The Sensational Saga of Talbot H. Green — Part 6

For four years, from 1851 to 1855, Talbot Green languished in Tennessee, writing plaintive letters to Thomas O. Larkin and watching the return mail. He maintained that his former partners and friends, W.D.M. Howard and Joseph P. Thompson, owed him a considerable sum of money. Moreover, the U. S. government still owed him money for goods he supplied the army in 1847. His pleas did not go unheeded, but it must have been easy to ignore a man who was in the powerless position that Green found himself.

The claim on the government necessitated a power of attorney from Green, and Larkin gave the task to his stepbrother Ebenezer Childs to execute. By this means Green’s whereabouts were revealed. This put him in a tizzy, but eventually it all worked out. He was able to meet with Sam Brannan and W.D.M. Howard to settle his affairs satisfactorily. After some dickering and discounting, he wrote to Larkin that the balance due him, which Howard promised to pay, was $67,118. He stopped by Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and gave his wife Henrietta $500.

He returned to San Francisco in the summer of 1855. It was not, however, the happy reunion with old friends that he had hoped for. William Francis White, in A Picture of Pioneer Times in California, reported that he looked “broken down and wretched.”

He appeared to shun every one, and every one shunned him. I met him once after his return. We had been intimate friends. The meeting was embarrassing and awkward. I did not know how to address him. With me Talbot H. Green was no longer in existence, and as to the poor, weak creature, Paul Geddes, I did not care for his acquaintance; so, without addressing him once by name, we parted.

Green/Geddes left San Francisco and traveled up the Sacramento Valley. He visited old acquaintances in Northern California: Pierson B. Reading, Albert G. Toomes, and Robert H. Thomes. The names will be familiar to residents of Shasta and Tehama Counties.

He left California in September 1856 and returned at last to his hometown in Pennsylvania. He wrote to Larkin:

I found everything about the house as I left it, nothing changed. It seems now as if I had not been absent a week, everything is so familiar. The hardest task was to have to become acquainted with my own children. One is 19 years old; the other 17. [Two children had died while he was absent.] My daughter is a very bright and smart girl and has improved her time at school very well; the boy is very quiet and, I think, rather dull, but I hope he will improve.


Geddes family tomb, from

He didn’t stay in Pennsylvania. He moved with his wife and children to Texas, where he engaged in land speculation for a few years. By 1880 he was back at home in Pennsylvania, living on friendly terms with his neighbors, although he would never talk of his time in California. He died on July 2, 1889.

His name lives on in San Francisco: Talbot H. Green is the man that Green Street is named after. Notice it the next time you drive northward on Van Ness Ave (Hwy. 101), and think of the man who could have inspired the song, “What Was Your Name in the States?”


Bibliographical Note: The information for this series of posts came primarily from:

Hussey, John Adam. “New Light upon Talbot H. Green.” California Historical Society Quarterly, March 1939, pp. 32-63.

A Picture of Pioneer Times in California , by William Francis White, can be found on Google Books, and makes for entertaining reading.


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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