Merced County Genealogical Society

 

John Richard (John R.) Graham 1869-1955

Submitted by, R. Graham

San Francisco

 

John Richard Graham (John R.) was born on January 1, 1869 in his parents’ home at 604 Shotwell Street in San Francisco, California. He was one of oldest of thirteen children born to John Richard Graham and Elizabeth (Gardner) Graham.

 

John R. had very little formal education in comparison to his dad. He quit school to help his parents and Uncle Jim. In a letter to Bruce Graham dated March 10, 1953, John R. explains his early childhood: "I was, when I was about 12, 1/2 way through the Valencia Grammar School, 2nd Grade. Mother and Father had several of us and his brother Jim, who died with consumption, to support. Had a hard time to get along. So I left school and went to work for the American Tract Society, a Presbyterian bible company for the pacific coast at 727 Market Street. Rev. F. E. Shearor paid me $2.50 a week. I walked down and back and carried my lunch...gave most of it to Dad...worked there for two years...”

 

As a young man, John R. then went to work for the Bank of British Columbia at California and Sampson streets as an assistant messenger for $10 to $12 per week. His duties included transporting canvas sacks filled with gold coins to the U.S. Mint. At the age of 19, he went to work for the Los Gatos Ice Company. His personal papers state that he "went to work as a swamper with my brother in law Geo. W. Dodge, who was a driver [horse teams], at $75.00 per month."

 

Ice Company Apprenticeship

 

This was to be the apprenticeship of John R.'s career in the ice and fuel business. He did very well for the Los Gatos Ice Company until the owner, S. B. Toby, consolidated the Los Gatos Ice Company with the Union Ice Company in San Francisco.

 

With consolidation, the seven Los Gatos Ice Company drivers were offered jobs with the Union Ice Company. They would put one of their new drivers with the seven experienced drivers long enough to learn their routes and customers. The Union then began to fire the Los Gatos drivers.

 

In an informal meeting, the remaining Los Gatos drivers agreed to break from the Union, keep their routes and to buy ice from a new company, Consumers. The agreement was short lived. In his papers dated March 1954, John R. says,  "we all agreed to start our own routes. Toby got wind of this and called us together and made promises and they all backed out, except Jack Conway and me. We agreed to make a try. In the meantime Toby sold our wagons by taking them apart and selling them in S. F., Oakland and Sacramento. Joe Shoppell, who was the blacksmith that dismantled the wagons and knew where they were, bought them for us and re-assembled them...”

 

In the spring, John R. would take vacation with his Uncle Jake Gardner in Central Point near Los Banos. During one of this vacation Jake bought 4 good horses and harnesses for John R.’s startup business. John R. says,  "The day before we started we had about $50 in dimes and nickels and threw them out for kids to pick up. We gathered a crowd. Men and women joined in. City Marshall Tom Canyon made us stop. We [went] a few blocks away and started again. He then threatened to arrest us. We gave out cards about our business."

 

In the first year they established two good routes. It was at this time that Joe Martin of the National Ice Company offered John R. and his friend Jack an opportunity to start their own trade as long as it was not in Fresno, Stockton, Oakland or Sacramento.

 

John R.'s papers state that, "Joe Martin was the ice king of California who brought ice from Alaska in sailing vessels, covered it with straw and sold it in S.F. and Oakland and Sacramento...When Joe made his proposition I thought of Merced. Jack had friends in Modesto. I told Martin I would take Merced. No telephone. I had to go to Modesto to phone Joe [later on, John R. was one of the first residents of Merced to have telephone service installed]. We built the ice house, Joe let us keep our horses, tools, wagons and harnesses, and gave us money to start."

 

Wells Fargo Shotgun

 

John R. kept busy while slowly building up his ice and fuel business in Merced. As an additional source of income he was a substitute shot gun messenger for Wells Fargo Stages. As John R. tells it in his papers, he went from Mariposa "to Coulterville on Mondays returning Tuesday to Mariposa...Thursday and back Fridays getting $5.00 for each round trip."

 

Robert J. Chandler, Historical Officer for Wells Fargo Bank, provides an article in the Mariposa Gazette, dated January 13, 1900 which describes the stage coach run from Mariposa to Coulterville:

 

"On one of the star-lit mornings of last week, I climbed into the rear seat of one of James Robinson's stage coaches bound for Bear Valley. These coaches are of modern manufacture, but the architect who modeled them is long since dead.

