Table of Contents

Click on chapter title

Chapter 1 The Old Kentucky Home
Chapter 2 The Illinois Frontier
Chapter 3 Learning the Trade
Chapter 4 Love and War
Chapter 5 Aiming Higher
Chapter 6 A Legislator and a Judge
Chapter 7 The Mormon Affairs
Chapter 8 An Ill Wind Blows
Chapter 9 In the Army Now
Chapter 10 Home from the War
Chapter 11 The California Frontier
Chapter 12 A New Beginning
Chapter 13 Working Things Out
Chapter 14 Meet Me in Manhattan
Chapter 15 I Do
Chapter 16 Home Comings
Chapter 17 Brother-in-law and a Governor
Chapter 18 The Family Grows
Chapter 19 Twists and Turns
Chapter 20 Something New, Something Borrowed
Chapter 21 Silver Baron ?
Chapter 22 Virginia City
Chapter 23 Mark Twain and the Excitement in Austin
Chapter 24 Death in the Desert
  Afterward: Harriet Jackson Ralston and Family
  Afterward: Elizabeth Jane "Lizzie" Ralston Tilden & Family


Views of   Chapter 1  The Old Kentucky Home - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The centerpiece of their well-kept 120-acre farm was a 20 by 24 foot two-room solidly built log cabin that Betsy wistfully referred to as the manor house. Most of the indoor family activities took place at a small oak dining table adjacent to an unusually large stone fireplace. A fireplace used not only as the source for the cabin’s warmth but also Mother’s kitchen stove. The children’s sleeping quarters were in a loft above the larger of the two ground floor rooms. The area was only accessible by a ladder that was put in place in the evening and removed in the morning. A Ralston child knew a rite of passage was realized with that first climb to the loft. That sacred place where, with selected siblings, countless whispered plots were hatched, dreams for the future were shared, and perhaps above all else, lifetime bonds were formed.

In as loud as voice as he was able, he introduced himself as Colonel Dan’l Boone long of Virginny and Kintuckee; his words were greeted by loud hurrahs and applause. For the next few minutes, Boone talked about the 20-year history of the Wilderness Road and about his role in gittin’ it a goin’; there was more applause. He shared a story about getting caught up by the Shawnee twiced over and still livin’ to tell the tale as muted oohs and aahs arose from the multitude.

In many ways, Joseph and Betsy Ralston were cut from the same cloth as most of their neighbors on the Kentucky frontier in the early 19th century. Their ancestors immigrated to America from Europe for the promise of a better life and survived unimaginable hardships in making the journey. They had a large family, for sadly, with the toll taken by disease and very limited access to medical care, there was still a need for many working hands. The success of a frontier family was in its numbers. They had little monetary wealth or formal education yet a strong religious faith and an even stronger work ethic. They homesteaded in the midst of numerous frontier perils because the land was affordable. In short, these rural farming families were the cornerstones to the success of building a young country. However, the genetic threads of the Ralston cloth set the family apart from their neighbors; it was woven for notable success. After all, hope springs.

Views of   Chapter 2  The Illnois Frontier - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

James viewed his limited options and concluded there was really only one available. Their mother had been the glue that held the family together for longer than anyone could have ever imagined and she was unexpectedly gone. Now, Joseph had left the farm to start his medical practice as was want to be reverend Thomas. The absence of four strong hands and two strong backs was critical. Despite his lack of agricultural fervor, James’ foreseeable future would be spent farming. He would help his father simply try to maintain what was, in good growing years, a meager existence. Just when James thought he was going to have to postpone his dreams of doing something, just anything but being a farmer, he received help from a most unlikely source.

John Ralston did not want to understand why his brother was so willing to pick up and leave the place where he married, built a home, and reared his large family; James, on the other hand, could. For nearly a decade the Ralston farms, and those of their neighbors, had consistently yielded less crops per acre. The years of not rotating crops in favor of repeatedly planting badly needed money crops in the same soil was coming home to haunt them. Those that stayed in Kentucky would pay the price. Uncle William may not have had many planting seasons left in his old bones but he, like James who had plenty of seasons remaining, were both planning to make the most of them.

The Ralstons expected to have encounters with hostile Indians. But, the road they used was a busy thoroughfare for the white man, the Indians knew it, and they avoided the area at all costs. They expected axle-deep quagmires of mud, but they wisely departed after the spring rains and their route remained high and dry. They expected a treacherous crossing of the mighty Ohio River, but the ferrymen below the rapids had been at their appointed post for more than a score of years. Whether in periods of high or low water, they knew their work well. They had expected at least one of the storied plains storms. Strong winds, rain, and hail that howled unchecked across the gently rolling treeless prairie of knee-high tall wild grass. On this count, they were not disappointed.

James had three reasons to enter the Quincy establishment of Rufus Brown; he needed a room, a hot meal, and directions to locate Squire Logan. He removed his coat, shook off the light snow, and stooped to enter the low front door of Brown’s Tavern. He already felt warmer by the time he ran the gauntlet through the half-dozen or so patrons in various stages of inebriation. James purposefully sat at a table near the fireplace warming his hands. He was soon joined by a plain unkempt auburn-haired woman. Her hard life had unforgivingly made what remained of her looks twenty years older than she likely was.

Views of   Chapter 3  Learning the Trade - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

James was settled for the evening in the warmth of his small rented room above Asher Anderson’s general store. There would be no study of the law or mulling over a legal decision this night as James chose to bask in the sublimely quiet solitude marking the end of a full day. He sat comfortably in his oversized cushioned rocker with his feet resting on a matching ottoman. Both handmade furniture items were given him in trade for his work by a grateful but cash poor client; he closed his eyes and took a deep relaxing breath. In the distance, he could hear the crisp and clear tolling of a steeple bell calling the faithful to Christmas Eve worship, 1831, that he knew would be held in candle light replete with joyful caroling. He let his mind wander, reflecting on some of his more memorable moments since he first arrived on the Quincy bluffs three years earlier.

It was all James could do to choke back his laughter. However, without so much as a hint of a smile, Judge Logan told Mrs. Porter and the others, the evidence of this indecency deserved to be as quickly as possible heard before a proper judge for a verdict and possible sentencing. The delegation all emphatically nodded their heads in agreement with the Judge and Mrs. Porter asked how swiftly justice could be served. There was an intentionally long pause while the judge stroked his chin seemingly to consider his options. Then he authoritatively told the group that he, being the only proper judge in Quincy at the present, had considered the evidence on that very spot. In his carefully considered opinion, Mr. Pierson and the mad hatter, were guilty of disturbing the decency of some of the most upstanding town citizens. He added the sentence would be one session in his personal chambers to counsel the two men against ever repeating this activity if they were NOT inebriated. Quincy’s impromptu decency committee applauded Judge Logan and profusely thanked him for his thoughtful decision and sound judgment in the matter. The judge doffed his hat to the petitioners and both he and James continued their walk to the courthouse. The group had nearly dispersed when George whispered to James, what a person says can be well hidden by how it is said.

The Big Snow in the winter of 1830 and 1831 in Illinois began to fall about the 3rd week in November. James recalled hearing discussions concerning the forecast by the locals as to the severity of the upcoming winter based solely on the thickness of the wooly worm’s coat. The old-timers prediction was that it warn’t gonna be all that bad. The accuracy of that consensus was worth just less than the price of that wooly worm coat by Christmas Eve when Quincy’s snow depth reached about two feet. The snow was covered with a layer of ice nearly thick enough to hold an adult man’s weight. Pure fear replaced the ahh shucks attitude of being able to make it through any ole’ Illinois winter, when the temperature never reached above freezing for the first seven weeks of the new year. An additional two feet of snow accumulated and James watched the upward progress of a snowdrift that was fast approaching his second floor window. He had a fresh memory of neighbors helping neighbors keep from starving or freezing to death. Quincy townspeople risking life and limb to locate supplies from wherever they could be found, and Asher Anderson, and the other merchants meeting whatever price had to be paid to get them.

Views of   Chapter 4  Love and War - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The Quincy rumor mill had not yet added the item to the town’s unofficial social record. James reached a happy conclusion about his experience during the Christmas Day visit to the Alexander home and he had taken follow-up action. He just knew that until his action became more widely known, he had not heard the last about the yuletide visit from a third interested party. Just a week into the new year, James’ office door swung open and the personage of Mrs. Colonel Samuel Alexander appeared. Knowing the question was rhetorical, but well mannered, he asked Mrs. Alexander how he could help her. She responded in her irritating high-pitched squeaky voice that always brought to James’ mind the visage of a conversational mouse. She insisted he call her Mary, and asked if he had an enjoyable time at her home on Christmas day. Intentionally wasting no words, he said that he did and thanked Mary for asking. He patiently waited for the sure to follow return salvo. She told him her daughter Jane, as it turned out the only one of the three Alexander daughters old enough to marry, was overjoyed to make his acquaintance. She added that Jane cannot stop talking about how much she enjoyed your company. James was yet again amazed by the boldness of this woman and wondered if the lengths she would go to secure a husband for her daughter might even include some form of indentured servitude.

... The proclamation confirmed the rumor circulating in town that the Sauk [or Sac] Indian brave, Black Hawk, along with an estimated five-hundred braves and eight hundred women and children, had crossed the Mississippi, west to east. He and his band crossed the river in early April from their current home in the eastern Missouri Territory [present day Iowa]. Although Black Hawk’s intentions were unknown, it was clear that he returned to Illinois in direct violation of the terms of a treaty of the previous year. It was also clear the incursion was against the advice of other ruling Sauk tribal members, most notably Chief Keokuk, and U. S. Government Indian affairs officials. The aggressive warrior held little or no regard for white American settlers or their government, and, in the company of such a large number of braves, he was a real threat to the peace of the northwestern Illinois frontier.

The able-bodied men in Quincy viewed this call to arms as the opportunity for a real adventure. Never mind that very few of them owned a decent weapon or a horse strong and fast enough to use in a fight to the death with a force of battle hardened Indians. Even fewer of them had any form of disciplined military experience needed to make sure that orders were followed in the heat of battle. At least four and likely many more of the sixty to seventy males who filled the militia roster from Adams County belonged in the category of gentleman soldiers. These men primarily joined for the personal notoriety and the thrill of the hunt, yet completely oblivious to what the hunt would ask in return.

In mid-October of 1832, Jane Alexander’s face beamed as she lovingly looked into James eyes, tightly squeezed his hand, and repeating two simple yet powerful words, I do. The overflowing crowd at Quincy’s small Congregational Church applauded and congratulated Mr. and Mrs. James H. Ralston, Esquire as they slowly walked down the aisle to the front door. They climbed in their waiting carriage that would take the honored couple in fine style all of two blocks to a reception at the courthouse.

Views of   Chapter 5  Aiming Higher - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The clients James agreed to help provided him with challenging and wide ranging applications of the law. One of his cases required an administration of justice not unlike that of Solomon when the fate of a pet raccoon named Andrew Jackson hung in the balance for a couple seeking a divorce. The dilemma as to who would get the unusual pet was resolved when Andrew gave birth to a half-dozen healthy miniature look-alikes of the proud mother. James respectfully declined the couple’s offer to have the pick-of-the-litter in lieu of payment for services rendered.

Sheriff Earl Pierce, more often called Captain Pierce, the rank he held in the Black Hawk War, was again in the public eye less than a year later. The popular, strikingly handsome, and trusted sheriff had a single flaw in his character. This dark side was known to only a few of the town’s residents and nearly every one of the riverboat gamblers. He could not resist nor seldom won a game of twenty-card poker. Cap’n Pierce had accumulated a large sum of losses in the form of IOU’s and he faced an ever-increasing demand to settle the debts. Had he fessed up to his problem, chances are he would have found many of his friends willing and able to help him overcome his evil habit. However, the sheriff apparently did not see that as an option. Rather than face the inevitable humiliation of his addiction, he and his wife slipped unseen from town during the dark of night. They carried with them a satchel containing the entirety of Quincy’s recently collected tax revenue. His reputation now beyond repair, several mounted parties of local townspeople fanned out in all directions in a futile search for the now villainous sheriff. After the search was finally called off, rumors swirled for months that the couple had gone south to Texas where the sheriff’s final card game ended as the result of a bullet from a local ruffian’s colt revolver.

Our bright young lawyer was also personally involved in the acquisition of bounty land. James made most of his land purchases during the years 1833 through 1835, however, he bought a few tracts as late as 1844. He usually bought land that was in the proximity of small villages, hoping that if the village prospered the land value would increase. He understood the value of owning land and, many years later, when it came time to sell his acreage, he was not in the least disappointed with his profits.

