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John Richard Graham

Scenery Hill (1852) 

John Richard Graham (John) was born August 10, 1833 on the family farm in Scenery Hill, Washington County, Pennsylvania. John was one of the youngest of 13 children born to Richard and Mary Graham. At the age of 18 he received a certificate to teach school and apparently did so for about a year before getting “gold fever” and embarking on a journey to California with his older brother James Cashin Graham. 

In early 1852, when John was 19 years old, he and brother James set out from Scenery Hill on their quest for adventure and fortune. Nothing is known of their journey from the family farm to the Isthmus. It is likely they made their way to New York where they booked passage to the East Coast of Panama. 

Panama 

In New York, a variety of ships were waiting to serve them but not all ships were equal. To capitalize on the rush to California, entrepreneurs set about converting all types of ships into charter ships. Large and slow traveling cargo ships were often given rudimentary makeovers and set to sea. Tiers of narrows bunks were installed in the cargo areas. Because there was little planned-for free space, passengers were confined to their bunks during foul weather. Research in diaries and journals of this period show the cost for transportation alone ranged from $600 to over $1,200 per person. 

Supplies for such a trip might include salt pork, salt beef, hard bread, salt, butter and cheese, tea, sugar and spices. Because these items were perishable, the overall length of the trip was important: salt meat often went bad, rats ate the cheese and butter turned rancid. The advertised travel time from New York was rarely met and passengers, therefore, were rarely prepared with sufficient fresh supplies. Steam ships were generally more reliable than sailing ships and arrived on the East Coast of Panama having encountered fewer problems. 

Even if the trip from New York to Panama was uneventful, travel across the Isthmus in the 1850's would have been difficult for John and Jim at best; life threatening at worst. The journey consisted of a 75-mile cruise up the Charges River followed by a 25-mile trek with mules to Panama City. Many travelers, who were reasonably healthy before crossing the Isthmus, ended up dying on the West Coast due to diseases picked up along the way. Diseases common to the trip included Yellow Fever, Malaria, Dysentery and Cholera.  

Louis J. Rasmussen gives us a flavor of travel in this period in his forward to Volume III of his San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists: “Every route to California by sea was taken up by hundreds of eager travelers. The rush of passengers was so great from the East Coast of America that steamers were engaged full for more than two months ahead. The entire world seemed bent on a trip to the gold region. By the tedious passage of “the Horn”, through Nicaragua, and over the Isthmus of Panama, thousands were bound for the West. In China, there was reported considerable excitement existing in the Canton districts, among the working classes, favorable to emigration to California. Great numbers of Chinese were preparing to join their countrymen who had previously made passage to San Francisco. 

“There were a number of evils incident to the long sea voyage – a passage through the tropical regions, overloading of vessels, the failure in many instances to supply sufficient quantity of wholesome food and sweet water, and finally, the shipping of emigrants in old and un-seaworthy vessels which were either wrecked or abandoned because of the utter impossibility of pursuing the voyage upon them. In Churchillian prose, one California journal referred to the emigrant’s trials as almost incalculable, depicting it thusly – So much suffering, inconvenience and useless and wanton destruction of human life has hardly ever taken place before in so brief a time in the pursuits of peace”. 

Having arrived safely in Panama City, John and James booked passage with 145 others aboard the barque Sarmiento and sailed for San Francisco. The two brothers were to join the rush for gold along with thousands of others but not as quickly as anticipated. John and James were “becalmed” in the Pacific Ocean for months, rigging up a distilling apparatus to keep the passengers and crew alive. The Sarmiento finally caught winds to be able to sail to Hawaii. They arrived at the port of Honolulu where they were able to get fresh supplies and water. It took another 33 days to sail from Honolulu to San Francisco. 

San Francisco (1852)  

On August 12, 1852, approximately 4 months after leaving Panama, the Sarmiento arrived in San Francisco. According to an August 13, 1852 article in the San Francisco newspaper Daily Alta California, “This unfortunate vessel, which left Panama about four months since, and whose arrival we noticed at Honolulu, reached this port last night. She has on board 140 sufferers, the names of whom will be found under the usual head”. The Alta shows two of the passengers to be “J. Graham and J.P.Graham”. The “P.” was either a typographical error as the typesetter transcribed the ship’s passenger list, or the handwriting was so difficult to read that the “R” appeared as a “P” and was so copied. 