 

"They are made for the convenience of the owner and also built for the stout, and yet there is a charm connected with a stage coach that is hard to describe. The rattle of the coach as it enters a town will bring every inhabitant to the door or window of their houses.

 

"The clack of the wheels, the crack of the whip, and the India rubber cataclinal of the passengers are also a feature of the ride. 'A-l-l-a-b-o-a-r-d', too, has a musical charm that belongs peculiarly to a stage driver. One of the poorest places on earth to sit and meditate is in a stagecoach on a Mariposa county road. Silent thoughts are not indulged in. The see-saw rhythm of the sage often ends with such speed that not a passenger is left glued to the seat, but the next instance you are pressing it with such weight that you wonder how the axle keeps from snapping short off, and you also wonder if you are not internally injured, but a stage coach never stops (only at stations)...WFR, Coulterville, January 9, 1900".

 

Saloon Peacekeeper

 

In conjunction with his messenger duties, John R. also kept the peace in one of the local saloons. John R. says he would, "keep order on Saturday nights at China Ida's and Jim Tucker's Blue Wing, getting 5:00 to 12:00 midnight and 10:00 to 5:00 am. I was the one officer the council would approve, as Sheriff Warfield and his deputies and Marshall Corrigan did not have time to attend. The other deputy, Pap Yoakum, was too old. There was no Work Progress Administration as such and we never thought of asking for help. We created our own jobs and did most anything honest to make a living."

 

One of the reasons John R. obtained his job was that "the other constables and deputies had their women [in the saloon], and did not command much respect. I had an advantage as if Tucker did not close up when I ordered, he could not obtain a license for the next Saturday. My orders were to maintain order and when they made too much noise, to close them down. Tucker had enough sense to cooperate. I would sit on top of the piano (Truie Potter, the old time fiddler, and Jesus Casuse, piano). It was waltz around for a few whirls then up to the bar for drinks, twenty-five cents per couple. China Ida served enchiladas - good ones - in the corner at 12...things were hot.

 

"At times the electric lights went out and Tucker would light up the Rochester oil lamps with large globes. Once in a while Bob McFarlane or Too Fun Allie Hulse would shoot the globes off. It was then time to quit. I never carried a gun, as I was afraid someone would take it away from me and shoot me up. All the gang knew this and acted accordingly.

 

Al Hulse was, apparently, a very rough character. He ultimately committed suicide. His obituary in the Mariposa Gazette dated October 20, 1906  reads as follows:

 

Al Hulse, the notorious desperado and a pal of Bob McFarlane, now serving a term in San Quentin, committed suicide in the Bakersfield jail last Sunday by slashing his throat with a razor. Hulse had been convicted of murder for the killing, with Kim McKinney, of Deputy Sheriff Tibbet in Bakersfield about three years ago. As an appeal had been taken from the judgment of conviction, Hulse remained in the Bakersfield jail. The dead man was well known in Merced County where he resided for a number of years and engaged in more than one shooting scrape. He was an ex convict, having been sent from Merced county to the state prison, and was generally regarded as a desperate and dangerous man.

 

John R. goes on to say "I was pretty roughly handled at times. Dick Meekan, City Police Officer, and I would tell McFarlane and Hulse they had fun enough for the night and they would deliver up their artillery and knives. We would leave them at Johnnie Smith's Saloon for them to get the next day. McFarlane  was sweet on China Ida and Tucker caught him sneaking from her room at daylight one morning. They fought it out with 45's, McFarlane shooting Tucker in the heart, finally.

 

An article in the Mariposa Gazette dated March 2, 1901 has this headline and reads:

James Tucker Killed.

Robert McFarlane has added another notch to his stick or pistol by
killing James TUCKER in Merced. His record is now one of the State's
brightest from a standpoint of notches on his pistol. His last victim,
like himself, is known as a bad man and has simply found what all such
characters are looking for. The killing according to the various newspaper reports occurred in Merced's tenderloin, both men were shooting, who commenced it will be for a jury to determine. But the chances are it was commenced by a mutual understanding, not spoken but understood between them, as bad blood is said to have existed for many years.  McFarlane's career has been a stormy one. His first real serious trouble happened in Merced when he killed a Portuguese in a dance house and wounded two more. For this offense he was turned loose by the court after the jury stood eleven for acquittal and one for conviction. Afterwards he was sent to San Quentin for two years for shooting at Billy Webb. His previous record is what convicted him of this charge, as there was nothing to prevent his shooting Webb had he so desired. He was in the Visalia Jail for attempted murder but broke jail with a man named McKinney. After over a year had passed he was found in New Mexico and brought back but never tried. His next most prominent act was to kill a Mexican in New Mexico in a gun fight. For this he was sent to the penitentiary for twenty-one years but in some manner was turned loose. Bob was once of Merced's most promising young men, but fate has been against him and yet he is lucky to be alive.

