Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Bear Flag Revolt

I have been doing a lot of research lately about early California history. I went to the site that the following was posted, and decided to post it here intact. If you know anything at all about California history many of the names jump out at you. One of the Kelseys,
Andrew Kelsey - killed by Indians at Kelseyville, CA age 29. 1849. Was a member of Donner rescue party, brother of Sam and Ben Kelsey, founders of Arcata and Kellsyville.

As you might know, if you were lucky enough to go to school in California, the people that engaged in the Bear Flag Revolt are the ones that established California as a state. The following is a list of the people that fought the Bear Flag Revolt, and when they died.


Excerpt from "The Searcher" October 1988, Pages 192-198
Many of these men served in the California Battalion under Col. J. C. Fremont in the south and were honorably discharged at Is Angeles or San Gabriel in the early part of 1847. There are some well known men among them.

For those not familiar with the Bear Flag Revolt which occurred in June of 1846 at Sonoma when American and other settlers took that town from General Val­lejo and the was the opening of the Mexican War in California. The Mexican authorities had told the settlers in April that they would have to leave as soon as the snows melted, without their ripening wheat, their cattle and horses, and their arms.

Early in June, General Castro sent soldiers from the capital at Monterey to Marin and Sonoma to round up about 250 government horses with which to drive out the settlers, according to all reports. On the 9th of June, a group of the set­tlers captured these horses at Cosumnes and delivered then to Col. Fremont. Fremont, son-in-law of Senator Thomas Benton of Missouri, at the head of his ex­ploring expedition, had just received secret messages from President Polk and from Benton. Lt. Gillespie, U.S. Marine, the messenger, also told Fremont that the Mexican War was breaking out at that moment from what he had learned on his way west.

The settlers had bought or leased land, had planted crops, had jobs with earlier settlers, and many of them were expecting new babies. They had not yet recovered from the trip across the country. They determined that it was suicidal to try to leave, and they must take the nearest fort and hole in -"fort up" - as in Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee (their past homes). The settlers felt that Fremont was there to rescue them, and it was also their patriotic duty to cap­ture Northern California. They set up the Republic at Sonoma which lasted 23 days, when Commodore Sloat arrived with the news of the outbreak of war in Texas. Britain was hovering along the coast, ready to collect on its Mexican war debt if we did not act first. Rumors had abounded that the Californios were getting the Indians ready to burn out the settlers. Castro issued edicts that he would exterminate them all, even their whelps.

You will find among these names some famed mountain men who hunted otter while in Southern California. Some worked at Able Stearns' fur warehouse at San Pedro. Todd spent a lot of time in Southern California. Sam Kelsey lived in the Ventura area for awhile, and in the San Bernardino area was a member of the Knights of the White Camellia (Confederate sympathizers). Ben Kelsey and family lived in Inyo County during the earthquake, worked at the Cerro Gordo mines, and he drove a team and was in Fresno to surface the streets before he died in Los Angeles, leaving his oral history with Mary Foy, Los Angeles Librarian.

John/Jacob Rink Snyder came to Los Angeles to get permission of Gov. Pico to build a fort on the American River to protect new settlers from Indian attack, but was refused. He and Elias Barnett signed a memorial to the governor, protesting the dictatorial and despotic behavior of General Castro at Monterey, who was in opposition to Pico. Many Californios signed this "'memorial."

The sources are: Bancroft, county histories, family Bibles, family records, county records, obituaries, local historical societies, and etc. The re­search was done at the Huntington Library, the Mormon Library, Salt Lake, local librar­ies, and microfilm of early newspapers, the Keith Lingenfelter Collection at Chico State University, the Sutro Library, Society of California Pioneers Library, and others.

The Bear Flag Revolt is controversial, and the Bears are oft-times por­trayed as entirely an unsavory bunch of drunks and need-do-wells. I believe that this will amend that opinion. Just about everyone in Northern California was involved who was at risk because he/she was an American or English. Their sense of justice and honor was at stake as well as their lives. They had not found justice in California. Americans had been attacked without recourse.


James Mc-Christian - "last Bear Flagger to die," on June 22, 1914 at 87 years Sebastopol, CA. Buried Sebastopol Cemetery.

