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 6, 1840
Juan Alverado chose this date to arrest Isaac Graham for two reasons. The first that it was a moonless night, the second, because it lent even more justification for the arrest. Isaac Graham had always loved horses. There can be no doubt as to that fact. Since his earliest days as a jockey in the bluegrass country of the southern United States, he had been depending on them for his very existence. In fact, a person can argue that he probably spent more time with horses than he did other humans for long stretches of time. He owned at that time a gelding that he had all of the confidence in the world, as to being the finest horse in Alta California, and considering the way that the Californios also loved their horses. Graham's gelding must have been a fine specimen indeed.
Each year he would challenge the whole province to produce a faster horse. And often he would win and anger those he bet against. Apparently in the spring of 1840, Graham had been making arrangements with a man residing in Los Angeles about the two men going up against the other with a horse that was from San Diego. A letter of intent about the race was made. The authorities apparently read it and twisted it in their already paranoid minds that it was a diagram to overthrow the government and lay in ruin the missions and their lands.
According to Isaac Graham, his arrest went like this; "I, Isaac Graham, a citizen of the United States of America, came across the continent to California, with a passport from the Mexican authorities of Chihuahua, and obtained from the General commanding in Upper California, a license to run a distillery in that country, for the term of eight years; this business I have followed since that time.
"On the sixth of April last (1840) there appeared to be mischief brewing. But what it would prove to be, none of us could tell. The Californian Spaniards traveled usually much about country; and conversed with the foreigners rather shyly. They had threatened to drive us out of California several times; and we tried to guess whether they were at last preparing to accomplish it. But from what we saw it was impossible to form a satisfactory conclusion.
"On the same day, however, Jose Castro, Bicente Contrine, Ankel Castro, and a runaway Botany Bay English convict, by the name of Garner, a vile fellow, and an enemy of mine, because the foreigners would not elect him their Captain, passed and repassed my house several times, and conversed together in low tones of voice. I stopped Jose Castro, and asked him what was the matter. He replied that he was going to march against the Commandante General Viego, at San Francisco, to depose him from the command of the forces. His two companions made the same assertion. I knew that Alverado was afraid of Viego, and that Jose Castro was ambitious for his place; and for these reasons, I partly concluded that they did speak the truth.
"A little later in the day, however, the vagabond Garner called at my house, and having drunk freely of whiskey became rather boisterous, and said significantly, that the time of some people would be short; that Jose Castro had received orders from the governor to drive the foreigners out of California, or to dispose of them in some other way. He boasted that he himself should have a pleasant participation in the business. I could not persuade him to inform me when or in what manner this was to take place. I had heard the same threat made a number of times within the past year, but it resulted in nothing. Believing, therefore, that Garners words preceded from the whiskey he had drunk, rather than the truth, I left him in the yard, and in the company with my partner, Mr. Niel, went to bed. Messrs. Morris and Barton, as usual, took to their couches in the still house.
"We slept quietly, until about three o'clock in the morning, when I was awakened by the discharge of a pistol near my head, the ball of which passed through the handkerchief about my neck. I sprang to my feet, and jumped in the direction of the villains, when they discharged six other pistols, so near me that my shirt took fire...but the trepidation of the cowards prevented their taking good aim; for only one of their shots took effect, and that in my left arm.
"After firing they fell back a few paces and commenced reloading their pieces. I perceived by the light of their pistols that they were too numerous for a single man to contend with, and determined to escape. But I had scarcely got six paces from the door when I was overtaken and assailed with heavy blows from their swords. These I succeeded in parrying off to such an extent that I was not much injured by them. Being incensed at last by my successful resistance, they grappled with me, and threw me down, when an ensign by the name of Joaquin Terres drew his dirk, and saying with an oath that he would let out my life, made a thrust at my heart. God saved me again. The weapon passing between my body and left arm, sunk deep in the ground; and before he had an opportunity of repeating his blow they dragged me up the hill in the rear of my house, where Jose Castro was standing. They called to him. 'Here he is! here he is!' whereupon Castro rode up and struck me with the back of his sword over the head so severely as to bring me to the ground; and then ordered four balls to be put through me. But this was prevented by a faithful Indian in my service, who threw himself on me, declaring that he would receive the balls in his own heart!
"Unwilling to be thwarted, however, in their design to destroy me, they next fastened a rope to one of my arms, and passed it to a man on horseback, who wound it firmly around the horn of his saddle. Then the rest of them, taking hold of the other arm, endeavored to haul my shoulders out of joint; But the rope broke. Thinking the scoundrels bent on killing me in some way, I begged for liberty to commend my soul to god. To this they replied. 'You shall never pray till you kneel over your grave.' They then conducted me to my house and permitted me to put on my pantaloons. While there, they asked where Mr. Morris was. I told them I did not know. They then put their lances to my breast and told me to call him or die. I answered that he had made his escape. While I was saying this, Mr. Niel came to the house, pale from loss of blood and vomiting terribly. He had had a lance thrust through his thigh, and a deep wound in his leg, which nearly separated the cord of the heel.
"They next put Mr. Neal and myself in double irons, carried us half a mile into the plain, left us under guard, and returned to plunder the house. After having been absent a short time, they came and conducted us back to our rifled home. As soon as we arrived there, a man by the name of Manuel Larias approached me with a drawn sword, and commanded me to inform him where my money was buried. I told him I had none. He cursed me and turned away. I had some deposited in the ground, but I determined they should never enjoy it. After having robbed me of my books and papers, which were all the evidence I had that these scoundrels and others were largely indebted to me, and having taken whatever was valuable on my premises, and distributed it among themselves, they proceeded to take an inventory of what was left, as it were the whole of my property; and then put me on horseback and sent to this prison. You know the rest. I am chained like a dog, and suffer like one."