Jackson Farley
Serial killer? Indian fighter? Pioneering hero?  Or, the 'boastful'  ramblings of an old, demented man?  The trail to finding a family history for one of my husband's lines had been a blank empty canvas for many years - decades even.  So many secrets, so many things no one ever shared and things some probably wanted to forget.  Finding information led to finding the relations of one distant wife and there the jack jumped out the box.  Her brother was said to be 'Jackson' or 'Andrew Jackson' Farley, born in Virginia ca 1804.

He was said to have traveled west with the Donner party but parted company from them when they made their fateful decision to go another path.  He made it into Long Valley, California ca 1857 and Farley, California is said to have been named for him. In 1859 a climax to ongoing stresses between native populations and the pioneers erupted into the "Mendocino War" or "Mendocino Massacre." The story is confusing with many witnesses only emerging decades later, some stories never collected, and many questions never answered.  In the late 1800's a San Francisco paper carried a photo of an old, old man with may weapons and shared the story he had killed more Indians than anyone and that his house was filled with chairs, lamps, and other items made from human skin - the skin of Natives killed.  Local lore seemed to support the aged man's boastful tales.

Jackson Farley was thought to be the son of Thomas Farley and Margaret Ferguson of Virginia.  He was born in 1804 and died in California in 1904.  Just as the life and travels of his sister, Sarah had been mysterious, so apparently was the life of her brother.  Her first husband, Asbel Van Scyoc, disappears between 1856 and 1860. In 1860 she marries another man in her Iowa town.  Had her husband traveled with her brother to California?  One family had the story the family going west was attacked and one family member was killed.  One story claimed Jackson's family was killed was this a trigger for his hatred?  One also has to remember it was a different time then, views were far different than more modern beliefs of what was right.   It was a time that said through its policies, laws, and actions that Blacks, Indians, and Women were merely child-like to downright sub-human. No excuses merely the reality of historic research; one cannot apply modern sensibilities or mores to another time, place, or culture.  We can only seek to understand and find ways of insuring society moves forward past such cruel and blind treatment of other people because of different ways, color, or beliefs.

Some have labeled him a 'Hannibal Lector', ' Hitler', or 'Indian Hater'.   He was a product of his time and culture just as Nero was a product of his. We cannot pick and choose who is in our family tree; we can only decide to use the lessons learned to insure future generations can see we became who we are sometimes not because of who are ancestors were, but in spite of who they were or what they did.

May all of them - victims and perpetrators - rest in peace knowing we have done better than they.

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