The Pioneers: Charles Weber

The son of a Protestant minister, Weber was born in Germany in 1814, and educated by private tutors. In 1836 he journeyed to America to see an uncle who had immigrated to Illinois. Apparently he never made this visit, occupied instead by business ventures in New Orleans and an excursion to Texas to fight with Sam Houston’s forces for independence from Mexico. By 1840 Weber was in Independence, Missouri, where he joined the Western Immigration Society which departed in May 1841 for points west, about half of the company bound for Oregon. He and other Bartleson-Bidwell Party members arrived at John Marsh’s ranch near Mt. Diablo by late fall; Weber himself spent the winter at Sutter’s Fort in the Sacramento Valley. Three years later Captain Sutter jailed him for treason against Governor Micheltorena. (The two made up later on.) After learning of the Bear Flag Rebellion, Weber wavered between loyalty to Mexican General Jose Castro and to the United States, ultimately joining Commodore Robert Stockton’s American forces. However, Charles Weber proved to be an adventurous renegade who exploited his command by raiding area ranches for horses and supplies for U.S. Army explorer John Fremont, who had entered the fray. Following his military discharge shortly after the Battle of Santa Clara, Weber convinced immigrants to join him at the little settlement of Tuleberg, renaming it Stockton in honor of his former commander. In the spring of 1848, a few weeks after James Marshall’s gold discovery at Coloma, Weber took a small fortune in gold from a creek near today’s Placerville, subsequently called Weber Creek. Weber began providing supplies to the stampede of gold miners, and when Stockton became the major supply center for the southern mines, quickly became rich. He married Helen Murphy, the daughter of Martin Murphy Senior, in 1850. Weber was a recluse in his later years, and allegedly mentally unbalanced.