 

John R. goes on to relate that "Bob McFarlane's mania was Portuguese. When Bob came into the dance hall all the Portuguese would disappear. Some through windows, glass and all. Bob had killed and wounded some of them. His cousin at the Bucket of Blood Saloon afterwards killed him at Merced Falls. That was one-half in Merced, one-half in Mariposa counties. His cousin blew a hole through him with both barrels of his shotgun.

 

An article in the Mariposa Gazette dated November 13, 1915 reads:

 

Bob McFarlane, a notorious outlaw and murderer of several men, was shot and instantly killed at Merced Falls, this county, Friday night of last week, near Cliff House Saloon, by Frank ("Dyke") Dickinson, his second cousin and himself a worthless character.

Two loads from a double barreled shotgun were fired into McFarlane's body. One load entered the right side tearing away part of the arm and the other entered the left breast.

It appears the men have been living together on a piece of land recently taken up by McFarlane and both men had been drinking heavily. Upon going to his home McFarlane found Dickson lying in bed in a drunken stupor and after a quarrel administered a severe beating to Dickson and threatened to kill him. It is also alleged by Dickson that McFarlane fired two shots at him with a 22- caliber automatic rifle, which missed their mark.

Dickson was brought to Mariposa by Sheriff Farnsworth and placed in the county jail awaiting his preliminary hearing, which will be held in Hornitos next Monday before Justice Adams. To the officers he expressed regret that he was compelled to shoot McFarlane, but states that under the circumstances he would do the same thing over again.

The body of McFarlane was taken to Merced shortly after the killing by Coroner Nordgren of Merced county, it being removed before Coroner JOHNSON of this county had arrived on the scene. Mr. Nordgren, however, was compelled to return the body to Merced Falls and the inquest was held by Mr. Johnson on Monday.

McFarlane in his long and adventurous career in California, New Mexico and Mexico has killed several men, and has been tried many times for assaults with attempt to murder. He has been a prisoner in San Quentin and the penitentiary at Santa Fe, N. M., besides occupying numerous county jails in San Joaquin valley and elsewhere.

McFarlane'S first deed of bloodshed was in 1884, when he killed Antone Enos, a Portugese, after a fist fight at a tenderloin dance hall at Merced. Pleading self-defense, he was acquitted on that murder charge. In 1892 he shot and killed a "bad man" Mexican in Secorro, N. M., and was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang. Afterwards his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment at Santa Fe, and when his health began failing in captivity he was released through the efforts of Robert Prouty, then Sheriff of Mariposa county, who promised to look after him.

In 1901 McFarlane shot and killed James Tucker, on the porch of a Merced tenderloin resort, interfering in a quarrel between Tucker and his divorced wife, owner of the resort. McFarlane was the Tucker woman's consort at the time. He was convicted of manslaughter for killing Tucker and served six of an eight year sentence in San Quentin, being released on credits.

The past few years McFarlane has been living in the Merced River section, and frequently on drunken sprees has terrorized people by threats of murder, accompanied by boasts of the men he had killed. Both McFarlane and Dickson came from families of good standing and have many relatives of prominence in this state.

 

John R. sums up his experiences with these desperados by saying, "Jim Collins, who afterwards killed his wife and baby, was the only deputy I had any trouble with. When I gave Tucker the signal for one more dance thumbs up, and he could not control the gang, I gave him thumbs down and would not relent. Collins would then try to take charge and challenge me to fight it out, knowing that I carried no gun. I would laugh at him and walk off. Hulse's mania was to make some tender foot put his foot down on the floor. Hulse would then outline it with bullets. I did not see any of this, but did see the bullet holes soon after."

