Benjamin H. Pickett, one of the early and reliable citizens of California, was only one year old when he arrived in this State, and consequently has seen all of her wonderful growth. He was born at White River Junction, Vermont, October 23, 1824, the son of John Pickett, who was also a native of that State. His grandfather, David Pickett, was an Englishman, who left that country for the colonies in their early history, and took a hand in the war for independence. He was one of General Washington’s staff officers, and was a prisoner on the old Dutch prison ship 109 days, and with eight others escaped, the remainder dying of disease and hardships. Mr. Pickett’s father married Miss Candace Lewis, a native of New Hampshire, and the daughter of Professor Lewis, President of Dartmouth College. He was an Englishman, and came to America with his parents when he was a child. Mr. Pickett’s parents had six children, four of whom still survive.
Our subject, the third child, received his education in Vermont, Indiana, Mexico and California, the practical part of which was received in the two latter States, as he was a volunteer American soldier in the war with Mexico from its commencement until the capture of the capital of Mexico. So he was one of the brave little army who attacked and defeated a far superior army in numbers in their own country, and drove them time and again from their strong fortifications and captured their capital. No wonder General Taylor said of them, “They did not know when they were whipped.” The remainder of his practical education was obtained in the mines and mountains of California in the early days, and there is no doubt that he was an apt scholar in digging gold, pursuing Indians and hunting deer, elk and bear, and notwithstanding he is sixty-five years of age, he still takes pride in a good shot. Mr. Pickett’s first work in this State was on a farm, and then in a saw-mill. He mined at Placerville for two years and took out $16,000; next he mined for a time at Shasta, and only made $300, and at that time his flour cost him $1.25 per pound and other things in proportion. From there he went to Yreka, where he mined ten months, and took out $10,000. He then returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and after a visit came again to California and became a rancher. He secured a homestead of 120 acres, and afterward made other purchases until he has now a fine ranch of 1,380 acres. He has built three dwelling-houses on this ranch as his necessities required, and he now has a pleasant home and good farm buildings. He is engaged in raising hay, grain, hogs and cattle, in which he has been very successful.
Mr. Pickett was married in 1847, to Miss Melita Mohan, a native of Indiana, and this union has been blessed with one child, a daughter, whom they named Candace. She was born in Indiana, and is now the wife of Elias Brown, and resides on their ranch near her father. They have seven children. Mr. Pickett has been a Republican since the organization of that party, and in 1856 took a part as a free State man in the Kansas troubles. In 1855 he was a volunteer against the Indians on the Rogue River. Fourteen men from his vicinity started on that expedition, and only himself and another man went through. The expedition was a success, the whites running the Indians into a cave and killing them. At the fight on Klamath River there were a large number of Indians in a tamarisk swamp. Mr. Pickett, with thirteen others, volunteered to go around behind them and drive them out, which was accomplished, the men in front being ready to shoot as soon as they came out. Nearly all the Indians were killed and this ended their depredations. Mr. Pickett has many interesting reminiscences of the early days. He has a good retentive memory, and is quite strong and capable for a man of his years. The value of such brave men to the State and the society which they protected and helped to build, can never be overestimated. “May they live long and be happy.”
Memorial & Biographical History of Northern California,
The Lewis Publishing Co., 1891