History Of Merced County California
THE FOUNDERS OF THE COUNTY
We know that Merced County was created by the Act of April 19, 1855, organized by an election held May 14 and the votes of which were canvassed May 19, and that the first board of supervisors held their first meeting at the Turner & Osborn Ranch on June 4. But anyone who is at all curious about the matter will want to know how it came about that there were here along the Merced River and the creek bottoms of the eastern part of the county in this spring of 1855 enough people to organize a new county. That is probably the most difficult question in all the county's history, at this distance in time, to attempt to answer with anything like completeness.
It is a matter of history that Stanislaus County was formed in 1854, and it is also a matter of history that attempt was made— and failed—to include the settlements along the Merced in that county. These settlements apparently that early had a consciousness of being a separate entity. The census of 1850 gave Mariposa County 4379, and that was for the county which extended from the Coast Range to the State's eastern boundary, and from approximately the present northern line of Mariposa and Merced to the vicinity of San Bernardino. The 1860 census gave a greatly reduced Mariposa County 6243. Tulare, Merced, and Fresno had been carved off before 1860; and this figure is the highest which any federal census gives to Mariposa. It is probable that her greatest population, some time in between these two censuses, must have exceeded the 1860 figure, and exceeded it a good deal. Old-timers will tell you that there were 5000 people in Agua Fria and its twin town of Carson City when these mushroom towns were in their brief prime.
How many people there were in Merced County when it was formed it is not possible to tell with exactness. So far as we have found, there was then no minimum population requirement, as there is now, for the formation of a new county. Perhaps as good a line as we can get on the population of the county at the time of its formation is to be had from the 1857 assessment roll. There were 277 names on that roll. On the 1925 roll there are 11,998. The county's population according to the federal census of 1920 was 24,576; it may perhaps be 30,000 now. If it is, that is two and a half population for each name on the assessment roll; and if we take that as a basis, we should get for the 277 names on the 1857 assessment roll a population of a little less than 700. The 1860 federal census gave Merced County 1141. If the county had gained, say, 450 in the three years from 1857 to 1860, it seems likely that it may have gained 200 or 300 in the two years from 1855 to 1857; and if it had, then the population at the time of its organization would have been between 400 and 500. That is perhaps as close a conjecture as can be made now.
Whatever the exact number may have been, when did it come into the territory which came to be Merced County, and who were these few hundred founders of the county. There is, in the fragments we can now find of the answer to that question, more romance than in anything else in the county's history; and we can find only fragments. Since the death of John Ruddle on February 1, 1925, there are alive, so far as we can find, just a dozen people who may fairly be called pioneers of the time of organization. John Ruddle was the dean of these founders; he was ninety-four years old on October 17, 1924. The twelve now living are: Mrs. Louisa Stevinson, of the Merced River; Mrs. Jane Morgan, of Santa Cruz; Henry Nelson, of Merced; Samuel L. Givens, of Bear Creek; William C. Wilson, of Le Grand; Mrs. Penelope Rogers, of Le Grand; George Powell, of Merced; Mrs. Modest Sensabaugh, of San Francisco; Mrs. Mary Buckley, of Snelling; George Barfield, of Merced; George P. Kelsey, of Berkeley; and Samuel R. Murray, of Fresno Flats.
Of these, George Powell did not actually live in the county at the time of its organization, but drove stage and was in and out of it. Mrs. Rogers just missed being in the county at the time of its organization. She was on the Merced River near Merced Falls before the organization, moved into the Mariposa hills, and moved back to the vicinity of the first county seat, the Turner & Osborn ranch, the latter part of the summer of 1855. Samuel R. Murray, son of Charles Murray who had the bridge, ferry, and mill at Merced Falls, was born at that place just a little prior to the organization of the county. He lived there until he was thirty-two, and has since lived near Fresno Flats, in what is now Madera County. His son is Superior Judge Stanley Murray, Madera County. Charles Murray and his wife were of course here before 1855.
Along in 1852, 1853, and 1854, quite a large proportion of the townships of the county were surveyed; in a good many of them the section lines were surveyed within a year or so after the township lines. On these plats appear a considerable number of houses, fields, ditches, fences, and other works of man, including a number of roads. It should be understood, in reading the plats, that the object of the surveyor was primarily to show the township and section lines, and that such culture as is shown was marked where the lines ran across or near it, for the purpose of showing more clearly where the lines ran.
Taking the successive rows of townships from north to south and following them across the county from west to east, we find Township4 South, Range 12 East (all of course Mount Diablo Meridian and Base Line) surveyed, township lines in 1853 and section lines in 1854; Kirkpatrick's house in the southwest quarter of Section 2; a field in parts of 2, 3, 10, and 11; Silas Hall & Co.'s house in the southwest quarter of 13.; another field near that; the Mariposa stage road passing these two houses; and a trail running across from northwest to southeast. In 4/13, surveyed same time, there are Morley's house in the southwest quarter of 5, Dry Creek in the southeast corner of the township, A. Forbes' house in the southeast quarter of 34. In 4/14 are a road from Knight's Ferry to Snelling, a road from Snelling to Dry Creek, and three fields, no owners' names. Part of the township boundaries were surveyed in 1854, the
balance of the survey in the sixties. The Merced River appears in the eastern part of 4/15; no culture.
In 5/13, surveyed in 1853 and 1854, the Merced River appears in the southern part; there are five large fields; Ruddle & Barfield's house is in the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of 23, Eagle-son's house in the northern part of the northwest quarter of 22, D. C. Clary's house in the northeast quarter of 32, south of the river; and there are several ditches, fences, and other works of man. This township has two east of it and three west of it. In 5/10 are two roads; in 5/11 there is a mustang corral in the northwest part of the northwest quarter of 27, near the present Cortez; and in 5/12 there is a road from "Merced to Tuolumne" running northerly and southerly nearly across the western third, there is one other road, there is the Merced River in the southeast corner, there is Rector's fence about a quarter of a mile north of the south township line crossed by the line between sections 34 and 35, and "Neal's fence" about an eighth of a mile from the south township line crossed by the line between sections 35 and 36. All three of these townships were surveyed in 1853 and 1854. In 5/14 the Merced River appears in the north half. On the north side of the river are Hempstead's house in the northeast quarter of 12, Rammel's house in the northwest quarter of 12, Schroeder's house in the southwest quarter of 2 (Schroeder was Peter Fee's predecessor), two fields just below the site of Snelling, another about a mile further down, W. W. Jackson's field in the southwest quarter of 18 and the northwest quarter of 19, and there are roads and ditches on both sides of the river. This township was surveyed in the fourth quarter of 1853. Going down from towards Merced Falls, 5/15 shows Phillips' Ferry near the line between sections 3 and 4, Nelson's house on the forty line near the center of the southeast quarter of 4 on the north side of the river, Young's store on the south side of the river about a mile downstream, Young's house on the north side in the northwest of the northwest of 9, and Young's Ferry between his house and store. Wilson's house is on the north side of the river in section 7 about a mile and half west of Young's house. Wilson's field and another field are shown; and the road to Fort Miller leads from Young's Ferry, and the Stockton and Mariposa road and Stockton and Mariposa turnpike lead from Phillips' Ferry. There is a house in the southwest quarter of 25, south of the river. The township was surveyed in 1853.
