Joseph Webb Winans, 49er

There were a number of Winans family members who traveled to California soon after gold was discovered in 1848. One of the most prominent of these pioneers was Joseph Webb Winans, who was born 18 July 1820 in New York City. He was among the first of the gold-seekers to set out from the East Coast of the U. S. A., as described in this 6 Feb 1849 New York Herald article:


Sailing of the Strafford - departure of the New York Mining Company
This noble bark, with her precious living freight, got under weigh and stood out to sea at an early hour Sunday morning, accompanied by the steam boat Samson and a host of friends, who sought this last opportunity of bidding farewell and God-speed to as noble band of adventurers as ever left their homes for a country "far off and distant." ...
The following list of officers and members was kindly furnished by Mr. Freeman, the active and gentlemanly secretary:--
J. W. Winans, Finance Committee
J. C. Winans

The J. W. Winans who was mentioned in this 1849 article turns out to be the Joseph Webb Winans listed in Alice Winans Egy's Winans Family Genealogy as [1-5-6-2-6-2], while J. C. Winans is his first cousin, John Carver Winans.

Marriage. Joseph's wife was Sarah Adelaide Badlam, who also came to California in the Gold Rush along with her parents, Alexander and Mary Ann (Brannan) Badham. They were married 30 May 1854 in San Francisco.

Children. Joseph and Sarah had the following children:

  1. Sarah Elizabeth "Lillie" Winans, born 9 May 1856 in Calistoga, CA, died 4 Nov 1914. Her death notice appeared in the 13 Nov edition of the San Francisco Chronicle:

    Miss Lillie E. Winans, daughter of the late Joseph W. Winans of this city, passed away November 4th at her summer home in Calistoga after a brief illness of pneumonia. The interment was at St. Helena, the burial being private owing to illness of the mother and an aunt. Miss Winans is survived by her mother, an aunt, Mrs. Mary Carpenter, and a cousin, Thomas F. Meagher Jr.

  2. Joseph William Winans, born 4 Nov 1857 in Sacramento, died 31 May 1894 in Sacramento.
  3. Gerard Clarence Winans, born 25 Apr 1861, died 7 Nov 1880 in Sacramento.

Joseph W. Winans was the subject of the following article on the front page of the 29 May 1881 San Francisco Chronicle:


Sketches of their Lives, Doings and Characteristics.

An Omnivorous Book Collector
Joseph W. Winans.

This gentleman, whose reputation as a lawyer is rivaled by his fame as a writer and philanthropist, is of German and English ancestry. His forefathers came to this country in 1700 and took an active part in the stirring events of Revolutionary times. His father was a prominent merchant in New York city for forty years, and in that great metropolis, July 18, 1820, Joseph W. Winans was born. He entered college at 16, and graduated with honors at 20, receiving the degree of A. M. and the license to practice law from Columbia College three years later.

For several years he followed his profession, but when the California fever was at its height, in company with a few friends, he purchased, manned and fitted out a yacht and set sail for the land of promise, arriving within the Golden Gate August 30, 1849, after a long and exciting voyage around the Horn. After a short stay they sailed on to Sacramento and anchored there, and the law firm of Winans & Hyer, formed soon after, was known as the leading firm of the capital for a decade of years.

In 1860 Mr. Winans removed to San Francisco, where he entered into a partnership with D. P. Belknap, and has been associated with that gentleman ever since. He has held many offices of dignity and importance, has twice held the position of President of the Pioneers' Society of Sacramento, and in 1865 was elected President of the State Society of Pioneers at San Francisco. In 1876 he was appointed one of the Regents of the State University. He was also one of the founders of the San Francisco Law Library, and has always played an important part in its management. He is a gentleman of kind and very sympathetic nature, and his indignation at the abuses he had witnessed perpetrated upon helpless animals led him to take a leading part in the organization of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in this city, afterwards supplemented by the creation of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He has been President of both societies since their organization, and exercises an active supervision over their work.