In August of 1836, Squire Ralston was elected by a handsome margin to represent Adams County in the lower house at the 10th session of the Illinois legislature. It was at the new courthouse building in then Illinois capital Vandalia in December of 1836, that James first made the acquaintance of a two-term representative from Sangamon County, Abraham Lincoln, and a first term representative from Morgan County, the five-foot four-inch Stephen Douglas.


Views of   Chapter 6  A Legislator and a Judge - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Since they first met at the opening meeting of the 10th session of Illinois legislature in 1836, the two democrats were inseparable. The sight of the short muscular Stephen Douglas, who would become respectfully known as the little giant, and the nearly foot-taller ribbon-thin figure of James Ralston walking side-by-side often elicited murmurs and quiet laughter on the streets of Vandalia. On one occasion a legislative group composed of state senators and representatives from Sangamon County called the long nine because they were all six-feet or taller, formed a friendly circle around Douglas and Ralston on the street. The long nine’s apparent spokesman, Whig party congressman, Abraham Lincoln, offered to provide the diminutive Douglas with a foot stool on which he could stand above the shoulders of the taller men and better see the light of day. The unintimidated 23 year-old Douglas immediately replied to his would-be jokester that if he stood under a moonless night sky he could still hear an ill-conceived proposal from a Whig party member The crowd of men laughed and Lincoln complimented Douglas on his quick wit.

When the evening was over, both Lincoln and Douglas had accomplished major objectives. With Lincoln’s support, Douglas was sure the internal improvements act would pass and Lincoln was pleased to have Douglas’ support in moving the state’s capital to his hometown of Springfield. James was thoroughly delighted to have a new important Whig friend in the legislature when Abe agreed to support his appointment to the position vacated by Judge Young. On the walk back to their Vandalia hotel, Douglas was upbeat because of what had been accomplished in their meeting with Lincoln and he congratulated to-be-judge Ralston with a firm handshake and a slap on the back.

... However, much to Jane’s dismay, James stayed with the grueling routine for nearly another year and a half until the Illinois legislature once again proposed a change in the judicial circuits. In April of 1839, about four months before the end of his term, James presided over a case where, once again, he would cross paths with his fellow Kentuckian, now an Illinois attorney, and the leading Whig politician, Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln stood in the defense of a young man named Fielding Fraim. Fraim was an Irish steamboat deck hand, who, in a drunken rage had pulled a butcher knife and ran it to the hilt in the chest of a fellow shipmate. The stabbing ended a melee between the two men that had started when the now deceased shipmate blew cigar smoke into Fraim’s face at which he took murderous offense. The event transpired in a saloon in Frederick, Illinois, in Schuyler County a short distance from where the deckhand’s boat was docked on the Illinois River. The murder so shocked and angered the local townspeople, Lincoln asked for and received a change of venue fearing his client could and would not get a fair trial. The case was moved to the courthouse in Carthage, the county seat of Hancock County, Illinois, where Judge Ralston would hear the case. This was one of the early trials in the recently completed structure. When the judge entered the courtroom he and Lincoln acknowledged each other with a nod and a friendly smile.

Lincoln had nothing with which to argue his case other than his subtle humor, and a demeanor with a pitched voice that exuded a sense of straightforward innocence and honesty. Apparently, in the jury’s mind, these soothing traits did not come close to balancing the scales of Lady Justice in the favor of poor Fraim. At day’s end, the jury returned with a guilty verdict. Lincoln could not convince Judge Ralston to set the verdict aside, and his client was sentenced to death by hanging on the 18th day of May 1839. After court adjourned, Judge Ralston and attorney Lincoln reminisced for a few minutes, shook hands, and went their separate ways.


Views of   Chapter 7  The Mormon Affairs - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be… driven from the state. These were the inflammatory words proclaimed in Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs’ Executive Order 44 issued from the state capital in Jefferson City, on October 27, 1838. The order was issued as the result of several deadly confrontations occurring since the summer of 1838 between Mormon and non-Mormon factions in various counties of northwest Missouri. Four days later, General Samuel Lucas commander of the state militia located at Far West, Missouri, the Mormon seat of power in Caldwell County, arrested the Latter-day Saints founder and leader Joseph Smith, Jr., and several other ranking members of the church. The proposed action, resulting from a bogus court-martial held shortly after the men’s arrest, concluded that the detainees should be executed for treason and other crimes against the state of Missouri. Lucas issued an order to General Alexander Doniphan, a commander of the Missouri State Guard, to take Smith and the other prisoners to the public square of Far West and shoot them at 9 o’clock the next morning. Doniphan flatly refused to carry out an order he knew amounted to murder. He told Lucas that if he tried to shoot Smith and the others he would personally see to it that the General would face a quite appropriate court martial himself.

The townspeople of Quincy, Illinois located just across the Mississippi River about 180 miles to the east of Far West in Illinois had offered the Latter-day Saints whatever help they could provide. Many of the Far West Mormons had passed through Quincy, six years earlier on their trip from Kirtland, Ohio to northwest Missouri. They remembered the kindnesses shown them by the community. On Quincy’s part, the motivation to extend an invitation to assist the Mormons was based on three reasons, not necessarily in the order presented. Compassion for a misunderstood and mistreated people, a needed economic boost to help offset the woes resulting from the panic of 1837, and, on the part of both Whigs and Democrats, wooing a very large bloc of voters sympathetic to their respective platforms.

James took his personal interest in the Mormons a step further. He made a point to be one of the first attorneys to meet with Joseph Smith, Jr. in Quincy in April 1839. This was after Joseph and his Mormon followers were aided in an escape from their Missouri captors at Liberty. This early acquaintance and his sound counsel gained James an ongoing association as a key attorney specifically for Joseph Smith and generally for the Latter-day Saints, a connection that would last for over five years.

In August of 1840, James campaigned for and was re-elected to the Illinois state legislature this time in the upper house as a senator. His decision to run was made at the last minute largely due to the requests and support of the Latter-day Saints. The church anticipated that several issues on their behalf, foremost of which was approving a state charter for Nauvoo, would be introduced to the legislature during the upcoming winter and spring sessions. The presence of Judge Ralston in the legislature could facilitate a positive outcome, which indeed turned out to be true.

Of particular interest to the Mormons was the small side-wheeled steamboat, the Des Moines, and two shallow draft keelboats used in the work. The steamboat was intended to transport newly arriving European church members up the Mississippi from the port of New Orleans to Nauvoo. The keelboats were to ferry church members back and forth across the river. Squire Ralston introduced himself and shook hands with the young army captain who commanded the engineering troops and was the agent in charge of the auction, Capt. Robert E. Lee.

On an early May evening in 1842, Lilburn Boggs, the ex-governor of Missouri who had so tirelessly and maliciously attempted to eradicate the Latter-day Saints from the face of the earth, was shot through a window of his office at his home in Independence, Missouri. Though his injuries were severe enough to have killed him, the governor somehow survived the ordeal albeit it took quite some time for him to heal. The finger of suspicion from loyal anti-Mormon activists immediately pointed directly at either Joseph Smith or an accomplice working at the behest of the despised prophet.

Sentiment against the Mormon presence in Adams and Hancock counties grew during the year 1843. Joseph Smith’s latest actions made it clear that the prophet had turned the other cheek more often during the previous two years than he would have liked. As a result, the pressure from the anti-Mormons again ratcheted up in Missouri and now in Illinois, and the prophet reached his breaking point. Ironically, Smith’s final straw came from an action he perpetrated within the limits of his city, Nauvoo.

... That evening, a mob of armed men easily numbering over one-hundred many of whom were likely from the nearby state militia authorized by Governor Ford stormed the jail. When the chaos ended, the Smith brothers lay dead, Taylor was wounded, and Richards unharmed.

The following day, Judge Ralston visited the jail, met briefly with and consoled Taylor, and assured him that all that could be done for the two surviving faithful was being done. Mormons and non-Mormons alike in Hancock County braced for what they believed would be a massive attack by the Nauvoo legion at Carthage in retaliation for the prophet and his brother’s cold-blooded murder; it never came. There was little doubt in the mind of any of the key players surrounding the events that took place at Carthage, including the prophet himself. The inevitable outcome would be, at a minimum, the death of Joseph Smith. Smith had said that he would act the martyr to save the future of the church although he took the offered weapons and emptied every chamber at the attackers in a futile attempt to save his life. At the end of the affair, Governor Ford offered little more than a hollow promise that the killers would be brought to a fair and timely justice. For Brigham Young, the fact that he ordered the Mormon legion to stay in Nauvoo could be interpreted that it was time for a change in the leadership of the Latter-day Saints. Since Brother Young would be an obvious contender for that coveted position, he saw no need for any useless loss of life among the church faithful.


Views of   Chapter 8  An Ill Wind Blows - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The loud crying James heard from the second floor bedroom of the substantial Ralston home in the middle of Quincy brought tears of joy to the judge’s eyes. He glanced at the calendar then at his pocket watch and knew that 7 o’clock in the morning on the 19th of January 1845, would be a time and date forever etched in his memory. The good Dr. Ralston descended the stairs with a broad smile on his face and shook his brother’s hand. He told James to wait a moment while the nurse wrapped the newborn then he could go to Jane’s side and they could share the wonder and joy of their new daughter.

The overflowing crowd that spilled into the Carthage square surrounding the courthouse in the third week of May was not there to wonder about the trial’s outcome, it was long before decided. They were there to view the dignitaries who came and went during the brief affair. Six short days later, on the 30 of May, it took the jury just two hours to find all of the defendants innocent of the murder of Joseph Smith. One month later, the presiding trial judge for the murder of Hiram Smith involving the same defendants dismissed the proceedings. No attorney for the prosecution had been appointed and thus, one was not present.

After the death of the Smiths and even more so following the trials of the alleged murderers, the partisan political sentiments in Hancock and Adams counties were no longer defined by traditional political party lines. Instead it was based on the Mormons and those who helped them versus the much larger group of anti-Mormons. Judge Ralston, viewed as a member of the former, had seen his popularity diminish and his reputation sullied by the members of the latter. In fact, some believed, and perhaps rightfully so, that had it not been for Judge Ralston’s shrewd counsel and actions, the saints might never have come to this part of Illinois. Or, if they had, they would have been long gone by now.

By the time Brigham Young led the first of what would be several waves of Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo to the West in mid-February of 1846, James and Jane had also made a decision. They agreed that they too had overstayed their welcome and it was time to look for new opportunities beyond Quincy. Though James did not show it, Jane knew her husband was deeply hurt and offended with the treatment he received from the once friendly Quincy townsfolk. They both knew they would miss their home and their close friends of nearly 15 years.


Views of   Chapter 9  In the Army Now - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

On February 14th, 1846, after nearly a full year of political maneuvering, the citizens of the Republic of Texas ratified a treaty that annexed them into the United States as the country’s 28th state. This action was the culmination of a hard-earned and bloody struggle that all began a quarter of a century earlier. The arrival of the first American homesteaders, called Texians, were invited by the Mexican government to populate its poorest state, Coahuila y Tejas. In 1836, these heroic Americans fought bravely for and won their independence from Mexico. The rag-tag army of General Sam Houston finally defeated the Mexican army led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. The treaty Santa Anna was forced to sign in May of 1836 making Tejas an independent republic was never officially ratified by the Mexican government. Mexico still viewed Texas as its most northern trouble-making state. There was no doubt that this latest statehood action by the United States would force the hand of the Mexican government. They would either withdraw their troops from the contested border along the Rio Grande River region and not challenge the United States government. Or, they would go to war with their northern neighbor. No reputable bookmaker of the day would have taken a bet that the Mexicans would tuck their collective tails and whimper away to Mexico City. In fact, when the Republic of Texas sent an envoy to Washington D. C. a year earlier to discuss annexation and statehood, the United States had quietly begun preparations for war.

When news of the war reached Quincy and a call for volunteers was issued, little time was lost in filling the quota with men seeking adventure and unquestioned proof of their patriotism and manhood. After a lengthy, earnest, and tear-filled discussion between James and Jane, Mrs. Judge James H. Ralston reluctantly agreed to let her husband volunteer his services to his country. Given his current circumstances in Quincy, his involvement in the war somewhere other than Quincy was eerily serendipitous. In exchange for her approval, James swore that he would make himself available only in a supporting role located some distance from any real fighting near any front line.

... He had thus far been unable to rest comfortably for the better part of the nearly six-weeks of travel and he was thankful his body had staved off any ill effects from the fatigue. He missed Jane so much that he had made a point of sending her several letters. He wrote how happy he would be if he could just turn around and come home, jokingly adding despite the possibility of being court-martialed and facing a firing squad for desertion. James arrived at San Antonio and discovered that the place where he would be working was the very spot just over ten years earlier where brave Texans had fought and died for Texas independence. He tried to recall everything he knew about the event and the setting at the Alamo.