Henry Beeson, next to last - on May 14, 1914 at 84 years, at his daughter's home in Ornbaun Valley, Mendocino County, CA. Methodist Episcopalian service. Buried Anderson Cemetery, Boonville, CA. NSGW marker.

William Mendenhall - died 1911 at 88 years at home of his daughter, Mrs. Langan. Methodist Episcopalian service, though he was very involved in Presbyterian Church. Buried Masonic Cemetery, Livermore, CA. Founder of Livermore, of Livermore Springs, Livermore College. State Legislator. Society of California Pioneers.

John York - on February 26, 1910 at age 90. Buried at St. Helena Public Cemetery. Gravestone, family plot. A Protestant, his wife Baptist. Na­Sons of the Golden West. Founder of St. Helena Waterworks. Built first school at St. Helena.

Napoleon Bonaparte Smith - died on December 5, 1907 at Yountville at 89 years. Buried at Martinez. Probably Presbyterian service. Tax Assessor, Contra Costa County. Board Member, Society of California Pioneers. Associated Veterans of Mexican War. State Legislator. Helped guard prisoners, General Vallejo etc. at Sutter's Fort.

Calvin Chesterfield Griffith - died at home, June 19, 1907 at 79 years. Bur- ied St. Helena Public Cemetery in family plot. Presbyterian service. Grave marker. Road Superintendent of Northern Napa County. Associated Veterans of Mexican War. Native Sons of the Golden West.

Benjamin Dewell/Deul - died on February 21, 1905 at home, Upper Lake, CA. Buried Upper Lake Cemetery, Lake County, CA. Associated Veterans of the Mexican War.

Franklin Sears - died December 14, 1905 at 87 years at Sonoma. Buried (?) at Sonoma. Not listed at Mountain Cemetery or Sonoma Valley Cemetery. Missed the Bear Flag Revolt because he was thrown from a horse. Life Guard to Stockton in the south. Associated Veterans of the Mexican War. Society of California Pioneers. Sonoma Viticulture Society Board. Descendant of Daniel Boone's sister Sarah.

Mamas Knight - died c1904 San Francisco, CA. Buried (?) Colma Cemetery.

William Baldridge - died 1903 at 92 at Oakville, CA Masonic funeral. Buried (?) Yountville or (?) Tulucay. Associated Veterans of the Mexican War.

Thomas Westly Bradley - died on June 21, 1902 at 84 years at Tulare City. Buried at Newman, CA.

Harvey Porterfield - died in 1900 age of 77 years, Napa County. Buried at Tulucay, Napa or Yountville.

Bartlett Vines - living in 1889. Unknown burial. Masonic.

James Gregson - died August 1 or 2, 1899, age 77. Buried Methodist Cemetery, Green Valley, Sonoma County, CA. Guarded Gen. Vallejo and other prisoners at Sutter's Fort.

John Green Griffith - died March 5, 1895, age 70 near Little Rock, AR.

Franklin Temple Grigsby - died on July 7, 1893, at 64 years. Buried Yountville Cemetery, Yountville, CA.

Charles Cady - died 1891, Poor House, San Diego, CA.

Henry Marshall - died on May 8, 1891 at 65 years. Buried Methodist Cemetery, Green Valley, Sonoma County, CA. Wounded at Natividad, and Battle of Salinas Plain.

William Hargrave - died September 21, 1890 Napa, Ca. Buried Tulucay Ceme­tery, Napa, CA. Masonic. Member Society of California Pioneers, San Francisco.

Marion Wise - died July 1, 1890, St. Louis, Mo. One of Fremont's men in the Bears. Buried Fee Fee Cemetery, St. Louis, MO.

Ben Kelsey - died February 19, 1889, age 76, at Los Angeles. Buried Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles (reinterment). Gravemarker date is 1888. Fdg. of Kelseyville, Arcata, Scotia, Eureka, Kelsey Diggings. Brother of Andy and Sam Kelsey.

Pat K. McChristian, Jr. - died August 27, 1888, age 63/64, Sebastapol, Sonoma County, CA. Buried Sebastopol Cemetery.

