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Plumas Rangers

Official or other titles: Plumas Rangers, Sixth Division, First Brigade

Location: Quincy, Plumas County

Mustered in: December 1, 1855
Mustered out: 1861

Commanding Officers

E. T. Hogan, Captain, Elected December 1 1855, Resigned February 1858
N. C. Cunningham Captain Elected: January 2, 1858; Commissioned: February 18. 1858; Resigned January 29, 1859
W. 0. Varner, First Lieutenant, Elected December 1, 1855

R. J. Barnett, Captain, Date of Rank: April 10, 1859; Commissioned: April 28, 1859
W. D. Sawyer, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank: April 10, 1859; Commissioned: April 28, 1859


History

Hundreds of emigrants on their way to the Sacramento Valley, in the Gold Rush era of 1850, passed through Plumas County on the Lassen Road, and after repeated attempts to prove or disprove the Legend of "Gold Lake'', settlements were made in the newly opened, country. Here too, the pioneers were harassed and worried by the Indians. Friendly Indians in 1856, informed the settlers that the northern tribes were tampering with them (the friendly Indians), endeavoring to raise a crusade against the whites. Immediately upon receipt of this news and before the snow had set in for the winter of 1855, arrangements were completed in November to perfect a volunteer company for military protection.

Under the seal of Plumas County, W. T. Ward, County Judge, (November 24, 1855) appointed E. T. Hogan, an attorney practicing in Elizabethtown, to open books for the enrolling of names of persons to form a militia guard. This action was taken under the provision of an Act of the Legislature entitled, An Act concerning Volunteer or Independent Companies. (1) Following the usual procedure of enrolling members, a meeting was called to be held at the Saloon of Flournoy & Company, in Elizabethtown, Saturday, December first of the same year at three o'clock P. M. for the election of officers and such business as was necessary.

A resolution was drawn up at the meeting which included the naming of the company as the Plumas Rangers, First Brigade, Sixth Division; the appointing of E. T. Hogan, S. J. Clark and J. D. Ritchie as a committee to draft Resolutions and By-Laws for the government of said company; the proceedings of the meeting to be published in the Old Mountaineer, and finally that the meeting stand adjourned until Saturday, December eighth, at two o'clock P.M., to meet in the public square in Elizabethtown. This Resolution was signed by E. T. Hogan, President, and S. J. Clark and J. D. Ritchie, Secretaries.

The first communication on file from Captain Hogan to Headquarters was dated March 7, 1856, wherein he reported their formation of the newly organized company and attached to his letter two newspaper clippings which had been published in the Old Mountaineer accepted as the legal notices for the meeting and the election of officers, together with the Resolution which had been drawn up. The Captain stated in this letter that in case the men were called into active service against the Indians, they were willing to act either as mounted or foot riflemen, whichever might be deemed more efficient, if mounted they would furnish their own horses, etc. As.to the arms Captain Hogan requested the information as to what Bond would be required for eighty stand of rifles, together with accoutrements in case they were called into service.

Twice changes were made in the personnel during the existence of this company. The first change came when Captain Hogan resigned the command to assume his newly elected office of County Judge of Plumas County. At the election January 2, 1858, following the resignation of the Captain, N. C. Cunningham was honored by the members with a unanimous vote to raise him to the Captaincy. The second change was made in the following year, January 29, 1859, when Captain Cunningham resigned from his office as he had moved away from Quincy. The election to fill this office was not held until March nineteenth, when R. T. Barnett was elected Captain and W. D. Sawyer was elected First Lieutenant.

After the Plumas Rangers' organization was perfected, a Bond for $2,500 was filed to cover the expense of supplying the arms. A year later the arms were not forthcoming and a letter was written October 24, 1857, by Governor Johnson ordering the issuance of the necessary equipment. Five years after the issuance of the arms, July 25, 1862, Adjutant-General Kibbe communicated with Captain Barnett requesting the filling out and filing of a new Bond for $3,000 to cover the equipment. Not receiving a reply to this letter General Kibbe, on September twentieth wrote to the Bondholders, Messrs. Hogan, Varner, Covington, and Clark, wherein he requested the return of the arms and stated he
had failed to get any response from the officers who were commissioned in March of 1859.

