Tehama County, CA
History and Genealogy

Pioneers & Stories

Last Updated 8-28-2010

    Thomes & Toomes    

Thomes and Toomes Were Noted Twain in Tehama

Pair Were Damon and Pythias in History of County; Impressive Monuments Mark Their Graves


TEHAMA (Tehama Co.), March 16—The lives of two Tehama County pioneers who traveled across half a continent together and through all the years afterward were never far apart are recalled by W. N. Woodson, the father of Corning and one of Superior California’s amateur historians. These two pioneers, Robert Hasty Thomes and Albert G. Toomes, may have been the Damon and Pythias of early-day history. Always their lives ran a strange parallel and even in death the similarity of their names confuses them to their successors. Their remains lie buried in adjoining plots in the cemetery at Tehama, the town they helped found. Thomes was a native of Maine, born in 1817. Toomes was born the same year in Missouri. Both were 24 years old when they met at St. Joseph, MO, in the spring of 1841. Both were on their way to California. A friendship was formed that held until death severed it hundreds of miles away and many years later. Both young men had been apprenticed in their native states as carpenters and had learned the trade. Their first job when they arrived in California was working together building sheds for storage of hides and tallow at the then aspiring little town of Yerba Buena, later renamed San Francisco. Monterey was the capital of California under the Mexican rule and the leading seaport, but Yerba Buena was rising as a shipping port. Hides and tallow were the only products shipped from California from the immense herds on the ranchos. Still traveling together, Thomes and Toomes finally arrived in 1843 at Sutter’s Fort, where they worked for a time for Captain John Sutter. The next year they left for a trip up the Sacramento Valley under the guidance of General John Bidwell to explore the upper valley in search of homes. The grant given to Toomes included the present town site of Los Molinos, the south half of the Los Molinos Colony, the Bohemian hop yards, and a number of what now are large ranches. The Thomes grant included all of the El Camino Colony, the town of Tehama, several large ranches, and the Richfield Colony near Corning. The party was notable. It included General Bidwell, Major P. B. Reading for whom Redding, Shasta County, was named, Toomes, Thomes, Peter Lassen, Job Dye, and William G. Chard. All save Reading and Bidwell chose grants on the trip of 22,045 acres each. The grants went by the Spanish league, each man receiving five leagues. A league is 4,400 acres. According to the story, the choices were made very casually as the party was camped on the south bank of Elder Creek, a few miles north of Corning, for a mid-day siesta. Thomes, reclining on the ground, his head resting on his saddle, looked up through the branches of a big oak tree and exclaimed, “Land good enough to raise trees like these is good enough for me. Here I’ll live and die.” He kept his word. His chum Toomes chose his land just across the river from him, Chard and Dye nearby, and Lassen at the mouth of Deer Creek, later the Stanford Ranch. A few months later, the grants to the land were given by the Mexican governor, Micheltorena, at Monterey. The only price being that the men should swear allegiance to Mexico and agree to marry a wife of Spanish descent. Toomes carried out the marriage part of the agreement. Thomes remained a bachelor. Toomes in later years built a fine home in Tehama, and the Thomes home on the south bank of Elder Creek west of Tehama, near the spot where Thomes had admired the oak trees, was one of the show places of the county for years. Though later years took away the hardships and adventure that had brought them together, Thomes and Toomes remained fast friends to the end. They hunted together, fished together, and entertained each other. Death claimed Toomes in 1873, and an impressive marble monument was erected over his grave in the Tehama Cemetery. Six years later, Thomes followed him and appropriately was laid to rest beside him and the grave marked by a granite monolith. A later generation recently remembered the two pioneer chums, marking the two creeks named for them, one from the west side, one from the east, both flowing into the river together, much as the two men’s lives had come together in ’41 and been swept westward in the stream of humanity that was sweeping an empire to the sea.[Sacramento Bee, 3-16-1935. Submitted by Kathie K. Marynik]


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