The Indians of Southern California in 1852: The B.D. Wilson Report and a Selection of Contemporary Comment

The Indians of Southern California in 1852: The B.D. Wilson Report and a Selection of Contemporary Comment

The Indians of Southern California in 1852: The B.D. Wilson Report and a Selection of Contemporary Comment

The Indians of Southern California in 1852: The B.D. Wilson Report and a Selection of Contemporary Comment

Synopsis

Benjamin Davis Wilson was one of the first American settlers in Southern California. He became a prosperous rancher and the mayor of little Los Angeles. A special friend of the Indians of Southern California, Wilson was appointed their subagent in 1852, when the Indians were on the edge of catastrophe - their population reduced by two-thirds within a generation. Wilson's great contribution, the one he wished to be remembered for, was to appraise the problems of these Indians and urge their settlement on land set aside for them. His report (published in the Los Angeles Star in 1868) was instrumental in creating the reservation system. The Indians of Southern California in 1852 was inspired by Wilson's desire "to secure peace and justice to the Indians". He recognized his duty to guard against Indian raids on the ranchos and settlements while establishing policies that ensured the future welfare of Indians suffering from the breakdown of the old mission program. Besides the influential Wilson report, this volume contains vivid descriptions of life in the so-called Cow Counties of Southern California at mid-nineteenth century. Also included are excerpts from contemporary newspapers.

Excerpt

On October 16, 1852, the editors of the Los Angeles Star hailed the appointment of a fellow townsman to federal office. "The universal expression of satisfaction . . ." they said, "is the surest evidence that the appointment is a good and proper one," and they went on to predict that it would assure "permanent peace with all those tribes which have, in times past, been so troublesome to the country."

The office filled was of modest rank: sub-agent for Indian affairs in southern California. The man appointed--Benjamin Davis Wilson--had already stamped himself as a prominent figure in the community.

A native of Tennessee and eight years a trapper and trader in New Mexico, Wilson had come to California in 1841 with the Workman-Rowland party, the first group of settlers from the United States to enter by the southern route. Already familiar with Spanish American customs, he quickly identified himself with the Californians, to whom he soon was "Don Benito." He married Doña Ramona Yorba, acquired land, and turned ranchero. He earned fame as a bear hunter, incidentally affixing the place name Big Bear Lake, and he also showed a special flair for dealing with the Indians.

In 1845 at Cahuenga, when the adherents of Micheltorena and Alvarado lined up to battle for the governorship, Don Benito helped avert bloodshed. After being taken prisoner at the battle of El Chino in 1846, he served again as mediator in . . .

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