William Ide, President of the Republic of California and Yes, a Famous Mormon

In a previous post, I asked if anyone could confirm if William Ide, an early settler in California who became President of the Republic of California, was actually a Mormon. A member of the Church in California with extensive historical information provided me the answer: Yes! William Ide rightfully belongs in the ranks of famous Mormons, though it is true that he and other Latter-day Saints of his day sometimes hid the fact that they were LDS, possibly to preserve their lives in times of persecution.

Below is the info I just received (I will provide the name of the kind person who supplied it if they grant me permission to share that).

William Brown Ide – he was an early Church leader in Illinois (a presiding Elder in a branch of the Church near Nauvoo). In 1844, Ide was elected a state delegate of Illinois and it was he that nominated Joseph Smith as a candidate for the U.S. presidency. In 1845, he and his wife and their eight children moved to California, being the first known Mormons to settle in that state. He was one of the main instigators and leaders in the Bear Flag Revolt, and was elected the first and only president of the short-lived Republic of California, an independent nation for just less than a month – June 14 to July 9, 1846. He suggested a new flag for the new republic and was instrumental in the design of the Bear Flag, which later became the official California state flag. After serving in several political offices, William Ide died in 1878 in St. George, Utah. His ranch and homestead, Rancho de la Barranca Colorada, near Red Bluff, California is a state park – the William B. Ide State Historic Park. Nearby “Ides Cove” is named after him. In 1879, his oldest son James settled in the Mormon community of Mesquite, Nevada.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

31 thoughts on “William Ide, President of the Republic of California and Yes, a Famous Mormon

  1. That’s really interesting. If he died in St. George, he can’t have been an apostate–any idea what he was doing in California before the early pioneers got to Utah? Was he a political refugee sent away early for his own protection, maybe?

  2. I don’t know whether William Ide was an apostate or not, but I also don’t see why his dying in St. George makes it an impossibility.

  3. Sources I have consulted indicate that William B. Ide died in 1852 in Monroeville, California (near Red Bluff). I’d like to know the source for the claim that he died in St. George.

  4. Slinger, I can’t say categorically that an apostate in California would have no incentive to go to southern Utah. But I agree, it seems likelier that a California apostate would either stay in California, or move somewhere else, rather than to the rather harsh environment of late 19th Century Utah “Dixie” country.

  5. I, too, would like to see the evidence of Ide dying in St. George. A few years ago, a Butte College anthropology class re-interred what is believed to be Ide (though there was nothing in the grave to provide positive proof) in the Monroeville cemetery, which is not too far from Chico, CA. I’ve seen nothing to suggest otherwise.

  6. There is an old monument along a highway West of Chico, CA indicating that William Brown Ide was buried in 1852 in an unlocated grave approximately 800 yards East of the monument.

  7. As an ancestor of the late Ide, I can say from our own family records that he did apostacize in California as he was “saved” by a group of Anglo-missionaries near Sacremento. He and his wife, lived and died in California. I have no record that he died in St. George. I believe you are correct. There was no point in going to St George.

  8. William B. Ide is my husband’s ancestor and we just visited Windsor, Vt. where he built a home for his brother Simeon. We are trying to find other relatives as we are just really getting started on researching my husband’s line. Would appreciate any help. guilide@roadrunner.com

  9. Ide died and is buried in Monroeville Ca. I am is the prosess of gettig him a proper headstone.

    Dave Freeman
    530 591-2043

  10. Quote your sources. Otherwise, there has been lots of conflicting and scholarly research done on William B. Ide. Nothing points definitively to being Mormon and definitely the part about St. George Utah is most likely hogwash.

  11. Hi,
    There are a couple of errors on this short biography of William B. Ide that I would like to correct.

    William Brown Ide – he was an early Church leader in Illinois (a presiding Elder in a branch of the Church near Nauvoo). In 1844, Ide was elected a state delegate of Illinois and it was he that nominated Joseph Smith as a candidate for the U.S. presidency. In 1845, he and his wife and their eight children moved to California, being the first known Mormons to settle in that state. He was one of the main instigators and leaders in the Bear Flag Revolt, and was elected the first and only president of the short-lived Republic of California, (this was actually the Bear Flag Republic, Dave F) an independent nation for just less than a month – June 14 to July 9, 1846. He suggested a new flag for the new republic and was instrumental in the design of the Bear Flag, which later became the official California state flag.

    According to Ide’s letters, William Todd designed the flag and built the flag.