The Alta reports the arrival of the Sarmiento under heading “Shipping Intelligence – Port of San Francisco, Aug. 13, 1852”. It says that on August 12th, the Sarmiento arrived 115 days out from Panama “via Honolulu, 33 ds”. The ship carried not only its crew and passengers but 250 tons of coal as cargo. The arrival of the Sarmiento is independently confirmed in the San Francisco Herald newspaper of the same date. 

John and James stayed in the city for a couple of days before traveling to Chinese Camp, Tuolumne County. Their brief stay in the city must have been interesting. Rasmussen writes:  

“In April, 1852, the city of San Francisco was over capacity…As one would suppose, the huge influx of ship arrivals in San Francisco brought accommodation problems for the passengers of the vessels. Every respectable hotel and boarding house was full to overflowing. The up-river boats which carried the new passengers from San Francisco by inland water-ways to areas near the gold fields, took hundreds out of the city daily. However, the number remaining in San Francisco hardly appeared to diminish due to almost daily arrivals of ships from foreign ports. 

“Those who were fortunate to own a shanty, or even a tent for that matter, could engage in the hotel business and be assured of financial success…The first contact the newcomer met on his arrival in San Francisco was, in most cases, the ‘hotel runner’. It was a meeting not unlike running the gauntlet of an enemy battalion. Hotel runners were stationed along the wharfs like the light infantry in preparation of a skirmish. The runners watched the arrival of vessels with as much eagerness as if the fate of nations depended upon the news they carried.  

“Before the boat touched the wharf, or threw a line to make fast, these hungry solicitors of patronage were all over the vessel, expressing a willingness to ease the passenger of his luggage, all the while descanting largely upon the sumptuous fare, healthy location and splendid accommodations of some eating house, bearing a title that might induce one to flatter himself with the idea that he was about to enjoy the comforts of an oriental palace. Instead of which, the obliging runner generally conveyed the luggage to some dingy and obscure shanty. There the new arrival found beef and potatoes dished out at exorbitant charges, the vilest ruin dealt out of a dirty decanter, and a greasy bunk in the cock-loft”. 

To John and James, even the greasiest bunk and vial food may have seemed luxurious after their confinement on the Sarmiento. 

The Southern Mines 

A number of ads for transportation to and from the gold mines dotted pages of the local newspapers. An ad for Todd’s Express was published on the front page of the Alta the day John and James came into port. It read as follows: 

“On and after this date, C.A.Todd will run a daily express to Stockton, Sonora, Columbia, Mariposa, Agua Frio, Quartzburg, Double Springs and Mokelumne Hill, and all parts of the southern mines. Gold dust, specie, valuable packages, etc. etc. received and forwarded. Notes, accounts, etc. collected and all business pertaining to an Express promptly attended to. A stage will leave the office on the levee at Stockton daily for each of the above named places.” It is likely John and James used this or one of the other services to get to Chinese Camp, their initial destination in the Sierra foothills. John and James arrived in San Francisco on a Monday. It is possible that they came to Chinese Camp, one of their many mining camps, on a Sunday.  

Historian Hubert Howe Bancroft writes about a typical Sunday in the 1888 History of California: “The great gathering in the main street was on Sundays, when after a restful morning, though unbroken by the peal of church bells, the miners gathered from hills and ravines for miles around for marketing and relaxation. It was the harvest day for the gamblers, who raked in regularly the weekly earnings of the improvident, and then sent them to the store for credit to work out another gambling stake. Drinking saloons were crowded all day, drawing pinch after pinch of gold dust from the buck-skin bags of the miners, who felt lonely if they could not share their gains with bar keepers as well as friends. And enough there were of these to drain their purses and sustain their rags. 