Early Texas was a vast lawless frontier where only the strong could and would survive. When the Mexicans realized they were losing control of these Tejas settlers with fire in their bellies they sent armed troops to the populated areas to abolish their established self-government. The Texans fought back.

On October 13th, 1846, James first saw the ruins of the Alamo that appeared much as it had at the end of that mercilessly bloody day ten years earlier. He knew at that moment he was personally destined to undertake an assignment that exceeded the purchase, temporary storage, and distribution of supplies and material for General Wool’s army. He felt drawn, to the best of his means and ability, to restore this shrine of sacrifice and patriotism to a condition befitting its hallowed place in American history. Captain Ralston knew the first step would be to put in place a team of fellow soldiers to help him accomplish all of the tasks.

One particular member of that unit, a well-respected sergeant by the name of Edward Everett, had recently come to Captain Ralston’s attention. Sergeant Everett had been sent to apprehend a roughneck Texan causing a problem for soldiers in a local saloon. The result of that assignment was a bullet fired by the miscreant that badly wounded the sergeant’s right knee requiring immediate medical attention. When James went to interview the wounded man for a position in his office, he saw first-hand the tent covered hospital and the lack of attention being given the man. He immediately ordered Everett be sent to his quarters where he could personally see to the sergeant’s healing process. Even after his knee healed, Everett was declared unfit for duty at the front and Captain Ralston requested he be assigned as his lead quartermaster clerk. Thus began a mutually beneficial friendship that would last the entire length of their service. The Captain and the Sergeant began the duty of selecting staff and the assembled group worked well as a team despite the good-hearted yet accurate observation that Captain Ralston could use a fellow up in very few words.

It was clear that if James decided to bring his family to Texas their safety would be his responsibility. In March of 1847 he assumed that responsibility.

The Ralston’s were a family once again. James found an adobe home not far from the bustle of his workplace at the mission and he was revitalized by Jane and Elizabeth’s presence. He took every care in making sure their needs were met including stationing one of several of his most trusted soldiers at his home when he was not present. Jane also flourished for a time quickly learning some Spanish that allowed her to make good friends among many of the local women. She made a point of taking Lizzie along on her frequent trips to the market. When James was able to join them, the three Ralstons enjoyed visiting the Texas countryside reveling in each other’s company. James and Jane were happier in their temporary home in south Texas than they had been for some time in Quincy and they were living Jane’s dream for her family, together again.

Then, slowly but ever so steadily Jane’s health began to falter. The first sign of a problem was a persistent shallow dry cough that was not accompanied by a fever or any symptoms of a cold. When Jane’s energy seem to flag on most days by late afternoon, James took her to see the Army’s second-in-command physician at San Antonio, Dr. Thomas Foster. Foster gave her a thorough examination, prescribed a remedy for her cough, and declared her, in his experienced medical opinion, illness free. With her cough under control, Jane seemed to be returning to a picture of health until the fainting spells began. Jane was immediately taken again to Foster for another examination. The doctor confided in James that after listening for an extended time to her heart and lungs he feared a weakening in her heart. When James’ questioned what he should do for his wife, the doctor suggested that extended bed rest may help but only time would confirm or deny his prognosis. A month later, thirty-six year-old Jane died quietly in her sleep.

In October of 1848, Captain Ralston received a letter from the office of the army’s quartermaster general stating that he and his lead sergeant would be relieved of their duties in December. James now knew he would be leaving the Alamo by the end of the year having no notion of what he would be doing next or where it would be done.

Views of   Chapter 10  Home from the War - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The two men laid out the paperwork from their quartermaster activities at San Antonio for the auditors, then waited nearly six weeks before the favorable review of their records was completed. While they waited, the Captain and the Sergeant took good advantage of their time by touring the capital, observing congress in action, and meeting with a number of distinguished politicians. These men had expressed an interest in hearing about the construction work the two oversaw at the Alamo shrine and in paying their respects to Sergeant Everett, the cousin of their long-time colleague. Included in the group well met was Kentucky’s Henry Clay, Massachusetts’ Daniel Webster, South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, and Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton. James had a lengthy reunion with his good friend and current Illinois senator, Stephen A. Douglas. He also spent nearly two full days with his very close aging tutor and friend, Judge Richard M. Young. Young, after a long and distinguished judicial and political career in Illinois and the nation’s capital, was serving in his twilight years as the commissioner of the General Land office in Washington. Captain Ralston and his faithful assistant and friend, Sergeant Everett, exchanged a final salute and went their separate ways.

James was honorably discharged from the army, March 3, 1849. Two days later, he spent his last day in Washington during a light snowfall as a distant observer of the inauguration of America’s 12th president and the hero of the recently concluded war with Mexico, Zachary Taylor.

The stagecoach entered Quincy though for some strange reason it did not seem as though it had been three years since James had left. He waved out the window when he saw a number of recognizable faces. The first to greet the travelers was the smiling Dr. Joseph Ralston slapping his brother on the back. He jokingly referred to his brother as the Mexican conqueror and his niece, Lizzie, in the comfort of her father’s arms, the queen of the Rio Grande. In addition to the Dr. Ralston family, the small entourage gathering around included the properly friendly O. H. Browning and his wife, Eliza. James’ younger brother and attorney William and his family who now lived a short distance north in Warsaw, Illinois. He was pleasantly surprised to see another greeter from the small Mississippi riverfront community of Keokuk, Iowa. Another relative, eligible bachelor, budding attorney, and first cousin John Neely Johnson. The handsome, intelligent, and gregarious J. Neely, as he preferred to be called, was the son of his mother’s youngest sister, Juliette and her husband George Johnson. He had come to Quincy shortly before James left for the Army arriving in Illinois late in 1845. He had come from his parent’s home on the banks of the Ohio River at Evansville, Indiana where his father kept a tavern. Like James had done a number of years earlier, J. Neely was looking for a future on the frontier and he had knocked on his respected older cousin’s door for help and advice. James was instrumental in finding legal work for his cousin in Keokuk and he was eager to find out how he was doing. The small crowd left the stagecoach station, Lizzie still in the security of her father’s arms, and they all walked the short distance to Dr. Ralston’s home for more of the happy reunion that would last well after a late evening dinner meal.

James made a special point of spending the next few months circulating through every nook and cranny of Quincy shaking as many hands as he could find and trying to reestablish acquaintences and friendships. To everyone’s surprise who was sure James was a heathen, he could now be regularly seen on Sunday attending services with his daughter at the Quincy Baptist church where he had been befriended by the church’s pastor, Reverend Aaron Jackson. The outgoing reverend had arrived in Quincy the year before and the recent passing of Jackson’s wife was a common thread between the two men. The Judge had a standing invitation to attend a mid-afternoon Sunday meal at Reverend Jackson’s home that the reverend referred to as an enjoyable meeting of two like minds and two sinful souls. The event was eagerly hosted by Jackson’s attractive and well-educated daughters, 21-year-old Harriet and 15-year-old Mary Amelia. James was thankfully able to make arrangements with the Jackson daughters to occasionally watch over Elizabeth when his work kept him away from home for extended periods. Otherwise, Lizzie could often be seen playing near her father’s desk in the library of the home he rented, conveniently situated near the courthouse, the Reverend Jackson’s, and Dr. Ralston’s house.

After Christmas dinner, Squire Ralston and Reverend Jackson went to the front porch to partake in the enjoyment of tobacco and James asked his friend what he should do about the situation in Quincy. Aaron told him that as a man of the cloth he should encourage James to turn the other cheek and carry on. However, as a friend, he would recommend moving to a place where he and his daughter could put down new roots and where both of them would be happy.


Views of   Chapter 11  The California Frontier - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

It is impossible to use the word uneventful to describe a journey of nearly 2,100 miles. The trail crossed a seemingly endless expanse of waving prairie grass, fording torrent rivers, and climbing then descending the many passes of the majestic snow-covered Rocky Mountains. Suffering the stifling heat of the mountainous, sandy, rock strewn, and bone dry high desert. Then, viewing the expanse of welcoming lush green valley forests while descending from the glacial chill of the high Sierras. The marked and unmarked graves and the bleached bones of domestic animals spotted along the trail served as a constant reminder. With each and every step, a clear and ever present danger could bring with it starvation, disease, or injury that could result in agonizing or instant death. Simply understated, James and the nearly two-hundred other souls in his wagon train safely reached Sacramento, California in mid-July of 1850, slightly over 100 days after leaving Quincy. What happened in Sacramento shortly after James’ arrival was nothing short of political intrigue.

J. Neely asked James to travel with him to the Carson River valley, about 200 miles from Sacramento just east of the Sierras, to help him assess the emigrant needs, purchase needed food supplies, and distribute them to the families closest to starvation. The two men arrived in the valley on the 5th of August and began to complete the assigned task. The pressing needs of his job forced J. Neely to return to Sacramento on August 13th and James stayed on to continue the work and to wait for a wagon train with more supplies due to arrive from Sacramento before the end of August. Neither J. Neely nor James planned to let their pro bono humanitarian deeds go unnoticed by the prestigious relief committee or the good citizens of Sacramento.

James arrived early at his second floor office above the courtroom on 4th street near J street with the daily edition of the Sacramento Transcript under his arm. The satisfaction he felt after reading a copy of his letter was only matched by the concern he had shown and the aid he had given to many of the helpless emigrants he had so eloquently described. He could not help but reflect on one of his favorite idioms, there but for the grace of God go I, as he recalled the images of some of the people he was able to help and many that he could not. Not fifteen minutes after he arrived, the first of what seemed like hundreds of completely unexpected strangers passed through his door, most to offer their congratulations on what they viewed as his heroic efforts in the Carson River Valley. Judge Ralston was not a humble man but the admiration they expressed for what he had done truly overwhelmed him. He graciously accepted their praise while masking some feeling of guilt over the publicity effort so carefully orchestrated by J. Neely. Yes, there was no doubt he had put a full and sincere effort in helping the travelers and he had done as good a job as time and even the use of his own money allowed. Yes, he was glad that his efforts had ingratiated him in the eyes of the townspeople that might provide opportunities he otherwise might not have had, so, just maybe, his feeling of guilt was unjustified.

Tom asked his new law partner when it would be best for him to start working and James asked if the next morning would be suitable for his younger friend. The two men shook hands in agreement and thus began a mutually beneficial friendship that would last well over a decade. Judge Ralston dropped by the Sacramento Transcript early the next morning to place an advertisement.


 Views of   Chapter 12  A New Beginning - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

I am well pleased with this climate. It is much like western Texas. It must become a pleasant country to live in. This city only a year old contains 10 thousand inhabitants. It is being rapidly built up in neat framed houses. It does a heavy business. San Francisco is still virgin. If California is admitted into the Union, it will soon become a great state. It is no less rich in agricultural and commercial resources than in its minerals. But most men here are discontented, they are leaving by the thousands every week poorer than when they came. The reason why; they have left wives and sweethearts to mourn their absence and rejoice at their return. I have left neither so I feel pretty happy. Again, most men who have come here have wanted industry or business lost at home. Thousands of such are reduced to want hire and are leaving as fast as they can. In California, more than elsewhere, men must have mind, even an enlightened mind as well as health and industry to insure success. I know hundreds of men who for want of these qualities will be ruined by coming here. Whilst others apparently less the favorites of fortune will be enriched.

Though it had officially happened on the 9th of September 1850 in Washington’s halls of congress three weeks earlier, the month of October saw statewide celebrations commemorating the admittance of California as a state.

Squires Ralston and Sunderland soon made their mark in Sacramento’s legal arena by gathering a substantial number of clients, a majority of them involving disputed land ownership. James’ experiences in Illinois dealing with the military land tract claims involving naïve pioneers, greedy land speculators, and the federal government served him well. In his new setting, the disputes arose among another triad, composed of the holder of an official deed to land, the federal government entitlements as outlined in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican American War, and the Spanish records of legal land grants recorded before and after the treaty. James spent days mentoring his gifted partner, attorney Sunderland, in the fine art of proving land ownership then convincing the courts of their conclusion on behalf of a pleased and grateful client. James wisely avoided taking on clients involving gold claims. Cousin J. Neely warned him that those disputes were often settled with a bullet from a well-aimed revolver occasionally misdirected at the responsible attorney. The firm of Ralston and Sunderland's rising standing with the Sacramento bar and their burgeoning wallets attested to their combined achievements.

