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Santa Cruz County History - People
Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson
PUTNAM, AZRO C (1816-1877)
Santa Cruz Sentinel (August 4, 1877)
Dr. A.C. Putnam, an old resident of Watsonville, and for a time engaged in the real estate and auctioneer business in this city, was drowned at 10:30 last Saturday afternoon. In company with Dr. Marshall he had gone fishing, and at the time given was standing on a point of rocks off Schwann’s place, and was washed into the sea by a heavy breaker. At this point the water was ten or twelve feet deep at low tide, and at high tide was fully twenty feet deep. The doctor was alive for five or six minutes after he fell into the water- alive long enough for S.W.[Silas Wright] Kirby to travel several hundred feet to his assistance. Mr. Kirby held out his fish pole, but the Doctor could not get hold of it and is supposed to have been killed by being thrown against the rocks. His body floated till secured. At noon Prof. Daily, the champion swimmer of this State, was notified of the casualty, In his bathing suit he hurried down the beach about one mile and a half below the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. He saw the body floating, some six hundred yards from the shore, and plunged in, riding the waves or diving under them with the ease of a porpoise. He towed the body to the bluff, and with the assistance of Henry Skinner tried to land it, but the water receding, he had to let it go and was thrown against the rocks with serious effects, his back legs and arms being cut and bruised till they bled. The second effort to land the body was successful. The floating of the body and the bruises it received leads to the conclusion that the Doctor was killed rather than drowned. On Monday, accompanied by a large number of brother Masons, the remains were taken to Watsonville for interment. Dr. Putnam was a man of family, of limited means, and at the time of his demise sixty one years of age.
Notes from Mrs. Lois Western, Granddaughter (June 27, 1999)
Azro Carlton Putnam was born April 2, about 1919 at Hanover, Grafton County, New Hampshire. He subsequently moved to Tennessee where he apparently acquired land and slaves. In the 1850’s he moved to Ottawa, Illinois where he practiced his profession of medicine. News articles indicate that during the Lincoln-Douglas debates he acted in the capacity of Assistant Marshal. It was also during this period that he married a woman named Mary. When the Civil War began he enlisted in the 26th Illinois Vol. Co E and was commissioned a 1st Lt. He remained in that unit until Sept. 8, 1862 when he resigned or was reassigned to Henshaw’s Battery where he was promoted to Senior 1st Lieutenant. He served with that unit until it was mustered out on July 18, 1865.
He returned to Tennessee where he made transportation arrangements for two of his elder former slaves (Uncle Gordon and Aunt Rose) to migrate to California. On approximately August 31, 1871 he arrived in California and made his way to Watsonville where he resumed his practice of medicine. He apparently affiliated with the Masons and Odd Fellows in the area and was instrumental in bringing Opera to Watsonville. At an outing at the Beach in Santa Cruz with family and friends he was swept off the rocks and drowned.
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