Republic of California

Republic of CaliforniaWe all know that Texas was an independent republic before becoming a state. But did you know that California was an independent republic too? Here’s more about the Republic of California.

Although owned by Mexico, back in 1846 there were very few Mexican settlers in California. In reality there American settlers comprised the largest segment of the population.

On June 14, 1846, anticipating a war with Mexico, 33 Americans lead by William Ide invaded the Mexican outpost of Sonoma, north of San Francisco. They surrounded the home of Mexican General, Mariano Vallejo. With a bloodless victory, the Americans took a cotton sheet and with red paint they made a flag of a grizzly bear and single red star…A reference to the Texas Republic…and printed the words on the flag “California Republic”. The revolt was known as the Bear Flag Revolt.

Three weeks after California became an independent republic; American forces took control of Monterey and officially raised the American flag over California. Since this was what the American rebels wanted, they dissolved their government.

Incidentally, that Bear Flag became the official flag of California.

California Joe

California Joe (Moses Embree Milner)Moses Embree Milner was a well-built man, more than 6 feet in height. Not only did he constantly smoke a pipe, he chewed tobacco at the same time. In 1849, at the age of 20, he went to California like everyone else… for gold. Then he moved up to Oregon, and then to Montana where he acquired the name California Joe.

He then started doing some scouting for the military. In 1868, George Custer made him chief of scouts for the Seventh Cavalry. But that job didn’t last long because California Joe went out the night of his appointment and got so drunk that he had to be hogtied and returned to camp lashed to a mule. The next day Custer fired him as chief, but kept him on as a regular scout.

In 1874 he accompanied Custer on his excursion into the Black Hills of the Dakotas where gold was discovered. Although the discovery was to be kept a secret, it was supposedly California Joe who let the word out. It was probably during a drinking spree the night of his arrival back to civilization.

A year later California Joe accompanied Walter P. Jenney’s expedition into the Black Hills to confirm the discovery of gold, and open it for settlement. California Joe was able to stake out a homestead on the future site of Rapid city, South Dakota.

While in Nebraska, California Joe got into an argument with Tom Newcomb, and on October 29, 1876 Tom found California Joe looking the other way and shot him in the back. Because there was no law in the area Tom Newcomb was never tried, but two years later a couple of California Joe’s friends shot Tom in the back.



Bert Murphy

Louis L'Amour

In five novels Louis L’Amour lets you experience Old California and the Pacific coast circa 1800 to 1880.  When the railroad reached California in 1869, it diminished the frontier period.  When it reached Los Angeles in 1876, the western frontier was essentially closed.  The cowards who never started and the weak that might have died on the way could now ride west on cushioned seats.

However, frontier pockets still remain. In my life, I have known many who have the frontier-pioneer spirit.  They are the few of the many, both men and women, who have the heart, nerve and sinew to push into the unknown of space or ideas.  They don’t particularly give a damn what their contemporaries think.  They are driven to see and know.  If they think of them at all, they scorn the historical revisionists who would deprive us of our heroes.  They joke about extreme environmentalists who are unreasoning obstructionists.  Yet they understand and protect the earth.  They love their country and despise these who are destroying it.  They support and defend our hard- won and kept Republic, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Those of the pioneer spirit drive on into the great unknown to make a better world.  Soon they will feel the snarl of the jets at their backs as they drive toward the frontier of space.  L’Amour recognized this final frontier.  There will be L’Amour novels tucked into cargo pockets of space suits.  There will be men like L’Amour, Service, London, Kipling, Grey, Clark, Asimov and Heinlein to tell their stories.  They will tell of courage, love, loyalty, survival and lonely death in the endless frontier of space.  The arenas will change.  Those frontiersmen and women of space will have the pioneer spirit L’Amour knew and wrote of.

The virtues and characteristics of pioneers and heroes will not change.  L’Amour’s main characters were people of stamina and intelligence.  They did not lie, steal or cheat.  They were independent and killed their own snakes.  They celebrate the free human spirit.

Many of the things that Louis L’Amour teaches in his writings are useful to any age.  Paleo hunters or spaceman must know that peripheral vision is the best to use at night.  Aim low at an uphill or downhill target.  Firearms are sighted horizontally above the target to allow for gravity drop.  Uphill or downhill the gravity vector is reduced or eliminated.  Weapons shoot high.  So, as L’Amour wrote, shoot low.  Read the signs around you. When did that horse go by-was he ridden?  The spaceship that landed-was it ours or theirs?  Carry a knife and fire maker-they will get you out of all kinds of trouble.  Know the place you are in.  Can you eat that plant?  Where is the water?  There is much field craft in L’Amour’s novels.

In Trailing Louis L’Amour in New Mexico, I quoted L’Amour as saying, “man is tracked in his mind.”  With his tenth-grade education, great intelligence, amazing memory, extensive travel, war experience and voluminous reading, L’Amour was as erudite a person as you will meet.  A reasonable estimate would be that he read seven thousand books and “dipped into” many more.  His amazing memory let him recall much of what he read and experienced.  He chose historical fiction as his genre, and he chose to be historically and geographically accurate.  He added much in the way of science to his novels.  He showed an extensive knowledge of the world’s odd corners, history, Indian lore, literature, field craft, botany, geology, geography, archeology, anthropology, psychology and other hard and soft sciences.  He wrote of and speculated on the paranormal.  Read Louis L’Amour for pleasure, knowledge or both. There is much to be gained.

A background and knowledge of the stage where the L’Amour novels play out adds to the enjoyment and understanding of his stories.  A knowledge of the land, people and forces that made California and the Pacific Coast what they were when L’Amour’s characters encountered them in the 1800’s will let you appreciate his marvelous research, accuracy and craft. You will enjoy his novels even more.

Read more about Louis L’Amour HERE.

California Gold Rush - James MarshallDakota Livesay gives us a history lesson about the California Gold Rush and James Marshall, an American carpenter and sawmill operator, who reported the finding of gold at Coloma on the American River in California on January 24, 1848, the impetus for the California Gold Rush.


On January 24, 184Gold Mining8, John Marshall and John Sutter discovered gold at a sawmill construction site near Sacramento, California.

When James Marshall told Sutter of the gold discovery, his first thought was not of the potential of vast wealth, but of how it would adversely affect an empire he was developing called New Switzerland.

Even though Sutter owned 50,000 acres of land, the mill was on public land.  At that time, California was in the process of being transferred from Mexican to U.S. ownership.  With no government authority, Sutter and Marshall exchanged clothing and other trinkets with local Indians for a lease of land surrounding the site.  Even though they tried to keep the discovery a secret, in no time the whole world knew about it.

As men were panning for gold, Marshall was busy cutting lumber, and Sutter was tending his crops.  Within a year, both of their businesses failed.  Without a clear title, James Marshal was eventually run off the land where the mill was located.

John Sutter’s 50,000 acres came from two Spanish land grants.  One was declared void, and squatters took over the other.

Eventually, both men tried mining for gold.  But they failed.  John Sutter died penniless in 1880…And James Marshall did the same in 1885.

Although Sutter and Marshall, the discoverers of gold, never saw a profit from the discovery, during the first 25 years following the discovery, over 978 million dollars worth of gold was taken from the area of Sutter’s mill.

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