New Year’s Eve, 1850, San Francisco. James had never heard of, much less attended such a lavish affair. From his vantage point near the open veranda doors on the terrace level of the recently completed Jenny Lind Theatre, a spectacular panorama of San Francisco was presented. Inside the theatre, he counted at least a dozen men he quickly recognized as the Crème de la crème of the city’s business and social circles including his host and the current senator from California, Colonel J. C. Frémont and his wife. A 20-piece orchestra seated with a backdrop of a red-satin-curtained stage, likely capable of playing any waltz that was ever written, serenaded a grand hall filled with couples of tuxedo-tailed men and lavishly gowned women. The couples twirled gracefully around the dance floor. In the wings, more people conversed in groups of four and five taking an occasional sip from a crystal champagne glass and waiting for their turn to twirl.

3d December ‘51

Quincy, Ill.

 Dear Judge Ralston,


You cannot begin to imagine my joy when Father shared your latest letter with me and my sister. We are all pleased to know that you are acclimating well to your new home in California. In a turnabout, I cannot begin to imagine what it is like in the Golden State though I have tried to gain a hint from the articles and the few and far between sketches that appear in the journals and newspapers. I hope that perhaps someday I can have the excited pleasure to experience first-hand what it is all about.


My affairs in Quincy remain on the whole rather ordinary and hardly worthy of spending the time and paper to make note of them. Were there a way, in my limited vocabulary, to embellish them to the point of worthwhile reading, I would do that. I will simply leave them to your knowledge when last you were here, for little has changed. I must, however, tell you that I so miss the joyful presence of Lizzie, as I am sure do you; I am happy in knowing she is well tended to in your brother and sister-in-law’s Kentucky home.


Father continues to be busy in God’s work and of course he and Amelia send their very best for your continued health and happiness. Father does not imagine that we will remain for over another year in Quincy, as three years is the usual pastoral assignment in one church. My little sister continues to pester me but since I am convinced she is the apple of our father’s eye, I dare not respond in retribution. I have convinced father that we can celebrate Christmas this year in a like manner to the memorable event of last year though I know it will not be quite as joyous; dare I say because of you and your daughter’s absence?


I have spent the better part of the last few hours carefully choosing the words of the brief poem I include, in the wish you will read it with interest. It is simply titled, Absent.


Sometimes in reverie the hours are lost       

Tho’ never the object of cause.

Clear memorable visions of conscious thought

Oft’ makes my heartbeat pause.


A wish for the object to be here and now

Will not in the least make it so.

Replacing that wish with prayer and the hope

That one day the absence will go.


Before Father became a minister he earned his living as a blacksmith. I will close this letter with three words of wisdom taken from that profession he has often shared with me when I am sad; always forge ahead.


 Views of   Chapter 13  Working Things Out - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Though there is disagreement as to when American settlers first viewed the glorious Yosemite Valley in the central high Sierras of California, opinions about its abundant scenic beauty and serenity are of a single mind. One of the earlier accounts of viewing the valley was written by a member of the Mariposa Battalion that visited the valley in March of 1851. The battalion was formed and sent to the area by the recently appointed second California governor, John McDougall, on the advice of his assigned envoy, Sacramento city attorney J. Neely Johnson, to quell an uprising of several Indian tribes in the vicinity. The outnumbered and out-gunned tribes were quickly dispatched by the battalion in an affair that became known as the Mariposa Indian War that for all intents and purposes lasted only from March through June of 1851. The valley did not become widely known or visited for another few years and soon became, and still is, perhaps the most visited off the beaten path location in the state. A few years later, the Ralston and Johnson families accompanied a larger group from Sacramento to the valley. James could not keep from laughing out loud when, at their entrance to the valley and in all seriousness, his cousin proudly claimed sole responsibility for its discovery and made matters even more ludicrous when he fell just short of adding Yosemite’s natural beauty to that dubious accomplishment.

For the statewide election in September 1851, the Democrat party officially named Judge Ralston as its candidate for state senator from Sacramento’s 11th district in early August. Shortly thereafter, the Whig party nominated the well-known American river drawbridge owner, Daniel J. Lisle, as his esteemed opponent. The two men spent the month of August visiting every corner of the county. They never passed up an opportunity to say a few words about their own stellar qualifications and abilities and their dreary opponent’s lack thereof. Judge Ralston believed Lisle succeeded in achieving a new low. A week before the election and with Vote Lisle posters plastered from truss to wooden truss on his drawbridge, its owner creatively lowered the toll to $ .00 in exchange for a vote. James was sure a case could easily be made for ballot box bribery. However, he feared voters would view such a last minute action as just another example of a two-timing politician trying to line his own satin pockets at the expense of the righteous citizenry.

The election day weather cooperated to the fullest extent of its most congenial ability and long lines formed at the polling stations all over the county. James stationed himself at the Orleans Hotel, doffing his top hat and shaking the hand of each voter before they entered the confines of the first-class establishment. At day’s end neither candidate was convinced of a win because the two parties were both well membered in the city. Perhaps the Democrats had a slight edge coming from the county’s mining districts. The newspaper had made a generous additional allowance in the number of papers it printed. Within an hour’s time of its placement at the outlets, a copy of the September 6th edition of the Daily Sacramento containing the county’s election results was nowhere to be found. By hook or by crook the Democratic party leadership had an abundance of the valued item. Among the party’s celebratory results, James H. Ralston would be one of the newly seated Senators at the third session of the California legislature in Vallejo.


James had at last come to a clear conclusion about a relationship with Harriet and decided that she, with Lizzie, should be an integral part of his life in California, and he wrote to her at some length, telling her that very thing.

Judge Ralston returned to Sacramento as invigorated as he had ever remembered being, looking forward to having Lizzie and possibly Harriet by his side and ready to take his seat in the 1852 legislature at Vallejo. Tom noticed Judge Ralston’s new frame of mind and he recommended that his esteemed partner make a regular habit of such absences.

 Views of   Chapter 14  Meet Me in Manhattan - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

On New Year’s Eve, 1851, the loud shriek heard from the Jackson home in Quincy, brought a response from every alert canine in the block. It could likely have also been heard by attentive listeners in far-away Sacramento. The entirely unladylike sound erupting from Harriet’s lungs was in response to the first few lines of the letter she read from James that was delivered just minutes earlier. She wept and whimpered with happiness and sat alone repeatedly reading the letter until at last she was tearless. Harriet shared the news on the arrival of Amelia. The two of them held hands dancing the entire width and breadth of their parlor several times before Harriet breathlessly collapsed on the settee, still in utter disbelief of her news from the West Coast. Amelia laid out a menu of Harriet’s favorite foods for a celebratory evening meal. At top speed Amelia was out the door with a list of groceries, nearly knocking over her father on the front steps as she charged by to complete her sole mission of getting to the general store. The inquisitive Rev. Jackson walked through the door and he was again nearly toppled by Harriet’s rush to his arms. After tearfully sharing her news, her father gently smiled and told her it appeared as though, perhaps someday, may actually be a nearing reality. Then he cautioned her not to be too enthusiastic because, he said with a sly smile, men too are known to be fickle. He then thought to himself that Judge Ralston had never been known to break a promise, even if he suffered mightily for it. The words James used from the letter that meant the most to Harriet, she would keep in a pendant locket around her neck; could you consider standing by my daughter’s side and mine.

At the mid-point of the ended legislative session, an event occurred that corresponded almost too perfectly with James’ personal intentions to marry Miss Harriet Newell Jackson sometime in the near future. Harriet now lived on Staten Island, a short distance across the upper Hudson River bay from New York City. The three members of the Jackson family moved to the island coming from Quincy in early November of 1852...

Harriet had recently written in one of her many letters to the man she loved about her move to what she called an island not unlike that of Robinson Crusoe. Save for her father and her sister, Harriet felt isolated and alone in her new surroundings despite the huge populous of the surrounding cities. She wanted her knight in shining armor to rescue her. James could not wait to write Harriet telling her of his latest news and hoping that the letter would arrive in New York in time for the needed arrangements to be made.

On the 24th of July, every passenger, including James and Douglas Ottinger lined the main deck rails as the ship made its way toward New York’s harbor. At James’ request, Ottinger pointed out each-and-every landmark as the vessel made its way toward the wharf on the Hudson River just above Battery Park. There, it would anchor off shore in the quarantine area for a full day to assure no contagious diseases, contraband cargo, or stowaways were onboard. James was just sure the combined weight of the large gathering of ship greeters could send the wharf, to which the Northern Light was securely moored, crashing into the Hudson River. The eagerly awaited passengers slowly began to descend the long passenger ramp to terra firma. He knew his turn would come to take the first few giddy steps on land. He hoped that his inner ears equilibrium, used to being on the rolling sea, would soon discover its new surroundings and quickly make the necessary adjustment. He slowly scanned the assemblage from his vantage point at the wharf-side railing looking for any signs of the Jackson three or more specifically the one love-letter-writing Jackson he had not seen for over three years. Finally, standing purposefully apart at the far reaches of the mass of humanity on the wharf, he barely made out the figure of Harriet standing between her father and sister, furiously waving the brightest red neck scarf he had ever seen. The closer he came to the top of the ramp, the closer the scarlet scarf came to the ramp’s bottom resting on the wharf.

 Views of   Chapter 15  I Do - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

James had never seen such a magnificent structure. The so-called Crystal Palace had been painstakingly constructed in 1853 with no expense spared specifically for housing the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. It was truly a world’s fair that the bustling city of New York gladly agreed to host.

Harriet stood by James’ side nearly every day for the next two weeks as his assistant. She took the early morning Staten Island and New York Ferry Company’s steamer to Manhattan island , then a carriage to the Crystal Palace and reversing the trip in the late afternoon. Judge Ralston had never shaken so many hands or kissed so many babies over such a long period of time. Wave after wave of exhibition visitors gazed in wonderment on the glittering display of California gold and quartz guarded, mostly for show, by four of New York City’s finest armed police officers. He had arrived at the world’s fair too late to join in the festivities of the grand opening ceremony and the opportunity to meet fellow Democrat, President Franklin Pierce. Nonetheless, he still shared with an excited and awestruck Harriet the occasional visit of an important diplomat or capitalist from places in the world he never knew existed. Both James and Harriet found the experience to be wonderfully tiring.

James could not believe his eyes when he saw Lizzie a week later in Lexington. The tallish young girl standing in front of him was nearly a perfect image of her mother. She was barely recognizable from the five-year-old that he kissed and cradled tightly in his arms before he mounted his horse and fell into line behind a wagon train headed west. The many years of her life away from James were evident as she shyly approached him and hesitatingly gave a hug to the stranger she barely knew as her father. He could also tell that the Reverend Thomas and Mrs. Josephine Ralston had coached their niece when she asked, with genuine interest, for him to tell her all about California, the World’s Fair, the Crystal palace, and how her friend Harriet was doing. The discussion of those subjects and others lasted well into the evening as Lizzie’s uncle and aunt approvingly watched her slowly warm to stories told by her long absent father. For the next week father and daughter were inseparable, sharing nearly every waking moment on horseback rides in the country, walking hand-in-hand to see her school in Lexington, and sitting on Thomas’ front porch just talking. James was nearly unable to cope with the many tears of sadness Lizzie shed when she discovered that a little more time needed to pass before she could permanently join Harriet and her father in Sacramento. He may have been able to find the words to convince state legislators, governors, and army generals to agree with his point of view, yet he could not find the right words to make his daughter feel the least bit better about his departure to New York and then to California without her by his side.

On the 21st of October, the first full day of their lives together, James and Harriet, with a stunning diamond ring predominately displayed on her left hand, stood at the railing of the steamship Star of the West waving good-bye to her family. The ship would take them on their honeymoon to their new home in Sacramento, stopping first in San Juan, Nicaragua [Greytown], crossing the isthmus, and connecting with the same steamer, Sierra Nevada that James was aboard in July. Then, to San Francisco, boarding a river steamer to Sacramento. James had thoroughly briefed Harriet about what to expect on the 27-day journey. Watching out for storms off the west coast of Cuba, doing her best to keep the Nicaraguan jungle mosquitos from carrying her off to South America’s Cape Horn, and personally making sure that the captain avoided ramming another ship. The two steamer trunks full of Harriet’s bare necessities were aptly named. Not that the trunks were to be loaded on a steamer, but because lashed together they could serve as a backup vessel, the SS Harriet Ralston’s trunks. Needless to say, the two brawny deckhands who lugged them to the Ralston’s first-class cabin had few good words to say about their task, not to mention the miniscule gratuity James gave them for the effort. Unseen by James, Harriet added a substantial amount to the gratuity to avoid any possibility of his mysterious and unsolved disappearance at sea.

