courthouse is evidence showing that Graham and his partner, Henry Naile. Sued the estate of John Price (St. Clair), one of the original Bean party, in 1837. The Alcalde appointed William Gulnac and Dr. John Marsh as receivers and referees of the estate. They filed the following report with John Burton, who was the second rigidor, August 15, 1837.
We the undersigned having been called on by the magistrate of this place as arbitrators to decide on claims preferred by Isaac Graham & Henry Naile against the estate of John Price lately deceased. We find that the only document presented in this case is the following: "Recd. Decr 20, 1833. Sixty dollars in full of my part of a note contracted by A. St Clair to Isaac Graham, which note now is in the hands of Gh. Labie, Taos, New Mexico. For Alexr. St Clair T.P. St. Clair.
Ezekiel Mer[r]itt duly sworn deposeth, that he was called as a witness & was present at a settlement of accounts between the deceased John Price & F. P. St Clair in Decr. 1833 when the said Price was about to leave the company; that the said Price, then & there paid to the said St Clair some horses, he thinks four or five, which he thinks was in full for the dept, This deponent further saith, that he heard the said F. P. St Clair say that he was administrator of the Estate of his brother Alexr. St. Clair, then lately deceased, & that he was responsible for all his depts.
The undersigned consider that there is not sufficient evidence before them to come to any final settlement of the case."
Graham had told Thomas Jefferson Farnham, that he had come to California via Chihuahua and had been in the province for seven years. That statement given in May of 1840, would make the date of his arrival, 1833. This would back up his daughter's later statement. Also, there were numerous obituaries written regarding people who knew Graham that set his arrival at 1833. Thomas O. Larkin, in 1834, decided to perfect a census of the entire American and English people living in Alta California during the year 1834. Through the assistance of people such as, Nicholas Den, Abel Stearns, John B. R. Cooper, James A. Forbes, John Wilson, David Spence and the editor of the Santa Cruz Pacific Sentinel, John McElroy. He asked these men to go through their memories and records to assist in the gathering of his census.
Larkin, then a few weeks later asked these men to narrow their search to people who had resided in Alta California prior to 1840, and add their time of arrival, their professions, and the areas that they settled in. To help in the men's endeavor, he supplied them with a list of 200 names. John McElroy, received his list of names on July 14, 1856, and told Larkin that he would go to Isaac Graham's residence and inquire to the date of his arrival. It is curious to note that McElroy refers to Captain Graham as, "Major Graham" in his reply to Larkin's request for information. On August 21, McElroy returned Larkin's list and upon handing it over, told Larkin that, "Maj. Graham. . . promised to furnish. . . a roll of his company, if the original can be found. He says he thinks he can find it. This was the roll of the company organized in 1840. The finished Larkin roster has Isaac Graham listed under the date, 1836, Monterey distiller. Henry Naile, however, was marked down as being killed.