 

Train Robbers

 

In March 1898 John R. was involved in the hunt for Southern Pacific train robbers. "We spent a week in the mountains around Hornitos and Indian Gulch with Warfield, Tom Mack, Ed Stockard and a Wells Fargo posse hunting the Cross Creek train robbers. Mack, Ed and I came on their campfire early one morning on one of the three buttes. With coffee boiling on the rocks, they saddled without blankets and got away...would go into a sheep camp and get meals...held up Johnnie Seminoles at Indian Gulch. They obtained ammunition and grub, paying for them in battered silver dollars they took from the express car after it was blown up.

 

"The robbers sent word to Tom Mack that he, some old man (Sheriff Warfield) and a kid with a Springfield rifle crawled by a camp where they were hiding. They crawled in so close to them that they could have knocked their eyes out with their rifles. But knowing Tom, and only wanting to get away, they let them go by. The kid was myself with a Co. H Springfield rifle...Those were the days."

 

 

Further Adventures

 

John R. goes on to tell of further adventures during this time with the preamble that '"This is a rambling story as written going back and forth from one period to another as events come to my mind, written for Bruce and Donny's grandchildren, also Elaine's and Marilyn's..."

 

John R. says "Tom Mack used to inspect the hobo camp by the S. P. cattle corrals in the evenings when the hoboes were eating their dinner. One evening as we approached the camp a Mexican with a guilty conscience made a break. Tom followed. The Mexican fired a shot at Tom and as Tom got nearer he fired a second. When Tom was close the Mexican fired again but the cartridge was defective. Before he could fire a fourth time, Tom thought he had enough. As the Mexican turned, Tom hit him between the eyes with one shot."

 

"In the early nineties when the old time circus came to town, all the gamblers from Bakersfield to Stockton (and our locals), would gather to fleece the suckers. All circus outfits had their sharpers and ran all kinds of skin games. They usually came after harvest. Our mountain population would bring down a load of wood and their families a day or two before the circus, and stay a few days afterwards. Some of them would sell their store if they did not have money to see the show.

 

"There were 18 or 19 saloons open day and night...no keys in those days. At circus time, they would cover the billiard and pool tables with canvas and every [poker] game that was ever played was run full blast. No ceilings. All gold and silver stacked all over the tables. Thousands of dollars. Shooting and fights were numerous."

 

Merced National Guard

               

At this same time, John R. was involved in organizing Merced's National Guard contingent. The May 6, 1893 edition of the Merced Express carried an article on the "Merced Guards". It said in part that "Through indefatigable efforts of Hon. F. H. Gould and John R. Graham, Merced has at last secured recognition from the Board of Location and Organizers of the National Guard of California, and have induced the Board to begin a company in this city. Messrs. Gould and Graham went to Sacramento Wednesday and attended a meeting at which were present Governor Markham, General Allen and Major Diamond, of San Francisco.

 

"Merced's Company will be known as Company H of the Sixth Regiment...The people of Merced should feel highly honored in having received so much consideration at the hands of the board, and Hon. F. H. Gould and J.R.Graham will no doubt have the blessing of the entire community showered upon them." 

 

A nationwide railroad strike occurred approximately one year later, and the Merced National Guard was to see its first real action. On July 14, 1894 the Merced Express carried a story with the following header: "MORE BLOODSHED - Company ‘H’ Receives Orders To Go To Bakersfield".

 

The lead paragraph states that "Yesterday afternoon at half past three, Captain Graham, of Company H, received a telegram to assemble his men at Armory Hall, and to be ready to start out in the evening. It was understood that the company was to be taken to Bakersfield to prevent the strikers interfering further with the moving of trains, which they did yesterday morning." The article continues with information of strike shootings and riots across the nation.

 

John R.'s papers tell us of his observations during the mobilization of Company H against the strikers. "I was Captain of Company H, 6th Inf. Reg., Third Brigade of the National Guard of California, General Matthew W. Muller, Commanding, at Fresno, Calif. The first train of Pullmans from Los Angeles, plus baggage and express cars, started from Los Angeles in the morning on July 14th with a company of United States Artillery on a flat car ahead of the engine. They brought it to Bakersfield when Captain Beer of Company G brought it to Merced. My telegraphic orders from Colonel T. J. Hay, Adjutant General, read 'Guard train #17, until relieved, with 12 men.'

 

"The Captain informed me verbally that there was no trouble between Merced and Lathrop of the U.S. Artillery. We arrived there about noon and I sent Sgt. Bambauer to the eating house. Co. Simpson said that they would have to be paid in advance...I offered him a receipt saying the railroad or the National Guard would pay him and he said 'no soap'. I had been riding on the engine with Sam Carson, full-blooded Cherokee Indian, who understood orders, and with Johnnie Baker. When the fireman went to climb on the engine, Sam stuck his bayonet up to within a foot of his face. He would have to get personal permission from me [to board].

