HISTORY OF DRURY WOODSON JAMES
By Mary Louise James Burns, his daughter
Drury Woodson James was born in Logan County, Kentucky on the 14th of November, 1826. His parents and grand-parents were Virginians, and his grand-fathers fought for Independence in the Revolutionary War. Drury Woodson James was the youngest of five boys. They were reared by his oldest sister, having been orphaned at an early age. Drury’s mother died when he was three months old, and his father when he was a year old.
In 1846, Drury enlisted in the Mexican War as a drummer boy, and fought through the war under General Taylor. After the war was over, James went to California. He left old Fort Kearney with a pioneer wagon train and reached the Hangtown gold fields in 1849. He mined for several months and then entered the business of buying and selling cattle. This proved to be a very successful venture. It is stated that his practice was to drive the cattle to the different mining towns and sell the cattle on the hoof for as much as three or four times the amount paid for them. James became known in the country in 1850, and played an important part in the early history of the community.
In 1850, D. W. James and a John G. Thompson of Kentucky purchased the La Panza Rancho. They engaged in the business of buying cattle and horses. The county records of this time show numerous failures among the cattlemen. During the years of 1862, 1863, and 1864 occurred one of the worst droughts in the history of the country. At this time James and Thompson found themselves with 5000 head of cattle. At this time, cattlemen all over the area, when they saw their feed and water going, turned their cattle loose to fend for themselves. Not James; he drove the cattle to the Tulare and Buena Vista Lakes and saved them. James and Thompson also owned the Comatti8 and Carissa ranches. It is not known when they purchased these ranches, and they were probably sold along about the same time that the La Panza Rancho was sold.
Thompson and James sold the La Panza Rancho in 1869 to Jones and Schoenfield. Thompson then returned
to Kentucky. In 1857, a James H. Blackburn had bought the El Paso de Robles Rancho from Petronelli Ries. Ries had acquired the ranch in 1850 from one Pedro Novares. Novares had acquired the ranch under a Mexican land grant in 1844. Novares claimed six leagues or about 25,000 acres along the Salinas River. In 1850, James B. Blackburn divided the ranch. Daniel D. Blackburn chose the northern league of the rancho on which were located the springs. Daniel D. Blackburn then sold one-half of his northern half to a Thomas McGreal who sold it to James in 1869. D. D. Blackburn and D. W. James each owned half of the northern league. D. D. Blackburn then sold half of his half to James H. Blackburn. So James owned a half and the two Blackburn brothers each owned a quarter of the northern league.
On September 15, 1966, Daniel D. Blackburn and Drury W. James married sisters at a double wedding in the San Luis Obispo Mission. They were married by the Rev. Father Sastra in the old Mission church. Louise M. Dunn married D.W. James and Cecelia Dunn married D. D. Blackburn. The Dunn family had come to America from Australia about 1850. They settled first in Sacramento and later moved to San Luis Obispo.
James B. Blackburn was the first of this famous partnership to die. He left the bulk of his estate to Daniel and Cecelia Blackburn and their children. At this time, there was talk of the railroad coming through to El Paso de Robles. Realizing the possibilities of this part of the country as a resort area, Blackburn and James decided to build a hotel. The cornerstone was laid in 1889. The railroad tried to buy the property and the half-finished hotel from Blackburn and James but they refused the offer.
The business set-up became more and more complicated and the number of heirs and D. W. James found that it would be almost impossible to sell any portion of his interest in the property should he want to. So in 1890 he started court action for the purpose of dividing the property. The court ordered the property partitioned.
The following history of Drury Woodson James was dictated to me, Mary Jean Malley Beamis, by my maternal grandmother, Mary Louise James Burns in 1949 when she was eighty one years of age.
It was written at the request of the officials of the city of Paso Robles, California, on the occasion of the dedication of a monument to her father’s memory in the Park which had been given to the city by Drury Woodson James and Daniel D. Blackburn.
(s) Mary Joan Beamis
May 22, 1971
STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
May 23, 1971
Personally appears Mary Joan Beamis and made oath that the above statement is true and the information to the attached statement is true to the best of her knowledge and belief.
(s) John F. Beamis