About the Series, Other Works in the Series, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. ix-x

Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

I have many persons to thank for various leads or material, and I have tried my best to remember them all and credit them in my citations. I apologize to anyone I have overlooked. However, I must especially thank Paul Conrado, a direct descendant of Mary Bennett Love, for the use of many Bennett family photographs and for furnishing a significant lead. Lorie García, Santa Clara’s official...

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Foreword

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pp. xv-2

Mary Bennett Love’s California experience demonstrates the law-mindedness of nineteenth-century emigrants. Love, like so many other emigrants, had extensive knowledge of law. John Phillip Reid suggested, “If we find they acted on this knowledge to guide their conduct not only toward property but in dealing with fellow emigrants, then we may draw conclusions more far reaching.” In Love...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 3-10

This is an account of a rambunctious woman—with a long glance at her equally unruly daughter—who traveled the plains by covered wagon to Oregon, then to California, where they led unusually independent lives for women of the mid-nineteenth century. Mary Bennett, later Mary Bennett Love, and her daughter Catherine Bennett left behind no record of remarkable...

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2. Bennett Family Background

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pp. 11-16

Bennett family lore maintains1 that Mary Bennett was born, in 1803, into the McSwain family, an Irish working-class family whose American ancestors reached into the colonial period. Apparently, Mary’s grandfather fought for independence in the American Revolution. Her father had died prematurely, leaving a widow and thirteen children. They lived in Virginia, and Mary...

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3. Overland to Oregon in 1842

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pp. 17-30

The 1842 emigrants tarried in Independence, allowing time to obtain last minute supplies, to adopt a code of regulations governing the wagon train, and to allow time for latecomers to arrive. The six diaries or recollections1 prepared by participants that describe this wagon train generally agree that they pushed off on May 16, 1842, but they are in greater disagreement as to...

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4. From Oregon to California

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pp. 31-42

Fifty-three emigrants for California appeared at the spring rendezvous on the Willamette River, including twenty-five armed men. Lansford W. Hastings won the election for captaincy of the company and served as leader of the overland trip to California as he had before, at least for the majority of the journey, on the expedition from Missouri to...

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5. The Bennetts Live in Yerba Buena

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pp. 43-54

Yerba Buena was the youngest of the three separate communities located in what is now the city and county of San Francisco, the very head of the large peninsula lying between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. In 1843 these communities were still very much separated and distinct from each other. The padres had founded the Mission of San Francisco de Asís, often...

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6. Mary Bennett Separates from Vardamon and Moves to Santa Clara

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pp. 55-68

Divorce in the modern sense did not exist in Roman Catholic Mexican California, with the exception of ecclesiastical annulments where grounds existed for the invalidity of the marriage. These were rare but increased after the arrival of California’s first bishop, Francisco García Diego y Moreno, in December 1841. California did have judicial procedures for separations. They...

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7. Catherine Bennett Marries Isaac Graham

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pp. 69-78

When Mary left Vardamon, they each doubtlessly filled their children’s ears with slurs about the other. Both forceful people, Mary and Vardamon probably offered threats as well. Children often react negatively to such pressures, and by the summer of 1845 Catherine had had enough of both her parents. She became twenty-one that year and fully ready to make a move of her...

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8. Mary Operates Her Grant and Becomes More Acquisitive, 1846-1852

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pp. 79-98

Shortly after the alcalde put her into possession, Mary Bennett began to operate her two tracts, the house lot in February 1846 and the farm shortly thereafter. By the spring of 1846, with the help of her sons, she had built a redwood dwelling on the house lot, dug a well, and built a corral. This corral was constructed from poles and was used for milch...

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9. Santa Cruz County Land Speculations

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pp. 99-110

The Santa Cruz Mountains are coastal hills filled with live oak, pine, and redwood trees, intermixed with grassy mountain meadows, and lying west of Santa Clara and San José. The leading town in the region was and still is the town of Santa Cruz, the seat of the modern Santa Cruz County. The area had certain early advantages. The town of Santa Cruz sat at the northern...

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10. Catherine Leaves Isaac amid Massive Litigation

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pp. 111-124

When we last saw Catherine Bennett, she had just married Isaac Graham by “contract,” and they were living as husband and wife in Graham’s Zayante Ranch, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just two miles from the Bennett Sawmill. Her mother Mary’s angry objections to this irregular marriage had been fruitless, but Mary seemed mollified by the birth of her first...

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11. Mary Bennett Marries Harry Love

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pp. 125-140

On May 31, 1854, Mary McSwain Bennett remarried—to a man named Harry Love. It is unclear when and where they met. It is even unclear where they married. Love’s biographer states that it was in Monterey, California.1 In subsequent litigation Mary claimed that it was in San Francisco.2 These factoids matter very little. What does matter is that the marriage was a...

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12. Land Claims Litigation and Other Lawsuits, 1851-1864

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pp. 141-158

In February 1848, through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war between Mexico and the United States, America made solemn promises to Mexico regarding the treatment of her citizens in the lands, including California, that America was acquiring. “Property of every kind,” among other promises the treaty made, “shall be inviolately respected.” The present...

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13. The Final Years

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pp. 159-170

Mary Bennett Love was sixty-four years of age in December 1867 when her estranged husband, Harry Love, returned to Santa Clara. Mary had been obese for many years, but lately she had been eating even more, and she now weighed approximately 350 pounds.1 Her daughter Catherine was worried that she might reach 400 pounds.2 She had been ailing for the past few years...

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14. Epilogue and Conclusion

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pp. 171-180

In 1888 Jesse Graham was tried for the murder of Dennis Bennett, thirty-eight years after the fact. The trial produced more sensational revelations and accusations directed at Mary and Catherine.
Following the 1850 shooting Jesse fled the Santa Cruz area, then went to Mariposa, California, where he joined a company engaged in fighting Indians. He apparently returned to Santa...

Notes

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pp. 181-200

Bibliography

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pp. 201-206

Index

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pp. 207-212

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About the Author

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pp. 213-213

David J. Langum, Sr. is Research Professor of Law at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama. He has written eight books in the field of legal history and biography, with a concentration in western America. Among his titles are Law and Community on the Mexican California Frontier: Anglo-American Expatriates and the Clash of Legal Traditions, 1821-1846 (1987), Thomas...