Going back to the West Side of the county again for the sixth row7 of townships south, 6 /9 shows the San Joaquin and part of the lower Merced, the road to Hill's Ferry down the north side of the Merced, Blair & Co. (house, apparently) on the east bank of the San Joaquin in 34, Belt in the southeast quarter of 35, and Gitky in 36 about a mile up the Merced from Belt. The survey was made in 1853. In 6/10 the Merced River runs along the south side. There is the road along the north side of the river; and on the south side of the river in the Chedister Bridge vicinity are two places, apparently small houses, in the east half of 35, marked "Odon," and a little further up in the southeast quarter of 25, "Francesio Bustemento." The township was surveyed in the fourth quarter of 1853. Going on up through 6/11, we follow the river about through the middle of the township. There is a road along each side, and there is a fence in the west half of 30. No houses or fields shown. Also surveyed in fourth quarter of 1853, as was also 6/12. The latter's northwest corner is crossed by the river. On the north side of the river are "Wm. Greene and French Enclosure" in the northeast of the northeast of 7, and the enclosure of Fruit & McSwain between 4 and 5. South of the river are Neagle's fence between 7 and 18, and the enclosure of Neill & Co. between 1 and 2. Nothing but trails is shown on 6/13, surveyed in 1852 and 1853. Dry Creek, a pond, and some short stretches of road appear on 6/14, surveyed in the fourth quarter of 1853. Along the western side of 6/15 appear the Black Rascal Hills, and further east Black Rascal Creek, and near the eastern side Burns Creek. Also near the eastern side is the Fort Miller road, and in the northwest quarter of 12, "Howard," doubtless the ranch house of Captain Howard and his brother. The survey was made in late 1853 and early 1854. The road from Stockton to Fort Miller appears in 6/16, and Howell in the northeast quarter of 30, Mullan in the northwest of 29, a field and a house in the northwest of the northwest of 19, and a house in the southeast of the southeast of 32. Same date for the survey.
Orestimba Creek appears in 7/8, Petri's house in the southeast quarter of 19 on the south side of the creek, a road in 5, and a trail in 36. The east boundary of the township was surveyed in 1853, the rest of it in 1859. The San Joaquin and the mouth of the Merced appear in 7/9. Hill's Ferry is shown between 3 and 4 near their south line, with a fence, a garden, and a windmill. There are roads to Hill's Ferry from the southwest and the southeast. There is a pasture in the north part of 25 on the west bank of the San Joaquin. Most of the township lines were surveyed in 1853, the rest of the work in 1859. Along the south side of the Merced in 7/10 are Stone & Hammond about the west line of 6 (apparently Mahlon Stone), "Stephenson" field in the northeast quarter of 6, Lapee in the northwest of the northwest of 4, McManns in the northwest of the northeast of 4, Turner & Beaver in the southwest of the northwest of 3, with a field extending downstream, and a public road along the south side of the river. Turner is doubtless W. C. Turner, pioneer of 1852, and "Stephenson" means Stevinson. It seems to be a favorite mistake even yet to misspell the name of the particular pioneer family. It is correctly spelled with a "v" and an "i," and in view of the tendency to spell it otherwise, it may not be out of place to state that Mrs. Louisa J. Stevinson herself is authority for that. The commonest error is to change the "i" to an "e," but the more glaring error of "Stephenson" occurs in the big relief map recently installed in the ferry building at San Francisco. That applies to the town; both the name of the town and the name of the family is "Stevinson." The San Joaquin River runs nearly west in this township and there is a small house in the northwest quarter of 32 on the right bank. Most of the township lines were surveyed in 1853, part of the south and southwest in 1859 and 1870, and the section, segregation and meander lines in 1870. Nothing shows in 7/11, surveyed late in 1853. Bear Creek appears in the southeast corner of 7/12. Hadden & McFaden's shows on the south bank in the southwest of 36. Surveyed in the fourth quarter of 1853. The creek, divided into several sloughs, appears in 7/13, and in the northwest quarter of 22 on the north side of the main creek is Richardson's. Surveyed in 1852 and 1853. This "Richardson's" was approximately three miles west of the present court house, and a little further north. On 7/14, surveyed in 1853 and 1854, where a large portion of Merced is now, appear Bear Creek and another creek and two sloughs, and there are three or four forties along the creek marked, which presumably were claimed to hold water-holes. Further up the creek in 7/15, "Cockenall's house" and field are shown in the southwest quarter of 17, on .the north bank. Givens' house is in the northwest quarter of 15, on the south bank, T. Givens in the southeast quarter of 10, south bank, Reed in the northwest quarter of 12, Harrison's field in the northeast of 12. Surveyed in 1853 and 1854. The Fort Miller road and Miles Creek are shown in 7/16, a field in 16 and 17, Cunningham in the northeast of 16, Cunningham's field in the southeast of 9 and the southwest of 10, Keener (in Mariposa County) in the northwest of 10, and on Owens Creek, Owens in the southwest quarter of 23. Surveyed in 1853 and 1854.
Going back to the West Side on the next row south, Las Garcas and Quinto Creeks appear on 8/7, and in the northern part branches of Orestimba Creek. There are two grain fields in the northwest quarter of 1; there is Hubbel's corral on Oat Gulch in the southeast quarter of 10; there are a sheep corral in the southeast of 14, another corral in the northwest of 15, Miles in the southeast of 22, Worthy's in the southeast of 23, Mrs. M. Walker in the northeast of 24, a road to Hill's Ferry down Las Garcas Creek, a cabin and two corrals in the northwest of 36, and a road from Las Garcas to Quinto Creek. The south boundary was surveyed in 1858, part of the north in 1859, the rest of the north in 1874, the remainder of the work in 1880. The next three townships going east were surveyed so largely after the organization of the county that it is hardly likely any of the culture except a road or two date back that far, and there are no works of man on 8/11. Bear and Mariposa Creeks enter the east side of 8/12, but there are no works of man. The "Mariposa River" and Owens Creek appear in 8/13, surveyed in 1852 and 1853. In 8/14 the township lines were surveyed in 1852 and 1853 and the section lines in 1854. Owens Creek runs through the northern part, the north slough of the Mariposa through near or a little north of the middle, the middle slough a mile or two further south, and the main or south slough a little south of that. On the middle slough is a house, Houghton, in the northwest of 13, and a field between 14 and 23. In the southwest of the northwest of 23, a house marked "Turner" marks the place which afterwards for a few months was the county seat. In the southwest of the southwest of 22 is Derrick. A considerable number of oak trees are shown on the middle and south sloughs. Deadman's Creek appears near the south edge of the township. The next township east, 8/15, was surveyed, township lines in 1852 and 1853 and section lines in 1854. Still more oaks are shown along the "Mariposa River." Pieces of road show in the northeast quarter of 1, in the northeast of 3, and in the northwest of 6. Along the north side of the main or south branch of the Mariposa are houses as follows: Lovejoy in the southwest of 18, Cooper in the southwest of 17, Rogers in the northeast of 15, Fitzhugh in the southeast of 11, Vance in the northwest of 13. On the north side of the north branch in the southwest quarter of 9 is Swan's house. The Fort Miller road runs the northeast corner of 8/16. The township lines were surveyed in 1852 and 1853, the section lines in 1854. McDermot's house is shown just south of the Mariposa and west of the Fort Miller road in the northeast quarter of 2. Fremont's Ranch is shown on the south side of the Mariposa in the southwest of the northeast of section 10. There is a field of perhaps 25 or 30 acres in the southern portions of 16 and 17. Deadman's Creek is shown. The next township east, 8/17, had its south and west boundaries surveyed in 1853, and its north and east and section lines in 1855. "Beagle's" (Bieghle's) house is shown in the northeast of the northwest of 19. The Stockton and Fort Miller road, which became the Merced-Mariposa division line in 1855, enters this township in section 7 and leaves it at 36. The house of the Antelope Rancho is shown on the south side of Deadman's Creek in the northwest of the southeast of 17. Dutchman's Creek is shown. Passing on out of Merced County, we find in 8/18, surveyed in 1853 and 1856, the town of Buchanan and a copper smelting works in the northeast quarter of 33, south of the Chowchilla River.
