Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Jonathan Tibbet, Sr., was born in Michigan, December 18, 1822, of Old Colonial stock. He was married to Phoebe Jane Point, February 12, 1844. This young married couple attended a meeting where John C. Fremont and his father-in-law, Colonel Benton, lectured on California, the then unknown region, and told about the great possibilities of acquiring quantities of cheap land, and distributed circulars giving a description of the country as they knew it. Mr. and Mrs. Tibbet became interested and decided to migrate to this new country. They started for the Missouri River working their way from place to place.
The first stop was at Keokuk, Iowa, where James Henry Tibbet, their first child, was born. Their next stop was at Nauvoo, where Mr. Tibbet was employed by the Mormons making wagons and ox yokes for their trip to Salt Lake. In 1848, Mr. and Mrs. Tibbet left Council Bluffs. Mr. Tibbet drove an ox team and Mrs. Tibbet did the cooking for their transportation. Soon after leaving Council Bluffs, the principal owner of this train had a falling out with most of the immigrants and, to save him from personal injury, Mr. Tibbet was forced to hide him in the bottom of the prarie schooner. The immigrants then elected Mr. Tibbet captain of the train. They followed the Old Mormon Trail to Salt Lake along the North Platte River through the South Pass. They stopped at Salt Lake to recruit their stock, then came on across the Salt Lake Trail through the Cajon Pass to the present city of San Bernardino, where they stopped to recruit their stock.
At the San Gabriel River this party of immigrants had the first Christmas tree ever had in the State of California. A willow tree was selected where Bassett now is located on the east bank of the San Gabriel River. False limbs were put in place, the tree was decorated with Indian beads, moccasins, rag babies, pop corn and such other things as they had in the train. The women sang Christmas songs, the men marched around the tree shooting off their guns and their pistols.
They camped for a while at the Old San Gabriel Mission, then they went to the Los Angeles River and established a camp there. Mr. Tibbet secured work at San Pedro on a boat at ten dollars per day. Mrs. Tibbet was an expert needlewoman, and when the California women learned of this they induced her to do some sewing for them. Prices were one dollar for each button hole, all other work in proportion.
Mr. Tibbet became acquainted with all the leading rancheros of that time. Among them being Senor Dominguez of the Dominguez ranch, who traded work horses and mules for oxen. With this outfit Mr. Tibbet started for the mines in Northern California, making his headquarters at Hang Town. There he engaged in mining, merchandising, had a boarding and lodging house and ran a pack train from Sacramento and another from Stockton. He also had a branch business in Indian Diggins. He was very successful, in one day taking out $8,580 worth of gold.
In 1852, they sold their business, and with their accumulation of gold returned East by way of Panama, Mrs. Tibbet riding on a Kanaka's back across the Isthmus. They purchased a large farm in the East. But the call of the West was so strong that in 1852 they sold their farm, went to the Missouri River, purchased cattle, sheep and horses, and drove them across the plains, arriving in California the latter part of that year. Mr. Tibbet purchased the interest of heirs to a large tract of land hear the San Gabriel Mission, engaged in stock raising and driving cattle from Southern California to the mines. The highwaymen and desperadoes often planned to waylay the return drovers but were never successful.
Jonathan Tibbet, Sr., founded the first white school in El Monte, known as the Old Mission School District, and it was there that his children attended their first school. The school house was of the old, crude pioneer style - boards nailed up and down and in may places, no battens on the cracks. The roof was covered with hand made shakes. In many places the sun shone through, and in the winter months the rain would come straight down from the heavens and the scholars and teacher were all compelled to seek some dry spot. In the summer months the lizards ran along the rafters and plates of the building.
Mrs. Phoebe Jane Tibbet, wife of Jonathan Tibbet, Sr., died September 29, 1892. Jonathan Tibbet died April 18, 1904. With James Henry Tibbet, they are buried in the Savannah Cemetery, three miles west of El Monte.
On both trips across the plains, Mrs. Tibbet walked more than half the distance carrying a baby in her arms. A chest of solid silver was buried on the plains, which could not later be located by Mr. Tibbet.
Mrs. S. J. Snoddy, now living at 2537 South Third street, Ocean Park, is a sister of Jonathan Tibbet., Jr., and the babe who was carried in its mother's arms across the plains in 1853.
Source: The Los Angeles County Pioneer Society Historical Record and Souvenir, Times-Mirror Press, Los Angeles, 1923. pp. 220-223.