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62 ith the death of her father, Jessie accepted California as her home. She remarked in Souvenirs that California had provided her with “wealth and honors. There was my home. There was my future. When the death of my parents left me no divided feeling I no longer looked back.” Jessie worked to turn the Frémonts’ Las Mariposas ranch into a comfortable dwelling. She added fireplaces to the structure, had it painted and wallpapered , and brought furniture and other household furnishings from San Francisco. She had the help of a maid and a cook from France. In her Recollections, Lily recalled, “We felt that we had a real home in the wilderness.” The Mariposa mines were the source of the money that enabled these expenditures, but the mines also required a great amount of attention and money to operate. Legal matters required attention as well. Like all other land grants from the Mexican era, the Frémonts’ land title had to be validated by the proper authorities in the State of California. The Frémonts complied with this law. The gold fields, though, were areas of constant lawlessness. By California law, squatters could take over any mines that they believed had been vacated or were unoccupied. As Jessie explained in Far-West Sketches, the law was poorly written: “All the trouble arose from the construction of that word, ‘unoccupied.’ A small miner working alone would go to dinner, and immediately men watching for the chance would seize and hold against him his lawful property.” Lily related, “My father lost the Black Drift CHAPTER 7 Turmoil m W Mine under the law, the guard left at the mine having been bribed to leave it long enough for another to take possession.” According to Allan Nevins, Jessie “knew nothing of business accounts and of squatter turbulence,” leaving those matters to her husband. In the summer of 1858, though, one armed and dangerous attempt did catch her attention. A group of men tried to seize Frémont’s Pine Tree Mine, thinking it was unoccupied, but found six of Frémont’s employees working deep inside the mineshaft. The invaders demanded that they leave, but the workers refused. As a consequence, the claim-jumpers tried to starve the mineworkers out by not allowing them to have any food or water. Over the course of five days, the force of squatters grew to about a hundred, with Frémont’s forces numbering twenty-seven. The situation escalated when the wife of one of the miners being held hostage attempted to take charge. Jessie described in Sketches what happened: She made her way through the packed crowd, a little creature but a great heart, carrying a big basket of provisions and—a revolver. Her finger was on the trigger as she pushed forward. “I shoot the first man that hinders me. You wouldn’t like to be shot by a woman! But I’ll shoot to kill. You’ve just got to let me carry his supper in to Caton. You have your quarrel with the Colonel [Frémont] about mines and lands and you can fight that out with him. But I’m a poor woman that’s got only my husband —and five children for him to work for. You sha’n’t take his life for your quarrels! He’s only doing his duty.” And with her uplifted revolver waving like a fan towards one and then another, they fell back and let her enter the mine— some laughing, some praising her, some swearing at her. She carried not only food but ammunition; and three revolvers hung from her waist under her skirts. This show of bravado was not enough, though, to end the stand-off. Jessie became involved in the situation, as Lily detailed: “A written notice was served upon us, in which we were told that the men were ‘bound to have their rights,’ . . . 63 / TURMOIL otherwise they would burn the house over our heads and then the Colonel would be killed.” Jessie managed to control the problem : [She told] the writers of that message that the house and land was ours, and that we intended to remain upon it. “If the house is burned,” she said, “we will camp on the land, and if the men kill the Colonel as threatened, then we will sell the property to a corporation that is anxious to buy it, and the property will come under the control of men who will...


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MARC Record
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