Views of Chapter 16  Home Comings - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Some of the finest carriages in the state carrying a select group of dignitaries with their wives began to arrive at the Johnson home on Sacramento’s F Street about seven in the evening on Saturday, December 3, 1853. Mary B. had spared no expense in tastefully presenting her lovely new home in an inviting warm glow. Luminaries lined the circular carriage path and leading up the steps to the front door. Candles softly lit each of the four tall windows facing the street and evergreen branches formed a garland hung from the railing of the second floor balcony. Few introductions were necessary as each of the couples entered the door to the living room where they were greeted by the formally attired Johnsons and Ralstons. From the back of the luxuriously appointed living room, a pianist seated at a grand piano imported from New York accompanied a distinguished violinist softly rendering the favorite classical music of the day.

The guests in attendance were the crème de la crème of Sacramento’s wealthy. John Sutter whose extensive land holdings included the site of the mill near the spot of discovery on the American River that spawned the gold rush. John Bigler the state’s current Governor, John B. Weller, U. S. Senator, Sacramento Mayor Hardenbergh, the Ralston’s landlord. Neely’s father-in-law and attorney, Judge James Zabriskie, Josiah and Leland Stanford, two of the six brothers in the process of amassing a fortune as general merchants, and Johnson’s law partners Ferris Forman, and James’ good friend Tom Sunderland. The evening’s festivities included a multi-course French cuisine candlelit dinner, dancing, and the expected discussions of the pressing financial and political topics of the day. On the Ralston’s ride back to the Orleans, Harriet was still in a state of joyous disbelief over her good fortune of attending her first ever formal affair let alone in the company of so many important people. James asked her what the most memorable part of the evening had been and with no hesitation she answered, being by your side.

On February 17th, 1854, James and Harriet were dockside in San Francisco as the familiar view of Pacific Mail Steamship, Sierra Nevada, made her way to port. Three months before, they had been travelers on Captain Blethen’s vessel and this time they were greeters, anxious to catch first sight of Lizzie. They both knew she would be at the ship’s railing taking in the many sights and sounds of the arrival as they had been. Not a hundred yards from the wharf Harriet tugged on James arm. She pointed to the figure of a young girl near the ship’s bow holding hands between two distinguished men unmistakably dressed in clerical garb. James confirmed his wife’s sighting of Lizzie and they both waved until they were spotted and their greeting was joyfully returned. Bishop Soule was the first traveler to descend the passenger ramp still tightly holding Lizzie’s hand. Before he even considered acknowledging the half-dozen or so news reporters and a large assembly of the church faithful, the stately cleric purposefully walked to James and Harriet. He told the couple that Reverend Thomas Neely Ralston sent his best wishes. He was pleased to complete his most delightful duty of delivering a charming intelligent young lady to the waiting arms of her father. Harriet curtsied and with Lizzie now in James’ arms, he freed one hand for a firm handshake to greet his Eminence. He thanked the Bishop for a job well done and assured the popular religious leader that he would not allow the next Methodist Episcopal collection plate he encountered to pass by him unfilled. The Bishop laughed, wished for God’s blessing on the Ralston family, and returned to greet the crowd. Harriet was thrilled that Elizabeth remembered, or was coached to remember her, from their days together in Quincy and the three of them left the San Francisco dock hand-in-hand; next stop, Sacramento.

There was a controversy on the horizon for the remaining months of 1854 that was to affect J. H. Ralston in more ways than he could ever have imagined at the time. In early January his longtime friend, U. S. Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, introduced the Nebraska Bill in the Senate. Simply stated, the bill called for extending Nebraska’s territorial border to the 49th parallel, the northern most United States border. Unlike previous legislation, this bill would allow any state or states subsequently admitted from this territory and the current Kansas Territory to decide by popular vote whether slavery would be allowed. Well before the furor in California and elsewhere began to rise, James made a personal decision to support his friend and the Democratic Party in favor of the bill’s passage. The bill was passed on the 30th of May and the legislation had several unintended but predictable consequences. A bloody border war began between Missouri’s border ruffians and Kansas jayhawkers, the demise of the Whig Party replaced by the Republican Party, and more fuel to the already flaming issue of slavery. Judge Ralston’s support of the controversial bill was the beginning to the end of his political career in California.

Views of Chapter 17  Brother-in-law and a Governor - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

On the 14th of October 1854, the steamship Sierra Nevada made its way through the golden gateway on its most recent trip from the Nicaraguan Isthmus and docked at San Francisco’s Jackson Street wharf. James and Harriet, accompanied by none other than the distinguished Tom Sunderland, waved when they first sighted Reverend Jackson who had accompanied his youngest daughter to her new home. There was an awkward moment when Tom and Amelia, who had exchanged letters for nearly six months, first met face-to-face. Both wanted to share an embrace though in the presence of the good reverend, they settled on a warm friendly handshake. Reverend Jackson returned to New York, Amelia took up residence at Shady Branch, and, after a short courtship, Amelia agreed to become Mrs. Sunderland in May of the following year.

At the August 9th,1855, American State Party convention held at Sacramento’s Presbyterian Church, delegates nominated several candidates for governor including J. H. Ralston. On the convention’s first ballot, the top four candidates garnering votes were Baldwin 82, Johnson 77, Wade 44, and Ralston 42. The Johnson receiving the second highest number of votes was none other than James close friend and cousin, attorney J. Neely Johnson! On the second ballot, Johnson received 118 votes, Baldwin 82, Stow 38, and Ralston 37. Prior to the third ballot, James withdrew his name from consideration and asked his delegates to cast their vote for Johnson. On the fourth ballot Neely was nominated as the party’s candidate and in early September John Neely Johnson was elected by a large margin of the state’s voters to a two-year term as California’s fourth governor. Several days later, Governor-Elect Johnson’s celebrations filtered down to a quiet evening dinner for four; Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and Judge and Mrs. Ralston. James and his 30-year-old cousin reminisced about their experiences of the last six years and about their common family heritage until the early hours of the morning. Perhaps even more so than his cousin, Neely wanted to see to it personally that James garnered the public recognition and status he so richly deserved.

A few short months after newly elected Governor Johnson was comfortably seated in his office at the Capitol, one of the darkest clouds in the history of the state began to billow in San Francisco. It took little time in spreading its dread to Sacramento. The city near the golden gateway previously known as the sleepy coastal village of Yerba Buena was transformed in two short years. San Francisco became a ship filled thriving port bringing thousands upon thousands of gold fevered amateur miners close to their eureka in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The recognized need for law and order fell woefully behind the establishment of saloons, hotels, general stores, banks, and assay offices. Many of these businesses made enormous profits from fraudulently providing the much sought after services to their unsuspecting and naïve patrons. Graft, corruption, and lawlessness were the orders of the day. When the state legislature, the court systems, and the municipal governments did begin to form, the positions of the latter were filled to the brim with the worst of the worst who wanted to protect the means of their ill-gotten gain. Well before 1856, the citizens were fed up with the situation and were joined at the hip with newspapermen who did not hesitate in voicing their fervent demands for change.

... The Governor summoned a small group of respected and influential Sacramento citizens led by his father-in-law attorney, J. C. Zabriskie, and Judge Ralston. He asked the men to travel to San Francisco as his representatives and find a way to negotiate an expeditious end to the violence. The group of negotiators agreed with Governor Johnson that the actions of the Vigilance Committee were no better than those of the men they summarily executed. After the lengthy and sometimes heated discussions, the meeting with the vigilante committee’s leadership failed to produce any conciliatory results; it was time for Neely’s Plan B.

The Governor became aware that a man working for the San Francisco banking firm of Lucas, Turner, and Company, William T. Sherman, a promising United States Army captain, who had resigned his commission in 1853. Sherman now made his home in the City by the Bay. A few members of the negotiating group, including Judge Ralston, accompanied the Governor to San Francisco where he met with Sherman and offered him command of San Francisco’s 2nd division of the state militia if he would agree to end the Vigilance Committee’s stranglehold on San Francisco’s municipal court system and police force. Sherman accepted. The new militia commander then met with General John E. Wool, Captain Ralston’s commanding General at the Alamo, and gained Wool’s unofficial agreement to provide the militia with breech loading muskets from the Benecia arsenal and cannons positioned at Rincon point. Three days later Wool reneged on his promise of supplying arms and Sherman promptly resigned his militia appointment. Fortuitously, the Vigilance Committee took one-step over the line when it jailed a respected justice of the California Supreme Court. The reign of terror ended in August of 1856 when cooler heads of the committee leadership finally prevailed. The continued unfair lambasting by the press of Governor Johnson’s handling of the whole affair haunted him for the remaining sixteen months of his governorship making California’s youngest ever elected top official ineffective in completing many of his worthwhile objectives.

Views of Chapter 18  The Family Grows - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

James was seated comfortably at the dining room table in the Ralston home at Shady Branch. Between sips of coffee, he had just finished reading an article in the mid-August, 1857 edition of the Union. The paper reported the Vigilance Committee’s release of Supreme Court Justice Terry that he knew would mark the end of the committee’s rampant lawless actions. Harriet walked from the kitchen to the dining room and quietly asked him for the third time in the last five minutes if she could pour him another cup. After looking at his full to the brim cup, he glanced at his wife with a bothersome smile and thanked her for her relentless service. He once again occupied himself with the news of the day. Harriet still stood next to her husband and cleared her throat. James again diverted his attention and before kindly asking his wife to just leave him in peace with his paper, he noticed Harriet’s nervous smile. On the many other occasions James had seen this smile he knew that it was her way of letting him know she had something she wanted to say. He immediately put the paper on the table, turned his full focus of attention to Harriet, and waited. Harriet again cleared her throat and in a barely audible tone she meekly told Judge Ralston that he was again going to be a father. Before his wife could tell him that she did not know how he would react to the news, James impatient frown turned to a broad smile as he sprang to his feet, embraced his young wife, and whispered that these were the happiest words he had heard in quite a long while. Harriet and James’ tears were those of pure joy.

In mid-February of 1858, James received a letter from his brother William who was living with his family in Leavenworth, Kansas Territory, just south of the army fort.

12 Jan. ‘1858, Kansas Territory


Dear brother,


Since not having communicated for some period, a pressing matter confronting our community about which I am in need of your view, has provided a bona fide reason for ending my inattention. Firstly, I must in all good conscience provide news on the family front.


Mary’s [wife] health of late has not been good and she plans to take an intermission from her motherly duties in this place for a visit to her mother’s home in Fairmont. Our domestic and I will do our best to manage the children in her absence. Your namesake flashes with your brilliance yet being a young male uses that inherited acumen to be a constant source of devilment to his three younger sisters; they are all flourishing in spite of the conflict. My legal and other various enterprises fortunately continue to challenge me, keep the wolves away from the door, and places food on our dinner table.


As you are no doubt aware, my fellow Kansans attempted through the Lecompton Constitution to have our territory admitted to the Union as a slave-holding state. I am glad your friend Douglas supported and won its defeat in Congress a few days ago. That action will no doubt forestall our statehood objective though now as a convert to the free soil movement I would rather reside in a free territory than a slave state.


However, many of us are tired and fearful of the Missouri border ruffians continually trying to extend their beliefs and their state boundaries to our peace-loving territory. My request, legislator Ralston, is to provide me your insight as to how the Californians who have an interest, view the turmoil in our besieged territory and can foresee a time, short of civil war throughout the land, when it can be made to end.


Please pass along my best wishes to your lovely wife and your children for their continued full health and happiness. I trust the activities of my infant nephew [Jackson] have not caused him to overstay his long awaited and loving welcome.


[signed] Will

There he sat in the country’s 30th state, first discovering the success of a major world communication event a full month after it happened! News of the rest of the country reached Sacramento with its age based on the number of days from Panama, New Orleans, or New York that it took a Pacific Mail Company steamship to arrive in San Francisco. Isolation was the first word that came to his mind. Today, if he stood next to a telegrapher, James could find out in a few short minutes about the current news of a friend in Carson City, Nevada, and reply. For a friend in the nation’s capital, he would need to wait at the very least, 24 days, not including a reply. The judge knew that based on the technology of the time, it would not be long before the great expanse of mountains and deserts separating the land of milk and honey from the rest of the country would be spanned. Telegraph poles, railroad tracks, and roads would be put in place simply because there was more than reason enough to do so.

Harriet had been under the care of Sacramento’s tall and thoroughly proper English born bachelor, Doctor James Blake. When the signs of a difficult pregnancy had first been diagnosed, he was by her side late in the evening of October 5th. Harriet was due to give birth at any time. The doctor decided to spend a sleepless night with James and Lizzie at Shady Branch frequently checking on the expectant mother. At first light, with help from her three attendants, Harriet gave birth to Mary Aurora Ralston. After a careful examination from the doctor, he pronounced mother and daughter to be fit as a pair of fiddles. James knew that with the much more than able knowledge of Doctor Blake, there could have been a far different outcome. He could not express enough gratitude for the doctor’s extraordinary care. Within days of the happy event, Harriet was up and about and with Lizzie’s help, seeing to the needs of her infant daughter and young son.