 

"No argument. The conductor and agent came up to me and I insisted that we be fed. When they realized what I meant, we went in and enjoyed a good dinner, taking our time. That morning, the first train out of Sacramento met danger.  During the night, Worden and several others sawed the bridge timbers and when the train went over they blew it up with dynamite killing several soldiers and civilians.

 

"As our train approached the crowd in Sacramento, about 2000 strikers and spectators commenced to shoot out the windows. I ordered the engineer to back up and we had a council of war. We were covered with dirt, we had on the blue Army uniform, and on the other side of the train there was a high bluff with nobody in sight. We had orders to let the passengers stay 20 feet away from the train and come on one at a time. The mob crowded forward to uncouple the Pullman, which had open platforms. They would then rock the Pullman's back and forth until they were turned over on their side. When they moved forward to uncouple the cars, Sam Carson had two 45-70 cartridges in his breech and the hammer pulled back.

 

"When we pulled up my shoes were filled with water. I was scared to death. I started to go back into one of the cars and crawl under the seats or get off on the other side and start off for Merced. Sam said something and I recovered myself. Sam shoved his bayonet within a foot of the mob against the train, and with the crowd behind him urging him forward; he could not get away. Sam said 'I've got two of you SB's and I said 'yes, and I have six more'. We wanted revenge for our comrades that were killed the night before. The cry went through the crowd that we were regulars and would shoot to kill. After that we had no more trouble.

 

"On approaching the Oakland Mole it was the same story. The mob shooting up. We stopped and backed up again. When we approached I could see over the mob. A battery of U.S. Artillery was coming on the run and by the time we got in the depot there was no one there but Army and railroad officials. Colonel Graham (no relation) and A.D.Wilder, Superintendent of the Southern Pacific Division, got it through the grapevine that we were coming in with only 12 soldiers. 

 

"The Colonel, in his words, sent for 'the damn fool in command'. He said 'why in hell did you not wait at Lathrop'? I said that we had expected to be relieved by a battery of the U.S. Artillery. He said that they could not get a crew or an engine to come and that I should have waited. I then told him that I was only obeying telegraphic orders. He then relented and complimented us. A. D. Wilder said I could always have a pass to go anywhere. Not having much business and little money, we could not take advantage of this offer. We did accept a pass for a honeymoon to Truckee."

 

Marriage & Family

 

The honeymoon was not to be for another couple of years, however. John R. and Gran were married in Merced on June 4, 1896, a few days after Gran's 17th birthday.

 

John R. met his wife-to-be while delivering ice in Merced to one of his customers. John R.'s papers tell us that "I wound up my route serving the Meanys and Judge Jas W. Robertson's widow, Aunt Johnnie. This was about 9:30 a.m. While sitting on the seat in front of the house, Elmer Smith and I saw a girl climbing up a ladder picking oranges and she had on a large floppy hat. As she reached up for an orange her dress would pull up beyond her knees, showing the most beautiful pair of legs that I have ever seen...was well rounded in all the right places and pretty as a picture. I told Elmer this is the girl I am going to marry. After that I would sit with her on the back porch every morning".

 

Thus began a union lasting 56 years. The summer after they met, Gran spent 6 months in Watsonville with Johnnie’s sister, Gert, and her husband Gene Shaver. During the summer Gran helped her aunt & uncle at their downtown watch and jewelry store. Their separation during the summer of 1895 was difficult for them both but it was more difficult for the 16 year old young woman in love with the young man 10 years her senior. The following letters were written to John R. during this time and kept, by him, for over 58 years.

 

July 20, 1895, Watsonville, California:  "My Dear Johnnie, We arrived all right and tired out. I am in the store with Uncle Gene and he is teasing me. Well, I will close this time and will write tomorrow. Good night dear. Pleasant dreams. Yours ever, Mabel".

 

July 26, 1895, Watsonville, California: "My dear Johnnie, I have just finished dinner and the folks have all gone to sleep so I thought it was a good time to sit down and write to you. I can tell you one thing I am not going to stay here any six months I am homesick already. Last night the first person to greet us was Mrs. Jolly. She lives opposite us and Aunt Gert told her we were coming and she came over to see us.