Township 9 South, Range 7 East, was not surveyed until 1858 and 1859; it shows Quinto and Romero Creeks. The east line of 9/8 was surveyed in 1853, the rest in 1858 and 1859. There is a road along the north side in 3 and 4, a house on the south side in the southeast of 8, and a road to Hill's Ferry in 36. There is no culture in 9/9. In 9/10, surveyed, township lines in 1853 and 1854, and section lines in 1861, appear the road to Visalia in 2 and 1, and part of the Santa Rita Grant in 1, 12, and half of 13. No culture appears oh the next six townships east. In 9/17, surveyed in the first quarter of 1854, appears Warren's barley field, south of the Chowchilla, in the southwest quarter of 2 and the northwest of 11.
The San Luis Gonzaga appears in part on 10/7, but no houses or fields. Not surveyed until 1858 to 1878. In 10/8, surveyed, part of east township line in 1854, balance in 1858 and 1859, appear the overland stage road and the telegraph line, going northeasterly, vicinity of San Luis ranch house. In 10/9 appears the San Luis and Stockton road. There are also several houses, but the township was resurveyed in 1886, after surveys in 1853, 1854, and 1858, and these are probably not early, except perhaps the "old s. corral," in the southeast of 34. No culture is shown on the next four townships running easterly.
A number of houses and roads are shown in townships 11 and 12 south, but so much of the surveying was done later, a good deal of it during the seventies, that it is doubtful if any of the culture dates back to the fifties.
Very briefly, then, there are shown on these surveys, before the county was organized, houses and other works of man all along the Merced from Merced Falls to the San Joaquin, down Bear Creek towards where Merced now is, and Richardson's about three miles further down* down Mariposa Creek to the Central Pacific and the State Highway, with three houses further down. On the West Side, Hill's Ferry, the San Luis Ranch, the roads to Stockton and to Visalia; but on account of the later dates of the greater part of the surveys, perhaps nothing else that we dare assert, on the authority of the surveys, was there in 1855.
We turn now from geography to biography. If we except the very slight and soon abandoned start towards settlement which appears to have been made by John C. Fremont, in all probability before that date, the first settlement by Americans in what is now Merced County appears pretty conclusively to have been made by John M. Montgomery and Col. Samuel Scott in the fall of 1849. The sketch of Scott in the 1881 History, which was published in the year of Scott's death, says he "in 1849 came to Merced, then Mariposa County, and entered into the stock business." This sketch tells of his partnership with Montgomery. The sketch of Mr. Montgomery in the 1905 History and Biography, says: "In the fall of 1849 Mr. Montgomery, with Samuel Scott, located in probably the first settlement in what is now Merced County, being but a short distance below the present site of Snelling." Both men were born in Kentucky, Scott in 1809, Montgomery in 1816, and they came to California in 1847, to Monterey, and engaged in business there until the discovery of gold drew them across the Coast Range to the Merced River. Mr. Montgomery does not appear to have done any mining. His sketch in the 1905 History says he hauled freight instead; and after he and Scott had located on the Merced, he engaged in farming and stock-raising. We have seen how he appears to have been the richest man in the county in 1857; and later, up to the time of the beginning of grain-raising on a large scale about the end of the sixties, he was called the money and cattle king of Merced County. Mr. Montgomery returned to Missouri in 1852 and married Elizabeth Armstrong. On their return to California in 1854 their daughter Mary, now Mrs. I. J. Buckley, was born in the month of June at the sink of the Carson, in what was then part of Utah Territory. Mr. Montgomery established his family in the home on Bear Creek, which he had made ready before he went East, and which in more recent years is known as the Wolfsen Ranch.
Montgomery and Scott, when they arrived on the Merced River in the fall of 1849, camped, it is said, under one of the large water-oak trees which serve so greatly to beautify and give character to the river bottom all the way from Merced Falls to the San Joaquin. The place was a short distance north of the
present Cox Ferry bridge, on the left-hand side of the road leading from the bridge out to the paved county highway which leads from Hopeton to Snelling. The tree was standing, up until a few years ago, but has now fallen and disappeared. A short distance up the river from where the gravel pit is now located from which the gravel for the Exchequer Dam is being obtained, still stands a house known as "the old Montgomery house." It is not on its original site, however. The large brick house just at the lower edge of Snelling was of course much later; we read elsewhere of when Mr. Montomery built it about the end of the sixties. Colonel Scott's farm on the Merced came to be called "Baluerte," and was a splendid estate alone in the late sixties, where the owner appears to have dispensed a hospitality very characteristic of the old South. Mrs. Rowena Granice Steele made the place the scene of a romance, "Baluerte," and it figured in another book or two which she also wrote. The place is what is now known as the Cook & Dale place. Colonel Scott's operations on the Merced were interrupted, after his arrival with Montgomery in 1849, by a period of mining, at Placerville, El Dorado County, among other places.
Montgomery and Scott and Dr. David Wallace Lewis established a house of entertainment, which was the beginning of Snelling, in the spring of 1851, Steele tells us in the "Argus" of June 18, 1870— early in the spring, he says. The place was kept by Dr. Lewis. It was first a brush tent, but shortly Dr. Lewis built what was afterwards known as Snelling's Hotel. The Snelling family arrived in the fall of 1851, Steele says, and purchased the property.
Meanwhile, in September 1850, Dr. Joshua Griffith settled on the Merced. The biographical sketch of him in the 1881 History says that when he settled on the Merced there were only three other men on the river; namely, Samuel Scott, J. M. Montgomery, and James Waters. Montgomery and Scott are names well known, but the name of James Waters soon disappears, so far as we have been able to find. The sketch of W. C. Turner in the 1881 History says that James Waters was the leader of the party with which Mr. Turner came to California—from Salt Lake to Los Angeles, at least. The party was at Salt Lake September, 1849, and came on to Los Angeles. They came over the Tejon Pass and to Fort Miller, and, says the sketch, "Here resting a few days, they went to a place called Fine Gold Gulch and did some prospecting. From there they went on to Mariposa County." Mrs. Louisa Stevinson is the only person, so far as we have been able to find, who knows of James Waters now; and from her we learn that he owned the place where James J. Stevinson settled on the lower Merced in August, 1852. Stevinson bought him out, and presumably Waters moved away from this vicinity.
