671 South Oakglen Avenue, Nipomo, CA 93444 dana@danaadobe.org 805.929.5679

James Beckwourth

James (Jim) Beckwourth (1798-1866) Jim, former slave, mountain man, Crow Indian chief, guide, hunter, trail blazer, came to the Dana Adobe in 1847 as a dispatcher rider for the U.S. Army. This mail system was established by Lt. Halleck to keep southern and northern military units in close communication. Because of Jim’s courier experience in the southwest, he was selected to ride from Monterey, San Francisco, San Miguel Mission, to the Dana home for the first three months of the service. There he would exchange his mail satchel for the mail pouch from San Diego and then ride back on a fresh horse that William Dana provided. He did this twice a month. This courier service did not last long because steam boats began to carry the mail soon after. However, for as long as it did, any one could include their personal correspondences to the mail pouch at no cost. This was the first rural mail service in the United States.
Jim’s story is a colorful tale filled with adventure and danger. He traveled all over the United States in service to the U.S.Army and so participated in frontier life and battles. Later, in 1851, Jim blazed a trail over the American Valley to make the pack trail between Bidwell’s Bar and the valley more suitable for wagons. Today there is a town near Quincy, CA named after Jim.

Col. Jonathan Drake Stevenson

Col. Jonathan Drake Stevenson (1800–1894) Jonathan D. Stevenson was born in Richmond, Staten Island, New York. While on a visit to Washington in 1846, President Polk offered Stevenson the command of a regiment of volunteers to be raised for military service in California. He accepted the command and returned to New York. Within three days after the rolls opened, the Regiment was recruited. Stevenson sailed for California with his Regiment of New York Volunteers and arrived at San Francisco March 7, 1847. After his arrival in San Francisco, Stevenson joined General Stephen Watts Kearny at Monterey and was made commander of the post. In May, 1847, he became the military commander of the southern district of California with headquarters in Los Angeles. While there, Stevenson did much to gain the goodwill of the native Californians and became known for his justice and kindness.

When his Regiment was mustered out of service in 1848, Stevenson went to the mining community of Mokelumne Hill. He was appointed alcalde of the settlement, and drew up a code of mining laws and regulations. He remained in the “diggings” long enough to amass the respectable fortune of ten thousand dollars.

He returned to San Francisco to enter the real estate business and was appointed Shipping Commissioner for the Port of San Francisco in 1872. He held this position for many years. Even after his term as Shipping Commissioner expired, he continued to engage in his law practice and to manage real estate transactions. He died in San Francisco on February 14, 1894. (http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/xtf/view?docId=stevenson-j-d-jonathan-drake-1800-1894-cr.xml)

General Henry Wager Halleck

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General Henry Wager Halleck (1815-1872):  Halleck was a New York native and West Pointer (1839) was posted to the engineers and earned a brevet in Mexico.  He worked on fortifications, taught at the Academy, and studied the French military.  Resigning as a captain in 1854, he became highly successful in the San Francisco law firm (Halleck, Peachy, Billings & Park) and helped frame the state’s constitution. Henry A. Tefft stayed with him during the California Constitutional Convention in 1849.  In Henry Tefft’s correspondence to Capt. Dana in Dec. 1849, he notes that Dana and Halleck were acquainted.  Halleck wrote a letter of condolence to the Captain after Henry’s death.  Later in 1851, Halleck employed William Rich Hutton as his assistant at the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine.  He maintained his interest in martial affairs through the militia and was recommended by Winfield Scott for a high post of Union major general at the outset of the Civil War.  He served as commander in chief (July 11, 1862—March 12, 1864) until Grant took over.  Halleck became the Union Army’s chief of staff and proved highly successful. (Stephen E. Ambrose’s Halleck: Lincoln’s Chief of Staff; Joseph L. Dana, “To Discourage Me Is No Easy Matter”)

Capt. John C. Fremont

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Capt. John C. Fremont:  (1813-1890) John C. Frémont, one of the United States’ leading western explorers in the 1830s and 1840s, was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1813. He joined the U.S. Topographical Engineers in 1838 and earned a national reputation for his reports on the American West. In early 1846, Captain Frémont and a small mapping expedition arrived along the border of Mexican California.

Whether by accident or design, Frémont soon plunged into local political intrigue. After several dustups with locals, Frémont encountered a force of Anglo immigrants and disgruntled Californios who advocated a Texas style insurgency to force California into American hands. These agitators declared California as the Bear Flag Republic in June 1846 and Frémont declared himself the U.S. commander in California and led the insurgents and his regulars in a campaign to neutralize all Mexican resistance. The arrival of U.S. Commodore John D. Sloat and a naval expedition added momentum to the campaign, and, by the end of the summer [1847], all of California had fallen to U.S. forces.

Frémont then declared himself military governor of the conquered province. When Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny arrived later in the year, the men feuded and Kearny had Frémont arrested and hauled before a court martial. The sensational trial made an even greater celebrity out of Frémont, but he resigned his commission in the army in protest.

After the U.S-Mexican War, Frémont served as U.S. senator from California and, in 1856, became the first Republican candidate for president of the United States. He served in the Union army during the Civil War, and afterward was territorial governor of Arizona. He died in New York City in 1890.  (www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/biographies/john_fremont.html)

According to Juan Francisco Dana in the Blond Ranchero, “…Col. Fremont with about one hundred men and some Walla Walla Indians was marching south to claim the Mexican territory of California for the United States.  It was during the month of December [1846] that my father heard that the colonel and his men had left San Luis Obispo and were camped about three miles northeast of our casa.”  His father invited Fremont and six officers to lunch at the adobe.  Capt. Dana also offered Fremont…”a supply of fresh beef and thirty horses.”

Faxon Dean Atherton

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Faxon Dean Atherton (1815–1877) A native of Masschusetts, Atherton first came to the Pacific coast in 1834 to engage in trade at Valparaiso, Chile. He settled in Valparaiso in 1840 and became a successful merchant dealing in hides and tallow, foodstuffs, and other commodities. Eventually he became one of the wealthiest men on the Pacific coast

From 1836-38 Atherton worked as a clerk for Alpheus B. Thompson, an early California merchant and Dan’s brother-in-law. During those eventful years, he kept a diary in which he faithfully recorded his experiences and impressions of Mexican California.  Atherton made many friends in California including Thomas O. Larkin with whom he was to be associated in several real estate and commercial ventures. In 1860 Atherton moved to California; he liquidated his assets in Valparaiso and reinvested his money in California. He included among his real estate purchases his estate in San Mateo County which he called Valparaiso Park; the land now forms much of present-day town of Atherton.

Atherton was one of the earliest visitors to the Rancho Nipomo in early March of 1838.  His visit was marked by tragedy, when his travel guide, Thomas Stuart, had a dispute and stabbed “Bill,” a black man employed by Dana.  Captain baptized Bill “at the point of death” and along with Atherton took Bill’s body and Stuart to the Mission La Purisima on March 10, 1838.