David Hudson - died on June 10, 1888 at age 68, Loconoma Valley, Lake County CA. Buried Lakeport Cemetery. Pioneer Society.Headstone located in St. Helena Public Cemetery, St. Helena, CA, Donated by Pat Holland

Horace Saunders - a young man in '46, still alive in 1880 in Carson, NV. Death and burial unknown.

Peter Storm - died on December 15, 1887 at age 73 at Calistoga, CA. Unmarked grave, Tulucay Cemetery, Napa. His Bear Flag (replica) buried with him.

Franklin Bedwell - died November 10, 1886, Healdsburg, CA. Buried Oakmound Cemetery, Healdsburg. Headstone. Stockton's Life Guard. Famed mountain man - fur trapper.

Colonel Joseph Ballinger Chiles - died June 16, 1885 St. Helena, CA. Buried St. Helena Public Cemetery. Guarded and protected the Vallejo family and home. Famous as trail-blazer. Biography by Helen S. Giffen.

William Levi Todd - died on or about January 1, 1883, "on the street, unattended" in Los Angeles. Possibly buried at the old cemetery at Fort Hill, and reinterred at Evergreen Cemetery, East Los Angeles - in Potter's Field. No gravestone, but is marked. Cemetery cards gives different middle initial, different age, but subject was married (wed­ding ring ?). Date of death is correct. The maker of the California Bear Flag; cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln. Society of California Pio­neers, San Francisco.

Elias Barnett - died February 8, 1880 Pope Valley, Napa County, CA. His wife was Maria Salazar Pope, widow of Julian/ William Pope who was a miller in Los Angeles 1841-1843. Pope Widow and children lived in Southern California many years and some Barnetts live here now. Society of Cal­ifornia Pioneers.

William Moon - died May 31, 1878, at age 60; buried on his rancho located in Tehama County.

Major Jacob/John Rink Synder - died April 29, 1878, age 66 of heart disease, at home in Sonoma, CA. Buried Sonoma. President of Society of Califor­nia Pioneers; Vice President also. Sonoma County Agricultural Society Board. Assistant Secretary of Treasury, San Francisco Mint. Member of First Constitutional Convention, State of California, at Monterey, CA in 1850.

Nathan Coombs - died on December 26, 1877 at home, Napa, CA. Buried Tulucay Cemetery, Napa, CA. Founder of Napa, and California State Senator.

Captain John Grigsby - died March 1876, Moselle, Franklin County, MO. Mason. Captain of Grigsby-Ide Party to California 1845; Captain of the Bears and of a company of the California Battalion under Fremont.

William Bell Elliott - died January 22, 1876, age 78. Buried at Upper Lake, Lake County, CA.

Founded Upper Lake and was discoverer of Tice Geysers. Famous grizzly bear hunter. Deputy Sheriff.

Henry Clay Smith - died November 25, 1875 age 51. Buried in Livermore Cemetery which has been cleared by the county for a road. His tombstone now at home of Bessie Hargrave Drury (dec.) and daughter Mrs. Kendric Smith, Walnut Creek, CA. Alcalde of Santa Clara County. "Father" of Santa Clara County. Supervisor of County, Justice of the Peace, Board of the San Francisco Society of California Pioneers.

Captain Granville Commodore Perry Swift - died on April 21, 1875, age 54. Fell from a mule while on trail at Monticello mines, both killed. Ma­sonic funeral and marker. Buried at Rockville Cemetery, Green Valley near Fairfield, CA.

Cyrus Alexander - died December 27, 1872, at 67 years, after two strokes. Buried in the Alexander Cemetery at the old rancho near Healsburg, CA. Methodist, famed mountain man. Subject of a biography.

Harrison Pierce - died Napa 1870. Buried (?) Tulucay Cemetery, Napa, CA.

Granville White Grigsby - alive in Napa 1867: death and burial not found in San Luis Obispo, Napa or San Diego Counties where he farmed.

