46 - Isaac Haston - Across the Plains in an Oxen-Drawn Wagon

The California Years

Approximately 2,000 miles – Cave Spring, Missouri to Santa Rosa, California on the Oregon-California Trail

Image source: www.kanopy.com/product/traveling-oregon-trail

At age 62, most men today are looking forward to retiring, drawing social security, playing golf or fishing, and enjoying their grandkids.  I’m not sure if Isaac was looking for another major challenge in his life at that age or not, but when the opportunity presented itself to move to California, he didn’t back down. 

The Bear Flag Revolt - First Step to California Statehood

1846 – Mexican General Jose Castro pronounced that foreigners (American settlers) could not own land in California, must leave by 40 days without arms, cattle or horses, tools, or anything they brought with them.[i]  Led by Isaac’s Haston former neighbor in Cave Springs, Missouri (and previously in Monroe County, TN, Captain John Grisby, some of these settlers resisted in what became known as the “Bear Flag Revolt.”  

[i] Warner, 63.

This short-lived revolt resulted in the establishment of the California Republic.  This independent republic lasted for about 25 days, when the American Stars and Stripes replaced the Bear Flag in the town of Sonoma on July 9, 1846.  California unofficially became part of the United States.

January 24, 1848 – 1855 (California Gold Rush)A local scramble for gold began soon after January 24, 1848 when the first nugget was discovered by a carpenter, James Marshall, in a mill race at Coloma on the South Fork of the American River in California.  This “ground zero” of the gold region was approximately 36 miles East-northeast of Sacramento and 100 direct miles in about the same direction from Santa Rosa.  

In 1852, Fletcher (F.D.) Hastings, son of Isaac and Agnes, “crossed the plains with a party of early gold-hunters seeking the new Eldorado in California.”[i]

[i] “Aged Pioneer Called Home,” The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA), October 28, 1919.

By the end of 1854, at least two more of Isaac’s children were in northern California.  According to a family story, passed down through Isaac Hasten’s family, Isaac’s son Jesse Axley Haston traveled to northern California with his sister Isabella (Hastings) Grisby and her husband, Benjamin James Grigsby.  Benjamin Grisby was the brother of Captain John Grisby, leader of the Bear Flag Revolt. 

The Oregon-California Trail

Jesse Axley Haston returned to Missouri, married Susan Smith Baker, and apparently talked his parents into moving to California.  “In 1857 Isaac Hastings crossed the plains to California and settled in Bennett Valley, Sonoma County.[i] All that stood between Isaac in Missouri and the Bennett Valley of Sonoma County, California was about 2,000 miles, rough and treacherous miles in many stretches.  Today, that’s 30 hours of driving an automobile or three hours or so by plane.  In 1857, the trip in a wagon pulled by mules or oxen took four to six months IF the travelers even made it at all. 

[i] Honoria Tuomey, History of Sonoma County, California, Volume II.  (San Francisco, CA: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1986), 831. 

Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the family journey, other than a statement in a letter from “Uncle” Samuel Perry Hastings to Laurann Coleman: “Robert (son of Agnes and Isaac, about age 20) died on the way to California and was buried at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1857.” 

Bennett Valley - Santa Rosa, California

Credit: https://bit.ly/3nNt4LV

Gold rushers found more than gold when they invaded the Sierra Nevada mountains with their picks and shovels.  After the rush subsided, many of the miners began to find farmland in the area to claim, legally or otherwise.    

An October 29, 1949 article in Santa Rosa’s newspaper, Press Democrat, summarized the lure of Bennett Valley to ex-gold miners this way: Bennett Valley’s rich soil on the valley floor proper and on the lower rolling slopes of the hills drew settlers speedily. Men and women who came in search of gold in the mines found agricultural gold in the sunshine-drenched valley.[i]

Isaac wasn’t looking for gold in California.  He, no doubt, was looking for land, good land, and perhaps a more favorable climate.  And he may have been looking to escape the tensions surrounding an impending civil war.  He had experienced war up close and very personally as a young man at New Orleans.

Homestead Act Granted Land - Does not include other land they had purchased.

April 4, 1857 – For $3,500, Eli Coverdill purchased 180 acres on this date from James N. Bennett and his wife, Catherine A. Bennett.[i]  James N. Bennett was the early settler for whom Bennett was named.

[i] Deeds of Sonoma County, California, 1847-1901, Deed Book 9, 613-614. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSPN-B96V-8?cat=613304)

August 5, 1858 – Isaac purchased 180 acres on this date from Eli Coverdill and his wife, Leah, for $6,000.[i]  It’s the land Coverdill purchased from James N. Bennett on August 4, 1857.  Coverdill flipped the property and made a $2,500 profit in just 16 months. 