    After serving in several political offices, William Ide died in 1878 in St. George, Utah.

    Ide died in the town of Monroeville California on the night of Dec. 19 – 20th, 1852 of smallpox. I have discovered this town and the cabin where he died of smallpox. There are over 100 pages of documentation at the current Colusa County Courthouse detailing the distribution of his personal holdings and holdings after his death. He was the county judge at the time and his life and death these details were well documented in the county records.

    His ranch and homestead; Rancho de la Barranca Colorada, near Red Bluff, California is a state park – the William B. Ide State Historic Park.

    The William B. Ide Adobe State Historical Park is in honor of William Ide. Resent research had proven that the adobe at the State Park was never owned by William Ide. It was at one time however, rented by one of his sons. According to Ide’s letters he lived to the south of the Park and Red Bluff on the bank of Red Bank Creek in a cabin with a fireplace in the center. The State Park structure is an adobe and the fireplace at the end. The State of California has known of this error for many years but still honors William Ide with this beautiful Park.
    I am constructing William B. Ide a new headstone. The current stone is a concrete replacement when the Monroeville Cemetery was vandalized in1979. Ide is listed in error on this headstone as “Governor”.
    Please, feel free to contact me.

    Thank you,

    Dave Freeman
    530 934-7658

  12. Ide's son, James M. Ide, was the one who died 13 Mar 1878 in St. George (source: Utah Cemetery Records). James married a Mormon wife, Lydia Ann Cranson Holly, and left for Utah from California between 1860 and 1870 (US Census records).

    I would like to see the proof that he was a delegate to the LDS church in Illinois. I have no such records in my family file.
    Thank you,
    Relative of Wm B Ide

  13. This is most likely not be William B. Ide's son. This person in Utah is listed as James Monroe Ide.

    William B. Ide's first born son was James Madison Ide.

    Two Differnt persons.

  14. Hi Jenalee,
    I am making William B. Ide a new ehadstone for his grave in Monroeville.

    Also, I have found the lost town of Monrooeville and this includes the cabin where he died, the Monroe House (Colusi Courthouse) and just a few days ago the site of the jail he built. Several other non Ide sites also.

    Dave Freeman
    artois.dave @gmail.com

  15. According to http://www.familysearch.org James Monroe Ide was the oldest son of William Brown Ide and Susan Grout Haskell. James Monroe Ide is buried in St. George, Utah. William Brown Ide and his wife Susan died in Red Bluff, California.

  16. After arriving in St. George in 1861, James Monroe Ide operated the pyle driver rigging which prepared the footings for the Temple which utilized a large cannon from Stockton's ship from the Mexican War. On August 24, Jamesa Monroe Ide and William Faucett did the temple work for William Ellery a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Rhode Island and relative as directed by Wilfred Woodruff. He was unable to do temple work for his namesake James Monroe who was not a signer of the Declaration.

    Rick Behrens r.k.behrens@att.net

  17. Richard Cohen and Arnold Garr (Professors in Religious Studies at Brigham Young University looked together to see what they could find about Ide being involved in Joseph Smith's candidacy in ILL. Garr could find nothing in his book on Joseph Smith’s candidacy in 1844 about Ide’s role.Susan Black, one of their colleagues, has compiled an exhaustive multi-volume list of Latter-day Saints before 1848, based on official Church records, diaries, etc.; Ide is not included.

  18. In the process of constructing William Ide a proper headstone, the issue of his religious affiliation became an issue with some Ide family members. Research was conducted that relates to your post. Below is what was learned.

    For a complete copy please contact me at artois.dave@yahoo.com

    Dave Freeman,
    Artois Ca.


    16 July 2010
    TO: R. Smokey Bassett
    Historian, Sierra Nevada Mormon Pioneers
    California Pioneer Heritage Foundation
    FROM: Michael N. Landon
    Consultation Services
    Church History Library
    RE: Evidence that William B. Ide was a Latter-day Saint

    Evidence that Ide was a Latter-day Saint, while not conclusive, is still compelling:

    1.) He was a delegate to the convention nominating Joseph Smith as a candidate for the President of the United States.

    2.) A possible validation of the assertion that William Ide was a member of the Church in the Kirtland, Ohio area in the late 1830s can be found in the following Journal History entry:

    In his biography of his brother William, Simeon Ide noted that after a short stay in Canton, Kentucky, William “with his young family, (a wife and six children,) . . . removed to Madison, Montgomery Co., eight miles from Dayton, Ohio in 1834 . . .” and remained there until 1838. Simeon possibly was mistaken; the “Madison” referred to in this case is not near Dayton, but rather the township of Madison, Geauga County, Ohio, the same county in which Kirtland is situated.
    Mark Staker’s new work Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting for Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations includes a map listing Madison township about eighteen miles from Kirtland township. Staker noted, “Eighteen miles before reaching Kirtland, Joseph and his party passed through Madison
    . . . .”

