Scope and Content
Title: Winkley (John W.) "Major Pierson Barton Reading, California Pioneer"
Collection number: Mss167
Extent: 0.3 linear ft.
University of the Pacific. Library. Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Winkley (John W.) "Major Pierson Barton Reading, California
Pioneer", Mss167, Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections, University of the
Pierson Barton Reading (1816-1868)came to California with Peter Burnett's party (1843).
Upon arrival he applied for lands at the north end of the Central Valley on the west side
of the Sacramento River between Cottonwood Creek and Flat Creek totaling about twenty-six
thousand acres. The grant was the northernmost Mexican land grant, known as Rancho Buena
Ventura, now in Shasta County. Reading worked for Capt. Sutter until it became probable
that war would be declared against Mexico (1845). He then enlisted under John C. Fremont
and was appointed paymaster of the California Battalion with the rank of major. He was at
Sutter's Fort in March 1848 and quickly returned to his own lands to search for gold. In
the latter part of March he discovered gold and it was reported that he took out $80,000
worth of the precious metal. In the fall of 1849 Major Reading fitted out an expedition
to discover the bay into which the Trinity and Klamath rivers must empty. The bark
Josephine, in which the party sailed, was driven by a storm to Vancover Island. He then
engaged in business in Sacramento with Hensley and Snyder (1849-1850).
In 1850 Major Reading visited Washington to settle his accounts as Paymaster of the
California Battalion. In 1851 Reading was nominated Whig Candidate for governor but was
defeated. In 1854 Reading again went east for a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court on
his land grant claims. There he met and married Fanny Wallace Washington. Reading then
returned (1856) with his bride by steamship, remaining on his Shasta County ranch and
devoting his attention to agricultural pursuits until his death.
Scope and Content
Manuscript biography by John Winkley of the prominent northern California pioneer, Major
Pierson Barton Reading (1816-1868). Winkley accessed three collections in his research
for this biography: the Reading family papers in the possession of Major Reading's
grand-daughter, Eleanor Lee Reading-Templeman of Arlington, Virginia; a file at the
California State Library in Sacramento; and, papers at Sutter's Fort, Sacramento. The
family collection includes letters, personal notations, newspaper clippings from Shasta
City, Sacramento, San Francisco, and other towns and a biographical manuscript on Major
Reading by his daughter, Alice Reading. Sutter's Fort holds a diary kept by Mrs. Pierson
B. Reading (1861-1862). The State Library holds Reading's correspondence.