“Besides the gambler, whose abundance of means, leisure, and self possession gave him an influence second in this respect only to that of the store-keeper, the general referee, advisor and provider, there was the bully, who generally boasted of his prowess as a scalp hunter and duelist with fist or pistol, and whose following of reckless loafers acquired for him an unenviable power in the less reputable camps, which at times extended to terrorism. His opposite was the effeminate dandy, whose regard for dress seldom reconciled him to the rough shirt, sash bound, tucked pantaloons, awry boots, and slouchy bespattered hat of the honest, unshaved miner, and whose gingerly handling of implements bespoke in equal consideration for his hands and back”.

Chinese Camp was located between Montezuma and Jacksonville in Tuolumne County. It is one of the oldest and best known gold towns named for the Chinese miners who began mining there in 1849. John R.'s papers state that "Dad and Jim stayed in S.F a few days, others went by boat to Stockton and Sac. for the gold mines…they wanted to mine but when it was known that Dad was a teacher, they would not let him, and said he was the only educated man in camp (and must teach the children)...he was selected to settle all disputes and act as judge...this was before the law was organized...”  

An article in the Sacramento Bee published January 18, 1998 has the headline "Justice Wasn't Pretty - But It Was Quick". The article goes on to tell about the mob form of justice experienced in the foothills: "Punishment for criminal behavior during the chaos of California's Gold Rush was not always just, but it was quick. The minors who poured into the Sierra canyons by the thousands had little time for courts, juries or lawyers. 

"Instead, justice was dispensed by 'Judge Lynch' - in the form of mobs that held impromptu trials and meted out immediate punishment, often whipping, hanging or banishment. During the early days of the Gold Rush, there was little crime. Gold was plentiful, as was space. By 1849, however, the rivers and streams were crowded, and the easy gold was gone. Men from around the world, who had traveled half a year in life-threatening conditions to get to California, were bitterly let down. 

"Some killed over claims. Some turned to stealing. Even without the disappointments, the demographic makeup of the miners almost guaranteed trouble. Many of them were wild, wild and adventurous. The results were a steady stream of unpremeditated homicides, most of which arose from personal disputes and occurred in or near drinking establishments." 

After moving from Chinese Camp to Angels Camp and to Shaw’s Flat, John and James finally settled in Columbia where James mined gold and John taught school. Although they did not arrive in California in time to participate in the census of 1850, census data for 1860 shows both John and brother James in Columbia.  

Columbia 

At the time John and James arrived in Columbia it was a bustling town of approximately 5,000. According to the Columbia Gazette and Visitors Guide, “By the end of 1852, Columbia was a fine town…Clap-board buildings and log cabins replaced the tents and the town boasted 150 business houses including 30 saloons, 21 grocery stores, 17 dry goods stores, seven boarding houses, four hotels, four banks, three express offices, doctors, lawyers, fine restaurants and theaters. The town had a daguerreotype parlor, brewery, bear and bull arena, bowling alley – and even a permanent circus! 

“Although there were women of ill fame in the mines from the beginning, the arrival of respectable ladies had a sobering effect on the population. When the first white woman, Mrs. DeNoielle, arrived in Columbia the miners lined the road all the way to Sonora to greet her. By the summer of 1852 there were enough children for Mrs. Haley to start a small school. Churches were also being established including a Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic – and even a Jewish Synagogue. 

“Fraternal organizations were very important to miners and in 1852 the Masonic Lodge and Independent Order of Odd Fellows were organized. Soon the Sons of Temperance, Hook and Ladder and a military company were founded. Fine homes were built and fruit trees and flowering gardens were planted. Columbia was becoming a fine city. The culture in Columbia was very diverse. One miner was sure that if you stood on the corner of Main and State Streets you could hear every language in the world spoken at the same time.” 

Information on John’s career as a teacher is provided by Columbia State Park Ranger Sherrin Grout: "Although he did not advertise, John Graham appears to have opened a private school at the beginning of the year (1859) in Porterfield's school house. He closed his school in May in anticipation of opening the public school. When he was not hired, he removed to Springfield and apparently opened a school there. On August 20th, he opened a public school at Springfield. 