The 1881 History tells of a "Strange Meeting on the Merced," relating that "Joseph Griffith" and "William Hawkins" both were members of the Ashley expedition, it says in 1823. This was the Ashley who was a partner of Jedediah Smith, who led a party through the San Joaquin Valley in 1827. There is in the 1881 book a short sketch of John Hawkins, which states that he settled on the Merced about three miles from its mouth in June, 1852, and established Hawkins' Ferry, and died in 1858, leaving a widow, three sons, and four daughters. The sketch of Joshua Griffith says that Griffith went to Missouri in 1820 (he was born in Pennsylvania in 1800 and moved to Ohio in 1810), and that "Here he met John Hawkins, and these two finally found themselves settled on the Merced River in 1852." Judge James Wood Robertson, Mississippi man, came to California by way of Mexico and by ship to San Francisco in the summer of 1849; mined in Tuolumne County, at Jacksonville; returned to Stockton when the rainy season began; and reached the old California Ferry on the Merced River, afterwards known as Young's Ferry, in January, 1850, where he remained until summer. "In the fall of 1850," says the sketch about him in the Elliott & Moore history, "he took a trip to the northern mines. The next winter and summer he tried mining at Canyon Creek, near Georgetown, El Dorado County, but returned again in 1857 to the Merced River, and has remained there ever since. In 1855, on the organization of the county, he was elected Assessor . " From the context, it seems probable that the "1857" was a misprint for 1851.
N. B. Stoneroad, an Arkansas man, came across the plains to Los Angeles and up the coast to San Jose, where he arrived during October, 1849. He left San Jose on November 1, 1849, for the Mariposa County mines, came by way of Pacheco Pass, and arrived at Agua Fria in the latter part of the month. He mined at Agua Fria for several months, then established a store at Horseshoe Bend, on the Merced River, in what will be a part of the Exchequer reservoir when the dam now under construction is completed. In October, 1850, he moved to Garota No. 2 in Tuolumne County and kept a store there for a year, and then in the fall of 1851 returned to Arkansas, from which State he returned during the summer of 1852 across the plains by the southern route, with the loss of their stock, which was driven off by Indians west of El Paso. He reached Mariposa County again in the fall of 1852, mined during the winter, and in the spring, with his father and three other gentlemen, formed the partnership of Stoneroads, Cathey, McCreary & Kelly. Cathey and Mc-Creary drew out the next spring, and Stoneroad & Kelly continued the business until 1860. They had a tract of land, bought in 1853, about five miles southeast of Plainsburg. Stoneroad continued in the cattle business until the late sixties, when grain-raising began to take up the range, and then went to grain-raising himself, on two sections on Mariposa Creek. He raised a lot of sheep also in this and Fresno Counties, and in 1876, with two brothers, George W. and Thomas, and William Dickenson, his brother-in-law, drove 10,000 sheep to New Mexico, where they bought a tract of land and went into the sheep business. N. B. Stoneroad, however, continued to live on his ranch in this county. His wife, whom he married in 1867, was a daughter of Gallant D. and Isabella Dickenson, and was also an early pioneer, a member of the party who crossed the Sierras in 1846, just a few days ahead of the Donner party. Mrs. F. H. Farrar is a daughter of Mrs. Stoneroad, by a former marriage with a man named Peck.
Eleazer T. Givens, born in Kentucky in 1828, came to California across the plains by way of St. Louis and Salt Lake in 1849. He came to the southern mines in 1850; working first on Coarse Gold Gulch, in what is now Madera County, and later on Auga Fria and Whitlock's Creeks in Mariposa County. It was on October 11, 1850, that he went hunting a grizzly with three other men. One of them, named Childs, and Givens, wounded the bear, and later came up with it in the chaparral, where it attacked Givens. He lost half his scalp and was otherwise badly bitten before Childs succeeded in killing the animal. This ended Givens' mining. In 1851, after recovering from his wounds, he returned to Kentucky, to his father's home. His parents came to California in 1852. He himself married Miss Martha Pratt of Morganfield, Kentucky, in 1853, and they returned to California, to the old Texas Ranch, or Texas Tent, between Hornitos and Indian Gulch, then owned by his father. In 1854 he settled on Bear Creek and in 1856 on Mariposa Creek. It was on this latter ranch, then the Turner & Osborn ranch, where the first county seat was located in 1855. The ranch is still owned by Mr. Givens' children.
William C. Turner, a Missouri man, settled on the Merced River in September, 1852. He crossed the plains in 1849, and from Salt Lake the party, under the guidance of James Waters, came on to Los Angeles, and then north over the Tejon Pass and to Fort Miller and Fine Gold Gulch. Mr. Turner reached Sherlock's Creek in Mariposa County, December 8, 1849, and remained in Mariposa County until 1852, when he came to the Merced River.
W. L. Means, born in Alabama in 1827, arrived in San Francisco by way of Mexico in August, 1850. He came to Don Pedro Bar, and then to the Mariposa County mines, first on the Merced River and later at Agua Fria. In 1851 he came down to the present Robla, on Bear Creek about ten miles west of Merced, and went to hunting elk and antelope to supply meat to the mines. He built the adobe house at Robla. To help him he had several Indians hired, and a white man named McPherson, who had lived a number of years among the Indians, presumably a member of one of the earlier trapping parties who had chosen to remain in California.
Col. Archibald Stevinson, a Kentuckian, and his son, James J. Stevinson, born in Missouri, came to California in 1849. James J. arrived early in the year, and mined at Mormon Gulch, Tuolumne County, in April and May of that year. For three months thereafter he acted as agent for Colonel Jackson at Jacksonville on the Tuolumne River. Then his father arrived from Chihuahua, Mexico, and the two in November, 1849, entered into partnership in a storekeeping venture. The Elliott & Moore history says they remained there until August, 1852, but E. W. Stockird says his grandfather left there in 1850 or 1851. At any rate J. J. Stevinson located on the Merced River on August 1, 1852, and A. Stevinson on September 23 of the same year. J. J. Stevinson, on December 27, 1855, married Miss Louisa Jane Cox, daughter of Isom J. Cox, who conducted Cox's Ferry across the Merced. Mrs. Stevinson has already been mentioned as one of the few pioneers remaining who date their residence here from before the County's organization.
Erastus Kelsey settled on his farm near Merced Falls in 1853. He was born in Oneida County, New York, in 1827. He crossed the plains, and arrived at Sacramento on August 18, 1849. He joined the Quincy Mining Company in 1849, and then, in November of the same year, settled on a ranch on the west side of the Sacramento in company with Joel D. Nichols, J. W. H. Campbell, and a man named Shryer, under the firm name of Nichols, Campbell & Co. The next April, with Nichols and Campbell, he went to Auburn and Spanish Flats and again went to mining. He returned east, to Illinois, in the fall of 1850, married Miss Malinda Powers in 1851, and returned to California in 1852. Four sons were born to Mr. and Mrs. Kelsey: Charles, George P., Horace G., and Arthur L, Kelsey.
William Nelson, born in New Hampshire in 1812, came to California in 1849 from New Brunswick around the Horn. With his wife and his son, Henry, he arrived in San Francisco in May, 1850. He mined for two years, and then went to Humboldt Bay in the winter of 1852 on the steamer Santa Clara, which he converted into a sawmill for Ryan, Dupp & Co. He had learned the trade of a millwright in the East. After several months in the Humboldt Bay section, he returned to San Francisco in the fall of 1852 and built a flourmill on Jackson Street, which he ran for three months. In 1854 he came to Merced Falls and built the flour mill which started the business of thirty-nine years in that line there conducted by him and his son, Henry, whom he took in as a partner in 1866, when the son was twenty-two years of age. It was in March, 1854, that Mr. Nelson came to Merced Falls. In 1867 the Nelsons took part in organizing a company and building a woolen mill adjoining their flour mill. Both were destroyed by fire in 1872, and the rebuilt mills were burned in 1893.
