These are the four letters Tobias and Sarah exchanged after the Zepedas learned the bank would foreclose on their ranch, and before Sarah and Henry were married and Henry murdered in the January of 1871.
October 7th, 1870
I hope that this letter finds you and your parents in the best of health. We are fine in health. Mother wanted me to tell you how much she appreciates your parents’ offer of letting them live there after our ranch is sold. I’m sure that they will be very happy in San Gabriel.
Sarah, I will not be coming to live in San Gabriel. I know your father said I could work on your farm as a farm hand but I never much wanted to be a farmer. Anyway, I need to earn a paycheck so I can help pay for Father’s and Mother’s room and board at your place. I wouldn’t want them feeling as if they were living on charity. So, I guess the only thing to do is find a good paying job somewhere.
After the bank forecloses on us in the spring, I plan on leaving Santa Barbara in search of work. I don’t want to work in Santa Barbara because it wouldn’t feel right working here and not having the ranch or our house to be at home in.
I thought about going to Nevada to mine for silver, but folks say that the easy pickings are long gone and that big syndicates control the mines anyway. I had dreamed about striking it rich but I guess I was born too late for that.
But all is not lost. The good news is a friend told me about his uncle who is a second mate on a merchant ship sailing the Pacific from San Francisco to Hawaii and beyond. He says if I go to San Francisco I could get a job as an apprentice seaman. I think I would like that. You know they feed sailors all their meals on ships and of course sailors have hammocks to sleep in so it’s like having free room and board. And the best part is at the end of every voyage I will be able to send home the money I earn. Also, I’ll be able to see all the foreign sights and cities. I bet all the fellows here in Santa Barbara will be green with envy. And of course someday after I become a first mate or captain I’ll come visit you in San Gabriel and won’t I have a lot of adventure stories to tell you.
Give my regards to your father and mother and tell them I really prefer to make a good living as a sailor and thank them kindly for the offer to work there.
You have always been my best friend and I love you as I would have loved a sister and I won’t ever forget you no matter how far away I sail,
The second letter; from Sarah to Tobias:
October 31st, 1870
I had hoped to have received another letter from you announcing you’d changed your mind about not coming to stay with us. I don’t know why you don’t want to be a farmer. They are some of the nicest and most contented people in the world. There are many smart young men around here who are farmers and who any right thinking girl would be overjoyed to marry.
As far as your intentions on becoming a sailor and going to sea, I won’t say that is the most bone-headed plan I’d ever heard of in all my life. But have you considered how dangerous it is? Ships are wrecked on rocky shores all the time. Sailors painfully drown in the cold dark sea and are never seen again. There are also cold -blooded murderous pirates swarming the oceans who kill everybody they rob from and sometimes they torture their victims first. Such an awful and dismal fate would break your mother’s and father’s hearts. But if that’s the best plan you can dream up, then I can only wish you good fortune though I don’t think a sailor’s pay is much in the way of a fortune.
The third letter; from Tobias to Sarah:
November 7th, 1870
I hope this letter finds you and your parents in good health and prosperity. We are fine in health here at the ranch. Last month we had to tell one of our ranch hands that we could no longer pay him. He stayed around for a few weeks working for just meals and to sleep in the bunkhouse, but he found work on a nearby farm and has left us. Now we are down to just one hand which is fine because we’ve sold off a lot of the stock and there isn’t much work to do now. We still have the horses because Mother and Father are going to need them to pull the wagon with the household goods down to San Gabriel.
Thank you for your good advice and concern about becoming a sailor. But I do think you exaggerate the dangers a tad much. I figure that not everybody who goes to sea drowns or dies by other means, some must live long enough to become sea captains because there are sea captains on those ships I see anchoring off the Santa Barbara beach. Anyway, thank you for your concern, but my mind is made up. If I can’t raise the fastest horses in California on my own ranch, then I may as well go out and see the world.
You have always been my best friend and I love you as I would have loved a sister and I won’t ever forget you even if I’m captured by blood-thirsty pirates and forced to sail under the Jolly Roger flag,
The fourth letter; from Sarah to Tobias:
December 12th, 1870
Life goes on very pleasantly here on the farm in beautiful San Gabriel. Lately there have been quite a few social events here in the valley. Did I ever tell you about the Porters? That would be my friend Elizabeth who used to be a MacMillan but married Michael Porter last year. Anyway, they were blessed just last week with the birth of a baby boy. Isn’t that wonderful? Life here can be so wonderous that way.
But that’s not the grandest news I have to tell you. Henry Brown asked for my hand in marriage and I accepted. We are to be married this coming January. He’s a fine young man who works diligently on his father’s farm. And because I’m my father’s only child, I’ll someday inherit his farm. Then Henry and I will have two farms. Hopefully God will bless us with many children and hopefully someday you’ll return from sailing around the world to see all of them and you can tell them your adventure tales.
Tobias, I am so sorry you won’t be coming here with your parents in the spring, but I do wish you well and hope and pray for you to remain safe and content with the choices you are making.
Fondest wishes from your best friend,