Isaac Graham

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Isaac Graham (September 1, 1800 – November 3, 1863) was a fur trader and mountain man. In 1830, he joined a hunting and trapping party at Fort Smith, Arkansas that included George Nidever. Graham attended the rendezvous of 1832 and took part in the battle of Pierre's Hole. From there, Graham's path to California is unclear. He may have joined Joseph R. Walker's party[1] or joined one of the groups led by Ewing Young. His son later claimed that Graham came by way of Oregon, while his daughter said he took a southern route through Chihuahua, Mexico. The next positive evidence finds him at Natividad, northeast of Salinas, where he established a distillery.[2]

In 1836, he led a group of American and European immigrants who supported Juan Bautista Alvarado in the coup against Governor Nicolás Gutiérrez. Later, Alvarado turned against Graham and had him arrested, among a group of about 100 foreigners, in 1840. This action led to a diplomatic crisis, involving Mexico, the United States and the United Kingdom, that became known as the "Graham Affair". With the help of a recent arrival in Monterey, Thomas J. Farnham, Graham and the others were released. Farnham later wrote a romanticized account of these events. In 1841, Graham moved north to the Santa Cruz area, where he again established a distillery and later a sawmill at Rancho Zayante, near the present-day community of Felton.

Although not a Mexican citizen, Graham was able to purchase the Zayante land by proxy through his fellow frontiersman Joseph Majors, owner of the adjacent Rancho San Agustin. Other former mountain men and Graham associates were also at Zayante, including Job Dye, who later dictated a memoir including some adventures he shared with Graham.[3] In 1851, Graham purchased Rancho Punta del Año Nuevo, on the coast north of Santa Cruz. Part of Graham Hill Road, now a major route between Felton and Santa Cruz, was built by Graham to transport his timber to the coast for shipment.

See also[edit]


  • Bancroft, Hubert Howe. History of the Pacific States of North America, Vol. XVI: California, Vol. IV: 1840-1845. The History Company, San Francisco: 1886. (Retrieved 4 Mar 2010).
  • Nunis, Doyce Blackman. The Trials of Isaac Graham, Dawson's Book Shop, 1967. OCLC: 1016212