Major Pierson Barton Reading - died in 1868 at his Rancho Buena Ventura, Redding, CA, age 52.
Buried at the Rancho. Director, Society of Cali­fornia Pioneers. A founder and officer of the California Steamship and Navigation Assoc. with Major Hensley. Ran for governor 1851 and lost. Invited to run again and declined. Friend of Ernest Seton Thomp­son. Biography by Helen S. Giffen.

Moses Bradley Carson - died on January 1. 1868 at age 76, El Paso, TX. Had Masonic funeral and buried in Masonic Cemetery, El Paso. Brother of Kit Carson, and a famous mountain man himself.

Major Samuel J. Hensley - died 1866 at age 49 at hoe in Warm Springs, near Santa Clara, Alameda County, CA. A founder and president of the Cali­fornia Steamship and Navigation Assoc. Major, Commissary - California Battalion.

William Smith Hudson - died on September 16, 1866, age 53 at St. Helena, CA. Buried St. Helena Public Cemetery. Was Baptist or Presbyterian.

Emsley Aldred Elliott - shot by escaping negro prisoner when he was a deputy sheriff in Texas, 1856-1866. Buried in Texas.

Samuel Kelsey - died between 1860 and 1865, his age 44-49, possibly at Jerome, AZ or near there. Had disappeared. No Arizona records of his death. Member Sonoma Chapter Masons, Knight of the White Camellia, San Bernardino.

Captain Henry Lambert Ford - died July 2, 1860, accidentally shot himself when climbing on his horse at Covelo, age 38. Buried Valley View Cemetery, Covelo. Bronze marker. State Assemblyman, Colusa County, 1851. Indian reservation agent. Subject of a biography by Fred B. Rogers.

Albion Randolph Elliott - killed by Winnemucca Indians at the Pyramid Lake massacre of 0rmsbee and his troops May 12, 1860, age 34. Buried in the Hartley Cemetery, Lake County, CA according to his family.

Samuel Neal - died September 1859 at his Butte Creek Rancho Esquon, Tehama County, CA. Was with Fremont Expedition 1844.

Peter Lassen - killed by Indians, 1859, age 39, 43 miles east of Greenville, Plumas County, north of Pyramid Lake, CA. California Historical Marker Number 565. A Mason and subject of two biographies.

William "Dirty" Mathews - died about 1859, an express rider according to Bancroft. May have died in Sonoma, Monterey or Sacramento County.

Robert Baylor Semple - on October 23, 1854 buried. Thrown by a horse which was "green" or spooked because his great height (6'8") caused his spurs to hit its legs. A deep coma resulted in burial while he was still alive. He was first buried on his ranch at Colusa, and when reburied at Willows, CA his struggles to escape the coffin were discovered. Secretary of the Bear Flag Republic; President, First Consti­tutional Convention. A Mason, founded first bi-lingual newspaper in California.

Marilyn Ornbaum sent me a correction : Please correct the re-burial place of Rober B Semple....................not is WILLIAMS, just a few miles from where his ranch was. and with
Sites Quarie Stone and a brass marker. . M--

I'm always glad to correct history. Much of California history was passed down verbally. Many mistakes were made.

William Brown Ide - died December 18, 19 or 20, 1852 of smallpox, at his rancho. Buried at Monroeville, CA, gravestone. Age 56. Native Sons of the Golden West marker. President of Bear Flag Republic. Held most of county offices of Tehama County. 0nce a Mormon before coming to Cali­fornia. See Fred B. Rogers, William Brown Ide, Bear Flogger, Simon Ide, The Conquest of California.

Pat Mc-Christian, Sr. - died 1852 at Aspinwall or at sea. Born 1795 - 1800.

Captain John Sears - died May 24, 1855, killed by Indians at the mines near Marysville, CA. Born 1817, descendant of Daniel Boone's sister, Sarah. Brother of Frank Sears, and cousin of Granville Swift, above, also a descendant from Daniel Boone's sister Sarah.

William H. Knight, M.D. - died November 9, 1848 at Knight's Landing. Murdered in cold blood on the street, buried where he died near the southeast corner of the Masonic Hall on the hill above the Plaza. Wit­ness by James G. Fair of "the Big Four." Founded Knight's Ferry and Knight's Landing. A Santa Fe trader and a mountain man.

