Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
James Williams - Mary Patterson Williams
The Chiles-Walker Party, consisting of eight wagons and about thirty people, departed Independence, Missouri, in May of 1843 and traveled by way of the Platte River, South Pass, and Fort Bridger to Fort Hall, Idaho.
Due to a severe shortage of provisions, the party split at Fort Hall into two groups. A group of thirteen men on horseback, led by Chiles and including the four Williams brothers, rode ahead with the purpose of procuring supplies in California and returning eastward across the central Sierra Nevada to meet the wagons at the Sink of the Humboldt River in Nevada. This group traveled down the Snake River to Fort Boise in Idaho and then struck out through uncharted territory via eastern Oregon and northeastern California for the Sacramento Valley in California. After enduring incredible hardships and near starvation, the mounted party reached Sutter’s Fort on November 10, 1843 – too late to attempt a winter crossing of the Sierra Nevada for the scheduled rendezvous
The rest of the party – including the wagons, women, and children, and remaining men and guided by Walker – proceeded via the Raft River/Goose Creek country of Idaho into northeastern Nevada and then down the Humboldt River to its sink. After waiting there several days, Walker realized that help was not coming, and so he led the wagon train southward along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. Finally forced to abandon their wagons at Owen’s Lake, the Walker Party packed over Walker Pass on December 3, 1843, passed through the Kern River country, crossed the San Joaquin Valley to the Coast Range, and arrived safely at the Salinas River settlements shortly after New Year’s Day.
The Williams brothers settled first at Fort Sutter, where James worked as blacksmith and John as a tanner. The brothers marched south in 1845 with Captain Sutter during the conflict between Governor Micheltorena and former California officials Juan Alvarado and Jose Castro. Upon returning to the fort, James met the Patterson family. On August 24, 1845, James was married to Mary Patterson by U.S. Consul Thomas Larkin in the Larkin home in Monterey.
The Williams brothers and the Patterson family settled in the Santa Cruz area where the Williams leased a sawmill belonging to Captain Isaac Graham and Henry Naile.
In 1846, during the American occupation of California, James served as a first lieutenant in Captain Charles Weber’s U.S. Mounted Rifle Company, and he was actively involved in the Battle of Santa Clara on January 2, 1847.
On August 28, 1847 James and Squire purchased the 4,418 acre Arroyo de la Laguna Rancho ten miles north of Santa Cruz. John took charge of Larkin’s Rancho in Colusa County, and Isaac returned to Missouri to settle business affairs.
When gold was discovered, the Williamses in partnership with Larkin mined on the Yuba River at Williams Bar. During this time, James and John Williams purchased the 22,000 acre Farwell Grant at Chico. Both Squire and John Williams died in the mining region.
While prospecting, James became deadly ill. After regaining his health, he returned to Williams Landing in 1849 and built a sawmill above his ranch at Bonny Doon. Isaac returned to Santa Cruz and married Mary’s sister, Lydia. Isaac and Lydia then joined James and Mary at Williams Landing where the brothers’ oxen hauled lumber and lime from their quarries down the steep grade to a bluff above the landing where these commodities were loaded onto boats to go to market.
After Mary’s death in 1851, James married Pauline Rickmer in San Francisco on April 18, 1855. He and Pauline moved to Santa Cruz where James built a large three-story home near Williams Lane (now Lincoln Street). He planted peach and apple orchards on his extensive acreage in the middle of town and also grew twenty-one pound onions.
James died on October 9, 1858, at the age of 44. He was buried a few feet from Grove C. Cook, another pioneer and an old acquaintance from Sutter’s Fort. James was a member of the Society of California Pioneers.
With winter fast approaching, the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party decided to leave their six wagons at Truckee Lake (later renamed Donner Lake) and proceed over the crest of the Sierra Nevada with the other five wagons of their small train. In the vicinity of present-day Big Bend, the decision was reached to construct a crude log cabin and leave the women and children there under the charge of two men while the rest of the men struggled on to Sutter’s Fort. Snowbound, the Patterson’s spent the winter at this camp, and at the end of February, 1845, on the verge of starvation, they were rescued and brought down to the fort. In 1844 the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party was thus the first group of pioneers to succeed in bringing wagons over the Sierra Nevada, although the wagons were not actually brought into the Sacramento Valley until 1845. All members of the party – plus two babies born along the way – survived the arduous trek.
At Sutter’s Fort, Mary met James Williams, and soon afterward the two were married: the first weddings of Americans in California.
After the discovery of gold, Mary accompanied James to the Yuba River where she was paid to clean bags of gold-bearing sand. Her first child, Jonathan Patterson, was born in a wagon at Marysville. She second son, Isaac Benjamin, was born in Santa Cruz on January 15, 1849.
By 1851, Mary, James, their children, her mother, brother and two sisters were all living at Williams Landing. On April 4, 1851 Mary delivered twin sons, James Andrew and Andrew James. She died early the next morning at the age of 21. She and the twins, who died in infancy, were buried at Williams Landing. Before James died he asked that Mary and the twins be reinterred beside him at Evergreen Cemetery.
Their sons, Jonathan and Isaac, were raised along with their cousins in Watsonville by their uncle Isaac and Aunt Lydia. Born with gold dust in their veins, both boys became avid prospectors as adults: Jonathan near Blue Canyon in northern Arizona and Isaac in Kern County, California.
Erected 2001 by Williams, Patterson and Hitchcock Family Descendants and the Oregon-California Trails Association.
Location. 36° 58.868′ N, 122° 2.107′ W. Marker is in Santa Cruz, California, in Santa Cruz County. Marker can be reached from Evergreen Street, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. This Marker is located in the Evergreen Cemetery. Marker is at or near this postal address: 261 Evergreen Street, Santa Cruz CA 95060, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Williams (a few steps from this marker); Isaac Graham: “Swashbuckling Soldier of Fortune (a few steps from this marker); Arthur A. Taylor (within shouting distance of this marker); Grave of Grove C. Cook (within shouting distance of this marker); Mary Amney Case (within shouting distance of this marker); Louden (London) Nelson (within shouting distance of this marker); Lady of the Night (within shouting distance of this marker); Colonial Revival Style (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Santa Cruz.
Categories. • Cemeteries & Burial Sites • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on January 7, 2013, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 509 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 7, 2013, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.