The Untimely Death of Isadore Meyerowitz

Isadore Meyerowitz and Peter Lassen moved from Indian Valley to Honey Lake Valley in the summer of 1855. It was a place they had visited as early as 1850, and they became permanent residents when they wintered over in 1855-56. They built a long low log cabin and started ranching in the valley.

Not knowing whether or not they were living within the boundaries of California due to the remote nature of the location, Lassen, Meyerowitz, and other residents of the area including Isaac Roop, decided to organize and declare their own territory. They named it Nataqua and drew up a set of territorial laws. Lassen was the first, and Isadore the second, to put their signatures on the document.

But Isadore’s term of life in Nataqua was short. In the summer of 1856 a boating accident claimed his life.

He and a companion known as Sailor Jack built a crude boat from a wagon bed. With two (or more) other men and Isadore’s Indian wife they set sail on Honey Lake. (Isadore’s wife’s name was never recorded.)

Once out in the middle of the lake, a gust of wind caught the sail and capsized the boat. At first they clung to the makeshift craft, but his wife kept slipping off, and she and Isadore both drowned. One man swam to shore and two others drifted with the boat until it reached the shore. It was a sad end to a sunny July day.

DSCF6248The bodies were never recovered. Isadore’s only memorial was a tribute written in Hutchings’ California Magazine a year later:

Isadore, for thy gentleness and kindness, many loved thee, and for thy true-hearted manliness many respected thee, and — as always when the good die — Isadore, many mourn thy departure.

(Illustration by Ben Barker on the cover of The Short-Lived Explorations of Isadore Meyerowitz, by Rosaline Levenson)

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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