Henry Nelson, the son mentioned, is one of the earliest pioneers of the county now living. He married Miss Lola A. Lawrence in 1870. One son and four daughters were born to them: William N., Lola, Almah, Inez, and Etta. After 1893, when the Nelson & Son's second mill was burned, Henry Nelson helped run the Ruddle mill on the south side of the river below Snelling, which has only recently been torn down. During his milling days he hauled flour to the market in the mining country from Sonora to Coarse Gold. Mount Ophir, where John C. Fremont was a customer, Mariposa, and Princeton, now called Mt. Bullion, are among the places he mentions to which his flour team went. Mr. Nelson recalls the beginning of the town of Merced and relates that after the burning of their mill in 1872, Merced's first year of existence, their team being short of work in the way of hauling flour, he brought it over here and for two months that summer hauled wheat from the ranches out in the present Tuttle section to the new warehouse here for shipment. He made two trips a day with two wagons, carrying 10,000 and 7,000 pounds respectively. In this grain we see the reason for the coming of the railroad and the moving of the county seat from Merced River bottom to the plains. Henry Nelson has been a resident of Merced for a number of years and up to the end of 1924 was actively engaged in the real estate and insurance business. A few months ago he retired from business on account of being troubled with neuritis. Mrs. Nelson died in May, 1925.
Thomas Claiborne Deane, born in Kentucky in 1826, came to California by the southern route in 1849. He lived in what was then Mariposa County until the formation of Merced, and engaged in stock-raising. In the sketch of him in the 1881 History we read that he was one of those who encouraged cotton-raising in the county, and that there were then between 2500 and 3000 acres of cotton in Merced County. Henry Nelson recalls that Mr. Dean was known as "Claibe" to his intimates.
Whether that interesting early figure, James Capen Adams, known as "Grizzly Adams," was ever in what is now Merced County, we cannot tell; but he tells in his Life, written by Theodore Hittell and published in San Francisco, we believe in the sixties, of coming down from the mountains and outfitting at a place
called Howard's Ranch, and then returning to Strawberry in Tuolumne County. He hunted on the Merced River in the mountains, and tells of killing and capturing alive grizzly bears there.
Thomas Price came to this county on August 25, 1854; it was of course then a part of Mariposa County. He was an Arkansas man, and came across the plains in 1853. He seems to have been one of the comparatively few who did not follow mining. He went to stock-raising at once, and in 1855 went to Texas and bought a drove of cattle and drove them here. This is one of the recorded cases of driving stock out from the East. Whether his Texas cattle would classify in the 1857 assessment roll as "American" or "Spanish," we may wonder, but the presence of considerable numbers of "American" stock cattle by that year shows that numbers of others must probably have driven cattle here across the plains.
Samuel L. Givens, one of the pioneers who came prior to the formation of Merced County and who is still living, came with his parents from their former home near Caseyville, Kentucky, by New Orleans and the Isthmus in 1853. They arrived at San Francisco February 2 of that year, and at the Texas Ranch near Hornitos five days later. Two older brothers, Eleazer T. and Robert Robinson Givens, the former already mentioned, had come out in 1849 for the first time. Other brothers were Tom and John; and there were four sisters: Matilda L., who died in 1853; Jane R., Mrs. D. M. Poole, of Stockton; Catherine D., Mrs. A. J. Gregory, of Mariposa; and Mary Richards, Mrs. Eli E. Thrift, of Stockton. Mr. Givens lives on his ranch on Bear Creek, twelve or thirteen miles above Merced; and while the Texas Ranch was the family home, they had a stock ranch within what is now Merced County, on Bear Creek, since the early fifties. A man named M. O. Barbour formerly owned the S. L. Givens place. A short distance down Bear Creek from Mr. Givens' place, J. M. Montgomery lived in 1857, on the present Wolfsen place; and Mr. Givens relates that there was in that vicinity, in the creek bottom, a corral for the capture of wild horses, with a long "wing" fence running out into the plains to turn them towards the corral. A low fence was sufficient to turn them, he states. The Mexicans used to catch the horses here. Until 1867, Mr. Givens himself rode a horse which J. B. Cocanour caught between the Montgomery Ranch and Lone Tree in 1854. He recalls that he went through Pacheco Pass twice in the early days: once in 1858, on his way to college at Santa Clara, when he was about fifteen years old, and a second time in 1869, in pursuit of some horse-thieves who had run off some horses from the Texas Ranch. These two trips were on horseback. He relates that when he was on his way across in 1858, as a boy, he remembers a stage drawing up at the San Luis Ranch, a
four-in-hand, with four men and four women passengers, Castilians, the women as fine-looking as he ever saw, with black eyes and very fair skins. We are indebted to Mr. Givens for some information about the early surveys in the county. Jack Hays was United States deputy surveyor and ran the township lines in 1853. A man named Reed afterwards surveyed the sections. General J. W. Bost and Richard Thomas surveyed Mr. Givens' place.
E. W. Healy, born in New York State in 1820, crossed the plains from Illinois in 1853. At Salt Lake he left his party to join J. M. Montgomery's train—this was not, of course, Mr. Montgomery's first trip—and came through with him to his ranch on Bear Creek, where they arrived August 14, 1854. Healy mined in Mariposa County during the dry winter of 1854-1855. He barely made expenses, and returned to work for Mr. Montgomery in 1856.
Alexander George Black, while not a pioneer of Merced prior to the county's formation, yet crossed the county in the year of its formation. He came around the Horn to San Francisco from Boston in 1853, farmed two years in the Pajaro Valley, and then came across the Pacheco Pass to Mariposa County in 1855, hauled lumber for Clark's sawmill, and in 1856 built a stable at Hornitos, and afterwards kept a grocery store and teamed until 1865.
Henry Clay Daulton, a pioneer of Fresno County since 1858, also fails to qualify as a pioneer of Merced prior to 1855, but his story must be mentioned briefly. He came to California in 1850 and mined in the vicinity of Hangtown and Coloma. In 1852 he returned home; in 1853 again he started west, having hired out to Thomas Hildreth at New London, Missouri, to drive an ox team across the plains for fifteen dollars a month. They brought a heavy train of cattle and sheep, left New London May 17, 1853, came by way of Salt Lake, and reached Los Angeles November 24 of the same year. He came to Fresno County, to the part that is now Madera County, from Los Angeles in 1858. The Daulton Ranch, one of the best-known in Madera, and Daulton Station in the foothills on the railroad to Raymond, perpetuate his name.
Thomas Givens, a brother of Eleazer T. and Samuel L. Givens, while he came with his father's family to the Texas Ranch in 1853, appears hardly to have qualified as a resident of Merced County before its organization. He mined in the Mariposa hills for a few years, and in 1858 went to Santa Clara County and began farming there, and then shortly afterwards came back to the San Joaquin Valley and located in this county.
Edward Wheaton Buffum and Nathaniel Stephenson Stockton, the former a New Hampshire man and the latter from Alabama, came to Mariposa County in the summer of 1854 and went into partnership, built a water ditch to supply the miners, and operated that for several years, and also a stock ranch about four miles from Hornitos, raising cattle, horses, mules, hogs, and goats, notably Angora goats. They also had a ranch in Merced County, in the country out towards Plainsburg, but apparently not early enough to qualify them as pioneers from before the formation of Merced County.
