Biography of Capt. Henry George James

Few men have had a more interesting, as well as serviceable career than the late Capt. Henry George James, a native of Camborne, Cornwall, England, and the son of William and Elizabeth Eva James, who had three sons, all born at Camborne, the others having been Edward and William. The elder James, a blacksmith by trade, was a member of an English exploring company which visited South America, and having accidentally broken his ankle, he was carried over the Andes Mountains lashed to a chair strapped to the back of a stalwart native. Returning to England, he immigrated to the United States, about 1832. His brother, Edward, took part in the Black Hawk War. He was a correspondent of the St. Louis Democrat and lost his life in war journalistic service. During the trouble with the Indians in this Black Hawk outbreak, the men of Iowa County, Wis., formed companies for drill, and so did their sons; and thus it happened that Henry G. James was dubbed “Captain,” a title he always bore.

He came out to California in 1850, walking across the Isthmus of Panama in the more primitive days before the railroad was built there, and upon his arrival at Sonora, Tuolumne County, he engaged in mining. Later he went into the cattle business and in time became one of the largest cattle men in Stanislaus County, and for twenty years he furnished cattle, hogs and sheep to wholesale butchers in San Francisco. During his experience in furnishing beef for a butcher firm in Sonora, he once made a journey to the coast to purchase stock; meeting a company of men in charge of a band of steers, Capt. James bought what he wanted and started to drive them home. Before he had traveled far he was overtaken by the real owners of the steers, who informed him that the cattle had been stolen. The Captain and his companions pursued the thieves to San Francisco, where they obtained the assistance of Capt. Harry Love, a famous detective of that time, by whom one of the thieves was arrested. The other made his escape. While on the way back with their prisoner. Captain James and party stopped to have lunch and ostensibly to give the prisoner a trial. They assumed an air of carelessness and the thief thought that it would be a good opportunity to escape; so he crawled off into the chaparral; but several shots followed him and he was killed. No one knew whose shot did the business.

In 1873, at Salida, Stanislaus County, Captain James was married to Miss Nannie Jamison, the daughter of A. H. Jamison, a native of Arkansas, who served for two terms as supervisor in Stanislaus County when the county seat was at Knights Ferry. One daughter married John R. Barnett, sheriff of Madera County. Captain James was a Democrat and a sympathizer with, and an active supporter of the Confederacy of the Southern States. He served at one time as a trustee of Modesto. He belonged to the Masons and assisted with their ritual at the laying of the cornerstone of the Stanislaus County court house. He died at the home of his sister, Mrs. Root, at Salida in 1901 or 1902.

Source: Outcalt, John. A history of Merced County, California : with a biographical review of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; Los Angeles, Calif. : Historic Record Company, 1925.

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