 

"Lulu was out to Mrs. Glough's folks and I have not seen her yet. I went to the store last night and Uncle Gene gave me a real pretty pair of side combs, and he was putting them in my hair who should walk in but Tom. Elsie has been over all morning and I am going out with her this evening. I was real surprised she has grown so fleshy. She says she is horrified at me. I look so thin. Everyone I have seen tells me that. I think I lost a pound yesterday. I had the nosebleed on the brain and afterward got here. Oh! Well, I will be so fat when I come home you will not know me.

 

"Maybe you think I didn't cry after the train started. Aunt Johnnie said something and that started me. I saw George Cressy in Modesto and Will Dallas and Al Lathrop.  I saw Mr. Halbro and he said as soon as he saw me you are not a man of your word. He said he had the band and sixteen fine looking young men all dressed in their best and standing in line waiting for me.

 

"After the train went out he said he had to get two body guards to take him home, they were going to mob him. I am sitting on the porch and it is just as cold as it can be. I can look up and see the mountains about a mile off and hear the ocean roaring. I think I will go to the beach this evening. Elsie wants me to but I am so tired I do not know whether I will go or not. I think I will just drive around town and see the improvements since I left.

 

"My dear boy, I wish you were here. I am lonesome as I can be. I put your picture on my dresser this morning and it made me feel sick. I wanted to see you so bad. I think you will need a change in a week or so and you will have to come and see me. Uncle Gene has given me a little ring to keep and he is going to send it to the city to have it marked. Mrs. Clough told Mrs. Jolly we were engaged and I wore a handsome ring. Just see how things turned around.

 

"The first thing Uncle Gene said was how is the Captain? Mrs. Clough has been down here a week or more, but some people can make whole cloth out of pieces. Arch got home day before yesterday and they say he is as fat as a pig. Aunt Johnnie has been sitting by the fire all morning and she is asleep.

 

"I suppose you are suffering with the heat poor boy. Oh well Every one has troubles but us. I want you to answer this as soon as you can because I am so lonesome. I do not know what to do, and will count the hours until I hear from you. Tell Else when you see her I will write in a day or two. My neck is getting stiff and I feel like a fool when I go to turn my head. I have to twist my whole body.

 

"Watsonville is the kindest little place on the coast. The streets were crowded last night. There is a beautiful new brick building here. I wish you could come down I know you would enjoy it and I should enjoy it much more if you was here.

 

"Aunt Gert broke her wheel and had to send it back to Mass. to have it fixed and I will wait patiently until that comes and then Uncle Gene and I will ride every evening. He looks fine on a wheel; he is six feet and weighs 200 pounds so you can imagine what a fine looking fellow he is.

 

“He was teasing me and he said he was going to come to Merced and join their Military Company. He heard they had such a fine one and their leader was fine. Well Johnnie dear, I will close this dull letter this time. Hoping to hear from you soon. I am yours with best love and kisses, Mabel. 427 Rodriguez St.”

 

July 30, 1895, Watsonville, California: "My Dear Jack, Your cheerful letter came to hand last night and I thought I would sit right down and answer it. Jack, I want you to write your letters so I will get them Mondays and Fridays. I will write to you so you will get them Wednesdays and Saturdays if that is convenient to you dear.

 

"Johnnie, I do not improve here at all. I am sick today and homesick with it. You ask about how Mrs. Clough heard things; it is one of the mysteries we cannot explain. Poor boy, did you cry for me? I am glad someone thinks enough of me to cry when I leave.  Which Mrs. Baker did you mean? You can tell her 'that is your business'.

 

"Arch went down on the train ahead of us so we just missed him. Poor Harley. I feel sorry for him but Johnnie dear, I do not pity him so much I would change. I shall always be true to you and as the old saying is 'till death do us part'. Which I hope will not be soon. But if you do not come down or I go home, I think it will be soon.

 

"I have lost 4 lbs. since I have been here so I do not think I am improving much. I tell you I will turn off and go home before I will stay here six months. My Aunt and Uncle are just as good as good can be. They have not stopped buying and giving me things since I have been here.

 

"Aunt Gert, bless her heart, is in bed sick with a sick headache today and I pity her from the bottom of my heart as I have them myself sometimes. I guess Else has Dan but I do not envy her choice. Poor girl, she did not know when she was well off. Do you see Ella often? I had a fuss with her the morning I left and I have not written to her.

