September 1857
24 in HIGH
(60.96 cm HIGH)
Gift of Mrs. Robley McMullin

Testimonial to Col. John C. Hays, San Francisco, Sept. 1857

Col. John C. Hays came to California from Texas where he was commander of the Texas Rangers. He arrived in San Francisco in 1849, and was appointed United States Surveyor General in 1854. In 1857, he was reassigned to Utah. At his departure, his colleagues held a farewell banquet in his honor "...as a slight acknowledgement of their respect for their chief, and love for their worthy companion and gentleman. The testimonial consisted of six massive pieces of silver plate, and is one of the most elegant and substantial compliments ever extended to a public officer in this State...." "San Francisco Herald, Dept. 5, 1857. See also: "Colonel Jack Hays, Texas Frontier Leader and California Builder" by James Kimmins Greer, 1952. The epergne is in the shape of a tree with one cherub shooting birds with a bow and arrow and another cherub up in the tree handing a dead bird to a woman kneeling on the forest floor under the tree. Large cut glass bowl fits in top of epergne; three candle holders come out and three small cut glass bowls fit in place of the candles. (Note from Louise Pubols, 4/2/08: the rest of this silver set is in the collections of the Autry National Center in Los Angeles.) (From the Oakland Heritage Alliance News, Spring 1993 by Annalee Allen) Colonel Jack Hays of Fernwood Nearly overlooked in virtually every account of Oakland's founding is an individual with a background as colorful and controversial as any pioneer in California. Colonel John Coffee "Jack" Hays had a great deal to do with the East Bay development. One of the original Texas Rangers, Hays had a national reputation when he arrived in California in 1850 at the age of 33. He devoted much of the rest of his life to acquiring and developing property in Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda. The name Fernwood is a tangible link to the days when Jack Hays rode the East Bay hills. The site he chose for the home for his wife and family was in the wooded canyon behind what is now Piedmont. He called his spread "Fernwood." A stone foundation along Thornhill Drive and Mountain Boulevard is all that remains of this once extensive estate. While Carpentier and his partners opted to circumvent the Peralta family, maintaining that the U. S. government would never up hold the Peralta land grant, Col. Hays negotiated in good faith with the lawful owners, acquiring thousands of acres during the 1850s and 1860s. Ultimately the Peralta and Hays transactions were upheld in the U. S. courts. Perhaps because of his long years in Texas and Mexico and his knowledge of the Spanish language and culture, Hays was able to earn the respect and trust of the Peraltas. They may well have preferred to deal with the ex-Texas Ranger than with those "shrewd Yankees." Born n 1817, John Coffee Hays was a native of Tennessee. His father and grandfather fought with Andrew Jackson, and Jackson's wife Rachel was Hays' great aunt. The families owned adjoining properties in Little Cedar Lick, Tennessee and were considered quite prosperous. Second son of seven children, Hays was orphaned at 15. He struck out on his own, heading to Mississippi in 1832, determined to become a land surveyor. Hays was small in stature, with dark hair, and eyes. From the very start he learned to hold his own. While on a survey assignment in Mississippi swamp country, he and a companion were ambushed by mounted Indiands. It was the first of many such encounters. Hays developed a reputation as an Indian fighter. In 1836, after the Battle of San Jacinto, Hays and hundreds of others decided to head for Texas and volunteer. Sam Houston had been a friend of Hays' father under Jackson, so Hays reported to Houston and offered to fight for Texas independence from Mexico. For the next several years Hays' life became synonymous with the evolution of Texas, first as republic and then as a state. Two full length biographies, Colonel Jack Hays, Texas Frontier Leader and California Builder by James Kimmins Greer, and The First Texas Ranger by Curtis Bishop, recount his career in detail. While still in his early twenties, he was foremost among the special force of border guards and law enforcement irregulars known as Texas Rangers. Walter Prescott Webb's exhaustive account of the Texas Rangers devotes a full chapter to Hays' role in the early days when thousands were settling in Texas. The three main groups struggling for a hold on the Texas frontier were the Native Americans who had ranged the plains for generations, the Mexicans who had won independence from Spain and claimed Texas as part of their territory, and the Anglo settlers from the United States pushing relentlessly westward. The Rangers of Jack Hays' day saw their mission as protecting the latter at the expense of the former. The epic myth of the Rangers as protectors of life and property in the days of lawlessness has been questioned in recent years. Gunpowder Justice, a Reassessment of the Texas Rangers traces the activities of the Rangers, including Hay s, as they took part in skirmishes with Mexicans beyond the Texas border. Hays was known as "Devil Jack". He served in the army throughout the Mexican War, attached to the command of General Zachary Taylor. According to James L. Haley's Texas, an Album of History. It was Hays who saw the importance of repeating pistols, or sixshooters. Colt sixshooters permanently changed the odds in favor of the mounted Rangers. The Comanches and other tribes became seriously out matched. By1848 Hays had been involved in Ranger activities for 12 years He had married Susan Calvert, daughter of a judge, in 1847 and was ready to forego the dangerous rangering life. In June 1849 he led an expedition along the Gila River trail to find a southern route to California. He arrived in San Francisco in 1850, planning to head to the gold fields and send for his wife when he became settled. But Sam Brannan and other city leaders, concerned with rampant lawlessness and frequent arson fires, which ravaged the city, prevailed upon the national war hero to remain and run for sheriff. As first elected sheriff of San Francisco County, Hays found himself embroiled in the chaotic vigilante episodes which so marked the city in 1850-51. Some of the very leaders who had encouraged Hays to run for sheriff became the vigilantes responsible for hanging captured suspects without formal trial. An incident told many times demonstrates how Sheriff Hays, while perhaps sympathizing with the vigilantes' brand of justice, nevertheless complied with his duties, Governor McDougal and Mayor Brannan required him to take into custody two prisoners held by vigilantes. This he was able to do, but the vigilantes recaptured them, and hanged them the next day. Where was Hays during the hanging? "Away down the peninsula at