Judge Hogan's reply, September twenty-sixth, to General Kibbe informed the Adjutant-General that a number of guns had been destroyed in a fire, which had occurred in Quincy nearly two years before. The remainder had been taken over to Honey Lake, some fifty miles distant, at the time of the Indian troubles in the Spring of 1860. The members of the company who went over for the.purpose of aiding the inhabitants had left the arms in charge of Messrs. Frank Drake and 0. Streshly who had agreed to be responsible for the same. The Judge assured General Kibbe he would learn the condition, number, etc., of the arms and order their return to the arsenal, even though it was his opinion the people were in vital need of defense against the Indians as they were on an exposed frontier. He concluded his communication with the information that Messrs. Varner and Covington, two of the Bondholders, had left California, but that S. J. Clark still resided in Quincy. No mention was made of Mr. Hogan. The departure of the three Bondholders from the district accounts for the lack of response to the Adjutant-General's letters, as it is evident that Mr. Clark did not wish. to be held entirely responsible for the Bond transaction.

The expected Indian hostilities as reported to the residents of Elizabethtown by the friendly Indians were averted. Therefore, the members of the newly organized volunteers participated in no activities other than the regular routine of parades and drills, until they were summoned to go to the aid of the Honey Lake Valley residents in 1857. The Honey Lake Valley section had developed into an agricultural community, and the residents being farmers were looked down upon by their neighbors, the lordly miners of Plumas County, who called the tillers of the soil "Never Sweats". Congress had not determined the state boundaries for California in this locality, so the residents organized themselves into a local government electing Isaac Roop as their Governor and adopted the title of "Territory of Sierra Nevada".(2) In October 1857, the food supply of the Pit River Indian tribe was running low. The hostiles, therefore, proceeded to help themselves to farm products belonging to the whites. While William Morehead was in Susanville on business, the Indians raided his ranch which was two and one-half miles from Milford and harvested three acres of his potatoes. This act of depredation on the whites by the Indians to replenish the hostiles' larders precipitated what be came known as the Potato War. The Plumas Rangers were sent for to aid the settlers in suppressing the Indians. However, by the time they had traveled the fifty miles distance the trouble had already been quelled, as the United States Army troops .under Captain William Weatherlow returned to the district in time to assist the settlers. Chief Winnemucca and a band of Pah-Utes, who were at the time on friendly relations with the whites, assisted the residents in running down the Pit River Indians.(3)

There are no records giving any further activities of this company other than a brief statement of the Adjutant-General's in 1862 wherein he mentions that "No.returns of this company had been received and that the officers had not complied with the law requirements";(4) also that "He had attempted to obtain the arms but without avail, as no appropriation had been made for transporting or collecting arms and he had been compelled to rely upon correspondence alone both with the officers and Bonds men which proved unsuccessful''. Both Captain Barnett and First Lieutenant Sawyer had moved away and no election had been held to fill their stations.

Many men had answered the call for Volunteers for the War of the Rebellion from this district, and it is apparent that no good aggressive leader could be found to take command and rebuild the Plumas Rangers in order to maintain a home guard company. Therefore, it is assumed that the company had been disbanded sometime prior to the year of 1862.


Footnotes

(1) Organization papers of Plumas Rangers, November 24, 1855, Adjutant General's Office.

(2) History of Plumas, Lassen and Sierra Counties, California, Fariss and Smith, 1882, page 344.

(3) History Plumas, Lassen,and Sierra Counties, California, Fariss and Smith, 1882, pages 378, 385.

(4) Adjutant General Report, 1861, page 132


This history was written in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in conjunction with the office of the Adjutant General and the California State Library

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