"On July 16, 1860, Rev. P.G. Buchanan opened the public school in the Dennell and Parsons' warehouse, now owned by Martha Barclay, at the north east corner of Main and Pacific Streets. Early in October, Mr. Buchanan was dismissed and John Graham hired to replace him as principal of the school. The school was in session to the end of October, four months. The new school building had been completed but all of the furniture had not yet arrived. 

"On March 18, 1861, John Graham was hired by the retiring Trustees to open the primary department in the new school building. One month later, Laura Nelson was hired as assistant. The term closed at the end of July, so that the building could be cleaned and fitted with the new furniture that had arrived, in time for the fall term. 

"The school again opened on September 9th, and continued in session until March 28, 1862, when the retiring Trustees closed it before school election. While the Trustees reported nine months of school, they did not count the month of March for which the previous Trustees had hired Graham. 

"During the period November 1st to October 31st, the school year of 1862, there were 8 months of school. The first four were included in the report of the Trustees for the preceding year. Because of rain and hot weather, the year had been broken into four sessions. John Graham was again principal and Miss Nelson his assistant. There were 117 pupils in the grammar department; the primary was not given. However, on April 4, 1862, Miss Adelaide Cory of Columbia, was hired to hear recitations. 

"In 1863, John Graham, Miss Nelson and Ada Cory were again teachers...Because of heavy rains in 1862, which damaged mines as well as crops, many of the school districts were in financial difficulties until 1865. A drought in 1864 prolonged the bad spell just when people were beginning to get on their feet after the rains of 1862. This was true all over the state. 

"Then Graham had taken office in March [1864] as County Superintendent of Schools. He was also principal of Columbia school. His assistants this year were newcomers to Columbia; Mrs. Abbie Slack was a recent newcomer from the east. Miss Nellie Bowne was the other teacher, both of whom had very fine reputations as teachers. When the school was closed at the end of six months, Mrs. Slack and Miss Bowne opened a private school on April 11, in the public school house, to complete the 8 months school year. Mr. Graham removed his office to Jamestown and did not teach again in Columbia." 

It was here in the foothills, and apparently at the Red Brick schoolhouse in Columbia which he helped to build, that John met his future bride. As John R. tells it, his dad “married one of his scholars, Elizabeth Gardner”. Elizabeth crossed the plains with her family in a covered wagon from Springfield, Illinois, in 1855, settling at Don Pedro’s bar, which was a mining camp on the Tuolumne River, six miles northeast of La Grange in Tuolumne County. Her father mined for a short time before opening up a livery stable in La Grange.  

San Francisco (1866) 

John and Elizabeth were married at Don Pedro’s Bar in 1865 and lived initially in Jamestown or Angel’s Camp. Their first child, Mary Elizabeth Graham, was born in Angels Camp on June 21, 1866. Shortly after Mary was born, John and family, including brother James, moved to San Francisco where John got a job as a drayman. Within a year he opened his own business. As John R. tells it, his dad and Uncle Jim “had saved up 25 to 30 thousand dollars...then went to S.F. and purchased a block on 19th and Shotwell streets, erected a home on 19th and two or more houses on Shotwell and corner grocery store, and butcher...". 

A listing in the San Francisco Directory 1865-66 documents both John and James as working in San Francisco. It shows “J.R.Graham, drayman, Custom House” and “James Graham, drayman, 211 Battery, dwl 515 Bush”. The San Francisco Business Directory of 1886-87 documents the new business venture. It shows “Graham, John, fruits and vegetables, 661 Twentieth”. Census data for 1870 documents John, ‘Lizzee’ and Mary as residing in San Francisco. With the exception of Mary, all of John and Elizabeth’s eight children were born in San Francisco. 

During this time, John and Jim ran the fruit and vegetables business and established a small dairy. Extra-curricular activities included participation in the Vigilantes. The Vigilantes were a committee of citizens formed in San Francisco to maintain law and order in the absence of adequate police protection; a further extension of the mob justice John and James experienced in the southern mining camps. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines a Vigilance Committee as "a self constituted judicial body, occasionally organized in the western frontier districts for the protection of life and property." 

