Simeon Ide A Biographical Sketch of the Life of William B. Ide ...(1880), portions of Chapter V., Who made the “Bear Flag: by W. M. Boggs, Esq....., pp. 52-55. [bold added below]
Soon after the writer[Simeon Ide] concluded to comply with the request of the only surviving daughter of Wm. B. Ide, that he would collect the material for this memoir, he addressed a note to one[Peter Storm] of the party who (a newspaper article informed him), had had a hand in getting up the renowned “Bear Flag” : to which note he received a letter in reply from W. M. Boggs, Esq., dated “Napa City, Cal., Jan. 18, 1878,” from which we propose to make liberal extracts. Mr. B. Explains by saying: “ Your letter to the late Peter Storm, dated Jan. 7, ‘78, was handed me by a friend of Mr. S., with the request that I would answer it. Mr. Storm died recently at Calisotoga, Napa, county, and was interred by a delegation of Pioneers of Napa.
“I will undertake to answer some of the inquiries of your letter ; as I was, perhaps, as well acquainted with Wm. B. Ide as any of the pioneers of 1846. I became acquainted with him at Sonoma, in 1846 or ‘47. But first I will answer as to ‘who made the Bear Flag.’
“A party of Americans had organized themselves in Napa Valley for the purpose of capturing the garrison of Sonoma, (or , Puebalo y Sonoma). The place was occupied by Mexican citizens, and was the residence of Gen. Vallejo, who was commandant Generral of the northern district of California. His brother, Don Salbador Vallejo, who was a Captain in the Mexcian service–Col. Victor Prudshon, (a Frenchman), but who became a Mexican citizen; Jaacob P. Leese, an American, but who had mrried Gen. Vallejo’s sister, Dena Rosalia Vallejo.
“The aforesaid party of Americans, (of which Mr. Wm. B. Ide was a member), afterwards known as “The Bear Party,” proceeded to Sonoma and captured the place by surprising the General and his brother officers in bed at break of day. This party was headed by Capt. Merritt, an old bear-hunter. The prisoners were sent under an escort to Sutter’s Fort, to be held as hostages by Col. Fremont, until released on parole. Fremont had been recalled, and was at Sutter’s Fort, awaiting further orders from the U. S. authorities; but in the mean time indirectly cooperated with the Independent or Bear party–holding the prisoners for some weeks at Sutter’s Fort. The Californians, in the mean time, were rallying their forces to drive the handful of ‘American marauders,’ as they termed the Bear party, out of the country. They having the possession of the barracks at Sonoma, held the place, 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, and John H. Nash Chief Justice (commonly known as the Alcalde, under the Mexican goverrnment). – It was thought by some, that they should adopt a Flag to represent their Goverrnment; and most of them being hunters and adventurers, the idea was suggested by one Capt. Ford, that a Grizzly Bear should be the motto.
“A young man named William Ford, who had been held in their Fort ass a prisoner, by the Californians, and re-captured in the first fight with them at Camillo’s Rancho, near the present city of Petaluma; William Todd, (a Norweigan), of Illinoi, assisted by old Peter Storm, painted the ‘Bear Flag’. It was simply a piece of unbleached, domestic-made cotton cloth, about a yard and a half long by one yeard wide. A rude figure of a bear, standing on his hind legs, was sketched and painted by Todd and Storm, as above stated, in the presence of a number of the Bear party.”
Mr. Boggs kindly adds: “A number of the Bear party still live in this vicinity, and I am personally acquainted with many of them. My nearest neighbor, Mr. Wm. Hargrave, is one of them; and he is the perrson who gave me your letter to answer – knowing that I was acquainted with the facts.