The Merced Express of April 3, 1880, published what the owners, W. P. Stoneroad & Co., say they believe to be "a complete list of the old settlers of Merced County who now  reside in this county, and who came to California previous to" the admission of the State into the Union on September 9, 1850. We have no way of knowing how many of these pioneers were in this county when it was formed, except as we gather the information elsewhere. The list follows:
Aiken, William R., Mississippi
Blackburn, J. C, Ohio
Bennett, P. B., Ireland
Bost, J. W., Mississippi
Carroll, Patrick, Ireland
Chapman, Joseph, Maryland
Chamberlain, A., New York
Clough, A. W., New Hampshire
Cargile, Thomas B., Kentucky
Chandler, R. T., Georgia
Cox, Isom J., Tennessee
Cocanour, J. B., Pennsylvania
Chapman, Harry, New York
Dean, T. C, Kentucky
Dickenson, Samuel, Missouri
Dickenson, G. W., Missouri
Dowst, W. B., Massachusetts
Evans, Charles E., Louisiana
Fee, Peter, Norway
Griffith, Joshua, Pennsylvania
Gardenhire, F., Pennsylvania
Goldman, M., Prussia
Givens, E. T., Kentucky
Heme, Levi, Missouri
Hulse, A. W., New York
Howell, W. L., Pennsylvania
Hicks, James E., Missouri
Hayes, George, Maine
Huffman, C. H., Louisiana
Halstead, G. W., New York
Ivett, John, England
Ingalsbe, Albert, New York
Jones, J. Y., Virginia
Johnson, Thomas, Ireland
Kibby, James, New York
Kelsey, Erastus, New York
Keys, John, Virginia
Kahl, Adam, Pennsylvania
Larkin, Frank, New York
Leggett, T. A., New York
Montgomery, J. M., Kentucky
Marsh, J. B., Massachusetts
McErlane, Hugh, Ireland
McCreary, W. A., Alabama
McFarlane, N., Tennessee
McFarlane, John L., Tennessee
Nelson, William, New Hampshire
Openheim, Ben., Germany
Ostrander, H. J. New York
O'Donnell, John, Ireland
Peck, James B., New York
Peak, L., Illinois
Powell, George W., Texas
Russell, George, Connecticut
Rogers, G. W., New York
Robertson, J. W., Mississippi
Ruddle, John, Missouri
Reynolds, Rube, Georgia
Rolfe, Nelson, Virginia
Stoneroad, N. B., Alabama
Spears, S. K., New York
Stevinson, James J., Missouri
Stevinson, Col. A., Kentucky
Smith, Edward H., New York
Scott, Samuel, Kentucky
Steele, Robert J., North Carolina
Turner, George, New York
Thurman, M. H., Tennessee
Thurman, Eli, Tennessee
Turner, Nicholas, Tennessee
Tyson, Ed. H., North Carolina
Turner, W. C, North Carolina
Wilson, L. P., New York
Wheat, Job, New York
Ward, George W., Missouri
Yates, Adam, New York
Henry Nelson remembers many of these and has knowledge of quite a number of them being here when the county was formed. William R. Aiken, afterwards county assessor, he thinks was here that early. A. W. Clough was here that early. So were Isom J. Cox and J. B. Cocanour, and T. C. Dean. W. B. Dowst, father of Deputy Sheriff D. D. Dowst, now a resident of Merced, was here that early. Henry Nelson remembers that when he first came to Merced Falls in March, 1854, Mr. Dowst was the driver of the stage on which he came from Stockton. He remembers Peter Fee, but Fee was not in this county but at Mount Ophir in 1855. This is the Peter Fee, a native of Norway, who did live in this county, a short distance above Snelling, a little later, and whose diary we have for the years 1858 to 1862 inclusive. About W. L. Howell, Nelson remembers well that he lived on Dry Creek, and that he went to school with Mark Howell, W. L.'s son, in the fifties. James E. Hicks he thinks was here as early as 1855.
George Hayes was not in the county at the time of its organization. He was a resident on the Merced River, however, earlier. He took up a ranch on the Merced River in 1852, near Snelling. He had first come to California in August 1849. He was a native of Maine, where he was born in 1820. Soon after he took up the ranch near Snelling, his wife came out from the East, and they began keeping hotel in Mariposa. Their hotel was the Mariposa Hotel, and Henry Nelson remembers that he stayed there once as a boy, and that Mr. Hayes treated him very kindly. After living in Mariposa County until 1877, during part of which time he had charge of the county hospital there, Mr. Hayes came to Merced County and took charge of the Merced County Hospital, which was located at that time up Bear Creek from Merced.
C. H. Huffman, Mr. Nelson recalls, was not in the county when it was formed. He was in Stockton, had "the finest mules in the country," and used to haul from Stockton to Mariposa and through the southern mines.
G. W. Halstead came to a farm about a mile below Snelling in 1854. John Ivett, and Albert Ingalsbe, and also Dan Ingalsbe were here when the county was formed. The Ingalsbes came in 1854. James Kibby was here, near Merced Falls, in 1855. "We bought his place," Mr. Nelson says. "It joined us down the river. George was born there." George, son of James Kibby, who is G. W. Kibby, present county treasurer, was born, he himself says, about a mile above Snelling in 1858.
John Keys was here as early as 1855. He drove team in the early days, which was how Nelson became acquainted with him. Later he lived at Keys Grove on the San Joaquin. Frank Larkin was an early resident on Dry Creek, probably as early as 1855. McFarlane was on Dry Creek also as early as 1855. Mr, Nelson recalls this, and Mrs. John Ruddle informs us that John McFarlane was a member of the party with which her husband came out from Missouri in 1849. Mrs. Ruddle's mother was a McFarlane and Mrs. E. G. Rector was another.
Nicholas Turner was here as early as 1854 or 1855, Henry Nelson recalls. Mrs. Ruddle tells us that in 1854, when John Ruddle went back to Missouri and drove out two hundred and fifty cattle, he was accompanied to California by his brother-in-law, Pleasant Henderson, and "Pleas's" brother, Jim Henderson, and that Jim Henderson's wife was Nicholas Turner's daughter. L. P. Wilson was here as early as 1855. He lived on the Castle Bluff Ranch before Spears and Odel. Job Wheat was here pretty early; and George W. Ward was on Dry Creek, Nelson thinks, as early as 1855.
John Ruddle, until his death recently (February 1, 1925) the oldest of the county's living pioneers, was born October 17, 1830, and came out across the plains with an ox team from Missouri to California in 1849. In the party, as has been mentioned, was John Mc-Farlane. Basil Delashment was another, and still another was a man named Boatwright. Mr. Ruddle mined in Mariposa County in 1849. In 1852, when his parents came out from Missouri, he came down to the country below Snelling, and he and his brother Allen settled on the place known commonly in later times as the Stockird Ranch, now owned by Carlon and Silman.
Allen Ruddle was killed in 1853, supposedly by the notorious Joaquin Murietta and Three-Fingered Jack. Mrs. Ruddle tells how he remarked that he was- tired of sitting on boxes, and took three yoke of cattle and a wagon and a quantity of gold, money or gold dust, and started one morning for Stockton to buy some furniture. His team came home with the wagon about dusk the same day, and the following day they found his body, with bullet holes in it, along the old road that leads up over the bluff to the north from the river bottom, about four or five miles below Snelling. The spot was between the old Buckley stone house and a ford on Dry Creek, just about north of Hopeton. So far as we are informed, this killing of Allen Ruddle was the only murder by Joaquin Murietta in Merced County; and the evidence connecting him with that, Mrs. Ruddle states, was wholly circumstantial.