[i] Deeds of Sonoma County, California, 1847-1901, Deed Book 9, 1861-1862, 195-196. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS52-R9BB-R)

June 15, 1860 – Three of Agnes and Isaac’s sons were living with (or next to) them in California at the time of the 1860 census—Asberry Roten, Hartwell [not Artwell] Green, and Jesse Axley.  Isaac’s California real estate was valued at $4,500 and his personal estate was valued at $2,000.   

October 15, 1860 – Isaac Hastin was in the Sonoma County Equity Court in the case, Eli Coverdill v. Isaac Hastin, et al [Agnes Hastin].[i] 

[i] Sonoma Democrat, Volume III, Number 52, 11 October 1860, 2.

The case related to a promissory note, dated December 28, 1859, for a mortgage in the amount of $3,018.48 for land recorded in Sonoma County, California Book C of mortgages on pages 436-439.  The text on this document is extremely dim, unreadable for the most part, but it appears that the Hastins and Coverdills came to some kind of an agreement and the plaintiff (the Coverdills) moved for dismissal of the case and agreed to take a “voluntary_____.”[ii]  Sounds like Isaac was not able to make his payment to Coverdill, but they agreed to delay action on that matter, based on some future plan for payment.

[ii] “Eli Coverdill vs. Isaac Hastin and Agnes Hastin,” Seventh Judicial District Court of Sonoma County, California.  Old Series, Suit # 331, October 3, 1860 (filed).

September 12-13, 1861 – Isaac Hastin and his wife (Agnes) sold 180 acres to Othniel DeTurk for $2,000.[i]  This was the acreage Isaac purchased for $6,000 from Eli and Leah Coverdill three years earlier, August 5, 1858.  Coverdill paid $3,500 to James N. Bennett for the same property on August 4, 1857.  Were land prices so extremely volatile during those years?

[i] Deeds of Sonoma County, California, 1847-1901, Index to Grantors Book 1, 70. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSV4-WS62?i=72&cat=613304)

September 12, 1861 – Othniel DeTurk (born 1828) was an older brother of Isaac DeTurk (born 1834).  Both were born in Berks County, Pennsylvania.[i]  Othniel sold the 160 (not 180) acres to Isaac Hasten for $1,000.  This was land Othniel purchased for $1,500 from John Lamb on January 16, 1860.*  John Lamb held the land under a possession claim that was filed in the office of the Recorder of Sonoma County.[ii] 

[i] “Othniel DeTurk,” Find A Grave, accessed October 2, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/28709191/othniel-deturk.

[ii] Deeds of Sonoma County, California, 1847-1901, Deed Book 12, 1861-1862, 195-197. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS52-R9BB-R?i=102&cat=613304)

Isaac DeTurk turned the land he and his brother acquired from Isaac into a hugely successful wine-producing enterprise.

August 23, 1870 – Isaac created his will at this time.  Was his health failing or was he just wisely aware of his mortality in his mid-70s? 

In the name of God amen I Isaac Hastings of Bennet Valley Sonoma County California being weak in body, but of sound and disposing mind do make publish and declare this my last will and testament in manner following that is to say.


First I give devise and bequeath to my son Hartwell G. Hastings all the real estate of which I may die possessed.


Second I give devise and bequeath unto my said son Hartwell G. Hastings the following described personal property to wit: One Spring Waggon. One Two horse Waggon. One Bey Mare, Six years old and her Colt about four months old. One bay mare yearling Colt. One gray Mare Six years old. Three Milk cows and three yearling Heifers. One white Steer Calf. Twenty one head of Hays large and small.


Second I give devise and bequeath to the daughter of my Said Son Hartwell G. Hastings by his first wife. Lucida Agness Hastings the following articles of personal property to whit: One black mare Colt four months old.  One red Calf. The calf of my red Cow. 1 Feather Bed.


The property given and bequeathed by this will to my said Son Hartwell G. Hastings is given and bequeathed to him Subject to the following express charges to wit: 1st That he shall at my death or as soon there after as may be pay all my debts and funeral expenses. Second. That he shall provide and furnish to my said Wife Agnes, a good and comfortable support and living during her lifetime.


Item I have now, living as far as I am informed, the following children. John Westley Hastings residing in the State of Texas. Samuel Douthard Hastings residing in the State of Missouri, Emily Hastings, wife of Joseph Hastings, DeLay Fletcher Hastings A. R. Hastings, Jesse Axley Hastings and Hartwell G. Hastings residing the State of California and the reason why I have by my will given and devised to my Said Son Hartwell G. Hastings nearly my entire estate is that he has remained at Home with me and constantly aided me in taking care of and improving my property and in providing for the family.


