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Madera Biographies: STROMBECK


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     Theodore Thure Strombeck was born in 1829 in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of a Collector of the Court. He ran away from home when he was 16 and went to sea as a cabin boy for two years.  In 1847 his ship sailed into the harbor of Yerba Buena, now San Francisco, where he left it.
     When gold was discovered, Strombeck rigged up a launch and started up the San Joaquin River to Stockton, which then was the main distributing point to the mining country. After two years shipping freight, Strombeck made another move to the southern mines and at Coarsegold Gulch and the Fresno River he not only engaged in mining but also supplied the adjacent camps with meat. Since there were no roads at the time his supplies had to be taken over the trails by Pack train. By that time, the summer of 1851, the Fresno River country was well populated. About that time Strombeck gave himself the name of "Swede Bill."
     Many of the Indians in the lower hills were friendly but the Monos, living along the Sierra ranges, viewed the white man with distrust. Warfare developed when Monos murdered two men at Fine Gold, a mining camp a few miles from Coarsegold. The Mariposa Battalion was formed to go in pursuit of the Indians, and Strombeck was a member of the expedition. Strombeck was in Company B, commanded by Captain John Boling. Major James D. Savage headed the battalion  which discovered  Yosemite Valley and gave it its name after the Indian tribe found as its inhabitants. Strombeck was one of the first to see its beauties.
     Strombeck's ranch here at Coarsegold was the rancheria of the Chukchansi tribe of Indians, many whom still are residents of the district. He married Memerite Melliot, the daughter of Chief Hawa of the Chuckchansi Indians. The daughters are Mrs. J. H. Elam of Coarsegold, Mrs. Fred O. Ninnis of Fresno, Mrs. Mary Jones of Coarsegold and Kathryn Strombeck. The sons included Fred, William, Leonard, Charles and John Strombeck. The Strombeck property later belonged to Will Krohn and is now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wells.
     Another of the ranches is known as The Crossing, situated where the Raymond-Coarsegold Road crosses  the Fresno River, six miles west of Coarsegold. The first post was an adobe building erected by John Ledford and George W. Carson. It was sold shortly after to J. L. Hunt and J. R. Nichols, and Nichols in turn, sold his holdings to J. R. Roan. The adobe was built in 1852. Three Frenchman left the Hunt & Roan post during the summer of '52 on a prospecting trip to the higher country. Two were killed by a band of Indians, the third made his way back to Coarsegold Gulch. From there a band of thirty miners went back with him, found the bodies near the valley and after burying them returned home.
     In 1855 the first tourist party to Yosemite left The Crossing. In the party were Walter Millard, Alexander Stairs and W. Hutchings, all of San Francisco. They made the trip with guides provided by John Hunt.
    Strombeck did the 1880 U.S. Census for District 1 of Fresno County, now Madera County. Because of his Indian wife he was able to survey the Indians in the county, a rare record for that period.
    Strombeck lived in the Coarsegold area until his death in 1911.

Last update: November 11, 2006
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