We have already told how John Ruddle returned to Missouri in 1854 and drove out a herd of two hundred and fifty cattle, and that Pleasant and Jim Henderson were members of his party on the return. The cattle were American stock, Mrs. Ruddle tells us, and she remembers how, after her arrival in 1859 (she married Mr. Ruddle in 1860), they drove up some of the cows and made butter and cheese. Her mother made the cheese, the first home-made cheese in the county, and found a ready market for it. They had ten or twelve cows to milk. It is interesting to note that in all the ninety-four pages which remain of the assessment roll of 1857, although there are thousands of cattle mentioned, only once is a "cow" mentioned. One wonders whether this indicates that cows—milk cows—were scarce, or perhaps merely that the assessor had occasion only this once to use the singular of "cattle."
Mrs. Ruddle did not come out until 1859; but her brother, William Jefferson Hardwick, called "J," came out in 1854 at the age of eighteen, in the employment of a man named McPhatridge, who drove out a herd of cattle from Missouri. McPhatridge had been in California before. Mrs. Ruddle thinks he settled at Santa Rosa.
The Hardwick party took just two weeks short of six months to make the trip from Missouri across the plains, and they were two days and a half in crossing the Platte, where they had to go over on a raft and swim their cattle. The Indians were massacring emigrants before and behind them, but their party was not attacked. One day they came to where there were several ox-yokes and some smoothing irons on the ground, a wisp of long light-colored hair on a sage bush, and five newly made graves. A head-board on one of the graves bore the name of one of these five murdered by the Indians—Amanda Melvina Johnson. By a strange coincidence, Mrs. Ruddle's aunt and her sister, both members of her party, both bore the name of Amanda Malvina—Mrs. E. G. Rector, and Amanda Malvina Hardwick. They wrote their names, with the date, and left them beside the dead girl's grave for other emigrants to see. The party in crossing the desert traveled a day and a night and came to an alkali water-hole, where their cattle were so thirsty that they crowded in and drank and could not be whipped away. Quite a number of them died from drinking the poisoned water. There were a lot of other cattle from other parties which had perished in the same way.
Antone Lagomarsino, a Forty-niner, who mined in Tuolumne and near Agua Fria, settled on the Merced River adjoining the Scott place, the present Cook & Dale place, in 1852, and followed the business of market-gardening. His family moved to Merced in 1878, but he himself remained on the river until his death.
John W. Morgan and Lee Hamlin built in 1852 the first flour mill on the Merced River, at the place where the mill known as the Ruddle Mill stood until only a few years ago. This was known as the Lee Hamlin Mill. Mr. Morgan and his wife, after some years, sold out on the river and moved to Santa Cruz, and Mrs.
Morgan is living there now at the age of ninety. She was Jane Pitzer before her marriage, and her brother was D. K. Pitzer, the father of Mrs. William Adams of Merced.
Mrs. Sensabaugh, the widow of J. B. Sensabaugh (who was sheriff in 1865) and mother of A. T. Sensabaugh of Merced, was in her girlhood Modest Walling; she was a niece of John Ruddle, and came out to the Merced River with her mother and a party of other relatives of Mr. Ruddle at the age of twelve years, in 1854. Mrs. Sensabaugh now lives in San Francisco, and was eighty-three years of age in February of the present year (1925).
George P. Kelsey, second son of Erastus Kelsey, now living in Berkeley, presents a case to argue about, as to whether he is entitled to be called a pioneer of the county from the time of its organization. The act creating the county was approved April 19, 1855, the election on the organization was held on May 14, the vote on that election was canvassed on May 19, George Kelsey was born on May 25, and the first meeting of the board of supervisors and the first court were held on June 4, all in 1855. Charles Kelsey, eldest son of Erastus Kelsey, was born before the organization of the county; he is no longer living.
In the Le Grand section live two pioneers of the days before the county was organized, Mrs. Penelope Rogers and William Cyrus Wilson. They came out in the same party in 1852, from Missouri. G. W. Rogers was Mrs. Rogers' husband. Alfred Harrell was her brother-in-law, and William Johnson was another brother-in-law, and William Johnson was W. C. Wilson's uncle. They all came in the same party. William Johnson lived on what was afterwards the Adam Kahl place. He owned part of the land where the Plainsburg cemetery now is, and built an adobe house near the site of the town. Johnson left the county, Jefferson Price thinks, in 1876, and went to Texas. He was a cattle-raiser here in this county, and his nephew, W. C. Wilson ("Billy" Wilson), worked for him.
Mrs. Rogers' family remained about a year in Los Angeles, then came to Stockton, and after a short time to Merced Falls. From Merced Falls they went in 1853 to the Elkhorn Ranch in the present Mariposa County; and in 1855 they came down to near the Turner & Osborn ranch, which that summer enjoyed its brief term as the county seat of Merced County. They did not come down until towards the latter part of the summer, and therefore were not actually in the county at the exact time of its organization.
Mrs. Rogers' father was Isaac A. Ward. Ward bought a settler's right from a man named Derrick (we have already seen the name on the township plat). Ward sold to a man whose name, Mrs. Rogers recalls, was something like Atwater, and this man sold to Healy. G. W. Rogers went back to Missouri in 1853 and returned in 1854 with a bunch of cattle. He rode an iron gray horse for years that he caught out of a band.
David Eason Lewis, a pioneer of the Plainsburg section, missed being here when the county was organized by about a year; he arrived in the county in May, 1856.
Captain Nicholas Turner settled on Mariposa Creek two and a half miles east of Plainsburg, apparently in 1854. He was born in Tennessee in 1802 and married Keziah McClure in 1826. He came to California in 1848, went back in 1851, came out again in 1853, and returned to Missouri in 1856 and drove out a band of cattle. He led several emigrant trains out from the East. His son Joseph L. Turner, born in Missouri in 1838, came out to California in 1853; and presumably it was on this trip of his father that the latter brought his family out with him.
James Cunningham, born in County Londonderry, Ireland, in 1824, followed the sea a number of years. He arrived in San Francisco in February, 1852, as captain of the clipper ship Canada. The crew all deserted and went to the mines. Captain Cunningham, with several months' pay unpaid, and practically "broke," became one of a party of five that went to the Yuba River. He mined there for nearly two years, but meanwhile made two trips on horseback to Mariposa County. On the first trip he located a mining claim on Mariposa Creek; on the second he found that somebody had jumped it. From Captains Smith and Renwick he bought 320 acres of land and a growing crop of barley for $1000. This appears to have been late in 1853 or early in 1854. This land was the nucleus of the present Cunningham Ranch. When Captain Cunningham arrived, his nearest neighbors were seven miles away, both on the north and on the south.
John Boyd Cocanour was one of the earliest pioneers of the county. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1813; he arrived in San Francisco August 12, 1850, by way of Panama. He spent a very short time in the mines and then went into the cattle business in what later became the eastern part of Merced County. He kept 8000 to 10,000 head of cattle during the days before the grain farmers came; in 1872 he sold out his cattle and went to farming. He was one of the founders and stockholders of the woolen mill at Merced Falls. With J. M. Montgomery, he was amongst those who took part in the Madera lumber flume enterprise. Like Mr. Cunningham, who precedes him here, and Mr. Barfield, who follows him, he was one of the county's supervisors; he was supervisor for fourteen years.
William J. Barfield, who was a brother-in-law of John Ruddle, a native of Georgia, was a pioneer of the county, and one of the three members of the first board of supervisors. We find "Ruddle & Barfield's House" on the township plat of Township 5 South, Range 13 East, which was surveyed in 1853 and 1854; Mr. Barfield was established there and engaged in farming well before the county was organized. As has been said, his son, George Barfield, is also a pioneer of the county; he was born at his father's place on the Merced River in January, 1855.
