restricted access 5. Migrations of the Greenwood, Boggs, and Winkler Families
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59  Migrations of the Greenwood, Boggs, and Winkler Families Traditionally, individuals and families over succeeding generations are responsible for working the land and thus shaping the landscape of particular areas. However, in the frontier and gold rush eras, the familial and spatial relationships among various characters of note are what bring this period to life. Regional history is not simply a mass of swarming people randomly placing their mark on the land; neither is it composed of multiple, unrelated individuals intentionally striking out on their own to create a new place, or more correctly, alter a space in its current state. Indeed, the middle ground that seeks to show how diverse people and families intertwined and acted in concert across the generations lends insight to a view that is more comprehensive than biography, and less overwhelming than more general accounts. Although both the largeand small-scale perspectives are invaluable, the more interrelated approach for this chapter enriches the discussion and is designed to help fit the disparate pieces of this story together. To catch a glimpse of the complexity of the movements of families over time, I turn to the history of the descendants of three early migrants to California . The first of these was a mountain man and trapper, the second was a former governor of Missouri and early settler of Napa County, and the last was a forty-niner who later became a farmer in Sonoma County north of San Francisco. Their names are Caleb Greenwood, Lilburn W. Boggs, and Clayton Winkler. The family scale of the migration and settlement model is the focus of this chapter (fig. 1.2). That relationship scale begins small but spreads outward spatially from each particular ancestor starting point. The genealogical connections of these families are paramount in understanding the persistent “stickiness of place” for family members who tended to stay relatively close to the homestead, even through succeeding settlement stages of the surrounding region. The genealogical connections that unify and localize these families Chapter 5 60 through time and space are the primary considerations of this developmental component of California’s settlement history. Greenwood and Boggs Families: Early California Pioneers As an example of the spatial reach of one family across the California landscape, the case of Caleb Greenwood is very illuminating. He entered the stage before California’s statehood, and many of his descendants continued to live in the area for generations. Caleb, known as “Old Greenwood,” claimed to have been born in the 1760s, but more likely he was born about 1783 in Botetourt County, Virginia. He first came to California in 1844. Along with other mountain men Elisha Stevens and Isaac Hitchcock, he traveled in the Stevens-­ Murphy party that made its way from Council Bluffs, Iowa, across the continent and over the snowy Sierra. Caleb was also apparently very involved in blazing a shorter route that went from the Little Sandy River (Wyoming) to the Green River east of Fort Hall (Idaho). This new trail became known as Greenwood’s Cutoff, but through some miscommunication its common name became Sublette Cutoff to the many emigrants who later passed that way (Kelly and Morgan 1965, 106– 11). The Stevens-­Murphy group of pioneers was the first to cross the Sierra with wagons, blazing a trail north of Lake Tahoe (Goetzmann [1966] 2006, 172–74). The following year in August, Caleb and two of his sons were at Fort Hall convincing 250 to 300 pioneers (about fifty wagons) to follow him to California instead of continuing on to Oregon. Benjamin Franklin Bonney, a young member of this emigrant company described the meeting. Greenwood was a very picturesque old man. He was dressed in buckskins and had a long heavy beard and used very picturesque language .... He said the road to Oregon was dangerous on account of the Indians...to California there was an easy grade and crossing the mountains would not be difficult. He said that Captain Sutter would have ten Californians meet the emigrants who would go and that Sutter would supply them with plenty of potatoes, coffee and dried beef. He also said he would help the emigrants over the mountains with their wagons and that to every head of a family who would settle near Sutter’s Fort, Captain Sutter would give six sections of land. (Stewart [1962] 1983, 91) The pioneers who followed Caleb by leaving the Oregon-­ bound company cemented “Old Greenwood [as] one of California’s first civic boosters” (Kelly and Morgan 1965...


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Subject Headings

  • California, Northern -- Discovery and exploration.
  • California, Northern -- History -- 19th century.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- California, Northern.
  • Land settlement -- California, Northern -- History -- 19th century.
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