Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine History Article June 2008.
Retracing Juliana’s Path
By Lauren Coodley
Who was Juliana Pope? Pope Valley’s first female settler was born Maria Juliana Salazar in Taos, New Mexico, in l8l0. We know nothing of her childhood—but just 34 years earlier, the Declaration of Independence was written on America’s eastern coast, while Franciscan friars Dominguez and Escalante explored routes from New Mexico to California. Seventeen years before her birth, the first school text was printed in New Mexico by Padre Antonio Jose Martinez of Taos. Three years before her birth, Zebulon Pike led the first Anglo American expedition into New Mexico. Upon his return to the United States, he published a detailed report on the culture of the people of New Spain, its natural resources, population, and military arrangements. It was the first adequate report on the Spanish provinces of North America ever brought back to the United States.
The only way we know about Juliana is through public records of births and marriages. She was married many times. Her second husband was Jose M. Rodriguez, with whom she had two children, Maria and Jose, born in l83l and l833. Juliana was a widow in l834, when she met Julian Pope. Pope had left Kentucky at the age of l7 to hunt and trade in the Mexican territory which would become “New Mexico.” In l827 he joined George Yount’s trapping expedition. But, in l830 the Mexican government, perhaps sensing that their land might be at risk, restricted trapping by non-Mexicans. So Pope set about becoming a Mexican citizen. He joined the Catholic Church and changed his name from William to Julian. He invested in the trade of woolen blankets for California mules that passed between New Mexico and California.
Julian Pope and Juliana Rodriguez were married at San Geronimo de Taos. In l835, they joined a trading caravan and moved to Los Angeles, where Juliana gave birth to two daughters, Luciana and Isabella. In l838, Julian Pope received a parcel of land east of the city in the area later known as Boyle Heights, where he built a house and planted seeds. The next year, he erected a grist mill on a bank of the Los Angeles River below the road leading to the San Gabriel mission.
Hearing of the vast land grants awarded by General Vallejo in northern California, Julian joined an expedition to the Napa Valley in l84l. Along with friends that included Cyrus Alexander, William Knight and William Gordon, he crossed the Carquinez Strait in a rowboat. They hired indigenous residents known as “Indians” to pilot them up the Napa River.
After making base camp at Yount’s home, in the area that would eventually be called Yountville, the four split up, each claiming a valley for his own. Pope petitioned General Vallejo and Manuel Casarin, the acting governor of California, for a parcel on the east side of Howell Mountain. It was almost 9000 acres, and cost him twenty-five cents. Pope named his grant “Rancho Locoallomi.” Juliana and the four children moved from Los Angeles and stayed at Yount’s ranch while her husband built their first home on his new property. The Mexican government paid for their moving expenses, needing the help of settlers in subduing the indigenous tribes
Scholar Linda Heidenreich writes:
With the arrival of Spanish colonizers and, later, Mexican settlers in the region, Napa’s history did not deviate from the history of what is now Greater Mexico/the U.S. West, but rather was reflective of it. Napa, then, is a location where larger trends throughout Greater Mexico can be studied in detail, not only in the ways in which different waves of immigration changed the region, but also in the ways in which the different histories that people constructed continue to influence a particular place. In Napa, Indigenous histories, California/ Euro-American histories, and Chinese and Mexican immigrant histories co-exist. At times they overlap and/or conflict with each other. But they always co-exist.
Juliana gave birth to her fifth child, Delavina, in l842. In 1843, the family moved wagons and livestock from Yount’s ranch to their adobe house, using ropes to ease the wagons down the steep trail. But later that year, Julian was trying to complete a wooden house before winter, and accidentally cut himself in the leg when his ax slipped. According to one story, he was carried to Sonoma for medical attention. Twelve days later, at the age of 38, he died.
Juliana was now 33 years old. The following spring, she married her nearest neighbor, Elias Barnett, a Missouri pioneer. According to Lin Weber, after meeting George Yount, Barnett “gave up whatever plans he may have had for returning to his wife and children in Missouri.” Weber says that he “squatted” near Juliana Pope’s house and “became the new patriarch of Pope Valley.” Barnett brought the first fruit tree seedlings from Missouri to Calistoga in l848.
Juliana herself took legal possession of Pope’s land in l845 by meeting the Mexican civil authorities with “three knowledgeable witnesses:” her husband Barnett, Florencio Salazar, and Joseph Chiles. Her surveyor was Juan Solis. Solis joined with George Yount, who was acting as surveyor for the mayor of Sonoma, and together they measured the boundaries of the property. At each of the four corners of the property, it is said that Juliana pulled up stones and grass and threw them to the four winds to manifest her possession of the land.
Californianas like Juliana ran the ranchos while the men were away. They were trained in horseback riding and in the use of small arms to protect themselves. Like all women in the l9th century, they were pregnant most of their adult lives. Juliana had six more children with Barnett, including two sets of twins in l845 and l854. By then she had borne eleven children.
The Barnett family also adopted three Indian children. Disease had decimated the native population during the l830s when the first group of trappers came from the Northwest, bringing smallpox. Salvador Vallejo estimated that 60,000 people died in Sonoma alone. George Yount, who had never learned to read or write, told an interviewer: “After burning the bodies of their friends in heaps of hundreds, in despair the living fled to the mountains and wandered desolate and forlorn.” Lin Weber notes that the indigenous population that camped near Edward Bale’s mill “gradually diminished and disappeared altogether by about l885.”
In l850, California was admitted to the Union; four years later, Juliana Pope Barnett sold half of the land and “l00 head of cattle, l5 mares and 9 colts” to her eldest son Jose, for $8000. She sold the other half of the land to her other five children for $5000. According to the Society of California Pioneers, Elias Barnett died February 8, 1880 in Pope Valley. Further research might illuminate how and why Juliana and her husband were able to separate in an era in which divorces were rare. Perhaps she sold her land to finance her relocation.
We don’t know where Juliana lived for the next six years. Her granddaughters reported that she painted nudes, which hung in the bars of San Francisco during the Gold Rush. By l860, the U.S. Census records Juliana as a “female farmer” living in San Bernardino with her daughter Isabella Pope; her son Jose lived next door. Twenty years later, she is listed in the census as living with daughter Luciana in Las Cruces, New Mexico. There she died in l900, at 90 years of age. None of her paintings are known to have survived, nor did she leave any written accounts of her life. Therefore, we can only mourn the absence of a more complete record, and be grateful for those who have attempted to retrace her path.
Timeline of New Mexican history:
Lin Weber, Old Napa Valley (Wine Ventures Publishing), l998.
Yount, George. George C. Yount and His Chronicles of the West: Comprising Extracats from the Memoirs and from the Orange Clark Narrative (Old West Publishing), l996.
Linda Heidenreich, “This Land was Mexican Once:” Histories of Resistance from Northern California (University of Texas), 2007
Harvey L Jones and Janice T. Driesbach, http://www.museumca.org/goldrush/art-intro.html, note that:
Images of the Gold Rush were created almost exclusively by men of European descent… Only a small percentage of the paintings, watercolors and drawings created during this remarkable time survive today. Fires that swept through early Sacramento and San Francisco (including the devastating blaze following the 1906 earthquake) destroyed many artworks; others were lost to various natural calamities or to carelessness.
Special thanks to Tucker Catlin, who compiled much of the research on Juliana Pope, based on the research of Joe Collizo of Pope Valley.