Duel!

Showdown. Shootout. Shoot ’em up cowboy.
The picturesque wild west, was well – wild. 
An ideal “wild west” scenario probably wouldn’t be complete without a duel. Dueling, imported to America from Ireland and England, was a common way to handle many situations including neighbor quarrels, gambling disputes, or libel.
duel

It seems barbaric in our day. However a lot of people viewed it as honorable. Contrary to popular belief, the point of a duel was not “shoot to the death,” although that was frequently the outcome.
For example, in the code of dueling or the “Code Duello” “Any wound sufficient to agitate the nerves and necessarily make the hand shake, must end the business for that day.

Benjamin Franklin Morris was born deep in the heart of Texas.

Photo courtesy of Denise

Photo courtesy of Denise

See how you're related! Jacob C. See is the uncle-in-law to Benjamin Franklin Morris

See how you’re related! Jacob C. See is the uncle-in-law to Benjamin Franklin Morris. His sister (Rachel Jane See) had a daughter who married Ben Morris.

Later, in 1851-1852 his family settled in the Bakersfield area. They came to San Luis Obispo, California  around 1854 and went into cattle ranching. The Morris’s had their own stables and were breeders of fine horses. He was also listed as being a “Justice of the Peace” in the Coulterville Mariposa Newspaper.

Horses on a farm around 1800. These horses could have been similar to the kind Benjamin Franklin Morris would have raised

Horses on a farm around 1800. These horses could have been similar to the kind Benjamin Franklin Morris would have raised

Benjamin Franklin Morris. Photo courtesy of ancestry.com

Benjamin Franklin Morris. Photo courtesy of ancestry.com

When Benjamin was 26 he married Emmaline “Emma” Jane Monroe in San Luis Obispo, California on March 16, 1870. They had three daughters together. Sarah Amelia, Elizabeth (Etta) and Rebecca Marion. Emma died in 1877 during childbirth when Rebecca was born. Emma who was married at 16, passed away when she was 23.
With a newborn in the house, it was only a short two months later when Benjamin married Amanda Allen Laird.

Benjamin Franklin Morris with his second wife Amanda Laird and his daughter Etta morris

Benjamin Franklin Morris with his second wife Amanda Laird and his daughter Etta morris

With his second wife Amanda, Benjamin has four more children. Benjamin Jr. (born 1879), Mary Jane (born 1880), Josephine Goldie (born 1882), and John A. T. (birth date unknown).

It is ironic that Benjamin Franklin Morris was named after a founding father who were among some of the most noticeable Americans to condemn dueling. Franklin called duels a “murderous practice… they decide nothing.”

Family history tells that Benjamin. F. Morris was killed by George W. Walker on Higuera Street in front of the Central Hotel in San Luis Obispo. They were friends at one time, but a dispute over a horse and then Benjamin be-friended Walker’s ex-wife after their divorce, and this led to bad feelings and consequently a confrontation ending with Benjamin getting killed. Benjamin rode into town on Higuera St., in front of the Central Hotel, dismounted and seeing Walker said “look out!”. Both drew their pistols and fired at each other. Morris shot Walker in the thigh Walker shot once and Benjamin shot 2-3 times, one being a shot near the heart. “San Luis Tribune, 02-1884

“My grandfather [Benjamin Sr.] was shot and killed on the street, Higuera St. in San Luis Obispo. My grandfather had a contest with another man whose name was Mr. Walker. This Mr. Walker stepped out of a building and as my grandfather dismounted to tie his horse to the hitching rack, he shot him from under the horse’s neck twice. Hitting him near the heart once and a little higher on the shoulder the second time. My grandfather was not aware that this man was anywhere near, of that he was in this temperament. My grandfather, as he fell, drew his gun and shot Mr. Walker, but hit him too low, near the groin. They rushed Mr. Walker to the hospital, but he was crippled to the extent that he limped after that but he didn’t harm him in any other way. After this happened to my grandfather and his burial in the old Odd Fellows Cemetery in San Luis Obispo, Amanda (Ben’s wife) bought a stone for his grave [a huge stone as I have seen] paid $1,500 for it which was a lot of money in that day and age, and then the family broke up and . . . . “[the story she tells was that Mr. Walker and Benjamin had a horse race and Mr. Walker lost. “Grandfather had his own stables, raised his own horses and had some that was pretty good. This Mr. Walker came after my grandfather to race him. Race on of the horses he felt he could be at. I don’t know what the wager was or whether there was a wager. I don’t know but anyway my grandfather beat him in this horse race. And so my mom tells me that that’s what it was all about”] Source of the following information: Memories of the Benjamin F. Morris Family, as told by Hazel M. Finley Guy (his granddaughter), recorded by Terry Guy (Hazel’s grandson) in 1981 and text edited by Wayne T. Scott, my brother:

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Image courtesy of San Luis Obispo County Regional Photograph Collection, MS 168

When he died his three daughters Sarah, Elizabeth and Rebecca were made wards of the court and put in a San Luis Obispo convent for 3 years. (They were taken care of by nuns at the girls school).