In a series of remembrances written for submission to the Saturday Evening Post in 1954, John R. tells his recollection of the riots and his dad's participation as a vigilante. "When the Union and Central Pacific [railroad] was completed, the Chinese were brought to California by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company at very high prices. They were turned loose to shift for themselves. They took over all the street work of digging sewers and water mains and built 10' x 12' wash houses lined with cloth and paper. They took the washing of clothes from the women. There would be 10 to 12 sleeping in wooden bunks; no women or children. 

"The Huntington Hopkins Hardware Company furnished the Chinese with picks and shovels. The slogan 'The Chinese Must Go' was started and the police were powerless. The mobs started by burning the Pacific Mail Steamship at Second and Brannan Streets, the woolen mills on Potrero Avenue and 16th and Folsom Streets, and Chinese wash houses all over the city. 

"There were some of the Vigilantes of the early days who hung several rioters in the wholesale fruit district. They organized committees of younger men. There were no phones then and when a mob was forming in the daytime, a boom was fired from the firehouse on Folsom Street between 21st and 22nd and followed by a colored light showing the location of the mob. 

"My dad and Uncle Jim had a dairy of 27 cows on the block between Shotwell and Folsom and 21st and 22nd Streets. They had a one-horse wagon and when the alarm came in for this district they would sally forth with their pick handles. As I said, the police were powerless. The Vigilantes would lay down the rioters in short order. I was about 16 and followed the crowds until Dad and Uncle Jim would horse whip me all the way home." 

Fowler  

In the early nineties, John experienced financial problems necessitating a move out of the city. John, Elizabeth and baby Wensel moved in with daughter Mary and her husband George Dodge who lived on a ranch in Fowler, San Joaquin County, California. In a letter to John R. dated December 13, 1891, John talks about the move: "I expect to sell our stoves and the old bedspreads and some of the old furniture and get something of these so all together if we can get down to the city with a hundred dollars after paying our fare I think it will be all I can count on. If I can get any more together it will all depend on what success I have in selling our things. I have brought everything over to Geo. W's and we will be staying there till you send for us. 

"Carrie and Ethyl are staying with Emma and Frank, and Myrtle is staying with Mrs. Taylor. Myrtle is taking painting lessons...Your mother wants to keep Mertz there as long as she can. Myrtie is learning very fast. She is getting over her sickness very well. You and Katie both speak of sending Mertz down right away to help us out of our embarrassment but as we are now getting along nicely, your mother wants us all to go together...times are just terrible here no one has a dollar of money." 

In the remains of part of a letter 12 days later on Christmas day, 1891, John talks of the family he has to care for as he prepares to move to Fowler. He says to John R., "I hope your plans...will succeed for us. I am very anxious to get to earning something because have seven mouths to feed and seven backs to cover and seven pair of feet to buy shoes and stockings for...And if we can make ten a month more than we need to live on I will put it in the bank so as to have some-thing to fall back on for I never will buy anything again till I have every cent to pay for it. 

“I will take no more chances for future prospects...Geo. has just got out by the skin of his teeth of course this is to you as a secret, do not tell anyone but the truth is, this chance he has of making some ready money to pay off his numerous bills and to stop the great increase of expenses in running his ranch...” 

What caused this unfortunate circumstance is open to speculation. Perhaps his intrinsic sense of honor and his trust of others were to blame. John R. wrote that his dad "thought everyone was as honest as he was, and trusted so many people, that in a few years he was broke."  

Scenery Hill (1904) 

In 1902 John made plans to visit his family in Pennsylvania for the first time after leaving in 1852. A letter to John R. dated September 19, 1902 tells of John’s initial plans for the trip. “John, I read a letter from home that my sister is very sick with the dysentery. She had been in bed two weeks but has been poorly all summer. So I know she cannot stand it long if she does not get relief very soon. I had made up my mind to go home to see them in December and spend the winter with her. Now I am afraid I shall never see her if I put it off so long. Just as soon as I can get $75 or $100 together I must go. The fair to Pittsburgh is $60 without a sleeper and a sleeper costs $75. I can go without a sleeper. I have $20 of it now. How much can you spare? Let me know.” 

