This second, and final, installment of this two-part story about James Clyman continues with more of his frontier adventures.
Last week, Memory Lane ended with Clyman embarking on his two- decade long exploration of the western U.S. By the mid-1840s he had reached the Pacific Coast. Then on June 8, 1845, Clyman started for California. Departing from Oregon, he was accompanied by a party of 42 pioneers comprised of 38 men, 3 children and one woman described as a widow.
By August 1845, Clyman had arrived in Napa Valley. He wrote copious journal entries about Napa County and its abundant game, topography and early pioneer settlers, including Yount and Kelsey. However, despite all those attributes, Clyman was ready to roam again by March 1846. At that time, Clyman began his long journey back to the States.
During that journey, and while at Fort Laramie, Clyman became acquainted with the members of the westward bound Boggs Party. He also spent a considerable amount of time vainly attempting to dissuade some of those members from taking an extremely risky shortcut through the Sierras. That group’s stubbornness lead them into tragedy and infamy. They were the Donner Party.
About two years later, 1848 Clyman served as the guide for a westward, California, bound wagon train. Within that group were the McCombs. A member of the McCombs family was their 26 year old daughter Hannah.
The restless feet of 56-year-old Clyman were calmed by his love for Hannah. They were married a year later in Napa. Officiated by Sylvester Woodbridge, a Presbyterian minister from Benicia, the Clyman nuptial ceremony was the first wedding celebrated in Napa. Local lore claims that these newlyweds bought all the table crockery available in Napa and San Francisco.
After spending a year with his in-laws near Sebastopol, Clyman purchased a large parcel in Napa from William Edgington. The house, built by Clyman in 1857, still stands today alongside Redwood road in Napa. During their residency in this house, the Clyman household was Hannah’s domain. Within her obituary, the Napa Register described Hannah as “...an unusually forceful and determined little woman, physically spry and mentally bright until almost the day of her death in 1908 (at the approximate age of 86 years old.) She was known for her determined way of running the household; she never allowed the hired hand to milk the cow, on the principle that a man would ruin a good cow.”
During the earlier years of their marriage, the Clyman family grew by four new members. But sadly, in 1866, three of their four children died from scarlet fever. Only their daughter, Lydia Alcinda, survived the disease and lived into adulthood. However, later, the Clymans adopted three children—Alice Broadhurst, Geneva Gillin and Edna Wallingford.
Clyman lead a quiet and contented life as a Napa-area farmer. But when socializing, he enjoyed entertaining his family, friends and guests with accounts of his mountain man days.
Then, in 1872, the Napa County Reporter newspaper printed his journals as a series of articles. They reached and engaged a larger audience for Clyman’s historically accurate memories as well as generated considerable notability for him. Those articles and additional entries were eventually published as a book. Also by about this time, Clyman began his literary career as a poet.
Clyman continued to pen entries and poems until his death on Dec. 27, 1881 at the age of 89 years old. Although, even 135 years later and longer ago, James Clyman’s journal entries continue to serve as creditable historical resources.