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Review of The Last of the California Rangers

California History 8:1, pp. 83-84 (March 1929)

The Last of the California Rangers. By Jill L. Cossley-Batt. [Pseud.]

New York: Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1928. 8vo, xix+299 pp. Illust.

Scarcely five years ago newspapers in California and Oregon carried notices of the death of Captain William James Howard. He died at the advanced age of ninety-seven, being with Senator Cole one of the last—possibly the very last — of the principal actors in the stirring scenes of early gold days.

Captain Howard was “The last of the Rangers”—that band formed under Harry Love for the capture of Joaquin Murieta. But this affair was a mere incident in his strangely romantic and colorful life.

It is something of a commentary upon our methods of collecting historical data that this remarkable story of Captain Howard’s should have had to wait until almost the day of his death to be recorded. Miss Cossley-Batt has done a distinct service in preserving and arranging the notes of many weeks of conversation with the old pioneer. Her account does not reflect his personality, his style, his exact opinions and recollections as faithfully as if he had written it himself. But age had already made it impossible to obtain a connected narrative.

William Howard came of an old Virginia family that moved westward with the frontier to Mississippi and Texas. His formative years were spent in contact with such Texan pioneers as Sam Houston and David Terry—for whom he developed a lasting friendship. Disappointed in an impulsive love affair, he came overland through New Mexico and Arizona to arrive in San Francisco in the middle of the first year of the gold rush. Thenceforward he was successively a gold washer, Indian trader, cattle rancher at Mariposa, and a member of the State legislature and the Second Constitutional Convention.

His associates included the notorious squaw man, Major Savage, Major Burney, General Connor, Terry, Broderick, Hutchings, and many others, and he gives interesting side-lights on their lives and peculiarities.

His account of the formation of the Mariposa Battalion, leading to the discovery of Yosemite and of affairs in Hornitos and the Mariposa region, are of great interest.

Some criticism has been directed at the careless spelling of names and places —some of which is evidently due to faulty proof-reading—also to blunders in matters of trivial fact. Such errors, however, are of little consequence in a book which is meant for enjoyable reading rather than for historical reference.

C. L. C. [Charles L. Camp.]



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