Ezekiel Merritt - died 1848-1849 in the mines, according to John Bidwell. He was about 40 in '47. He seems to have lived longer - to assign his pay to John Temple in 1854 to reimburse Temple for his advance in pay when he was discharged at San Gabriel in 1847. Another mountain man.

Captain John Scott - killed by starvation and cold, Fremont's Fourth Expedi­tion, January, 1849. Bear Flag and California Battalion; one of Fremont's men.

William W. Scott - died 1848 Sonoma County. Buried (?) Sonoma County.

Captain Sam. Gibbon - drowned 1848-1849 at Feather River mines.

William Fallon - 1848 - alone. Presumed killed by Indians between Fort Hall and California. Society of California Pioneers (posthumously?).

Andrew Kelsey - killed by Indians, Kelseyville, CA age 29. Monument, 1849. Donner rescue party, brother of Sam and Ben Kelsey.

Ira Stebbins - killed in the south by Murietta’s men after 1847 and before 1853. (Joaquin Murietta died July 27, 1853 ?)

Henry Booker - killed at the Battle of San Pasqual, San Diego County, CA 1847, a young mall .

Thomas Cowie, a your man, murdered and mutilated after two days of torture by the Padilla-Carrillo-Garcia gang near Santa Rosa, CA June 1846. Buried there, Native Sons of the Golden West marker.

George Fowler - same a 'Mamas Cowie, above.

John "Jack" Ransford (Ranchford) - died June 1846, heart attack, Sonoma, CA. Buried there. Had worked day and night for three or four days to refit a cannon.

Donated by: San Luis Obispo County Genealogical Society, San Luis Obispo Co., California September 2007



Hank Sims said...

The Bear Flag Revolt is controversial, and the Bears are oft-times por­trayed as entirely an unsavory bunch of drunks and need-do-wells. I believe that this will amend that opinion. Just about everyone in Northern California was involved who was at risk because he/she was an American or English. Their sense of justice and honor was at stake as well as their lives. They had not found justice in California. Americans had been attacked without recourse.

Bullshit! They were drunks and ne'er-do-wells! Read Jerry Rohde's exhaustive portrait of Sam and Ben Kelsey again!

And this line that the Californios were anti-Anglo is about as thin as it gets. The aforementioned Abel Stearns served as mayor of Los Angeles under Mexican rule. William Goodwin Dana and my grampa Thomas Robbins married into one of the most powerful families in Alta California -- the Carrillos -- as many, many others of English descent did in many, many other families.

The Bear Flaggers weren't persecuted because they were Anglo. They were persecuted because they were drunks and ne'er-do-wells. Just look at their despicable treatment of Vallejo, who was a true and undisputed prince of a man.

I admit that Alta California was going to fall sometime. It's just a shame that it had to fall to the worst human refuse North America had to offer at the time. My only consolation is that my uncle Jose Antonio smote their backup but good in the Battle of Dominguez Rancho ... and yet still survived to serve as one of the voices of the Californio block at the state Constitutional Convention, alongside his good buddy Stearns!

Robin Shelley said...

The Semple death story will give me nightmares! Gee, thanks, Ernie.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Hank, thanks for your comment. I don't think that you will find many people that will disagree with what you say. I really appreciate your comment, in that it is presented in the light that you were raised in the history of Alta California. You know where the stories are, and who knows them.

I've read Jerry Rohde's account of the Kelseys. He was indeed accurate. But, he talked in great length about the horrible things that they did, and failed to talk much about the "Story" of the Kelsey's. Most everybodies first question is "why would they do such horrible things?" What manner of man would do such a thing, but we end up in the endless spin-cycle of "what" they did. I am interested in "why" they did the horrible things that they did. Mrs Kelsey appears to be the heroine of the Kelsey story. Does her accomplishments count for nothing just because she was married to a scoundrel?

