California Genealogy and History Archives


Pioneer Register of California
(From the History of California, Vol. II.-V.)
Pioneer Register and Index 1542—1848


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Look carefully through the text as there are several names in each paragraph.





“ALL history, as a record of the acts of men, is biography. In these pages it is proposed by means of an alphabetic index to make available as biographical matter the first five volumes of this work, covering the annals of California from its discovery to 1848. Through this index the reader may have access directly to all that is told in the work about any man of the thousands whose acts make up the country's early history. The names will not in most cases be repeated in the general index at the end of vol. vii.; but to that index the reader is referred for additional matter relating to such of these persons as were prominent after 1848, and also for information about men who, though mentioned in the history, did not come to California.

“But I propose to carry this record far beyond the limits of a mere index. To the thousands of names mentioned in the history will be added other thousands which it has not been necessary to mention there. Thus will be presented a complete register of pioneers, or early Californians. Something more is done, however, than merely to register names and dates. In many cases—indeed, in all when it is desirable and possible—information is given respecting the nationality, occupation, achievements, death, and family connections of each subject, as well as about the date and manner of his coming to California and his connection in public capacities with the country's annals. In this way the index and register is expanded into a kind of biographic dictionary.

“Of foreign pioneers—that is, not of Spanish and Indian blood—including both residents and visitors, my register contains all the names I have been able to obtain, except those found in the shipping articles and crew-lists of trading vessels and muster-rolls of naval craft. Some of the former and many of the latter are accessible, but they would multiply my lists to no good purpose. Yet when a sailor returned to California in later years I have regarded him as a pioneer under the date of his earliest visit. Of Spaniards, Mexicans, and native Californians, I have not attempted to present complete lists; yet the aim has been to register all who acquired any sort of prominence in territorial or local affairs, all the well-known traders and rancheros, all the friars, all the military and civil officials, all the leading families in each section. The reader is also referred to the list published at the end of vol. i., many of the same names being repeated here with additional information.

“Obviously the most rigid condensation has been necessary, and the biographic notes must be very brief; yet the natural impression at first glance that they are too short will in most cases be removed on closer examination. Seven eighths of the names—even if we could obtain additional information and had space for its presentment—would in their connection with Californian history call for nothing beyond what is here given. Of the rest, a large proportion is that of public men whose acts are sufficiently recorded and discussed elsewhere, requiring only the index reference. I would call particular attention to this phase of the matter and to a cognate one. Ask a pioneer for his reminiscences or a sketch of his life, and he will fill his narrative chiefly with the journey of his immigrant party across the plains, the organization of his regiment and its voyage round Cape Horn, his service in the California battalion, his experience in the Bear Flag revolt, or at the fight of San Pascual, or with other well-known historic happenings in which he took part, and which he remembers with pride. But these events are fully treated elsewhere, and the pages devoted to an immigrant party are added by the index to the biography of each member of the party; the chapter on the New York volunteers, or the Mormon colony, to the life of each volunteer and colonist; that on the Graham affair to the record of each exile. Thus a large amount of matter not biographical on its face is legitimately added to the Pioneer Register. It is also to be noted that the lives of many early friars and officers have been given in connection with their departure or death, requiring only a reference here. True, there remains after all a class of pioneers, a hundred or two in number, permanent residents, representative citizens, founders of families, but not directly connected with public affairs, to each of whom a few pages instead of a few lines might be devoted with interest, often with profit; yet these are the men who are given in this register the greatest average space, and it is doubtful if that space could be increased consistently with the scope of such a work.

