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 8 - Prison

April 7, 1840
Many jails in the Province are filled with foreigners. Alfred Morris, who Graham had mentioned, is his recollection of his arrest. Said later that he had seen fifteen, to twenty men swinging blows at Neil and Graham, also saying that he heard Garner urging the beating of the two men. Morris managed to make his escape with the help of some Californios, yet, later was captured.

Monterey's Jail was also the first California Jail

Graham and the others were put into chains and taken to Monterey where he was put into the single adobe jail cell that was only eighteen by thirty feet, with only one small, barred window and an earthen floor. After Graham was apprehended by the Mexican Government. Forty-six other men would follow, crowded together into that tight single adobe cell. The cell became a torture chamber for the foreigners. The air was vile and the space so crowded that only a few men could stretch out to sleep while the rest of the men had to stand and wait their turn.

Thomas Larkin would later write about Isaac Graham's arrest; "About twenty miles from Monterey there was a tanning establishment and distillery carried on by Mr. Isaac Graham & Mr. Henry Naile, the former captain of a rifle company, who in disgust had forsaken his Californian friends, after being well paid. At this establishment [Jose] Castro and his party accompanied by Garner (who was on terms of enmity with Graham) made a brutal attack at midnight on the 6th & 7th of April 1840, beating down the doors and windows, & firing several guns & pistols at the inmates as they rose from their beds. A pair of pistols were fired at Graham's heart, the muzzle touching his cloak that he had in a hurry thrown over him. These pistols being badly loaded, had dropped their balls during the night into the holsters, where they were afterward found by the owner, who had been much surprised to find Graham alive after the melee. Naile & Graham were hauled out of the house, stabbed in several places, Naile being hamstrung to keep him from running away, being a custom with the Californians to use bullocks this way when they want to keep them alive and not tied down, a few hours before killing. In this manner the party started to Monterey with their two prisoners, but they had to leave Naile on the road, apparently dying. With much difficulty they carried Graham."

However, at the end of his self-deliberations, Larkin decided that he just couldn't allow his fellow Americans to suffer without any decent treatment. So, while he objected to their personalities. He did not think that they were treating them humanely and would attempt at least to make their confinement more comfortable. The first thing Larkin did, was to convince Alverado that they should give the men food. Yet, although he tried, he could not convince Alverado to agree to any other changes in their treatment. It was another man, along with Larkin who could make their living standards in the jail more livable.

The superintendent of a meat packing plant, David Spence, convinced the governor to permit him to supply cow hides for the jail's floor to alleviate some of the dampness and by the time that was accomplished, Larkin had succeeded in convincing Alverado to release prisoners who were not known to be followers of Isaac Graham. However, not all of those who were released from the bigoted roundup of foreigners were pleased with Larkin's attempts at easing their suffering. Henry Bee, said after he was given his freedom twelve-days later, "all of us men of good character...violently torn from their homes and treated like the worst kind of criminals." He went on to criticize Larkin for not intervening on the side of the men in jail. Other men shared this view, pointing out to all that would listen, that Larkin and Spence were not included in the foreigner round up and at first, seemed to accept the actions by the Governor. Leaving many to wonder if there was a question of possible conspiracy regarding Larkin and Spence and Alverado. In fact, while Larkin did convince Alverado to allow the prisoners to have food, he was the man who supplied their meals. And of course he made a small profit in doing so.

Monterey 1848

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