Text for Letter from Sylvester Woodbridge, Jr. to Zachary Taylor, 1850


Benicia California

January 23, 1850
W. 419

Sylvester Woodbridge Jr.

Memorial in behalf of Indians in California

(From Dept. of the Interior)

Comm. of Indian Affairs 
Dept. of the Interior 
Mach 14/50
Recd 18 March 1850


To General Zachary Taylor 
President of the United States

Memorial in behalf of the Indians of California

Your high character as a just man and an upright magistrate, and your personal politeness who I had the honour of an interview with you at your residence in Baton Rouge, emboldens me to address you.

Respectfully I would represent, that the Indians in the Sierra Nevada are driven in large numbers from their usual haunts; are consequently deprived of their customary food-acorns, and hence are exposed to starvation.

That they are often killed, because when urged by hunger, they have attempted to seize the horses or cattle of the American emigrants.  That Indian women and children, guilty of no offence, are frequently put to death, and sometimes in cool blood, in these onslaughts. That the system of serfdom still continues on the Spanish ranches in this country.

Respectfully I would venture to suggest that the powerful and benevolent influences of the Great Father of the Indian Nations be employed to collect those most exposed in California, into ranches of their own, separate from the presence of the white community.  

That good men farmers, teachers, &c. be placed at the head of these ranches; for the Indians though docile, are as children, without judgment or foresight.

That on the ground of benevolence and economy the Missionary Societies be encouraged to assist in carrying out this project.

The following sites are respectfully suggested as appropriate.  

San Juan Mission is unoccupied and already stocked at least partially with wild cattle.  

Valley of Rio de los Reyes is a fertile country not in a gold region. 

Beriess' Valley is a very secluded spot from 30 to 40 miles north of Benicia, occupied at present by a Spanish ranch.

Valley of Clear Lake is full of wild Indians and therefore is unoccupied by the whites.

The advantages of this plan are Practicability of immediate adoption. Economy, for after the farms are once stocked and occupied, small additional expenses need be incurred. Efficiency, for every Indian would at once have a home. National credit and noble benevolence.

No wish to interfere with the arrangements of the bureau of Indian Affairs, but a deep sense of the necessity of prompt and effectual aid being rendered to the poor outcast houseless, helpless savages thrown upon American protection, has led me-a clergyman by profession, and the Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Benicia to address you in this appeal.

With profound respect I am, General, your most obedient and humble servant.
Sylvester Woodbridge Jr.

Benicia California
January 23 1850