Two weeks later, John wrote to John R. about his sister Mary. “Dear Son, I received a letter from your Aunt Mary written by her own hand informing me of her partial recovery. She is just able to walk about in the house and is very weak. I will now postpone my going home till things get through at the packinghouse. That will be near Christmas. Then I will go back if I have to walk it or ride a pony!” 

In a letter written to John R. dated January 7, 1904, John says “I am glad I did not go east this winter. I see all through Pennsylvania and New York it is from 20 to 30 degrees below zero – ugh! I could not stand it. I think I will go next spring when the fair is down.” 

John traveled to Pennsylvania in the spring as planned. The following is one of his letters written to John R. dated May 24, 1904 from the 'Old Home': "Dear Son, With joy I opened and pursued your letter and your `clippings - I think so much of them that I will paste them in my scrap book. I am well and found my sister and bro well. I enjoyed my trip beyond conception and my visit here with brother (Sam) and sister (Mary) - I cannot tell you - and then my reception by my old school mates, their children and their grandchildren - many who never saw me and all the former with gray hair and wrinkled faces gathered around us, both before and after church to speak with me and shake my hand.  

“And Wednesday, tomorrow, I am invited to a very swell reception party in Washington where I will be the central figure.   Now as for business.   At the  Wor-Fair, I was approached by many seeking news from Cala. I was selected from others in the great throngs in the hotels, in the street cars and the fair building and the fair grounds not because I was different from anybody else or that my Cala showed out in my face but because I wore a beautiful yellow badge with the word California printed on it. This badge indeed seemed a very magnet of attraction. "Ah! You are from Cala", "Yes, I just came over to see how you people in the east are getting along". "How long have you been there"? "I have been there nearly 50 years". "Well you know much of California then". "Yes I do". Then follows a long harried explanation of the raisin growing, curing, packing, seeding, selling not only raisins but peaches, prunes, etc. generally closing with coming to Cala and the best way to get there. And I of course speak for the Santa Fe. I will give you a few names of persons who went to Cala {the page ends}". 

On July 16, 1904, John wrote from “Scenery Hill” asking John R. to help get his return trip ticket extended. It seems from his letters that he was having the time of his life. He writes “I am receiving requests from all around to give more lectures on Cala. My Pigeon Creek lectures make them want more”. In a letter written September 9, 1904 from Scenery Hill John closes his letter with “Mary and Sam send their love. Mary and I are going to a dinner today. Oh! It is dinner, dinner all the time”. On September 14, 1904 he wrote, “I lecture next Saturday night in Vanceville. They want (me) in Cannonsburg, Washington and Waynesburg but I don’t know if I will go or not. I am not very well this week.” 

John R. was successful in getting John’s return ticket extended on the Santa Fe. On September 15, 1904 John writes from Scenery Hill thanking him for his efforts. He comments on his plans by saying, “I do not know just yet when I will start home. I have some business to settle up and besides I want to call on five or six old friends that I have not seen yet. I will start in plenty of time to reach home before my ticket runs out.” 

John’s last letter home was written October 8, 1904 to daughter Emma, less than two weeks before he died. It says in very shaky handwriting, “I was pleased to get a letter from you. It was so very satisfying all round the place. That Mr. Dorman and you had seen all the girls and all was satisfying that it gave me relief. Well Emma, I would have been home before…meantime I am enjoying my visit here with Sam and Mary Anne and my old and new friends. Why Emma, everybody seems to be friends. I got a very nice letter from Mary a few days ago. I have a few places to go yet, but I do not think I will get around to see them all. You should just see the old rich widows and maids casting goo-goo eyes at me. They don’t know how much I am worth. I do not let them come to that you know.  