Image courtesy of San Luis Obispo County Regional Photograph Collection, MS 168

Image courtesy of San Luis Obispo County Regional Photograph Collection, MS 168

Philip Kaetzel was appointed administrator of the estate. When Ben died two brothers [Joseph Morris Jr. & Elijah Morris] living in Wyoming came down. One (Uncle Joe) was a foreman for Kern County Land and Catte Company (several years before and after 1900) . He bought a cattle ranch consisting of 999 thousand acres. Lester Guy (my dad) wondered why he didn’t buy one more acre.” – http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=tcbjammon&id=P136

Benjamin Franklin Morris died on March 2nd 1884. He is buried in the San Luis Obispo Cemetery (Lady Sutcliff, section 5, lot 5, plot 3).

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courtesy of findagrave.com

Jacob C. See – The stuff legends are made of

Jacob

Jacob “Jake C. See (photo courtesy of James Mahar)

Here is my great-great-great grandpa.
That’s right, three greats.

He is great.

For one thing, he could put any No-Shave November participant to shame.
He really did have amazing beards and mustaches. But, he was so much more than his spectacular facial hair.

See how you're related! Click to enlarge.

See how you’re related! Click to enlarge.

He was a G-E-N-U-I-N-E real American cowboy in California.

According to San Luis Obispo Folklore and History:

Jake C. See was the quintessential American cowboy―a mountain of a man with a wide handle-bar mustache and sparkling, clear eyes; his cheeks and sharp nose were chiseled by decades of wind, rain, and dusty trails until his face became as burnished as the leather boots he wore; he was bow-legged from constant horseback riding, donned a wide-brimmed Stetson hat and a bandana, wore a gun on the hip, and when riding carried a 100 foot riata (lasso rope)―the use if which he was famous for. Con­sidered the “Robin Hood” of the West by friends and the devil incarnate by the rest, in 1880 was eventually arrested and convicted of sheep rustling but served only two years of a four year term in San Quentin Prison after local residents petitioned the governor for his early release. He ran unsuccessfully for Sherriff of San Luis Obispo County in 1918. (Apparently he was the popular choice until a scandal turned voters against him/he was picked up for bootlegging).

1918 poster for

1918 poster for “Jake” See running for Sheriff. (Photo courtesy of James Mahar.)

Not much is found about Jake See’s childhood. However, the little details that have been preserved are priceless. Jake See was an orphan and was adopted while “crossing the Great Plains by covered wagon train on the way to California” (San Luis Obispo Folklore and History: The Life and Times of Jake C. See).His new family settled in the in the California Frontier.  The times were different back then.

San Luis Obispo, 1876 (Photo courtesy of wikipedia)

San Luis Obispo, 1876 (Photo courtesy of wikipedia)

“San Luis Obispo was cow country―a time ruled by cattle ranchers and the cowboy way where the vigilante’s rope and the law of the gun prevailed” (San Luis Obispo Folklore and History: The Life and Times of Jake C. See).

A newspaper clipping from 1886 illustrates how life was different back then. Fights were a common way to settle business.

San Francisco Chronicle, 5 Jan 1886, Tue, Page 8

San Francisco Chronicle, 5 Jan 1886, Tue, Page 8

Not only was Jake accused for grand larceny and served two years for stealing sheep, on June 29, 1889 he was arrested for forgery when he was 44. According to the Sacramento Daily Union” vol. 1, No. 5 30 Jun, Jake See forged notes with MR Duffy amounting to $3,000. That was a lot of money back then!

The Record-Union, 30 Jun 1889, Sun, First Edition

The Record-Union, 30 Jun 1889, Sun, First Edition

Jacob See. Sepia tone print on card (Photo Courtesy of James Mahar)

Jacob See in his younger years. Sepia tone print on card (Photo Courtesy of James Mahar)

Jake See’s stories do not end with sheep rustling and money. In another account of Jake See’s life: Charged With Cutting Timber on Government Lands in Madera, it tells another side of Jake. 
Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 9.38.31 PMJake C. See may have been a colorful person, but some of the legends surrounding his name are allegedly untrue. In my family there is a legend that Jacob See was a horse thief and he was eventually hung for the crime. I am happy to report that Jacob C. See was no horse thief (as far as I can tell). He also was not hanged for a crime. Despite the legends, Jake See died of influenza. He was 73 years old when he passed away.

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Narcissa (Biggs) See. Sepia print on card. (Photo Courtesy of James Mahar).

Narcissa (Biggs) See. Sepia print on card. (Photo Courtesy of James Mahar). She was 13 years old when she married Jake See. He was 17.

Joseph See's poster from when he ran for Sheriff in 1918. Current Sheriff of San Luis Obispo County,CA. Ian Parkenson. (photo courtesy of No1deon of ancestry.com)

Joseph See’s poster from when he ran for Sheriff in 1918. Current Sheriff of San Luis Obispo County,CA. Ian Parkenson. (photo courtesy of No1deon of ancestry.com)