 

"You say it makes you sad to go to our house. Maybe you don't think it makes me sad not to be there Johnnie. They say they are going to start me to school Monday and if they do, that means three years. So you write to Aunt J. and tell her to let me come home the last of October.

 

"You are a dear boy to go to bed early and you will get along nicely. Sunday was the most lonesome day I ever put over in my life. In the evening I longed for you dear. I must tell you about Tom so if anyone get to telling stories you will understand.

 

"Tom is only 18 years old and I told him I did not want to go out too much with him and crowd. Some other girl and he laughed and he said he feels like I was his sister. Aunt Gert is so fond of him and he is of her so I could not hurt his feelings and I know you know how I feel toward him and know you would rather I go with him than others here.

 

"Darling you know you are first in my mind. Tom told me he was going to send his future brother a chest of cherries so you see how he feels. I guess Elsie is happy and Elmer too. And brighter days are coming to us all after awhile. Aunt J. thanks you for your kindness and says she will let you know when she wants you to do anything.

 

"You wanted to know what I have been doing. I went to the store the evening I came. Next day stayed home until evening and went out with Else. The next day went in the country to dinner and Sunday morning I went to church in the afternoon. I went with Tom to the ranch and got some strawberries in the evening. I went to a Young People meeting and came home and went to bed.  I was so homesick I cried myself to sleep.

 

"Monday I washed in the morning and kept store for Uncle Gene in the afternoon. I ironed this morning and am writing to you now. Dear, I do wish you could come down and go to the Grove with us. I would enjoy it so much more. I will be very glad to get the Sun. Thank you dear, for being so thoughtful. As I said before I am glad to have someone think of me.

 

"I had my ring cut down and it is in the city being engraved now. Aunt J. thinks it is very pretty and she was so afraid I would lose it she had me get it cut down. Well I must bring this to a close or you will be saying to me to give you a rest. Well dear. I will close this time. Give my love to Myrt. and regards to Mr. & Mrs. Geffin. With lots of love for yourself & a kiss. I am yours, Mabel."

 

November 7, 1895, Pacific Grove, California: “Your letter just received and read with pleasure. Jack, I am not going to disappoint you any more. We will be home next week. I will telegraph the morning we start so you can meet us. Oh Jack, please do not say you spoil my life for I dare not think what life would be if you did not form the largest part of it.

 

"I have been out to seal rock today. Mrs. Carver took Aunt J. and myself. She is the sweetest little lady I have ever met since I have been here. She is very lovely to me always taking me out for a drive or having me dine with her. Her home is beautiful.

 

"Was here last evening and spent the evening. We played cards. First Willie was my partner and Mrs. Grose and Mrs. Ivett. We beat one game and they one. We are boarding now at my cousin's and there is an old crazy tailor here. He is disgusting. Mrs. Grose and Mr. Gale say he talks about me all the time so of course I dodge him every chance I get.

 

"Grace has not come home yet. I am afraid I will not see her before I start for home. We are going to go to May's first. There we will look for rooms. Jack, dear, answer this just as soon as you can so I will get it. I hope my dear you will pass your examination all right. Give my love to Dan and tell him the same. I can fill the blank when I get there. Good by dear. Supper time. From Yours Ever, Mabel. Love and kisses."

 

John R. and Gran were married on June 4, 1896, seven months after she returned to Merced. John R. looked back on his marriage in a letter that states "my wife Mabel died in March 1952. We had been married for over [55] years. She was a good pal and we were very happy."

 

Their first child, John Robertson [Jack] was born on May 24, 1897, 6 days after Gran's 18th birthday and 11 days before their first anniversary.  Their second son, Donald Richard, was born a year and a half after that on November 17, 1898.

 

Obituaries

 

I have a vivid recollection of John R. walking in our house on Times Avenue in Hayward. I was barely 4 years old but do have a vision of this tall, kindly old man. I am very lucky to have this remembrance. Aunt Elaine and Uncle Bob say he was the best.

 

John R. died on Monday, May 2, 1955. His obituary in the Merced Sun Times has the heading "Death Takes Prominent Pioneer Resident Here" and reads as follows:

 

"John R. Graham, a leading force in the development of Merced County and widely known as an advocate and battler for better roads, died yesterday afternoon in Hayward.