“Oh Emma! I have lots of fun. But do not look for me for I do not know when I can get away. Ill I can say is that I have got my visit pretty well out and I am delighted that I came. When you girls write ask about Chas, the young fellow that Mary and Sam raised. He is still nice and young and lives here. He is 21 years old. Emma, I received your labels for my medicines. Thanks for them. I sell a bottle once in a while. You said everything was well around the ranch but you didn’t tell me about our white leghorn flock of chick-a-biddies. I am going to a great dinner today. It is getting cold here. Ice at night. How about Teddy Roosevelt there? Penn will give him 300,000 (?). Mary A. sends love to you all. She is so glad you got well. She is pretty well too. She does all the work. I do all the dishes! Love, Papa.” 

John died in Scenery Hill, Pennsylvania, on October 20, 1904. His remains were sent from Wyland, Washington County, Pennsylvania to Merced via Wells Fargo coach from Pennsylvania on October 23rd .   He was buried October 31, 1904 in the Masonic section of the Merced public cemetery along side wife Elizabeth, who preceded him in death in 1902.  

An undated funeral notice, probably printed in Merced, states the following: "DIED-In Washington County, Pennsylvania, October 20, 1904, JOHN GRAHAM, a native of Vanceville, Pennsylvania, aged 71 years. The funeral will take place from the First Presbyterian Church, Sunday, October 30, 1904, at 2:00 PM. Friends and acquaintances of the deceased are respectfully invited to attend". 

An obituary in the Merced Express, dated October 29, 1904, states that: ”J.R. Graham received a telegram on the 20th announcing the death of his father - a message the day before stated that he was critically ill. The old gentleman was visiting with a brother and sister in Washington County, Pennsylvania, at his boyhood home, wither he went a few months ago - after an absence of almost 50 years. He was enjoying his visit very much and was in high spirits and fair health. He wrote many letters to his sons and daughters in this state. Indeed, one letter written by him on the 15th was received by Captain Graham subsequently to the receipt of the telegram announcing his death. He wrote in a cheerful and enthusiastic vein and said nothing about illness. He was intending to return to California in a few weeks. The body was prepared for shipment, and is expected to arrive here today or tomorrow. John Graham was born in Vanceville, Washington County, Pennsylvania, in 1833. His father and grandfather and probably his great grandfather were residents of that section, the first of the family who settled in this country coming from the North of Ireland and being of Scotch descent. 

"In his boyhood he obtained as good an education as was practical to acquire in Western Pennsylvania in those early days and he taught school. In 1854 he came to California by way of the isthmus, with his brother James C. Graham. He located at Chinese Camp, in Tuolumne County, and followed mining for a short time, then engaging in teaching an occupation for which he was well qualified and which he followed successfully for years. As superintendent of schools of Tuolumne County, Mr. Graham's labors were of value in advancing educational interests. It was he who introduced the teaching of mental arithmetic in California schools. 

"In 1867 he was united in marriage with Elizabeth Gardner; she died in this city three years ago. From Tuolumne County he went to San Francisco and engaged in business for a year or two. He subsequently spent two or three years at Los Banos, farming; then was a vineyardest near Selma, and in 1902 came to Merced, with his son J.R.Graham, who engaged in the ice business here. Since his wife's death he has been with his married daughters in Fresno County much of the time. He was formerly a member of Mission Lodge, F. &A.M. of San Francisco.  

“Mr. Graham was a man of lovely disposition, gentlemanly in manner to a eminent degree, straight forward and scrupulously honest; he took a lively interest in current events and firmly adhered to every cause that he deemed right and espoused movements for the betterment of the community. He was intensely patriotic; from 1861 to 1865 he was a first lieutenant in the home guards, the then military organization of the State. In his later days he was tenderly and liberally ministered to by his sons and daughters - Captain J.R.Graham of Merced and Mrs. G.W.Dodge, Mrs. K.S.Johnson, Mrs. E.J.Galloway, Mrs. K. Van Loo, Mrs. E.W.Wilson, Miss Ethel Graham and Wensel C. Graham of Fresno County.” 

 

Submitted by: Randy Graham

 


© 2003 Randy Graham

 

Tuolumne County Biographies