He was married in 1854 to a daughter of Alexander Badlam of Sacramento. His home on Clay street in this city is a comfortable, solid, old-fashioned mansion, rendered delightful by the air of culture and refinement which pervades it. It contains one of the most extensive and valuable private libraries in the city, a collection fast increasing, for its owner is an omnivorous book collector. By the expression omnivorous, it is not deigned to imply any lack of discrimination or taste, but simply that the tastes and accomplishments of the owner are so general, embracing a love for art, poetry, romance, history, satire, science, and he is so appreciative of all that is good and true and earnest in the literary field, that he has never been able to restrict himself to any specialty, like most book collectors. Mr. Winans is himself an eloquent, graceful and vigorous writer, and a collection of his sketches is shortly anticipated by book lovers of the State.

The 1850 U. S. Census lists a 25-year-old New York-born lawyer, Jos. W. Wynans, living in Sacramento with another New York lawyer, Jno. Keyer (his law partner Hyer?), who is probably this 49er. In the 1860 census, J. W. was living with his wife's family, plus several servants, in what must have been a spacious and sumptuous Sacramento home.

Joseph's advocacy for abused children is mentioned in an article in the 24 Dec 1882 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle which described various actions of the Board of Freeholders:

Joseph W. Winans of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children appeared before the Legislative Committee at noon, and asked that the provision of the present law relative to diverting fines in the Police Court to the benefit of the Society be incorporated in the new Charter. Without these fines, he said, the functions of the Society would largely cease, as it would then have to be wholly maintained by public charity.

Another Chronicle article, from 7 Aug 1894, touched briefly on Joseph's association with the California Pioneers and hinted that not all of the society's meetings were mere social gatherings:


Dr. Simpson Reads a Criticism on Bancroft's History.

At the regular monthly meeting of the California Pioneers held last night obituaries of Joseph W. Winans and H. B. McNeal, deceased members of the society, were read and approved. Committees were appointed to prepare obituaries of N. Holland and ex-Governor Low.

Dr. Simpson read a carefully prepared and interesting criticism of that portion of Bancroft's history which purports to give an account of the life and acts of General Fremont. The history was declared to be thoroughly inaccurate and in many instances wholly false and presented without the least foundation. The paper read was not confined alone to criticism, but presented what Dr. Simpson held to be the fullest proofs, evidence to show the falsity of Bancroft's publication.

Death. Joseph W. Winans died 31 Mar 1887 in San Francisco and Sarah died 9 Nov 1910 in Calistoga. Joseph's death was reported in the following brief item at the bottom of a column of miscellaneous news on page 4 of the 1 Apr 1887 San Francisco Chronicle:

SAN FRANCISCO, March 31.-- ...

Joseph W. Winans, of the law firm of Winans & Belknap, died this morning.

Joseph's final resting place is the subject of this article at the site of the Calistoga chamber of commerce:

Haunted Haunts

Besides the modern celebration of Halloween (complete with a downtown parade just after dark), Calistoga is the home of some haunted haunts.

Winans Vault is located on the hillside at the corner of Kortum Canyon and Foothill Blvd. behind what is now Buster's Barbeque. This was once the site of the home of Ezra Badlam, a nephew of Sam Brannan. Badlam was postmaster, Western Union Agent and manager of Brannan's Hot Springs Hotel. Sarah Badlam, daughter of Ezra, married Joseph W Winans, a San Francisco lawyer. Winans Vault was built on the property in 1870 by Ezra, from stone brought from China by Winans. In 1913 the City of Calistoga passed an ordinance prohibiting housing of non-cremated remains above ground. Records of the St Helena Cemetery Association indicate that in June, 1913, and September of 1919, the remains of ten individuals were removed from the Vault and re-interred in the St Helena Cemetery. These included:

A subsequent property owner, Harry Patten, tried to remove the vault by blasting. Though damaged, it withstood his efforts and though many of the imported stones and the original iron bound door have been removed, the structure still stands and while looking quite forlorn. The vault is now used as a cellar by Dusinberre Champagne Cellars.

The article raises some questions in my mind:

  1. Who was the tenth person buried in the Winans vault?
  2. Where was Sarah (Badlam) Winans buried?
  3. Why is Sarah listed as the daughter of Ezra, not Alexander Badlam?
Last updated: 12 Apr 2009.