  19. The embeded images from the prior post showing some of the documention did not tranfer though the list server. Please contact me and I will send them in a regular email.

    Dave Freeman

  20. My name is William B Ide and I am the great great grandson of William Brown Ide. My father was Bernard Alston Ide, his father was also named William B. Ide, and his father was Daniel Webster Ide, son of William Brown Ide. Dave Freeman is the most accurate commentator I've read on my ancestor here and I'm pretty sure, although he was Mormon early in his life and did have direct dealings with Joseph Smith, that William Brown Ide did not practice Mormonism in his later life in California to my knowledge. None of my family I just mentioned were Mormon. James M. Ide did die in St George, Utah, and his middle name is Monroe, not Madison. William Brown Ide owned 17,000 acres in Red Bluff, CA acquiring a Mexican land grant from Peter Lassen through John Sutter (Ide did well gold mining in late 1840's and early 1850's when he first arrived in California). This ranch was called Rancho De La Barranca Colorada, and my father Bernard Alston Ide, sold the last of it in the late 1950's when I was a small boy (not sure how many acres that was but I believe there we about 5,000 acres left). This Ide got none. William Brown Ide was buried in Monroeville cemetery, which is about 15 miles from Red Bluff, and was the town that he acted as judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc., a few of many official titles he held in California. The most famous was his role as President of California, leading the Bear Flag Revolt against Mexico, capturing General Vallejo, and imprisoning him in Sonoma, CA., where the settlers raised the Bear Flag and declared Califonia an Independent Republic. This lasted about two months until General John C. Freemont was brought in by the United States to take over for William Brown Ide. It was then that William Brown Ide and his son Bill Ide took up arms and helped fight in the Mexican American War.
    There is a California State Historical Park dedicated to William Brown Ide (I was actually married there as it is a really pretty piece of land right next to the Sacramento River). The property consists primarily of a log cabin that William Brown Ide never lived in but built for a ferryman as that location in the 1850's was a ferry crossing.
    My father Bernard Alston Ide died when I was pretty young so most of my family history comes from memories of what was told to me by family members. My sister Ivy Ide lives in Kansas and she and I someday will get together and try and put down on paper everything that we can remember about our famous ancestors history and contributions to the State of California.
    I've spoke many times to Dave Freeman and am very impressed with his dedication and efforts to memorialize William Brown Ide's accomplishments with a headstone in the Monroeville cemetery. For that I am very thankful as it seems appropriate that William Brown Ide be remembered for his contributions. It's funny that the city of Sonoma praises John C. Fremont's involvement in the Bear Flag Revolt but pretty much ignores my Great Great Grandfather with nothing really mentioned about his short lived Presidency.

  21. Thank you for your input on your ancestor. Preparatory t being a docent at the Sonoma Barracks I am researching the Bear Flag Revolt. Some of what you report I question as I have not found that Fremont took over Sonoma, and he is a bit nefarious relative to the 'revolt' and I am not aware of Fremont being praised by the City of Sonoma. My own research and relative to the California State Parks which administers both the 'Barracks' and the Mission St Francis Solano I find Fremont to be of questionable character surrounding the events immediate prior to and subsequent to the 'Revolt'. A good reference relative to Wm.B.Ide is in Bancroft's Volume V pages 14 to 18. In my thinking Fremont leaves a lot to be desired as any kind of a forth right leader in California.

  22. RE: Documents dealing with Wm Ide's membership in The LDS church.

    1. Autobiography of James Horace Nelson, Senior. Published by Kilham Stationary & Printing Co. Portland OR. The book includes part of the Bio of David Nelson: pg 143-146 describe Nelson's traveling to Nauvoo, Ill, the center of the early Saints, with the Ide family.

