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The Last of the California Rangers (1928) by Jill L. Cossley-Batt


With the death of Joaquin Murieta, the reign of terror ceased and the California Rangers were disbanded. At this time Jack Hayes was Surveyor General of the United States, and it was in his power to give out contracts. Edward Connor, who was resting for a few days at the Howard Ranch, said to William one evening: “Jack Hayes is a good friend of mine. I am going to San Francisco, to see if I can get a contract from him.” So Howard furnished him with a horse and buggy, and when Connor arrived in the city of the Golden Gate he diplomatically made his request known to the Surveyor-General.

“All right,” replied Hayes, “I’ll give you a contract, on condition that you employ a qualified surveyor.”

This old Mexican town named after the beloved Saint Francis was fast growing into a substantial-looking city, with churches, hotels, solid houses, brick and granite business buildings. Under the shadow of old Tamalpais there was a flowery carpet; the wild thyme, oxslip and modest violet basked in the sunlight, swayed by the gentle winds. These humble flowers were overcanopied with the sweet muskrose, woodbine, and eglantine, while the hillside was aflame with the gold and blue of the poppy and the old-fashioned forget-me-not. Amidst all this romance of natural beauty Edward Connor met his affinity, and without a word to any of his Ranger friends, entered the state of holy matrimony.

On returning with his bride to Mariposa, they spent a few days in Stockton, where Connor was successful in finding a qualified surveyor, and immediately wrote the following letter to Captain Howard:

Stockton, August 20, 1854.

My Dear Bill:

I have seen a Surveyor, and he tells me it will be necessary to have all white men to act as chain bearers, axe-men, etc. We will have to give a Surveyor $200 a month. You could take two or three Indians along and make them very useful—one for hunting, one for hauling wood and water, etc. I hope the boys will not make a race on Kitty, as I would very much like to have her as soon as possible. If they should not, you would greatly oblige me by sending her down, as I am not able to buy me a buggy-horse at present. Send Tom down to enquire about those mules as soon as possible. Scofield arrived from San Francisco the night before last, and says he would like us to start for the Tejon as soon as possible, as he expects Brown, the Secret Agent of the Department, may pay us a visit. If you find that Phil’s horse cannot win the race, and you can enter one that is now here, which nobody in your County knows except yourself, you can get him. (It is Ito.) Write to me and let me know the result of the race, if you do not write before it comes off. Mrs. C. desires her regards.

Yours ever,    

Captain Howard welcomed the bridal pair to his ranch, where they stayed for several weeks selecting men, tools and equipment for the surveying campaign. The party was ready to commence activities by October 1, 1854, when they all started for the Buena Vista Lakes. After four days’ traveling, two tents were pitched, one for Connor and his wife, the other for the men. While thirteen men worked under a competent surveyor, the Connors did the cooking, and William, accompanied by his Indian boy, Tewatchee, kept the camp supplied with game.

The tent life was indeed a new experience to Mrs. Connor, for she had been reared in the lap of luxury, in a large city. Because of her delicate make-up, she was ill-fitted to withstand the terrible heat and mosquito-bites, and she suffered dreadfully from chills and fever.

Howard’s hunting expeditions to secure food for the camp proved most exciting. One day he and his assistant, after a long, unpleasant tramp, made for the shade of a large tree, where they ate a hearty meal, then rested under the over-hanging boughs. Tewatchee, the Indian boy, was in a talkative mood, and related what he thought was a wonderful story. Captain Howard gave it to me as an example of Indian imagination. Tewatchee had said:

“On one occasion I was hunting for elk and ran out of ammunition. Luckily my pockets were full of cherries, and after eating the fruit I loaded my gun with the stones. In a little while a large elk came to the brink of the river to take a drink. Naturally, I fired, and my stones found their mark, for the animal jumped into the water.

“Three years later I returned to the same spot and saw two cubs wrestling like little children. When the little-boy bear hid behind a bush, I fired and wounded him very badly. His groans caused the sister bear to run; she caught him in her arms and screamed just like a little girl. Then the mother bear came upon the scene; she grabbed the little wounded cub, and commenced licking his wounds in a most human manner. Oh, how sorry I was, that I had shot the baby bear; but my sorrowful feelings did not stop the mother from rushing at me. As her sharp claws scratched my clothes, I dived into a near cherry tree, and to my surprise was carried down the valley at ‘full speed,’ for the cherry stones had taken root in the back of the elk. You see, the cherry-tree-elk carried me safely from mother bear’s reach, and saved my life.”

After Tewatchee had finished his yarn, a band of elk came in sight, so the two hastily fired and killed one. Again they discharged their guns, and a second lay dead some distance away. When William had cut off sufficient meat to supply the camp, he said to Tewatchee: “Bob McKee lives one mile from here. Go and ask him to come and get the rest of the meat for himself.” So McKee was soon on the spot with his horses and wagon, greatly elated to get so large a supply of good meat with so little effort.

The Connor-Howard Surveying Party remained away two months, and during that time was successful in surveying the Kern River District and the land in the immediate vicinity of the Buena Vista Lakes.

Next: 20. Grizzly ExperiencesContentsPrevious: 18. Joaquin Murieta

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management