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Among the figures who stand prominently forth on the pages of western history is the gentleman whose name introduces this review. His was a marvelous record of long connection with the events which go to make up the annals of the Pacific coast. He was one of those honored pioneers who blazed a path for future cavalcades to follow; who bravely turned their faces from the cities of the east, with all the advantages of wealth and civilization, and cast their fortunes with the western frontier, in all its wildness and primitive modes of life; who, rather than enjoy the comforts of their former homes, chose to endure the hardships of a wider and freer country; and who made out of those very obstacles, which, to a weaker class of men would have been stumbling blocks, the stepping stones to wealth and renown, none of these great men are more noted for untiring perseverance and steady progress which have resulted in the acquirement of wealth and the well merited esteem of their fellow men than the gentleman whose name heads this memoir. He realized with great prophetic foresight the magnitude of the prospects of the west, and that at a time when this section of the country gave but slight signs of her future greatness. If, as is maintained, the history of a country is best told in the lives of her prominent men, then certainly any history of Idaho or the Pacific coast would be incomplete without recognition of the salient points of the life record of this man, who was for many years a most influential and respected citizen of this part of the Union.
Mr. Dye was born in Hardin county, Kentucky, January 17, 1807, and, spending his boyhood days in that state, started westward on attaining his majority, going to Arkansas in 1828. That state was then an almost unbroken wilderness, inhabited only by Indians. Buffalo, deer and other wild game roamed through the forest, and the lodges of the hunter and trapper were almost the only places of human abode, except the wigwams of the Indians. For two years he remained in that territory, for Arkansas had not then been admitted to the Union, and in 1830 went to New Orleans, where he joined a party of trappers who were going to the Rocky Mountains to collect furs. Mr. Dye remained with them for two years, during which time he experienced many of the hardships and trials of such a life. Traveling where white men had never before been, spending many a night by the campfire in the forest, there was nevertheless an excitement and interest about such a life that lent it great zest. He became an expert trapper and hunter and also an expert mountainclimber. In 1831 he started for California with a party of thirty-five, who traveled from Taos, New Mexico, across the mountains to the Golden state, reaching their destination in January, 1832. There were immense herds of cattle and horses all through the country at that time, and it was customary for the traveler to take all the cattle that was needed for food.
Mr. Dye traveled northward from the pueblo of Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, where he thought to engage in otter hunting, and formed a partnership with Don Roberto, who, together with the Mexican authorities, robbed him of all his money. At this time all California belonged to Mexico, and was largely settled by a wealthy class of Spaniards, who owned immense ranches, containing thousands of acres, each household, with their many slaves and servants, constituting quite a little settlement. After losing his money Mr. Dye continued on his northward way to San Louis Obispo, where he continued in the fur business, meeting with splendid success. Later he went to Monterey, where he married and established his home. He engaged in the distilling business near Santa Cruz, conducting a successful business until 1840, when the Mexicans, believing that a revolution was about to break out among the people, confiscated his property. Not daunted by this adversity, he removed to Monterey and engaged in merchandising, again accumulating quite a fortune. He received a land grant from the Mexican government of twenty-six thousand, seven hundred acres, located on the Sacramento river in what is now Tehama county, and including the site of the city of Red Bluff and several other now flourishing towns. He called his place the Antelope Valley Ranch, and on it had two hundred head of horses and one thousand head of cattle. This property became quite valuable in 1848, when gold was discovered in California. In 1849 he was still engaged in merchandising in Monterey, but afterward removed to his ranch, where he carried on stock raising and mining. In 1850 he conducted a mercantile business in Sacramento.
In 1863 Mr. Dye sold his ranch and removed to Silver City, Idaho, engaging in business in Idaho City and afterward at Silver City, where he resided until 1869. He then went to Mountain City, Nevada, where he was engaged in merchandising for about two years, when he went to Corralitos, California, where he departed this life on the 4th of March 1883. He had been one of the first Americans to locate in that state, and was well known to the pioneers of the Pacific coast from Mexico to British Columbia. He soon learned the Spanish language and became acquainted with all the prominent Spanish and Mexican families on the coast. His first wife was a Spanish lady of great culture and refinement, a relative of Governor Peco. He was active in the war which secured California to the United States, was present at the raising of the Bear flag and also took an active part in raising the stars and stripes in California. He was intimately acquainted with General Sutter, General Bidwell, Major Reading and General Fremont, and during his early life was one of the best known and most active citizens, being prominently connected with the mining interests and having gold in such abundance that it was almost a waste of time to count the cost of little things. He gave as high as fifty head of cattle at one time to feed the Indians, and no stranger who knocked at his door to seek food or shelter was ever turned away. Hospitality there reigned supreme, and was accompanied by the sister virtue of generosity. He was a man of kindly impulses, of sterling worth, honest in all his dealings, and devoted to his family. He not only watched the wonderful development that transformed the west from the wilderness to one of the richest sections of the country, and brought it from under the sway of Mexican rule to the liberty of the American republic, but aided in many movements for the public good and thus enduringly inscribed his name on the pages of its history.
Four of his children survive him: Mrs. John S. Butler, of Oakland. California; Rebecca L., who was married in 1868 to Charles M. Hays, their home being in Boise; and James and Newton, now of Santa Cruz county, California.