    [See entry #2 following…}

  23. 2. IDE Letter discovered in the LDS Church History Library by researcher Michael Landon.
    Many Calif. & LDS historians have suggested that IDE, the first and only "Commander in Chief" or President of the Calif Republic, may have been a Mormon. After years of research by several people, including Landon, the proof is at hand! It is believed that the Ide family were the first Mormons that came into the Mexican state of Alta Calif.
    The following transcription [item #3] of a hand-written letter was believed to have been from IDE. But in 2013, when the handwriting was compared to documents written by Ide as a town official and judge, it could not be proven. Mr. Dave Freeman (noted on this blog site) provided scanned copies of county records entered by Ide, thus providing the needed proof.
    Also the discovery of the James Horace Nelson, Sr., family history (see above) matched data in the letter and provided a link to the names, dates & places in Ide's letter and the biography by his brother. However, for whatever reason, his brother did not include Wm's LDS membership.

    Elder R. Smokey Bassett
    CA Living History Mission,
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    Sierra Nevada Mormon Pioneers living history group.
    Rocklin CA. 24 July 2015.

  24. Item 3 of 3. Wm B. Ide's letter:

    "I first heard the gospel set forth in my own house in Ohio about the last of June 1836 by John Murdock, John Lawson and David Nelson all of whom were official members of the Church. Bro. John Murdock led the conversation . . . next proposed to preach to my family; in reply I said he might preach to me and converse with me as he chose and if I should like the doctrine I would I would give it to my family. A conversation ensued which lasted from 11 o clock A.M. until past 11 P.M. when he came to Baptism for the remission of sins in the name of Jesus when I rose up (advancing towards the door) and declared, that, if he would take upon himself the responsibility of administering in the name and by his Authority received of The Lord Jesus Christ I would go with him to the creek (which was near the house) and be baptised – he said he would wait until morning as it was late. In the morning I was disappointed that he said no more about baptism. This, was, in the space of six month[s] repeated by other authorities in the Church, once or twice and I concluded either that I had committed some un repented sin against God – was suspected of having done so or that these men did not know that they had authority In July “37 David Nelson came to me as I was plowing in the field & said that he would not bear the responsibility of refusing or neglecting to baptize me (seeing I had offered to receive it as aforesaid) any longer and, that if I was ready he would baptize me.
    I did not receive baptism that day but concluded as I had been held in doubt so long by the servants of God that there might be a cause for it – So I humbled my self or I tried to bow my Spirit before God that I might know what cause had hindered that I should not have been baptized but in my blindness I could not perceive any. so after one or two days I followed the sd [said] Nelson 18 miles as cheerfully as I could, remembering the words of the savior and the next morning at about 4 after endeavoring to bow my spirit with my body lest I should yet be deceived through the exceeding deceitfulness of sin, was Baptised in the Great Miami River in the presence of—let me not offend if I say—O God forbid that I should offend any more by appealing to the testimony of the heavens—in the presence of Bro. [B?] Parkhurst by—David Nelson We retired to Bro Nelsons house and, after changing clothes, Bro Nelson consulted with Bro Parkhurst and it was agreed that I should be confirmed a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints. I was seated—(I do not complain on finding fault of any one)—but where I expected to hear the unhesitating promise on declaration “receive ye &c.” the Elders [“Elders” overwritten on another word, possibly “priests”] voice faultered—and stopt went on—and said that “hereafter” you shall receive the gift of the holy ghost My spirits sunk as I said within my self am I not yet excepted of God… Yet I felt that the act was right so far as I was concerned, and I began to rejoice in it. I began to teach baptism to my family and a few days after Bro Nelson came to my house and baptized my wife and four Children being all above 8 years old He held meetings at my house I rejoiced in “Mormonism.” I cheerfully all that could be said against me by my enraged friends and neighbors. suffered myself abused for pleading the cause of the gospel. Was turned out of doors and invited back again and was driven out again, by my best friends, and felt no spirit of resentment, because I loved them – I know I loved them, the more for the gospel’s sake, because the gospel was for them as well also…."

  25. Arguments both against and for the possibility of Ide being a baptized member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are thoroughly laid out in "William Brown Ide: Mormon President of the Republic of California," published by me in the Fall 2015 issue of Mormon Historical Studies pp.1-33. Therein my collaborators and I definitively prove that Ide and his family were not only the first known Mormons to enter California, but that he was called on a mission in support of Joseph Smith's candidacy for the presidency of the United States. He was also very likely set apart as the branch president of the Church in Springfield, Ohio before he independently departed for California. As President of the short-lived Republic of California Ide was arguably the first LDS head of state. With the publication of this study in a refereed scholarly journal this question has now been laid to rest. One can argue whether or not Ide persisted in Mormonism (as at least one of his children obviously did), but there can no longer be any question as to whether or not he was a baptized member of the Mormon Church.

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