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)

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Aged Man Must Go to Asylum

dewitt2
That title certainly caught my attention while I was researching.

I had stumbled across a clipping from the  Bakersfield Californian Newspaper dated August 6, 1907. My heart dropped. Mental care was oftentimes nothing short of abuse in the 1900s. It is the stuff haunted houses are made of.
According to an article from science museum.org, “Large Victorian public asylums haunt the history of psychiatry. They were hailed as places of refuge for some of society’s supposedly most vulnerable men and women. These buildings were called ‘lunatic asylums’, and later renamed ‘mental hospitals’. They earned a reputation as dehumanizing, prison-like institutions.” Perhaps Dewitt Clinton Biggs was not in a “prison-like institution.” I would like to hope.

 Although it is noteworthy that DeWitt spent his last days suffering from mental illness and was repeatedly admitted to an asylum, it doesn’t define his life. He grew up, married, and had a family of his own. He had at least eight children and supported his family through mining.

The article is attached below. Read on to find out more about his family life.

dewitt

The article says:

The Bakersfield Californian August 06, 1907

AGED MAN MUST GO TO ASYLUM

De Witt Biggs is in County Jail Again.    Parades Street on Saturday Night with Shotgun on His Shoulder

DeWitt Clinton Biggs, and aged man whose mind has been falling for some time past, was locked up in the County Jail yesterday, after having been released only a short time before, and an effort will  now be made to have him re-committed to the asylum for the insane at Stockton.

    Biggs is over 70 years old. He is connected with one of the best families in the county by marriage, but old age has weakened his mental facilities. He is an old inmate of the northern asylum, but was released about two years ago apparently cured.

    The other day, while in one of his tantrums, he was arrested by the local police officers, who thought he was intoxicated. When he appeared in the justice court the next day, however, he appeared to be perfectly sane and was released.

    Saturday night however, he left Tom Owen’s house where he was seen stopping, and imagining that his life was in danger, paraded up and down before the house for some hours, a heavy shotgun on his shoulder, looking for imaginary enemies, who had threatened his life, he said. The next morning he started out on the street, using and old broom for a cane. Finally he arrived at the County Jail, and went inside, saying that he wanted to see some of the prisoners. His condition was recognized by “Doc” Staley and he was locked up in a cell.

It is probable that Biggs will be taken before either Judges Mahon or Bennett tomorrow, and be examined as to his sanity, there seems to be no other way of taking care of him than by this method.

Stockton3

The Stockton California Insane Asylum where DeWitt most likely spent the remainder of his days. DeWitt passed away six months after the newspaper article was written on February 15, 1908. (photo courtesy of http://www.asylumprojects.org/index.php?title=Stockton_State_Hospital)

DeWitt Clinton Biggs was the son of David Biggs.His father married a Scotch-Native American woman named Martha “Patsy” Chisholm.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

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DeWitt Clinton Biggs (Courtesy of James Mahar – from Album of Mary King)

A younger DeWitt on the right with wife Mary Martha Busik and most likely their son David (photo courtesy of James Mahar – print. Original from Mrs. Dorothy Biggs)

According to records, Mary Martha Busik /(Busic) was either 13 or 16 years old when she was married DeWitt, who was 35 years old. (25 February 1866, White River, Tulare, California). Although this seems young, it was not uncommon at the time.

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DeWitt on left, friend on the right. Taken approximately 1870. (Courtesy of James Mahar – Print. Possibly with partner in mining venture)

Most likely where DeWitt is buried.  (photo courtesy of Joanne. "This is an unmaintained cemetery on private lands." )

Most likely where DeWitt is buried.
(photo courtesy of Joanne. “This is an unmaintained cemetery on private lands.” )

May you rest in peace DeWitt Clinton Biggs.