Jim Odle believes the marker of the Mormon settlement in 1846 west of what is now present-day Ripon is incomplete in terms of history.
The 91-year-old who farms 10 acres in rural Ripon came across a college thesis dated April 1976 regarding the New Hope settlement, had it bound and presented it to the Ripon Museum.
The year 1846 also marked the planting of the first wheat in the area, he noted, scanning the historic marker in front of the Ripon Museum on West Main Street that told of the first agricultural colony in the San Joaquin Valley.
The colony of New Hope was located six miles west of Ripon and existed from 1846 to 1848. It was expected to be a central location for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – but that did not happen.
The thesis by Clint McCready was accepted by the Department of history of Brigham Young University as satisfying the requirements for a Master’s of Arts degree.
The colony was religiously oriented and group prayers were held in the mornings and evenings and leaders were appointed instead of being elected.
What made the Ripon New Hope Colony unique was the expectation that thousands of believers would soon join them and it would become the center of the Mormon Church. But it was over-shadowed by the Mexican War, the establishment of a California state government and the Gold Rush.
The best account of what went on at the Mormon Ranch was found in a newspaper article in the San Jose Pioneer in the year 1877. Judge J.P. Peckham – living at New Hope for months – wrote four long articles about his adventures in agriculture in Ripon, agreeing with contemporary records.
Addison Pratt, who spent six weeks at New Hope, kept a good account of the land and what he actually did while living there recorded in his diary.
Seen as the best primary sources concerning the politics of the settling of New Hope were the letters of Sam Brannan and Brigham Young – written during the birth and death of the fledgling colony. They contained information about the physical growth of New Hope and expressed the feelings of the two leaders.
Contemporary newspaper articles of the day told another insight into the settlement.
New Hope was expected to provide jobs, alleviate the food shortage in San Francisco and become economically profitable in its own right.
In 1846 there were two distinct colonies and four ranches that were launched in San Joaquin County.
Charles M. Weber had bought the French Camp grant of eleven leagues from Mexico, persuading a small group of farmers to settle the area and they began building that November but quickly left because of the Mexican American War.
At about the same time LDS leader Sam Brannon was creating his colony of Mormons at New Hope also known as Stanislaus City, a few miles to the west of the Stanislaus River. There were three other well-known established ranches within some 30 miles owned by Thomas Marsh, Senora Maria Amador and Robert Livermore. All three would play a key role in the growth of the LDS colony.
In the late fall of that year Brannan was ready to launch his new project in the Central Valley and made a last-minute check of his schooner – The Comet – in New York. It was loaded with wheat, agricultural implements, wagons, food, supplies, seeds for various other crops, tools and weapons. It was noted that they had enough provisions to last them for two years.
Some 30 church members boarded the vessel with about 20 slated to open the settlement. Ten of the 30 men went along to help the others get started and after a few days they would return to San Francisco with the boat. Brannan had also planned to send a man overland to New Hope, Quartus Sparks, and his friend R.F. Peckham, who had jumped ship. They were to travel from Yerba Buena (present day San Francisco) by land and go to the ranch of Robert Livermore to buy a yoke of oxen for the New Hope colony at Ripon.
After buying mules they decided to sail the schooner up stream with its 30 LDS men on board landing at the junction of the San Joaquin and Stanislaus rivers over the next two days. The schooner anchored at the present Mossdale and they camped on the east side of the river for the night.
After several days and multiple trips overland with equipment the men built a western-styled log house followed by a Pulgas redwood sawmill and cut boards from the logs for the floor from oak logs. The roof was covered by oak shingles that had been made by hand. After the dwelling were started some 80 acres was cleared and plowed.
Some of the brethren were sowing wheat others were building a fence. Oak trees were cut up and placed end to end and covered with branches. By mid-January 1847 the entire field was planted and enclosed.
Every night as the small group would retire a guard was kept around the house for fear of the local Indians who killed a white man and burned his hut. The colony was never bothered by the Indians, however, during their stay near the river.
Wild berries, fish and other game were plentiful and enough meat could be hunted by only one man in three hours to fee the group.
Receiving a shipment of new supplies overland, the settlers at New Hope who stayed on replanted their crops, repaired their damaged fences and began building new homes.
Some of the men were missing their wives and children back home and looking for a reason to leave the colony. A natural disaster of a major rain storm would soon provide that pretext. It was the continuing downpour of January in 1847 that place an added strain on the colony. The river was said to have risen rapidly from the rain – some eight feet an hour. The river overflowed its banks and the whole area was soon under water that could be seen for miles in every direction – destroying much of the crops and the work of the LDS settlers.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.