WILLIAM BROWN IDE
By L. L. McCoy
William Brown Ide, was born in Rutland, Massachusetts, March 28, 1796, a descendant of Daniel Ide, who came over from England about 1630, ten years later than the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth. His grandfather was named Daniel, while his father was named Lemuel. The old man, Lemuel Henry Clay Ide, who died a few years ago down here on Red Bank, was a son of William B. Ide.
Pioneers are like poets–“born not made.” They descend from hearty, robust ancestry, strong, venturesome characters, brave men and women, who have the will and physical endurance to reach out on the frontier, whether forest, mountains or open plains, and blaze or mark the trail that others may follow. William B. Ide was a man of more than ordinary natural ability, very resourceful, ready to meet the demands of any ordinary occasion. Of all the seven real pioneers of what is now the territory of Tehama county, he was of the best natural ability and developed into the strongest character and played the most important part in the development of this section of the state. The seven men to whom I would refer were Peter Lassen, William B. Ide, Robert Hasty Thomes, William G. Chard, Josiah Belden, Jobe F. Dye and A. G. Toomes.
On the 17th of April, 1820, Mr. Ide married Miss Susan G. Haskell at Northboro, Massachusetts. In due time he became inoculated with the western fever and in 1833, with wife and six children, went to Kentucky. In 1834 he moved to Ohio, where he lived on a farm and taught school in the winter months. He was rather a religious man. I quote from a letter to his mother from Madison, Ohio, in 1835: “I have seen something of the value of Christian submission and of Christian example and influence among men.” In the fall of 1838 he sold out his farm in Ohio with the intention of going to Missouri. He started with two wagons and suitable outfit for the journey, but winter came on and he spent the season at Jacksonville, Illinois. In the spring of 1839 he moved out on a farm near Springfield. Early in the spring of 1845, with his family, a good outfit of two wagons, fourteen yoke of oxen and several horses and about one hundred and fifty cattle, he started for the trackless west. They camped about ten days at Independence, Missouri, to lay in pistols, guns, ammunition, clothing for the men and many other articles needful for such a long journey. At Independence he made an iron and branded his cattle I-D-E on the right horn. They left Independence, Missouri, May 10, 1845. Here they were joined by quite a caravan. Mr. Ide’s objective point was Oregon, but at Fort Hall he decided to turn for California. He came in over the Humboldt and Truckee River route. After some hardships, loss of stock in the Humboldt desert country and serious trouble in ascending the Sierra Nevada mountains, on October 25, 1845, he landed at Sutter’s Fort, now Sacramento.
Soon after his arrival at Sutter’s Fort he met Peter Lassen, who induced him to go up to his ranch, on Deer Creek, to build a sawmill. Ide was a mechanic and had a circular saw and other tools which he had brought from Missouri. Lassen by letter directed Mr. Sill to give Ide and his family the possession of a cabin. Soon after Lassen returned from Sutter’s Fort with another family and wanted the cabin in which Ide and his family were camped. On account of this trouble, Ide with his cattle and general outfit started north, crossed the Sacramento river about Tehama, and built a log cabin on the grant of R. H. Thomes, where he spent the winter of 1845-46. During the winter and spring they had to live on beef, butter and milk, having no vegetables and only about one hundred pounds of flour for the entire season. No flour could be bought at any price. In the spring he sowed a little wheat which he bought from General Sutter. Josiah Belden, an eastern gentleman, with a companion by the name of Pitts, was camped with or near Mr. Ide and his family during the floods of the winter. In the spring of 1846, Mr. Belden made arrangements with Ide to give him one-half of his grant to stay on the ranch and take care of the Belden cattle for three years. Belden and his companion, Pitts, made a canoe from a big sycamore tree and floated down the Sacramento river, seeking better accommodations for passage to Yerba Buena, now San Francisco. Ide moved from the Thomes grant to the Belden grant and built him a log cabin. In 1847, Ide bought Belden out, cattle ranch and all, for six thousand dollars. This is the ranch we have known for years as the Ide grant, just south of Red Bank, for which United States patent was issued in the name of William B. Ide, in 1860, for seventeen thousand, seven hundred and seven acres.
Some time in May, 1846, a messenger, named L. H. Ford, came from the south to inform Ide and other settlers that General Don Castro was on his way north from Monterey to drive all the Americans out of the country. Ide, with his son William and a few others, went to General Fremont, who had recently returned from Oregon and was camped at the Marysville Buttes, to confer with him for the protection of American settlers and checking the advance of Castro. Fremont firmly stated his position as an officer of the United States government. With an exploring party he could not assist in attacking the Mexicans except in self defense. Kit Carson and others under the command of Fremont begged to be released that they might go with Ide, but Fremont refused. Fremont at that time expected to return to the States in a few days. Ide then proceeded down the valley, being joined by some other Americans, gathering what arms and ammunition they could, till his full force amounted to twenty-four men. Just at daybreak, June 14, 1846, they entered Sonoma, which at that time was regarded as a fortress of Mexico and was the only considerable Mexican military post in California, commanded by General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Ide and his brave men took the fort, surrounded the home of General Vallejo, took him and his brother, Don Salvadore Vallejo, and two other officials prisoners and sent them under guard to Sutter’s Fort, where they were held as hostages till paroled. General Vallejo was really in sympathy with the American cause and became a strong friend of the Americans. Ide with his force of twenty-four men, known as the “Bear Flag Party,” now had possession of the barracks of Sonoma, with all its guns and ammunition, and proceeded to organize an independent government by electing William B. Ide governor and commander-in-chief of the independent forces, as they were styled. This day, June 15, 1846, was hoisted the celebrated “Bear Flag,” which proclaimed the birth of the California republic. Ide wrote and proclaimed his celebrated proclamation. This proclamation, written wholly by Ide, is really a marvel for patriotism, true Americanism and earnest appeal to a mixed and disturbed people to join his standards and forces, or remain quietly at home and neutral, and would do credit to any general or statesman. Let me give you a few of the high points.