“There will be noted an entire absence of the indiscriminate eulogy so often deemed an essential feature of pioneer sketches. I have neither space nor disposition to indulge in praise or blame, either for the purpose of pleasing or displeasing pioneers or their descendants, or of adding the interest of mild scandal to my sketches. Of private individuals, as a rule, no attempt is made to depict the character, to picture them as ‘nature's noblemen,’ or to point out the fact that they were not members of temperance societies. It is taken for granted that they were more or less good, bad, and indifferent citizens according to circumstances; but their weaknesses and virtues, within certain limits, do not concern me or my readers. Doubtless I have recorded many items about individuals that they and their friends would prefer to have suppressed, and suppressed many items that to enemies would be most agreeable reading; but in each case I have acted on my own judgment and with strict impartiality. Where a man's distinguishing traits are so clearly marked that they may be fairly presented in few words, especially in the case of men locally famous, I have not hesitated to write the few words, whether complimentary or otherwise. Public men are freely criticised, but mainly in other parts of the work where their acts are recorded, only a summary or moderate reflection of general conclusions being introduced here. In the comparative extent and general tone of the notices, no distinction is made by reason of race between Spaniards, Mexicans, Californians, and foreigners; between soldiers and civilians, friars and laymen, sailors and immigrants, traders and rancheros, rich and poor, the living and the dead; but, other things being equal, more space is given to early pioneers than to those of later years. If a line or two of extra space is occasionally devoted to a man who has furnished documentary and other evidence on early times, and the record of another man who has shown no interest is briefer, the difference does not necessarily indicate partiality, since in many instances certain kinds of information about a man can be obtained only from himself or some member of his family.

“From the nature of the case, my authorities, except in special instances, cannot be cited. Such citations would involve endless repetition, and would fill much space that can be utilized to better advantage. The reader is referred to the general list of authorities in vol. i.; but it is proper to specify here some classes that have been particularly prolific in items for this register. First in importance are the archives, public, private, and missionary; especially in their records of naturalization and passports, custom-house records, military rosters, local census lists, voting and official lists, mission registers of births and marriages and deaths, and the correspondence of officials, friars, and citizens; particularly important among the private archives being the commercial correspondence and account-books of such men as Larkin, Cooper, Hartnell, Spear, and many others. Next should be mentioned the several hundred volumes of personal reminiscences furnished for my use by early Californians, native and foreign, each containing a few—some very many—personal items in addition to those relating to the narrator and his family. Third may be noted the work of such specialists as Clark on the N. Y. volunteers, Tyler on the Mormon battalion, McGlashan on the Donner party, Kooser on the artillery company, Lancey on the conquest in general, etc.; with valuable muster-rolls kindly furnished me by the military department at Washington. Fourth, and amply worthy of separate mention, we have the biographic gleanings of Ben Hayes on the pioneers of southern California; while in the same connection may be mentioned the patient researches of Alex. S. Taylor. Fifth, the archives of the Society of Pioneers contain, besides lists of members, partials rolls of the Cal. battalion; while the government lists of those who held ‘Cal. claims,’ Wheeler's list of San Francisco lot-owners, the voluminous testimony in famous land cases, and especially the valuable New Helvetia diary of ’45-8, furnished me by Wm F. Swasey, should not be forgotten. Sixth are to be noted the newspapers of ’47-85, with their thousands of obituary and biographic items, so faulty in individual cases, so extremely valuable in the aggregate; and, similar in many respects, the county and local histories of recent years, from which I have drawn much material. Finally, I must allude to special correspondence with many pioneers from time to time as particular information has been needed; hundreds having replied, and a few—such as John Bidwell, Wm H. Davis, Wm Glover, S. H. Willey, John A. Swan, and others—meriting fuller acknowledgment than my space permits.

“That this register will be appreciated in any degree commensurate with the labor it has cost is not to be expected. Within my knowledge nothing of the kind has ever been attempted in any new country. The value that in any of the older communities would now be attached to such a record, had it been made at the beginning, is my basis for estimating the prospective usefulness of this.

“The references are to the History of California, vol. i.-v.; that is, ‘iii. 475,’ in connection with a man's name, indicates that on page 475, vol. iii. of the Hist. Cal., some information about the man, or at least a mention, will be found; when the reference is enclosed in parentheses, as, (v. 340,) the reader is directed to some event or party with which the man was connected, without a mention of his name. With a view to condensation, abbreviations are freely used, but none, I think, which require explanation. The register will be continued alphabetically at the end of vol. iii., iv., and v.”