Santa Cruz County History - Places

Notes on the History of Williams Mill and Williams Landing in Bonny Doon, California
by Paul Tutwiler


The Rancho Arroyo de la Laguna
James Williams and his Rancho
Land Transactions Involving or Related to the Rancho Before the Death of James Williams
Land Uses and Transactions After the Death of James Williams
A Note on George Liddell
Appendix: Maps

James Williams and his Ranchero

The information in this section, exceptions noted, is from typed transcriptions of the Williams Family Correspondence which go under the name of the "Cape Girardeau Letters." The original spelling and punctuation are retained here. The excerpts from the Letters are included with the kind permission of Dan Williams, a descendant of Isaac Williams, and Wallace Williams, a descendant of James Williams.


The four brothers, John, James, Isaac, and Squire Williams arrived in John Sutter’s projected New Helvetia settlement on November 10, 1843 from Cape Girardeau County, Missouri. (Letter of James Williams, March 22, 1844)


By this year James was selling lumber and having it shipped from Santa Cruz to Monterey for Thomas O. Larkin of Monterey. (George P. Hammond, The Larkin Papers, Vol. I, University of California Press, 1951)


James and Squire have moved to Santa Cruz and are growing potatoes, as well as shipping lumber to Monterey for Thomas Larkin. With proceeds from the lumber traffic they have bought the Rancho de la Laguna [as stated above, the purchase date of the property is August 28, 1847]:

... we have bought a ranch four & half miles square of land lying immediately on the pacific ocean there is immence quantity of all cinds of timber redwood pine & live oak there is oak that is on our place that is 60 or 70 feet without A limb or not that is the pine & redwood it is of little or no youse to undertake to tell about the highth of it for it growes so high that we can hadly look high enough to see the top of it and we will if we have no bad luck have a saw mill up and a sawing by the first of march next about Three miles from the sea shore. (Letter of John and James Williams, November 15, 1847)


James and Squire Williams staked a claim for gold on the Yuba River, “where they found ample gold.” On August 24 Squire Williams died there of a fever. (Marion Dale Pokriots, California Bound... The Hitchcock-Patterson Saga, Scotts Valley, California: publ. by author, 1994, pages 17-18)


John Williams dies, leaving only James and Isaac of the original adventurous four brothers from Missouri. (death mentioned in Docket of Case 345, Northern District of the U. S. Land Commission. See section 1 for further information about this docket.)

David M. Locke and Silas M. Locke, brothers from New Hampshire, arrived in California. Encountering James Williams, they went to Santa Cruz to help him construct the sawmill he had hoped to complete in 1847.

Being expert with tools he [David Locke] found ready employment until his younger brother, Silas M., arrived a little later, having come around Cape Horn in a sailing vessel. The two then set out for the mines, but finding that success required extremely arduous and trying labor they concluded that better chances lay in business enterprise at San Francisco.

In their return trip [in August or September, 1849], while passing through Livermore Valley, the younger brother closed an agreement to go build a mill for Captain Williams, with whom he traveled to Williams’ Landing a few miles above Santa Cruz on the coast, where the Captain owned an extensive rancho (obituary of David M. Locke, Santa Cruz Morning Sentinel of Oct. 28, 1908)

And, according to another source,

Thence the brothers journeyed to Sullivan’s Creek in Tuolumne County. Here they mined three weeks, but owing to the scarcity of water failed to realize money enough to compensate them for their labor. So they started for Stockton on foot, and there with a companion named Fleck purchased provisions. With these packed on their backs they spent the next five days in walking to San Jose. Here they met one Williams who had been to the mines. He hired them to go to the landing called after him to finish a saw mill.

In November David with Isaac E. Davis [sailed] in a schooner to Santa Cruz in search of lime deposits. Having settled up with Williams Silas walked to Santa Cruz, and at 4 P.M. camped on a ranch where his brother was. (from the files of the Society of California Pioneers, regarding Silas Merrill Locke. Both these items about the Locke Brothers are by courtesy of Marion Dale Pokriots.)


On January 11 Isaac and his wife Lydia write that James has another son, Isaac, who is about a year old. [Note that James married Mary Patterson in 1845.] (Marion Dale Pokriots, California Bound, p. 13) James and Mary’s first son, Jonathan, was born “about 1847 .” (Pokriots, p. 20)

Isaac adds that James has been to the gold mines and made $30,000 there, but he was plagued with bad health while at the mines. James has returned to live on his Rancho with his family and Isaac. Isaac continues,

... we are building a saw mill on his land. We have two mill wrights Employed at Sixteen dollars pr day and Fore Carpenters at From Five to Seven dollars pr day. We also have fifteen dayly workmen employed at from five to Six Dollars pr day. Theas expenses perhaps may Leave you to Considder the building of one Saw mill Cost 11. or 12. Thousand dollars. Our head Millwright Calculates on Sawing From six to 8 Thousand Feet of Timber evry Twenty Fore hours at that rate She will Clar at least 8 hundrd or one Thousand dollar pr day.