a bull fight." Was he deliberately called away? To this day no one can be certain. Lack of secure jail facilities worsened the problem of crime and disorder. Hays instituted a temporary floating jail on the brig "Euphemia," moored in the bay. He actively sought contributions from business leaders - many of whom also happened to be members of the Committee of Vigilance - and before he left office, enough funds were raised to construct a new jail. In addition to keeping the peace, Sheriff Hays, as an officer of the court, served writs and executed sales. It was during this time that he first met the Peralta brothers. William Davis, a San Francisco merchant who had been in California since 1831, had tried unsuccessfully for years to buy land from Vicente Peralta. On March 13,1852 Hays and four associates contracted with Vicente for the Oakland portion of Vicente Peralta's share of the Rancho San Antonio The agreed upon price was $10,000. The Hays consortium placed a notice on page one of the local paper: "Caution to the Public-The undersigned being the sole owners of the Encinal in Contra Costa County, opposite San Francisco by purchase from V. Peralta, hereby warn the public against purchasing from any other parties pretending to claim said land." As we know, this notice did not prevent speculators such as Carpentier from staking their own claims to what they considered to be vacant land. Charles Wollenberg's Golden Gate Metropolis provides a concise overview of how Bay Area land ownership issues dragged on in the courts for years, and how Californios like the Peraltas were forced to sell off their land to pay legal fees. While the land claims were moving through the courts, Hays finished his first term as sheriff and ran successfully for a second term. He did not complete his second term, however. In keeping with his Jacksonian Democrat roots, Hays had become active in Democratic party politics. When Franklin Pierce was elected president, Hays decided to petition the president for the newly created job of Surveyor General of California. His early surveyor training in Mississippi and Texas stood him in good stead and he received the appointment in December of 1853. Hays traveled to Washington to attend the inauguration. His presence at the reception threatened to upstage the other dignitaries. A local newspaper wrote: "Amid the countless multitude attracted to Washington "during the last few weeks no man was the object of deeper interest than Col. Jack Hays, the world renowned Texas Ranger. It may be safely asserted that no man in America, since the great John Smith explored the primeval forests of Virginia has run a career of such boldness, daring, and adventure. His frontier defense of the Texan Republic constitutes one of the most remarkable pages in the history of the American character." In the 1860s Hays devoted his time to developing not only his personal estate (by now his family had grown in size), but also his holdings throughout what had become Alameda County. He was among those interested in attracting state government to Oakland and making it the capital of the state. Two plazas he donated to the city, Franklin and Washington Squares between 4th and 5th Streets, became sites for the Hall of Records and the Hall of Justice. Several congregations received gifts of land from Hays for church sites. According to an obituary in the papers of the Society of Oakland Pioneers, Hays gave the land where the University of California was eventually built. (Actually the transaction appears somewhat more complex.) Hays was a member of the U.C. Board of Regents and a director of the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Asylum (precursor to the California School for the Deaf and Blind). As for his property in what is now Montclair, several contemporary accounts describe Fernwood as "large and elaborate for its day. The attractive garden was well kept, the stables large, and there were a number of fine horses." Nephew John Hays Hammond's autobiography vividly describes his uncle's ranch: "Its alternating hills and wild ravines were an ideal place for a boy with an adventurous spirit, but my uncle's was really a ranch de luxe." Wood's History of Alameda County called "Fernwood" one of the most beautiful of the State located at the base of the verdure-clad hills of the Coast Range, in a quiet nook lordly oaks a handsome building and exquisite art. Indescribable views in every direction." Hundreds of trees and shrubs were planted, extensive lawns and graveled paths were put down. Sunday breakfasts were a regular occurrence, sometimes as many as 100 guests making their way out from town. Hays arranged for the grading and construction of a road to his property. For many years it was known as the Hays Canyon Road. It is now Moraga Road. California chronicler and well-known writer of the day, J. Ross Browne, became friendly with Hays during these years. Characterizing Hays as "the noblest Roman of them all," Browne wrote: "There is about him such an unconscious power of winning your respect ï¾€such an entire absence of egotism, and so much that is true, generous, and reliableï¾€ that you are completely charmed. It is refreshing to find a man in full enjoyment of a national reputation who can afford to be perfectly natural and unsophisticated; a genuine hero, modest to the verge of bashfulness, yet brave and steadfast as a true gentleman and a hero should be." Hays last years were marked with sadness as well as prosperity. Three of his five children died young. By the late 1870s his health had begun to decline. He died at his beloved Fernwood on April 21, 1883, the anniversary of the battle of San Jacinto. His last words were "Do you know what day this is? It's San Jacinto Day." Newspapers were filled with accounts of his passing. The funeral procession wound its way out Broadway, crowds lining the streets. The cortege, escorted by Mexican War veterans and delegates from the Society of Pioneers, made its way to the gates of Mountain View Cemetery. "Only the throb of muffled drums and the ripple of flags at half-mast on public buildings and private residences were heard as the long column moved to the graveside... "The obituary in the Tribune called him "the moving spirit and founder of Oakland." After Hays' death the Fernwood estate passed into the hands of William Dingee, water magnate and competitor off Anthony Chabot. Dingee enlarged and embellished the gardens, adding fountains, terraces, and statues. The improvements were said to have cost a quarter million dollars. Fire destroyed the house in 1899. Although the Hays mansion is long gone, the park-like setting of today's Fernwood still evokes the feeling of one of Oakland's finest early day estates, and is the gift of that forgotten Oaklander, Colonel Jack Hays.

Used: presentation | Col. John C. Hays

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