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“There ought to be a law against anybody going to Europe till they have seen the things we have in this country.”
Francis Ziba Branch
Member of the first main route party with William Wolfskill
Branch eventually settled in the howling wilderness that was Arroyo Grande, California The home town of our trail boss, Richard Waller.
Here is a short biography of Branch. What we don't have is a journal or other information from the trip with Wolfskill.
This is from the Morrison book:
Francis Ziba Branch was born in New York, July 24, 1802. His father died before he could remember him, and as soon as he was able the boy had to become self-supporting. He went to work on the Erie canal, then on the Great Lakes and Mississippi river boats. At St. Louis he joined a party of one hundred fifty men, with eighty-two ox-drawn wagons, bound for Santa Fe, N. M. Later Mr. Branch joined a party under William Wolfskill, bound for California. In this state Mr. Branch engaged in hunting the sea otter. He made enough capital to set up a store at Santa Barbara. In 1835 he married Dofia Manuela Corlona. In 1837 he received his great land grants on the Arroyo and the Santa Manuela, amounting to almost 17,000 acres. Later he became owner of the Huer-Huero and Pismo grants. He came to live upon his Arroyo grant and built a large adobe house. To proČtect his stock from Indians and bears, he kept his horses in a large corral. A bell was kept on one of the animals to warn him if they were disturbed. One night the steady tinkling of the bell aroused his suspicions.. He went out and found an Indian steadily ringing- the bell, while the. corral was empty of horses. The rifle ball he sent after the thief missed, but soon Price, Sparks, Dana, Branch and others organized against the thieves, and more than one met his dues at the hands of the ranchers..

Bears were a great pest, killing the stock, and Mr. Branch related how, on one occasion, a bear killed a cow and partly ate the carcass. A pit was arranged, •covered with brush, and in this Branch and a companion hid, hoping to get bruin the following night, when he or she returned to finish the cow. It proved to be "she" and her cub. Branch shot the cub, and the cries of her child enraged the mother beyond telling. She tore around the dead body, leaping at the trees, tearing great strips of bark from them. Neither of the men in the pit dared reload and fire, so they stayed till mornČing, when the maddened creature left. On another occasion Mr. Branch said he saw nine bears at one time eating berries in the thickets on the hillside. He had his rifle and had gone out intending to shoot a bear if he saw one. .To shoot nine was more than he wanted to tackle, so he quietly "got out:"

Michael Daugherty, "Old Mike," was a valued servant on the place; and one time when a bear had killed a calf, he skinned the calf, put on the skin with head and horns attached, and "lay" for the bear. He also got it when it came back to finish the calf. In a copy of the San Luis Tribune, 1877, Hal Williams writes of a visit to the Branch estate. In the old adobe house one room was used for a school room; and fifteen children, mostly scions of the Branch family, were being taught there. In another room 'Old Mike, now blind and eighty years of age, was being cared for. He said one clay, while talking to Williams, "I don't know where old man Branch has gone, but wherever he is, he wants Mike." A few months later, November 3, 1877, Old Mike went to his master.

Mr. Branch at one time was the wealthiest man in the county, owning 37,000 acres of land and great herds of cattle and horses; but the dry years of 1862-63-64 almost ruined him and many others. In the beginning of 1863 he had 20,000 head of large cattle; before the close of 1864 he could gather less than 800 alive. Early in 1863 a cattle buyer from the north offered him twenty-eight dollars a head for his cattle; Branch refused and the deal was off. By failing to sell at the price offered, he lost $96,000. He was a man well liked and was elected treasurer of the county and supervisor of his disČtrict. He died May 8, 1874, and is buried in the family burying ground on the Santa Manuela ranch. His descendants still live on portions of the old grants and in the towns of Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo.

"Pioneers of San Luis Obispo County & Environs" 1917, by Annie L. Morrison and John H. Haydon. Reprinted 2002 by Friends of the Adobes, San Miguel. Buy from Friends of the Adobes, in San Miguel.

Trail Boss: Richard Waller
Backcountry Horsemen of America
Backcountry Horsemen of California

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