Lastly, I appoint my Said Son Hartwell G. Hastings my Executor, without the necessity of giving bonds. In testimony where I have herein to subscribe my name and affixed my Seal this 23rd day of August 10 D. 1870  Isaac Hastings (His mark) Witness to signature  Murray Whallen   Seal


Source: Original will on page 277 of Sonoma County, California Wills Book A.

March 27, 1872 – Isaac died on March 27, 1872.

February 25, 1876 – Agnes Haston died about a month shy of four years after Isaac’s death (March 27, 1872).  A notation in some loose notes from Jessie Prichard’s files says that “Gr. Grand Mother lived to be 81.”  If she was born in 1799, as Jessie Prichard’s notes also indicate, then she would have died in about 1880.  But her obituary states that she died on February 25, 1876 at “about 80 years,” so she may have been born in about 1796. [i] 

[i] “Died,” Santa Rosa Daily Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA), February 28, 1876.

A little more than three months after her death, a memorial service (“funeral”) was conducted for Agnes Hastings in a Methodist Church in Bennett Valley—“at the head of Bennett Valley.”[i] 

[i] “Quarterly Meeting,” Sonoma Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA), June 3, 1876.

Isaac and Agnes are buried in the Bennett Valley Cemetery, which is located off a private road, just off of  Bennett Valley Road on the east side of Santa Rosa, California.  There are no headstones for Isaac and Agnes, but there is a cemetery plot map and a cemetery record book that locates their graves.  The cemetery book mentions several Hastings plots, including who purchased them and who is buried in them.  On page 24, in plot # 249, it is noted as “to whom deeded” = Green Hastings (Hartwell Greene Hastings) and “bodies  interred” = “Grandma & Grandpa Hastings.” 


4760 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, California 95404
GPS; Coordinates: 38.4161987, -122.6619034

"Whatever Happened to the West Coast Sons of Isaac and Agnes"

1880Jesse Axley Hastings moved his family to Whitman County, Washington.  He died in Rosalia of Whitman County, Washington on July 8, 1908.


June 4, 1889Hartwell Greene and Sarah Ann Batten Hastings began their move to Eastern Washington.  On June 30, 1955, Elizabeth Ann (Hastings) Davis related the following story (to her granddaughter Laurann Potterf Coleman) about the trip Hartwell Greene and Sarah Ann (Batten) Hastings made with their children from Sonoma County, California to Eastern Washington.

We left the Valley of the Moon (Glen Ellen), California on June 4, 1889, with ten in the party.  Two covered wagons, one of which was really a “spring wagon” carrying clothing, bedding, cooking utensils, etc.  There were 2 horses pulling each wagon.  Besides the 10 people, there was a dog by the name of Dash.  He walked physically all the way only to die shortly after reaching Washington.  A daughter of Hartwell Green Hastings, by a former marriage, died in California before making the trip.  Two of his sons, by his wife Sarah Ann (Batten) Hasting, died in the diphtheria epidemics before the trip north.  The first night was spent with a relative, Jim Ward in Napa.  Traveled less than twenty miles per day.  No particular roads then.  Went through Winters, Redding, Red Bluff, Prineville, Bend, Heppner, Walla Walla, Endicott (where Jessie Hasting, Hartwell Green’s brother lived as well as Johnnie Batten, a brother of Sarah Ann.)  They had been living in that part of Washington for about fifteen years and had good farms.  The Hartwell Greene Hastings’ family continued on to Pine City where they rented a farm and made their home.[i] 

[i] Roberta Hester Leatherwood, Hester-Ward-Batten-Davis-Hastings KINFOLK.  (Spring Hill, FL: printed by the author, 2009), 84.

Hartwell Green Hasting died on September 16, 1909, in Sunset of Whitman County, Washington, and is buried in the Pine City Cemetery.

November 2, 1901Asbury Roten Hastin died in Lake County, California (adjacent to Sonoma County on the northeast of Sonoma) of fibroid phlebitis. 

1919Fletcher Dilay Hastings, son of Isaac and Agnes, was the only one of the sons of Isaac and Agnes who remained in the Santa Rosa area.  He died at age 87 at Hall, near Santa Rosa, California.[i]

[i] “California Deaths and Burials, 1776-2000”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:HKS6-K3MM : 4 February 2020), Fletcher Dealy Hasting, 1919.

The Bear Flag Revolt (3:22 video)

California Gold Rush (8:47 video)

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