“I arrived in California in 1846 –in time to take part in the Mexican war; which I did by serving in a battalion of Mounted Riflemen, commanded by Capt. Maddoxx, a marine officer under Commodore Stockton. I left my family –that is, my wife and father, Ex-Gov. L.W. Boggs of Missouri – at Petaluma Rancho, where my eldest son Guadaloupe V. Boggs, was born; the same boy you mention in your letter as the first American born in California – which I think is a mistake. He is probably the first American white child, born under the American Flag, on this coast. I was in the U.S. service at the time; and on my return, after my discharge at Monterey, I found my wife and boy at Petaluma Rancho – the property of of Gen. Vallejo, who had kindly tendered my father and family the use of the house, and generously furnished beef and other necessaries in the way of living. The seven months journey across the Plains and overr the Mountains, at that time, had nearly exhausted our supplies. The ill-fated Donner party was a part of my train most of the way across: I say a part of my train, because I was elected Captain of the emigrant train of 1846, at Ash-Hollow, on the Platt Riverr, and conducted my party safely over the Plains and Mountains into California: and had the Donners remained with us, they would have escaped the suffering and starvation that they experienced in their snow-bound camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I knew them all. ***
“Mr Ide had kept a journal, and wrote a large volume, in book-form, of these proceedings,*[*The “Proceedings” of the “Bear Flag party” are here referred to.] and I saw and read a potion of it at his Rancho, in May 1847, when on my way to the mines. He thought Fremont had not treated him right in the interchange of governments. I never learned whether his writings have been preserved or not; but think they were lost in the great gold excitement.*[*It had escaped the recollection of the surviving members of Mr. Ide’s family, until notice of these writings in this kind letter of Mr. Boggs, was written them, that such writings were in their possession. After diligent search, since that notice came to their hands, they were found among the effects of Mrs. Healy’s brother James M., who died a few months before. We expect to find in that ‘book-form’ manuscript much valuable material for this work.]
“The ‘Society of California Pioneers’ has collected many interesting facts connected with Californi’s early history: but such facts as a personal acquaintance with such men as William B. Ide, Capt. Grenill [Granville] P. Switft, Capt. Ford, Capt. John Grigsby, and a few others who were prime movers, and the leading spirits who struck out boldly at the commencement of the Revolution that gave California to the United States, almost free of cost, so far ass local operations were concerned– such facts, I say, can only be obtained by or through those who were active particpants in them, or were intimately acquainted with those brave men – the most of whom are now no more.”
In a subsequent letter to the writer, Mr. Boggs says: “In the work of forming the Independent, or ‘Bear Flag’ party, Mr. Ide took a prominent part. You may rely on his statements to you as being more correct than those of any of the newspaper correspondents, who gather from different sources, and add their own conclusions besides. Scarcely any two of them give the same version of affairs. What I know about our history is from personal experience and personal acquaintance with nearly every man engaged in the war of 1846-7, on this coast – both land and naval officers, volunteers and regulars, marines and sailors: having served and associated with many of them since – more especially with the leading men; many of whom were my old neighbors for many years since.
“My lamented Father arriving here in time to participate in the closing of the Mexican war by appointment of the Military Goverrnor, Col. Mason of the U.S. Army, aided in establishing law and order, and in carrying out the laws of both Mexico and the United States, pending the hostilities, and during the settlement of them according to the treaty of peace; which position he filled to the entire satisfaction of all concerrned, for a considerable perriod of time; and for which service rendered his goverrnment his bill remains, unpaid, in Washington. A more just claim, perhaps has never been presented to Congress. But, for want of funds to fee agents, the claim has been, up to this time, ignored.”
Mr. Boggs concluded this second letter by saying: “I hope you will succeed in obtaining the information concerning the events alluded to in your letter to Mr. Storm – authenticating, as no doubt it will, the statements to you by a brotherr of the manented Wm. B. Ide concerning this part of his history, for which no man was better qualified to give a correct version than himself. My Father often spoke of him as being a man of superior intelligence; a verry competent and useful citizen – a patriotic co-worker in establishing law and order where none before existed. Such men as he and my Father rarely receive justice at the hands of their country. Those who render it the most important services, are often the least compensated.”
January 31, 2007
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