Views of Chapter 19  Twists and Turns - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

As a prelude to the 1859 U. S. senatorial election in Illinois, the two remaining candidates, both of them Judge Ralston’s acquaintances, squared off in a series of seven debates in the fall of 1858. James followed the encounters between Democrat Stephen Douglas and Republican Abraham Lincoln to the extent the limited news reports of the events allowed. The country’s growing divisive sentiments on the subject of slavery had to be the leading topic of the debates, and it was. James’ longtime friend Douglas advocated that whether thumbs up or down on slavery, it should be determined by the choice of the people at the ballot box. Lincoln on the other hand, frequently repeated the sentiments he first expressed in June at the Republican convention that nominated him, a house divided against itself cannot stand. Politically, James was now a borderline supporter of Senator Douglas because of his friendship and his former party affiliation, though he personally believed that attorney Lincoln was in the moral right. James learned in late January of 1859 that by a slim margin Douglas had retained his seat in the Illinois senate. He knew that Lincoln’s outspoken stand against slavery may well vault him to his new party’s presidential nomination in the upcoming election. He thought that if by some glimmer of a chance, Honest Abe should become president, may God be pleased to help us all.

With her husband’s help, Harriet and James sought out and found Mr. Bliss in one of Sacramento’s less than finest hotels. The precious little sad-eyed girl that answered the knock on the door caused Harriet to choke back her tears. Mrs. Ralston managed a friendly smile and she introduced herself to the child who called herself Mary. The child recognized Judge Ralston from earlier in the day and she politely asked the couple to come in. The three were soon joined by Mary’s father who was surprised by the Ralstons unannounced visit and asked how he could be of assistance. Harriet dispensed with formal introductions and pleaded with Bliss to allow her and her husband to make the arrangements necessary for his daughter to live at their home for whatever period was necessary. Mrs. Ralston knew immediately that Bliss’ joyful reaction to the offer would make it possible for the motherless child to leave with the happy couple. Mary gave a big hug and kiss to her father telling him she would see him soon and with no hesitation turned and walked hand-in-hand with the two strangers to the waiting carriage. James placed the small bedroll containing all but one of Mary’s every possession in the back of the carriage. Holding tight to her favorite possession, a well-worn cloth doll, Mary joined Judge and Mrs. Ralston in the carriage waving good-bye to the forlorn tearful father.

... Harriet accompanied Dr. Blake and Mary to the hospital. When the doctor asked that the child be placed in an isolated area and denied Harriet’s request to be by Mary’s bedside, Harriet knew the worst was yet to come. She returned to her duties at Shady Branch. Later that evening James’ consoled his distraught wife trying unsuccessfully to convince her that Mary was in the best of care and she would be fine. Early the next day Judge and Mrs. Ralston visited the hospital and waited for Dr. Blake to finish his morning patient rounds. The doctor met the Ralstons and shared the news that Mary had a confirmed case of scarlet fever and reminded them that many children survive the disease. He suggested a prayer for the best possible outcome. Harriet kept her composure though the tight grip she kept on James’ hand revealed the true depth of her concern and fears. After a short though valiant struggle, Mary passed away ten days later.

For the last few months, James had frequently reminisced about his travels. The sights and sounds, over 30 years before, of the rudimentary cabins and wood-frame structures he saw from a wagon on a rise overlooking Springfield nestled in Illinois’ Sangamon Valley. The even fewer abodes in Quincy on the bluffs and the number of cabins he could count on one hand in Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan. He remembered the dusty paths of the army’s fort in San Antonio and his first office in a canvas tent near the Sacramento River just a decade ago. All of these places had become flourishing centers of commerce and prosperity due to the diligence of people just like him who were in the right place at the right time with the right amount of money. He often regretted never even attempting to kneel by a stream swashing the contents of a tin pan and patiently looking for golden reflections. Now, another opportunity to seek real fame and fortune was less than a week’s ride from the chair where he sat. The strands of gray among the auburn hair he saw in the mirror every morning were a constant reminder that the number of such opportunities remaining may well be counted with a single finger. Is there silver in them thar hills? James needed to find out firsthand. How would he go about telling Harriet about his latest fantasy for another frontier foray. Careful deliberation was clearly in order.

Views of Chapter 20  Something New, Something Borrowed - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Since August of 1860, many of the notable names in Sacramento’s law circles had made an exodus from the plains city east to the considerable heights of Carson and Virginia City. One of those defectors was none other than Neely Johnson, from who James was surprised to receive a short, but to the point, serendipitous letter in early October.

26 September ‘60

Carson [Utah Territory]


Cousin James,


I awoke this morning and was able to confirm that my current residence in Carson City was not some form of a delirious dream. Though, at some point in time I may determine my change of address to be a nightmare. With the notable exceptions of a river that periodically deposits a foot of mud in the town’s streets and becoming winded on my early morning stroll, the tents and shanties here are a vivid reminder of our early days in Sacramento. But enough of my personal recollection.


This place [Carson City], and indeed the entire territory of Utah, including the Mormon stronghold near the Great Salt Lake is in need of capable attorneys whose services can attract a lucrative sum; I would add physicians to the list were I to mistake you for your brother. However, I was unaware that to ply our trade in this country requires substantive proof of residence in the same, a shortfall I have overcome at the expense of 30 days of not plying my trade.


My request is simple, come to Washoe. I, along with many of your friends now here, will welcome you with open arms and holstered pistols. Proof of my sincerity lays in the fact that my wife Mary, and our two children, will be joining me before the snow falls of which the aforesaid, as we have both experienced, is ample enough in this country.


Cousin Neely

When the time was right, this letter conveniently provided James with the facts he could use to frame a discussion with Harriet. He desired to pursue a life, including his family, in the endless deserts and high mountains of the frontier territory to the east.

A week later Judge Ralston decided to arrive early at his 4th street office to put the finishing touches on a brief he was to present at court that afternoon. He was surprised to find his 27 year-old junior partner, M. C. Tilden, already seated at his desk quickly turning the pages of a document as if he was looking through them for a particular passage. The judges greeting was met with a polite but nervous response and James asked his fidgety assistant if he could help with the work. M. C. finally looked up from the papers and uncharacteristically stumbled through a reply saying he thought he could find what he was looking for. James was now intrigued about what was bothering Tilden and he said as much. With a combined look of fear and dread, his partner stood from his chair and with perspiration dripping from his forehead he told the judge that he had a question he very much needed to ask. James handed M. C. his handkerchief and suggested he wipe his brow and try to calm down before he spoke. The Judge doubted there could be any subject he could think of that should cause such obvious anxiety on this cool pleasant morning. Tilden placed his hand on the corner of his desk as if bracing himself against a gale-force wind and blurted out a request for permission to marry Lizzie.

James stood motionless, reconsidering his previous thought about any subject. Before he could form a reply that in no uncertain terms would inform his junior partner that his daughter was only a child of 15, Harriet entered the room.

Near the end of the party, Mary Johnson was talking with Harriet and mentioned her plans to join Neely, with their children, in Carson City in a few weeks. She wondered if James had completed his plans to make a similar trip. Harriet simply replied with a questioning look, not to her knowledge. A good time was had by all though Harriet was anxious for her guests to leave so she could speak with James concerning Mary Johnson’s parting comment.

After the last guest departed, James made a beeline for his favorite chair and assumed a relaxed position after an unusually long day. Harriet returned to the sitting room from making sure that Jackson and Aurora were tucked in and asleep and she sat in her chair near James. After Harriet was comfortably seated, she casually addressed her husband as Judge Ralston and asked him when he was planning to let her in on an idea he may be entertaining to travel to Carson City. It would be an understatement to say that James found himself in the precarious position between a rock and a hard place though he was still hopeful of an escape. He truthfully shared with Harriet his reminiscences and his one last chance to be rich and famous on a new frontier. He took from his pocket the folded letter from Neely, a telegraphed message he had sent to Neely in reply, and handed them to Harriet.

Telegraph message, 3 October ’60 to J. Neely Johnson, Carson City UT


Neely [stop] I can only respond to your offer after I have spoken with Harriet [stop] J. H. [stop]


Harriet carefully read the two documents. She looked at James and rhetorically asked him if he thought for one moment that she would stand in the way of anything he believed he needed to do as long as the rest of the family could be by his side. She added from her standpoint, his age never had been and was not now an issue in any decision they made. James rose from his chair, leaned over, and gently kissed his wife on the forehead. He promised to never again doubt the unflagging support of the woman he loved.

In early November of 1860, the Sacramento countryside stirred with the anticipation of the presidential election to be held on the 6th of that month. All over the country bands played, speeches were made, bets parlayed, and politicians unstaid in every attempt to curry the favor of the voting public. The leading contenders were Abraham Lincoln, heading the Republican ticket, Stephen Douglas the regular Democrats, John Breckinridge the southern Democrats, and John Bell the Constitutional Union candidate.

On election day, Judge Ralston placed an x on his ballot next to Douglas’ name, reasoning that his friend’s election might forestall or even prevent an irreparable rift in the country between the north and the south on the slavery issue. The subject of slavery in the southern states was disguised as each state’s right to self-govern and to preserve its heritage that included the ownership of slaves. As early as the 15th, the San Francisco Daily Alta, and the Sacramento Daily Union declared Lincoln as president-elect. Those papers based their reporting on the early returns from the populated northern states including Lincoln and Douglas’ home state of Illinois. On the 28th of the month, California finally had an official tally from all of its counties showing Lincoln with a 681 vote margin over Douglas and a 4,999 margin over Breckinridge, out of over 120,000 votes cast. During and in the days following the election, rumor of secession in southern states was already being publicly reported. In James’ view, it was merely a matter of when and not if that action happened.

He had arranged to meet Mormon Colonel John Reese and his family in Carson City then join them in crossing the desert to Salt Lake City. Attorney Ralston would represent Reese in a suit tried before the Utah Territory Supreme Court in the thriving Mormon city by the Great Salt Lake. Assuming the weather cooperated, James was confident of an uneventful journey because Reese knew the route like the back of his hand. Also, his client was on friendly terms with the various Pah Ute Indian colonies inhabiting the desolate mountainous desert terrain. However, as it turned out the trip was anything but uneventful.

Before Lizzie kissed her new husband, she kissed Harriet on the cheek, blew a kiss in the air announcing it was for her absent father. Hand-in-hand the couple joyfully acknowledged the surrounding well-wishers. Everyone in attendance tried their best to catch a glimpse or, for the lucky ones, a full view of the couple exchanging their vows.

Harriet sat alone in the quiet of the evening satisfied with her deeds for that special day then fell asleep tearfully hoping that her man so far away was safe from harm.


Views of Chapter 21  Silver Baron ? - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Nearly the same time Lizzie said I do in Sacramento, Judge Ralston completed his closing arguments in his case before the Supreme Court in Salt Lake City. A few days later the court adjourned. James made arrangements to travel with a small group going west to Carson City though he would disembark at the Butte express station and travel by horseback to his claim about five miles farther west. On the 8th of February 1861, Judge Ralston boarded the overland stage in Salt Lake City with his traveling companions Major Egan and Edward Creighton. Miner Ralston neglected to account for two related obstacles before arriving at his claim a little over a week later. In mid-February and for the two months prior, at well over a mile-high elevation, the temperature rarely, if ever, reaches above freezing. Hence the ground is frozen to a depth of over two feet. James spent nearly a week with pick and shovel and freezing at night with no tent, he slept in a cave he found near-by. The hole he dug around the quartz vein was about 4 ½ feet deep at a 45-degree downward angle. The good news was that the full breadth of the vein extended that distance and, he still had feeling in his face, fingers, and toes. The bad news was he realized he would need help in digging deeper, and he returned to Salt Lake.

The Sacramento Daily Union published an update on the Judge’s progress to getting rich on April 11, 1861.

I had almost forgot to mention the absence of Judge Ralston at the silver mines he thinks that he has discovered... The Judge’s company only went out part way, and a heavy snowstorm turned them eastward again... since their return I have not heard the first one avow that he had ever gone further than Fort Crittenden, or ever intended going further. The judge has lost none of his faith, though his disciples have deserted him... the mail agents, aware of the danger from Indians, urged upon taking up quarters with them at Deep Creek [Pony Express station]... He is there at the present time and safe enough.