On December 15 James writes,

We have been engaged in building a Saw Mill for some time past and in consequence of being imposed upon by quack Millrights (Yankus) have spent some Twenty Thousand dollars and have got no Mill yet but we are of the opinion in the course of a few days we (through the ingenuity of Brother Isaac) will get our Mill into successful operation and if we do succeed I believe we will make Money.... We are running a vessel from our Ranch to Sanfrancisco Shipping timber as yet we have made little or nothing at that having had Yankus employed as agents at Sanfrancisco not suspecting then we did not watch them as closely as we should have done and we will Manage differently in future.


James Williams writes on May 18 that his wife died giving birth to twin sons, James Andrew and Andrew James, [both of whom died before they were a year old (Pokriots, p. 22)], and

my Mother in law and two Sisters in law are living with me and assisting me in the care of my children Brother Isaac is living at the Mission of Santa Cruz two miles distant [ten miles?] his wife is frequently with us. From the fact that the price of lumber had fallen, A heavy pressure in the Money Market combined with the deepest schemes of intrigue by Yankus in whom I had reposed confidence to transact business for me I found myself somewhat involved about Christmas, I then concluded to turn my attention to farming Brother Isaac and myself with the assistance of A.G. English and Brother Y.E. Miller have planted about 70 acres of Potatos, we had made an arrangement for a crop of Onions but the seed we procured proved worthless we consequently planted our ground all in potatos... [It is not clear if they grew the potatoes on the ranch or on their property near the Mission.] Early this spring we found Gold on our land about on mile from our Mill we will finish planting our crop in about a week we intend then to make a thorough search for gold...

In her book, California, In-doors and out; or How we Farm, Mine, and Live generally in the Golden State. New York, Dix, Edwards & Co., 1856, on page 216, Eliza Farnham narrates a trip she and friends made by horseback from Santa Cruz north along the coast in the spring of 1851. She writes:

Ten miles up the coast, we passed the last habitation for forty miles. We called, and were treated to a pitcher of delicious milk - what New Yorkers would call cream - and some excellent radishes and turnips, some of which were added to our camp-stores. After a chat of half an hour, in which Mr. W-- related to us an adventure he had recently had with a grizzly bear, in the hills near his house, and described the method of capturing and killing the seals and sea-lions that were tumbling and bellowing on the rocks, not fifty rods distant, we again rode on....

On November 4 Isaac Williams writes that he, James, and Squire held their property “here” in common, and

during my absence James & Squire Made Some several trades and among the Rest they purchased One Olad [old?] Spanish Ranch of Grant of land lying immediately On the Cast of the Pacific Ocean, fronting about Four Miles On Said Coast, and Running Back to the tops of the Mountains, and Some Two or three lotts, of land lying near the Old Mission of Santacruz, Containing about Fifty or Sixty Spanish acres, which was all paid for with Our Joint property, as far as have Been paid, there still Remains unpaid On said lands about $1000, with Interest, which as a matter of Corse each were entitled to the One third. At the death of Brother Squire there was some partnership Stock On hand which Did But little Good, how much has Been made out of the stock I am unable to tell Exactly, though But little, as the most of them Ran of Or was stolen.

Isaac proposes to give Squire’s heirs, the relatives in Missouri, all the property to which he and James have title in Missouri and $500 in cash if the same heirs in Missouri cede to them their claims to Squire’s estate in California.


James Williams writes on May 22,

... in July I expect to leave the Ranch and Go about 100 miles distant to the East of St Johns Mission and Settle on a piece of Government land for the purpose of Stock Raising and mineing: as I was in that Country about 9 [number said not to be clear in original] months Since: and found Some very Rich mineral: Silver and quicksilver Said to be By the best judges I have had to test it: at this time I have a vessel loading at the ranch with lumber and I Expect in about 10 days to Start off with the Cargo to St.P????: lumber at this time is verry low, at Sanfrancisco it is at times sold for freight.

I sold my Mill property and a small interest in my Portion for the Ranch for the sum of 70990[footnote to typed transcription says the first digit may have been a 2] dollars there is a Ballance of payment to be maid during this Season of 15000$ the proceeds of which I Expect to Expend in Buying young Cattle.

James Williams dies in Santa Cruz on October 9.

Next: Land Transactions Involving or Related to the Rancho Before the Death of James Williams

View similarly tagged articles:

Bonny Doon, Mission Hill


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