 

"His body was brought here to Ivers & Alcorn Funeral Home where services will be held tomorrow at 2:00 PM in the Mission Chapel under the auspices of the Merced Elks Lodge. Burial is to be in the family plot in the Masonic Cemetery.

 

"Graham was born in San Francisco on January 1, 1869, the son of John and Elizabeth (Gardner) Graham, both of whom had come to California in the early 1850's. The father was a former Tuolumne County superintendent of schools who had entered into the grocery and dairy business in the bay area.

 

"John R. attended public schools in San Francisco. He began working as a boy of 13 for the American Tract Society, next was with the Bank of British Columbia for three years, and then was employed by the Los Gatos Ice Company of San Francisco for two and a half years. As a youth he carried ice over the hills around San Francisco.

 

"In 1888 he was employed by the National Ice Company in the Bay City. Three years later that firm sent him on a trip into the Central Valleys with the instructions to 'choose a town with a future' as the site for a new agency.

 

"Graham selected Merced, and in 1892 he opened an agency here where he dispensed natural ice brought in from Truckee. The concern later took on the handling of fuels, crude oil, road oil, gravel, cement, etc., and erected an ice manufacturing plant in 1910. This successful young Merced businessman married Miss Mabel Farnell, born in this city and a daughter of a pioneer family.

 

"When Company H, 6th Infantry, National Guard of California was organized here in 1893, Graham was elected company commander. He served in that capacity for six years. He was both a former Merced county supervisor and a Merced City councilman.

 

"For 20 years he was a member of the El Capitan Hose Company, colorful local volunteer fire group. He served two years as president of the Yosemite-To-The-Sea Roads Association, organized in 1911 to push for an all-year road linking Yosemite Valley and the Coast. The association was largely responsible for the eventual construction of the All-Year Yosemite Highway, completed in 1911.

 

"Graham was an ex-president of the California State Automobile Association, and served as a director for that organization from 1914 to 1954 when he voluntarily relinquished his post as an active board member because of failing health. His fellow board members then honored him by voting him but one of two honorary life directorships that the organization has awarded.

 

"Graham also served two terms as a member of the board of directors of the nationwide American Automobile Association.  He was an active speaker and worker on behalf of the first and subsequent state highway bond issues.

 

"He was also one of the organizers of the Merced Irrigation District. He took a leading part in bond drives, civil defense activities, Red Cross campaigns, chamber of commerce programs, and other civic movements.

 

"He was a member of the Masonic Lodge, the Royal Arch Masons, the Rotary Club, the Elks Lodge, and the Yosemite Parlor of the Native Sons of the Golden West here, and of the Fresno Consistory of the Scottish Rite and Islam Temple AAONMS of San Francisco.

 

"Graham was preceded in death by his wife and their two sons - John R. Jr. and Donald R.  Surviving are two daughters-in-law, Mrs. Pat Graham and Mrs. Yvette Graham of Merced; a sister, Mrs. Ethel Sullivan of Hanford; four grandchildren, Bruce Graham of Hayward, Donald Graham of Merced, Mrs. Marilyn Fister of Merced, and Mrs. Elaine McDairmant of Washington, DC; and eight great-grandchildren. For the past several months the deceased had been making his home in Hayward with his grandson, Bruce."

 

The obituary in the San Francisco Examiner has the headline "John R. Graham, Road Booster, Dies" and reads as follows:

 

"John R. Graham, past president of the California State Automobile Association and a pioneer in the development of the State's highway system, died yesterday at his grandson's home in Hayward after a lengthy illness. He was 87.

 

"Mr. Graham, who spent most of his life in Merced, where he served on the city council and the county's board of supervisors several times, was for forty years a member of the association's board of directors.

 

"An Army Captain during the Spanish-American War, Mr. Graham served as president of the association in 1934 and was elected an honorary life board member last year.

 

"His avid interest in highway development began in 1911 when he helped organize the 'Yosemite-to-the-sea' Good Roads Association. This group was responsible for the construction of the old Yosemite Road, the forerunner of the present day Pacheco Pass.

 

"As a Merced businessman for many years, Mr. Graham represented several major oil firms in that area. He's survived by four grandchildren: Bruce Graham of Hayward, Donald Graham of Merced, Mrs. Marilyn Fister of Merced and Mrs. Elaine McDairmant of Washington, DC.

 

"Funeral services will be held in Merced, tomorrow at the Ivers and Alcorn Funeral Home."

 

Return to Tales From The Past

Please report any broken links to the Webmaster