While at Deep Creek, the miner examined his alternatives for proceeding. He determined he would need more funding if he was to gain the level of expertise he needed to fully probe his discovery. On more than one occasion, James had used the newspapers to sway public opinion, why not this time. With the pony express riders literally stopping at his front door, he decided to write some letters. His first letter was to Harriet so that she knew where he was and that he was safe. The second letter was to J. Neely to see, if by way of the newspaper, his cousin could arouse some level of interest in the mining investment circles. A third letter, to the Sacramento Union extolled the virtues and possibilities of his discovery.

On the 13th day of April 1861, a Saturday, not a Friday, Judge Ralston was officially told that his vein, called a pocket find by Green, abruptly ended at 8 feet from the surface. Though there was quartz containing mainly silver and some gold, the cost to mine the claim far exceeded its ore value. He handed James a six-inch quartz crystal that in Green’s opinion was worth a $20 gold piece in any bank in the country, as a memory of his find. The men shook hands, and Green proceeded with his crew west to the Mountain Spring station leaving James sitting by his horse on the side of the mountain in perhaps the most remote spot in the desert. For a while James looked with utter disappointment at the crystal, then smiled and thought to himself, I am worth $20 more than I was before I came. He mounted his horse and rode in the opposite direction, east to the Deep River station.


Views of Chapter 22  Virginia City - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

The mining judge had been busily infatuated with his silver mine during the first four months of 1861 missing out completely on two other events of importance. One event, unknown to him at the time, would provide the stage for his next production. In late February and early March, the United States Congress sequentially passed two bills officially forming the Colorado Territory from a western portion of Kansas. The second bill formed the Nevada Territory from the area in western Utah Territory called Washoe. Departing President James Buchanan left the naming of the new Nevada Territory officials to his successor Abraham Lincoln. On March 22nd, Lincoln named New York Attorney James Warren Nye as the first governor of the Nevada Territory. A few days later, Lincoln appointed an ardent campaign supporter and little known Hannibal, Missouri newspaperman, Orion Clemens, as the territory’s secretary of state.

The other event that captured headlines across the country and eventually around the world was the commencement of the event most everyone predicted and feared, civil war. Confederate General Beauregard’s bombardment of Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor, on April 13th 1861, lead to Union Major Anderson’s surrender of the fort. This action triggered a flurry of events culminating in Lincoln’s proclamation to conscript 75,000 men from the states still in the Union in an effort to quell the rebellion. When James finally became aware of the conflict’s outbreak, he was even more determined to protect his family and himself from the political fallout and out of harm’s way by residing in the safety of the Nevada Territory, far from the war’s epicenter.

In July of 1861, Judge Ralston packed his belongings in two carpetbags and boarded an overland stage west to Carson City. From there he traveled 17 miles northwest where he intended to establish a law practice and make a home for his family in Virginia City.

In 1924, James’ son, Jackson, wrote about a five-year old’s vague memories of the trip Harriet, Aurora, and he made to Virginia City to join his father in November of 1861.

...[It was] in the month of November, that my mother with her two children, little more than babes, resolved to leave Sacramento for Virginia City, where my father in the first flush of the Comstock [Lode] days, had begun the practice of law. My mother was warned of the hardships and dangers of the trip …. for her, meaning a month of trouble.


In spite of all terrors, however, my mother with her children set out on the adventurous trip. Vaguely I can     picture stops among the trees in camp at night. For some reason our original conveyance [likely a stagecoach] was abandoned for another wagon with a strange driver….


A memory comes back to me of being snowbound in a sawmill, in one end of which privacy was secured for us by putting up blankets for curtains. High up in the Sierras I seem to see a moment of danger when the wagon is apparently about to go over the steep outer side of the road, while the boulder clad mountain rises high on the other, with snow all about. My sister and myself are dropped out of the wagon while my mother in terror jumps for her life. When the wagon is righted we proceed on our journey….


The latter part of the journey was for a short distance by stage, which took us to Carson, where we were joined by my father. Thence the trip to Virginia City was a short and unadventurous one.

The extensive barren surroundings of Virginia City coupled with the unusual odors that occasionally wafted from town up to the Ralston’s mountain side home were just two of the many reasons Harriet was bound and determined to make the Christmas of 1861 a special event. She started the work by locating, with her children’s help, a particularly spectacular Douglas Fir in the forests leading to Lake Bigler [Tahoe]. A silver dollar persuaded the wagon driver to cut the magnificent find, load it into the wagon, and carry it back to Virginia City. For another two-bits, he nailed the tree’s base to a couple of short two-by-fours and helped Harriet positon the evergreen just so in the middle of the living room. She spent the next few hours in the Chinese neighborhood of the city bargaining for candles. Returning home, she adorned nearly every branch on the tree with something colorful to put the finishing touches on her Christmas masterpiece. When James came home at his usual early evening hour, he was greeted by luminaries that were in every window of the house and lit his path to the front door. Once inside, Harriet placed a blindfold around her husband’s head. Jackson and Aurora took Father by the hand leading him to the living room for the grand presentation of this year’s version of Christmas in the high desert. The blindfold removed, James was nearly overwhelmed by the scene that brought back the pleasant memories of James and Harriet’s first Christmas as good friends in Quincy, and the Johnson’s gala, as newlyweds, in Sacramento. Beside the warmth of the fireplace, the Ralston family raised three wine glasses, a baby bottle filled with hot chocolate toasting one thing then another, and ending with a toast to the wife and mother they all loved. There was a mad scramble to the living room the next morning for the grand opening of gifts under the tree. Dinner featuring roast turkey, warmed pine nuts, and custard, more than succeeded in satisfying Harriet’s Christmas wish and far exceeded any expectations of her family.

Two weeks before the planned celebration, the city held a contest for the person who could author the most appropriate poetic verse for the occasion. The winner would have the honor of reciting their creation prior to an oratorical presentation in the middle of town. At the stroke of 2:00 o’clock, Harriet ascended the stairs of the temporary platform. She met the polite applause from the women in the crowd in recognition of the contest winner’s gender. She waxed poetic for nearly five minutes followed by more applause mixed with an occasional hurrah. This time from everyone within hearing distance in appreciation of her poetic skill. After she rejoined her husband, James whispered to her that in his experience such a raised platform is used for a hanging or to present a medal. He was most pleased she received the latter. Harriet’s laughter briefly interrupted the introduction of the featured orator.

The second event of some consequence for the Ralstons was that by late August the candidates for the Nevada territorial delegate to the United States Congress was whittled to four. Among them was J. H. Ralston. James had made a large number of speeches, shook a multitude of hands, and kissed more than his fair share of babies in his territorial newcomer role. He needed to convince the voters and even the ballot box stuffers that he was a worthy representative. The election was held September 3rd, 1862 and Judge Ralston finished a distant 4th. Thus, in James opinion, likely and forever ending his political career. The outcome was expected and this time there was little hand wringing, sadness, or disappointment in the Ralston household.


Views of Chapter 23  Virginia City - COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Orion Clemens received a letter from his younger brother Samuel in late July of 1862;

My debts are greater than I thought. I bought $ 25 worth of clothing…. I owe about $40 or $45 and have got about $45 in my pocket. But how the hell am I going to live on something over a $100 until October or November…? The fact is, I must have something to do, and that shortly, too…. Now it has been a long time since I couldn’t make my own living, and it shall be a long while before I loaf another year.

The younger Clemens had spent the last year in the Nevada Territory and California with unproductive speculative ventures. He had finally begun to discover that this occupation, his dream of riches, the same dream of thousands of other prospectors including James Ralston, would not, so to speak, pan out. He decided it was time to fall back on his part time occupation of writing. Sam tried to persuade the Sacramento Daily Union to take him on though, unknown to him, Orion had already made a more productive contact on his behalf in Virginia City. Years later, Sam described what happened next.

I found a letter in the post office as I came home from the hill side, and finally opened it. Eureka! It was a deliberate offer to me of Twenty-five Dollars a week to come up to Virginia /i>[City] and be city editor of the [Territorial] Enterprise.


Just as James had done, Sam took a little more time to swallow his pride and concede failure as a miner. In mid-September, he literally walked to work, because horses cost money. He hoofed it from his latest nonpaying mine in Aurora, Nevada, 120 miles north to Virginia City, arriving near the end of September.

In late January of 1863, J. Neely and his wife held a grand open house party in Carson City celebrating the completion of their lavishly appointed new home. Judge Ralston and Harriet were invited guests. In the less than formal society of the territory, they both had the pleasing and rare opportunity to dress to the nines, he in a tuxedo and Harriet in a lovely sequined red satin gown. The Ralstons and at least one-hundred other guests, many of whom they knew, were greeted by Cousin Neely and Mary at the grand entrance of their extravagant home. After fifteen minutes of obligatory mingling, James saw Samuel Clemens, dressed to the ones, standing in a corner savoring a glass of hot whiskey punch. James hoped his presence did not hold the purpose of a tongue-in-cheek account of the event that would appear in the following morning edition of the Enterprise. Unfortunately, he knew Clemens well enough to know his hope was a practical impossibility.

From a letter dated January 31, 1863, appearing in Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise, February 3, 1863, written by Samuel Clemens, though signed by Mark Twain, the first use of the famous pen name:

With the help of his closest friends, Judge Ralston began to develop a strategy that would afford him the best opportunity to be a delegate at the prestigious constitutional convention. It became clear to the strategists that James had little chance of being elected from Carson City’s county, Ormsby, or the surrounding counties of Washoe, Storey, Lyon, and Douglas. Of the counties remaining, James preferred the central Nevada Territory of Lander County for several reasons. The first being that the overland stage conveniently connected the northern part of the county to his home in Virginia City. Another was that he had heard of some excitement over the recent discovery of silver in that area. Alas, the dream had not yet completely vanished. James shared his plan with Harriet stating his political motivation for his temporary move to the fledging mining town of Austin, Nevada in Lander County.

Just prior to the convention delegate election, at Harriet’s insistence, she, Jackson, and Aurora joined James in Austin to lend him loving support during the ballot counting. In Jackson’s recollection of his time in Nevada, he wrote:

One day there was an election, I went to the polls and was handed a ticket to vote for my father who was a candidate for election to the first constitutional convention of Nevada…. Some things made me doubtful if my vote entered the ballot box [tongue-in-cheek, because of this young age], but nevertheless my father was elected.

There was another familiar face in attendance, Sam Clemens of the Territorial Enterprise. After the convention was over, as Mark Twain, Sam authored a letter on December 13th 1863, about selected convention participants describing what Twain called the Third House. The Enterprise published his letter.

... The Ralston family once again moved, this time to Austin. Harriet, after having the earlier opportunity to become familiar with their new home, still considered it nearest to the end of the earth.

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January of 1864 in Austin, Nevada could be described as what seemed to Harriet to be nothing short of miserable. She had grown accustomed to the thinner air at over 6,000 feet from her time in Virginia City. However, the winter wind in Austin seemed to blow through a person unchecked by even the heaviest winter coat. Had Judge Ralston offered to take her and the children back to the warm sunshine of her Garden of Eden in the Sacramento Valley, even the seemingly annual flooding of their former home would not raise a hint of complaint. As it was, despite the cold wind and the frigid temperatures, the Ralston family was together again. When often huddled around the warmth of a fire in the parlor fireplace, the dour wintry circumstances seemed to happily fade away.

Spring had sprung in Austin by late April of 1864 and the brilliant colors of alpine wildflowers were everywhere to be seen. The snow-melt from the soaring heights of the northern Toiyabe mountain range began to fill the hundreds of streams in and around town that soon became white bubbling rivulets chasing down the mountainside. At mid-morning, April 28th, 1864, James and Harriet stood on their front porch leisurely enjoying the early onset of spring. This brief respite was set in the town’s endless rush of activity caused exclusively by the discoveries of ore in the higher reaches of the mountains.

Judge Ralston’s self-appointed task for the next few days was to purchase a yoke of oxen for use at the Birch Creek claim he made the previous year. He told Harriet that after he found the oxen, he would take them to the cabin, put them through their paces, and return to Austin no more than a week later. J. S. Whitton, a friend and fellow mining stock speculator, who had volunteered to help James with his chore, rode his horse to the hitching post in front of the Ralston’s porch. The two of them planned to ride the scenic, shorter, and more perilous trail along the side of the mountains to Geneva, about 8.5 trail miles south of Austin. James had heard that a departing miner with no dollars to his name, though with some apparent remaining sense, had oxen for sale in Geneva at a bargain price. Harriet hugged James, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and lovingly reminded him to be careful. She received a smiling confident reply that marrying her was the perfect example of his being careful in everything he did. James waved to a still laughing Harriet as the two men reined their horses down the hill toward town.