Elbridge Gerry Rector was born in Tennessee in 1816. He went to Texas in 1835, served in the Mexican War, and came to California, to Mariposa County, in 1849. In 1853 he went to farming on the Merced River. He and E. T. Givens circulated the petition for the organization of Merced County, and Mr. Rector was the county's first county clerk, and was afterwards sheriff.
George W. Halstead, Sr., and George W. Halstead, Jr., were both pioneers of the county. The father came to the Merced River bottom in 1854 and preempted a tract of land which he farmed until 1867. George W., Jr., was thirteen when he came to the Merced River with his father. George W. Halstead, Sr., first came to California in 1849. He worked in the mines a year, returned East in 1850, and two years later brought his family out. They lived in Stockton until 1854.
B. F. Howell was a pioneer of 1853 and one of the organizers of the county.
John Loftus Ivett and William Penrose came to the Merced River and bought a squatter's claim to 160 acres of land for $300. Ivett was a native of England and was born in 1823. He came to the United States when he was eighteen. He was established in Wisconsin in 1851; in that year he set out for California. He came around the Horn, and from San Francisco walked with several other Englishmen to Mariposa County. Ivett and Penrose's place on the Merced River was first known as the Blue Tent, later as the Bluff Ranch.
John W. Sharp was not quite a pioneer of Merced County, but he was located at Hill's Ferry in 1855; he worked for a Mr. Wilson there for a number of years. He was a native of Virginia, born in 1835. After working for Wilson he worked for John McPike. In 1874 he bought a ranch of his own on Orestimba Creek, and raised sheep until 1880, and then cattle.
Harvey J. Ostrander, born in Madison County, New York, in 1825, was one of the very early pioneers of the county, and one of those most prominently identified with its history. He came to California in 1849 overland through Mexico; walked with a partner, driving a pack horse, from San Luis Obispo to the Tuolumne; mined there; and turned up on the Merced in the fall of 1850, took another partner, and bought and sold beef cattle for two years. In 1853 he bought a steam flour mill at Stockton and set it up on the Merced River. He was a pioneer in irrigation, and a pioneer in opening up the plains to farming. During the war he raised the Stars and Stripes on a flag-pole in his yard on his rest of the war.
John P. Murry helped J. M. Montgomery drive out a drove of cattle from Missouri in 1853; he had come to California the previous year, and returned to Missouri with Mr. Montgomery. He remained in Montgomery's employment until 1855, and then went to Tulare County.
John L. McFarlane was a pioneer to California in 1849, to Stanislaus County in 1850, and to the Dry Creek section of Merced County in 1854. He was born in Alabama in 1826. In California he married Hannah Peeler, who crossed the plains from Missouri with her parents in 1854 and settled in Merced County.
John Phillips, a native of England, crossed the plains in 1849, tried mining a short time, then established Phillips' Ferry across the Merced at a point which was taken, upon the organization of Merced County, as marking the boundary between it and the parent county of Mariposa. He returned East in 1851 and brought out his family the next year and settled at the ferry.
A. W. Clough, the father of the late County Assessor A. G. Clough, was a pioneer to California in 1849, and after mining several years, followed blacksmithing at Hornitos and also at Phillips' Ferry. He married Tirza Phillips, daughter of John Phillips. Whether Mr. Clough was established at Merced Falls before the county was organized is uncertain.
Charles S. Peck, born in Buffalo, New York, in 1834, came to California in 1852, following two brothers, James and John, who had come out in 1849. Frank Peck, a fourth brother, joined his brothers in 1853, on the Merced River apparently. At any rate Charles S. was there. He built the first stone building in Snelling, and we are told that he then went to Mariposa County and mined for six years and then returned East in 1859. In that year he married Adaline, daughter of Peter Cook, of Genessee County. His son, James F., was born in Buffalo in January, 1860. That spring the family returned to California and located at Snelling.
Out on Mariposa Creek near the Mariposa line were John and "Paddy" Bennett, here very early. The latter kept the Union post office, where the road from Stockton to Fort Miller crossed Mariposa Creek.
Dr. J. W. Fitzhugh was a pioneer of the county before its organization. He settled with his family on Mariposa Creek. We have seen that the early survey of the townships shows his name. The place was what afterwards became the Burchell place. Henry Nelson tells of the Fitzhugh ox team bringing wheat to Nelson's mill when he was a boy. Dr. Fitzhugh was the first county judge, and it was he who held court at the first county seat. Dr. Fitzhugh was a native of Kentucky; like many other early pioneers to the county, he came here from Missouri. He was on the Merced River near Snelling as early as 1851.
General John W. Bost, who married Dr. Fitzhugh's daughter, was born in North Carolina and came to California from Mississippi. He arrived in Merced County in 1852, while still a very young man. He held the positions of county surveyor, county clerk, assemblyman, and surveyor-general.
In the old cemetery out near the foot of the bluff above Snelling as one goes out the road to Dry Creek, there are preserved the names of several members of the Snelling family and a few others. The greater number of the bodies formerly interred there have been removed to other places of burial, and the cemetery is unfenced with the exception of the Snelling family plat. Outside of this fence are three marked graves. The names and dates on the headstones are:
C. Ann Duckwall, born April, 1838, died August 8, 1859; Ricardo G. Lambert,
native of London, died November 8, 1871, aged 42 years; and Mary Elizabeth,
daughter of D. A. and N. K. Jamison, died November 7, 1864, aged 2 years, 5
months, 1 day. Inside the fence are: Dr. J. W. Goodin, died January, 1859, aged
about 35 years; Frances C. R. Bludworth, born June 5, 1862, died April 26, 1873;
Frances Bludworth, the beloved wife of Wm. N. Neil, died April 1, 1876, aged 35
years, 7 months, 9 days; William S. Snelling, died December 5, 1858, aged 37
years; Sarah A. White, died Oct. 5, 1852, aged 35 years; Charles F. Bludworth,
native of La., died Dec. 7, 1869, aged 39 years; B. Snelling, native of La.,
died Nov. 29, 1858, aged 66 years; Abiah T. Snelling, died Oct. 10, 1853, aged
10 years and 11 months; Thomas B. Hill, born Nov. 12, 1819, died Dec. 31, 1868.
There are footstones bearing the following initials: W. S. S., A. T. S., S. A.
W., B. S., F. C. R. B., and C. F. B.
This Dr. J. W. Goodin was presumably one of the six men who figured in the shooting which Peter Fee so briefly chronicles: "Three men kild in Snelling." Charles F. Bludworth was the county's first sheriff; and Frances Bludworth, his wife, who afterwards married William Neil, was born a Snelling. Whether Thomas B. Hill was a pioneer we cannot tell; his headstone bears the dates of his birth and death and Masonic and Odd Fellows emblems.
Charles V. Snelling, who we presume lived later than those of his family who rest here, was the man who deeded to the county the site for its first court house and jail; the deed stands of record among the first deeds recorded in the county. A member of the sixth generation of the Snelling family in Merced County is now living in Merced, aged about two years.
HISTORY OF MERCED COUNTY CALIFORNIA WITH A Biographical Review of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified with Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History by: JOHN OUTCALT
ILLUSTRATED COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME HISTORIC RECORD COMPANY LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA 1925
Contributed by: Carol Lackey