“The Commander-in-Chief at Sonoma gives his inviolable pledge to all persons in California, not bearing arms, or instigating others to take up arms against him, that they shall not be disturbed in their persons, property, religion, or social relations to each other, by men under my command. . . . And he hereby invites all good and patriotic citizens in California to assist him . . . to establish and perpetuate a liberal, a just and honorable government, which shall secure to all, civil, religious and personal liberty . . . punish crime and injustice. . . . He further proclaims that he relies upon the justice of his cause . . . upon the favor of Heaven. . . . Upon the wisdom and good sense of the people of California . . . and upon the bravery of those who are bound and associated with him by the principle of self-preservation, by their love of liberty and by their hatred of tyranny, for his hope of success. And he further promises that a government, to be prosperous and ameliorating in its tendency, must originate among its people: its officers should be its servants, and its glory its COMMON REWARD.”
These are some of the high points of that proclamation which our William B. Ide, pioneer of Tehama county, wrote and proclaimed to all the people of California. A copy thereof, with letter, was immediately sent to Commodore Stockton at Yerba Buena, now San Francisco, if he were then arrived and if not to deliver to him who should be highest in command in the United States Navy then present. Many copies were written and rewritten and sent all through California, especially to Monterey and Los Angeles, and even into the camp of Castro. It made a wonderful appeal not only to all Americans but to thousands of disturbed, unsettled and dissatisfied people of other countries. Thousands of Mexicans either joined the Americans or remained neutral. This proclamation was no doubt in the hands of Commodore John D. Sloat several days before he raised the stars and stripes at Monterey, July 7, 1846.
A good deal of credit is given General Fremont for his military expedition in California, but had he gone on to the States from Fort Sutter, as he fully intended to June 17, Ide with his increasing forces would have taken California as the Bear Flag republic and handed it over to the United States with little cost of blood or treasure to our government. He practically had California, with its ten thousand white population and many thousand Mexicans, ready to revolt against Mexican rule. Other thousand Mexicans had given themselves over to luxury, fandangoes and excesses of various kinds, laziness and luxury rendering them unfit for resistance.
At the time Ide and his force of about twenty-four men had taken Sonoma and raised the Bear Flag and proclaimed his remarkable proclamation, Fremont was at Sutter’s Fort, preparing to return east. For some reason, however, he changed his plans and on June 25 arrived at Sonoma with his whole force, consisting of seventy-two men. This was several days after the success of the revolution had been assured. Fremont was a little pompous and disposed to ignore Ide. I will quote a few lines on that point from “The Story of California” by Henry K. Norton. “The success of the revolution was now assured and the credit of this success was William Ide’s. What then was his chagrin when, at the very threshold of his reward, Fremont calmly put himself at the head of the movement and Ide found himself shouldered out of office and out of public notice.”
After several days Fremont decided to move south and follow up General Castro. His force was small and he desired that Ide and his men should join him. Mr. Ide was anxious to return home and to his big ranch near Red Bluff and to the protection of his family and stock from the depredations of the Indians. None of his men would go with Fremont unless Ide should go with them. Mr. Ide allowed his interest in the cause to outweigh his interests at home and joined Fremont. He often walked for many miles and let Fremont’s men ride his horse. He went with Fremont as far south as Los Angeles and perhaps to San Diego. Ide was with Fremont when the American flag was raised at Los Angeles, August 13, 1846. In due time, well worn and without money, he made his way back to San Francisco by water. He made terms with the captain to work his way or passage by any sort of work or chores about the boat. Commodore Stockton happened to be on the ship and soon recognized Mr. Ide and asked the captain if he knew who that man was he had working about the ship. Ide was soon relieved from further working for his passage. Mr. Ide returned home after an absence of about seven months.
At this date Tehama county had not been organized. All south of Red Bank creek and west of the Sacramento river was in Colusa county. The county seat of Colusa county was then at Monroeville. Mr. Ide, being a man of some education, much experience and force of character, soon became prominent in the affairs of Colusa county and held many offices of responsibility and trust. He held the office of county judge by election, and by appointment served as probate judge, county treasurer, county surveyor, county clerk, county recorder, and chairman of the board of county commissioners. It has been recorded that on rare occasions he served as attorney for both prosecution and defense in the same trial. Few men today can realize the shifting population of those days and the difficulty of finding substantial men settled long enough to qualify for a county office. In those days Colusa county was as large as some of the eastern states and sparsely settled. Men at a distance from the county seat could not afford to hold an office for the meager salary paid. Mr. Ide was qualified, there on the ground, trusted by all and practically ran the county.
Mr. Ide died of smallpox, after an absence of only a week from his office, at Monroeville, Colusa county, on the 19th of December, 1852, aged fifty-six years. His body was buried at Monroeville.
Transcribed by Marie Hassard 25 April 2010.
© 2010 Marie Hassard.