The Judge and Whitton arrived in Geneva that afternoon and much to James’ dismay the miner had no more than an hour earlier sold his oxen. The two men asked around to find out if there were any more of the beasts of burden for sale in the vicinity. The only positive reply came from the owner of the general store who had heard of a team for sale at Deering’s Ranch about 17 miles east down in the Smoky Valley. James knew it would be near dark by the time they arrived at Deering’s, so he told Whitton to return to Austin while there was plenty of light to negotiate the treacherous trail. He would ride on down to Deerings and spend the night. The next morning, if he found some oxen, he would hire one of the ranch hands to help him bring them back up the trail to his cabin. Whitton reluctantly agreed to the plan and the two men parted ways. Judge Ralston arrived at Deering’s Ranch just before dark and soon found out that the oxen the ranch did have for sale were purchased nearly two weeks before. The ranch manager suggested that the judge spend the night in one of their houses then ride to his ranch the next morning. James declined the offer boasting that he knew the trail well enough to reach the safety of his cabin. He jokingly added that since he had ridden past the cabin no more than a few hours ago, in the worst case he could re-trace his horse’s shoe steps. The judge crossed back over the valley and before he started the climb back to his cabin he thought better of negotiating the trail in the moonless night and set up camp.

What befell Judge James H. Ralston sometime during the night or early the next morning will forever remain a mystery. It is known that he was without his horse that was found wandering in the desert weeks later. What is also known is that whether he fell from his horse and struck his head or, without injury, he suffered some form of debilitating severe amnesia, his mental faculties abandoned him. Though, as the next ten days would attest, his basic instinct to survive and his body remained dutifully strong.

A letter from Harriet to Lizzie Tilden dated May 17th, 1864 related the following:

I have written to you, from time to time, a full account of the details concerning the Judge since he left us to go with Whitton in search of oxen for use on his ranch…. We did not know for nearly a week that he had not reached the ranch, 40 miles from here and then his hired hand brought word. Since then diligent search has been made, and we know that he was almost at his ranch; but that at night he must have lost his reckoning, and never again found the right course. He left the hotel [Deering’s Ranch] so late …. that he had to travel at night to get to where he has evidently camped; and as he was always fearless about traveling, believing that he could not get lost, he has ventured too far, and I fear it was a fatal venture.


A Shoshone Indian, named Onewada, told Gilson that his squaw had seen a white man the day it snowed and he was very weak and tottering. She wanted him to go to camp with her though he did not agree to go. She offered him some pine nuts that he would not take and she said he kept repeating the English words, my ranch, my house. Because of the snow and the cold, Onewada and his squaw knew the white man would soon die. The Indian told Gilson that when they found his body the next day they decided to burn it to keep it from being eaten by coyotes.

... A number of days before the last search party returned to Austin, Harriet’s tears were spent and she had found a way to accept the worst of all possible outcomes. When she was actually told the news, she calmly thanked the messenger with a polite smile, took a seat in her living room chair, and wearily put her head in her hands. Her worst nightmare of the endless days and sleepless nights of the last month had been that she would never know what happened to her husband and she thanked God for bringing her much needed closure.

She was dressed in mourning black. With one hand in Aurora’s and the other in Jackson’s, she proudly held her head high as the family walked slowly to the cemetery behind a wagon carrying the flag-draped coffin containing the judge’s remains.

The Reveille, 6/3/1864

The last sad duties the living owe to the dead were exercised yesterday by our citizens in the interment of the remains of the late Judge Ralston. His body upon its arrival in town was taken in charge by his brother Masons, of which order he had attained the rank of Knight Templar. At an early hour yesterday, the members of the Legal Fraternity met at the Court House and resolved in a body to attend the funeral of the honored deceased. The procession formed in front of the Court House at one o’clock, and headed by the Austin Brass Band, followed by the Masons in regalia, the members of the Bar, Firemen, hearse, the Family of the deceased, citizens on horseback and in carriages, the cortege marched to the [Austin Masonic and Odd Fellows] cemetery. This was the most imposing funeral that has yet occurred in Austin. The worth, position and high esteem, with the melancholy circumstances attending the death of Judge Ralston, gave a solemn and universal interest to the occasion. After the interment, the procession returned, marching to a lively tune, to the Court House, and dispersed.



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After James’ death, Harriet, Jackson Jack, and Aurora continued to live for about a year in Austin while the judge’s estate was settled. Then, she and the children went by ship via Panama to New York and to her father’s home in Oyster Bay, NY. There, living with her father, Rev. Aaron Jackson, and her stepmother, Martha Quigley Jackson.

Shortly after Harriet’s father died in August of 1868, the family moved to Ithaca, where Harriet would continue to pursue her passion for poetry. In early 1869, Aurora contracted scarlet fever while in Ithaca and shortly after she died leaving her mother heartbroken and completely despondent. In his 1941 autobiography Jack Ralston wrote about his sister’s death:

While her departure was a course of deep sorrow to my mother and myself …in retrospect, bearing in mind her unfitness for a rough world, perhaps her death brought her eternal relief.


In the spring of 1873 , she and Jack moved to Washington, D. C. where Jack found a job with the Government Printing Office. A year later, Harriet was employed as a copyist in the U. S. Attorney General’s Office at an annual salary of $500. During his time in the printing office, Jack attended Georgetown University Law School, earning his law degree in 1876. Jack wrote about the experience:

When 17 and in the Govt. Printing Office, because of the more convenient hours, I attended the Georgetown University Law School for two years. Altho afterwards an excellent institution, it had most incompetent teachers, selected, it may have been, because of religious affiliations rather than scholastic attainments. These two years—eight months in each – enabled us students to be admitted to the bar, and our education to be acquired mostly in practice. Thus at 19 I was entitled to call myself a lawyer.


Late in 1885, Harriet and Jack moved to the new Washington, D. C. suburb of Hyattsville, MD where Harriet built a home they referred to as Wing Rest. Jack served on the Hyattsville town council and during this period. Because of her poetic contributions, Harriet became an active member of the newly formed Women’s National Press Association [WNPA]. The WNPA, founded in 1882, had for a brief time as its honorary president, Mary Todd Lincoln. The WNPA allowed Harriet to rub elbows with many of the elite Washingtonian women of the day including Frances Willard, suffragette and founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union [WCTU], and Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.

In 1902, Jack H. Ralston was the lead counsel representing the United States against Mexico in the first case heard at The Hague in the Netherlands that resulted in a substantial monetary settlement in favor of the U. S. In 1903, Jack and Birdie spent six months in Caracas, Venezuela where he was an umpire in a case of Italy vs. Venezuela, resulting in a judgment against Venezuela. These two assignments established Jack in his highly regarded legal career in Washington, D. C.

Harriet continued to make poetic contributions through the first 20 years of the 20th century and Jack, with his long-time Washington law partner, Frederick Lincoln Siddons, continued to be thoroughly involved in the law. On Jackson’s 63rd birthday, 2/6/1920, Harriet Ralston passed away, at the age of 91, at Jack and Birdie’s Washington townhome.

In 1924, Jack retired from his law practice and he and Birdie moved to a comfortable home in Palo Alto, CA.

In Palo Alto, Jack continued his passion of pursuing the subject of single taxation, updating some of his previous books about practicing international law, and lecturing at Stanford University. On the 8th of February, 1937, at the age of 79, Birdie, Jack’s wife of 49 years and 8 months, passed away from pneumonia. They had traveled frequently together to exotic locations around the world usually mixing Jack’s business with their pleasure and he was a lonely man without her.

In 1930 Jack had asked a good friend he had known since his later years in Washington D. C. to edit the first edition of a book he had just completed titled What’s wrong with taxation?. This friend, Opal Ralston, a 4th cousin, was working in the social welfare department for the city of Vallejo, CA. She visited Jack in Palo Alto shortly after Birdie’s death to help him recover from the loss of his wife. In early October of the following year, Jack and Opal, 31 years younger, were married in San Diego, CA. Near the end of his life, Jack wrote about his aging condition.

I have indicated that I was obliged to limit straining exertions beyond a certain point. This remains true affecting unusual labors to this time. Little as it [this letter] is, it took strength and from day-to-day, strength and energy seems to ooze out… Health is an important consideration. Death has made some attempts on me, and being disappointed, is just now trying rheumatism for a change. Don’t know, of course, how this will work out, altho it so far seems to mean more pain than destruction. We shall see… May I say that if long life is a blessing, I am fortunate in having a wife [Opal] who is determined that I shall enjoy it as delightfully as Nature will permit.


On the 13th of October 1945, at the age of 88, Jack died.


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Beginning in 1876, the fortunes of the M. C. Tilden family turned into what could be called a litany of sadness and tragedy. On January 19, 1876, the joyous birth of twin daughters, Mary Elizabeth and Elizabeth Jeanette, the Tilden’s 5th and 6th children was celebrated under a cloud of darkness because of the failing health of their mother. Lizzie had dreams of being a mother from the time in her early teens when she took an active role in caring for her half-brother and sister Jackson and Mary Aurora. She remembered the stories her father shared about her mother and how much Lizzie reminded her father of his beloved Jane, taken from them in San Antonio much before her time. For reasons she could not explain, Lizzie believed her life too would end prematurely and she wanted to live her dream of motherhood to its fullest. Three months after the birth of her twin daughters, at age 31, Lizzie passed away.

Sacramento Daily Union, 11/30/1877:


Sad Accident. A distressing accident, resulting in the death of a little child of M. C. Tilden, took place Wednesday night at the residence of Judge J. T. Landrum. Mrs. Landrum has had charge of the twin daughters of Mr. Tilden since shortly after the death of their mother, which took place when they were but a few weeks old, and has been as a second mother to them. Lately her house has been infested with rats, and Wednesday evening Mrs. Landrum mixed a quantity of strychnine with some mashed potato in a saucer, intending to place it where the rats would get at it. Unfortunately, her husband got the impression that she was preparing the potato as food for the children. During the night the children awoke, and while Mrs. Landrum was attending to the wants of one of them [Elizabeth Jeanette] her husband took up what he thought was food prepared for the little ones and fed the other [Mary Elizabeth]. In a brief time, Mrs. Landrum noticed what he [her husband Judge Landrum] was doing and bade him desist, exclaiming, "Oh, Judge, that is poison, you have killed my baby!

The third death of a Tilden family member, in just over three years, occurred in San Francisco in August of 1879. Sacramento Daily Union, 8/25/1879:

Body found—The remains of young Tilden have been found at Oakland and will be brought here today for burial. No further particulars have been received.


She was born in Sacramento—A Daughter of Judge Tilden. The Carson [City, NV] Appeal of the 23rd says: "Laura M. Tilden, daughter of Judge M. C. Tilden, of Virginia City, passed a most creditable examination in the Supreme Court yesterday morning, and an order was made admitting her as an attorney and counsellor in all the courts of this State. The Judges, in deciding, remarked that she passed the most satisfactory examination of any person that has ever appeared before them.

As the 1896 New Year began, M. C. and Elizabeth were in San Francisco, Laura was in Sacramento practicing law, and Frank was somewhere near Cape Town, South Africa involved with diamond mining. On the 31st of January, in the obituary section of the San Francisco Call a small notice appeared:

Tilden—In this city, January 30, 1896, Marcellus C. Tilden, father of Frank N., Laura M., and Elizabeth J. Tilden, a native of Ohio, aged 62 years, 7 months and 17 days.

Less than a year later, word was received that Frank was killed by an elephant he wounded in the bush near Fort Jameson, Northern Rhodesia [now Chipata, Zambia].

San Francisco Call, 7/28/1910, Wounded Elephant Kills a California Hunter in Africa


[Special Dispatch to The Call] SACRAMENTO, July 27.— Frank N. Tilden, a Sacramento man, was killed by an elephant while near Fort Jamison, in Rhodesia, British Central Africa, on May 28.

Laura married Walter Curtis Wilson in Denver in 1916 then she moved to Montrose, CO about 1920 where she again practiced law. On May 31, 1928 she and a friend were driving in the Rocky Mountain foothills near Montrose looking for tracts of land she was interested in buying. Her car left the road, overturned, and she died of injuries she received. Laura was buried in the Sacramento Cemetery, the 5th of 6 children of M. C. and Lizzie Ralston Tilden that accidentally died a tragic death.

The sixth child, Elizabeth Jeanette Tilden and her husband Ira E. Randall, Sr. lived in San Francisco for a number of years. They had five children, four of whom reached adulthood. Ira passed away in 1939 and Elizabeth in 1948, at the age of 72, after a full family-centered life. They are both buried in the San Francisco National Cemetery, also known as the Presidio Cemetery.