My next post will be about the Kelsey's and the wide swath that they made in the West. Whether you liked them, or hated them, the Kelsey's changed California. They helped form much of California's MID-history. As you well know the Gold Rush was when the Eastern population showed up, but Spanish ruled, and Mexicans ruled California long before the Eastern Whites showed up. By the late 1850's much of California was wracked with disease. Smallpox was rampant, malaria, and many other diseases were prevalent. Many people headed for the hills of the North West coast of California to escape disease. Many failed at mining, or were run off of the gold fields. There no doubt that it was a dog eat dog time. Many of the miners “bought” Indians to work their mines. The Indian people already had a long history of being used and abused before Whitey the Miner showed up. The Missionaries weren't as Saintly as maybe they should have been. The Indians already had a strong hatred of outsiders moving into their homeland before the easterners showed up. Much of the Indian population had already been destroyed by disease. How the Indians were treated long before California became a state has a strong influence on what caused the clash of cultures after the Gold Rush.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Did you notice how many were killed by Indians? At least six. A lot of them died of strange causes. Back then, if they hollered in your ear and slapped your face, and you didn't answer, you were dead. Many people were buried alive back in those days. Some people had a string attached to a bell above their grave. If they woke up from the dead they could ring the bell to let people know that they were alive.


thats where the term "DEAD RINGER" came from.

Dave Kirby said...

Vallejo knew that annexation was inevitable. When he was confronted by the rebels he cordially invited them in to his home whereupon they proceeded to get very drunk. The is another amusing story about another dingbat with a town named after him. Stockton was a naval commander who sailed into Monterey and tore down the Mexican flag and replaced it with the stars and stripes. He found out that he had jumped the gun as war had not yet been declared and was forced to replace the Mexican flag and hang around until he re invaded Monterey. Sutter when asked about his feelings toward the Donner Party after their ordeal replied that he thought them foolish and that they had eaten "two of my best indians".

Ernie Branscomb said...

Hank Sims is a generational native, and an expert on Alta California and the Californos. But, what he quoted about the people involved being “drunks and ne'er do wells,” is not quite fair. Most people in history drank a lot when the occasion arose. Back in the 1950's every man in town was drunk on Saturday night. The rascals that came knocking on Vallejo's door didn't exactly have a dressing room like Vallejo did. They did treat him decently and provided him with a safe spot at Sutter's Fort until the revolution was over. That was a courtesy not often afforded the enemy back in those days.

My other point would be that some of the people involved in the revolution went on to be quite famous in their own right.

Many of the powerful, rich and famous have a shady side. If you will look around you a little bit, without mentioning names, you will notice.

Ben said...

Sympathy for the guy killed in the battle of San Pasqual, The Californio cavalry used pikes very effectively. Kit Carson slipped away to San Diego to bring troops to rescue the Americans. Carson was quite the cold blooded killer when he found it necessary.

suzy blah blah said...

If you objected to being sexually abused ... she'd put you in scalding hot water

Ernie Branscomb said...

How could such a sick perverted person get by with those kind of crimes as late as the 1960's and '70's?

On the other hand, right here in America, an 11 yr old girl can be kidnapped by a registered sex offender, held captive in his back yard, have two of his babies, and nobody notices?

The thing that I was second most offended by, with the early American Indian history, was the treatment of the local Indian in schools. They were taught to leave their culture and language behind. They killed off all of the adult Indians, so there would be no continuity. Then they raised the babies with "A good Christian upbringing". Taking a Peoples culture away is one of the most evil things that anyone can do to another living person.

Robin Shelley said...

I've been told that it is possible to drive oneself crazy in trying to make sense where there is none...

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Robin.
How profound. You just described the complete story of my life... Welcome to my world.

Hank Sims said...

Ernie -- I'm no great authority. But the Californios were morally preferable to the Bear Flaggers, beyond any doubt.

suzy blah blah said...

Back in the 1950's every man in town was drunk on Saturday night.

ah, the good ol daze, before any newcomers arrived on the scene with the Devil's weed.

suzy blah blah said...



Anonymous said...

Saw a replica of the Bear Flag and the statue that was erected in 1849, I believe, today while in Sonoma at the mission.

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this Captain John Grigsby was a grandfather of mine I like your website here's a website to my family tree

Robin said...

Nice Post, Thanks For Sharing...The majestic California State Bear California flag was originally created in 1846 to represent the revolutionary forces in northern California and their rebellion known as the "Bear Flag Revolt”.