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Mr. Diefendorff is originally of German ancestry.  His father was a native of the State of New York.  He did service in the Revolutionary War, was over eighty years old at the time of his death and in receipt of a pension.  The grandfather of the subject of this biography was Captain Hendrick Diefendorff, who fell on the battle-field of Oreskany, the day that General Herkimer was wounded, when his saddle was placed under a tree, and, reposing his head on that, he commanded the regiment.  The battle was lost for the patriots.  General Herkimer died of his wounds at its close, and it was altogether a day of sorrow for the beautiful Mohawk Valley.  The mother of Mr. Diefendorff was Elizabeth Baum, a niece of Colonel Baum and a native of Virginia.

C. J. Diefendorff was born on the 19th of April, 1814, in the State of New York.  He remained with his father until the enlargement of the Erie Canal, when he became bookkeeper and foreman with a contractor.

In 1840 he taught school in his native district.  Two years later he was married to Miss Sarah E. Thayer, daughter of General Bezeleel Thayer, of Oswego County, New York.  In 1848 he returned to Fort Plains, New York, and opened a store on the Erie Canal.  On January 5, 1853, Mr. Diefendorff, accompanied by his wife’s brother, Henry S. Thayer, took passage to San Francisco via Panama.  After leaving the latter place the vessel sprung a leak, and, what was worse, the yellow fever broke out on board and full fifty of the passengers were buried at sea.   At Acapulco the passengers went ashore and among the sick were Mr. Diefendorff’s wife and Mr.  Thayer, her brother.  The latter died of the epidemic and was buried in the cemetery set apart for foreigners in that place.  After many other vicissitudes, Mr. Diefendorff finally arrived at San Francisco on March 8.

Mr. Diefendorff engaged in mining on his arrival, beginning at Prairie City, a camp near Folsom.  He also mined on Alder Creek.  In the fall of 1855 he purchased a ranch on Grand Island, Colusa County.  In 1856 he was Justice of the Peace of Granite Township, Sacramento County, and while serving on the board of elections in that township, he was elected Justice of the Peace of Grand Island.  At a meeting of the Justices of Colusa County, he was elected a Justice of the Sessions and at the close of his term he was appointed County Judge by Governor Downey.  He afterwards served two terms as Supervisor of Colusa County.  At the beginning of the war, Mr. Diefendorff was appointed Deputy United States Marshal and Deputy Indian Agent.  At its close he was made Deputy Revenue Collector of Colusa and Tehama Counties.  Under appointment of the Union League of San Francisco, he was authorized to establish Union Leagues in Colusa County.

While acting as Deputy Indian Agent, he was appointed by Chief “Him Boo” to give instructions to his son Captain Bill.  The old chief called his people around him just before his death and gave Diefendorff in charge of them.  To this day the older Indians on Grand Island salute Mr. Diefendorff as “Him Boo.”

During the years 1881-1883 Mr. Diefendorff was engaged in closing his business on Grand Island, preparatory to removing to San Francisco, where he now makes his home.  Although not of a resident of Colusa County, Mr.  Diefendorff is in feeling, association of spirit and sympathy a Colusan.


“Colusa County” – by Justus H. Rogers – Orland, CA – 1891 – pp 378-379

Transcribed by Kathy Sedler, August 2004.


© 2004 Kathy Sedler


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