BIO- Pen Pictures
Oliver Boulieu, of the Willow District, resides on Lincoln Avenue, near its intersection with Pine Avenue. He is one of the pioneers of the State, coming to California when it was yet a Mexican Province. He was born near Quebec, Canada, March 15, 1810. His life has been a checkered one and full of adventure. His father was a farmer and miller, and Oliver remained on the farm and with his parents until about fourteen years old, and was then apprenticed to Alex. Osgood, and served three years in learning the trade. In 1827 he removed to Upper Canada, worked about six months getting out ship timber, and then emigrated to Burlington, Vermont, working at his trade. He remained in Vermont for three years, and while in Burlington Mr. Boulieu had the pleasure of meeting and shaking hands with Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Martin Van Buren. In 1831 he moved to Boston and remained three years, working for Childs, the banker. Here, in 1834, he met General Lafayette, and mentions with pride and a just satisfaction the grand parade given to the General in Boston upon his last visit to the city “La Granda Parada.” From Boston Mr. Boulieu went to New Hampshire, where he resided for two years; after this he returned to Canada to revisit his people, and then came back to his adopted country, locating for one year at Detroit, Michigan. We find him next in Wisconsin, where he bought three sections of land, and remained for three years. Rattlesnakes were so numerous, however, that he was finally forced to sell out. One afternoon he killed no less than sixty of the reptiles with his scythe while mowing.
The next move was to St. Louis, Missouri, passing through, on the way, what is now the city of Chicago. At St. Louis he spent the winter, taking occasion to pay a flying visit to New Orleans. In April, 1844, he joined General Fremont’s expedition, and with him went to Independence, Missouri, from there to Fort Benton, and on to Fort Laramie, where he was stricken with cholera, but recovered in time to go on with the command to Fort Hall, where winter overtook them. So far, the journey consumed six months. Although the snow was already falling, but a week was spent here recuperating and organizing, and then they pushed on to The Dalles, Oregon, where they spent some time trading with the Indians, and procuring new horses and outfits. The next stop was at Lake Tahoe, where, on account of the loss of all their animals, they were forced to stop and recuperate. The trials and privations they passed through can hardly be imagined. Their sufferings were terrible, reaching almost the perils of starvation. At the lake, however, they met a body of about 5,000 Indians, who supplied them with food in abundance and provided them a guide. After three days’ marching they reached what is now known as Fremont’s Peak. Here the guide abandoned them, and for a time they were in a terrible plight, having to kill their mules to sustain life. Cold, freezing, and dying with hunger, Mr. Boulieu made his way in advance of the party to the summit of the mountain. His eyes were delighted to look down into the valley below, the first to do so. An hour later, General Fremont came up and joined him, with three others. Here they divided their remaining food, which consisted of three crackers, among the starving five, and set out for the valley. One of the party was so enfeebled by cold and hunger, added to the fatigue, that had it not been for Mr. Boulieu, who carried him from the peak to the camp, he must have perished, as he had given up. It will thus be seen that “Fremont’s Peak” might as well, if not better, be called “Boulieu Peak,” as he was the first white man to ascend the mountain. It can truly be said he has seen his full share of danger and hardships, and yet to-day, at the age of seventy-nine years, he is possessed of a physical vigor which might well be envied by a man in fair health and of half his age. His strength and power of endurance were of the greatest assistance to him in the wild Western life into which he entered with such spirit. It took them a whole week of travel through the snow before they reached Sutter’s Fort.
Here Mr. Boulieu left General Fremont’s command, although urged by the latter to return with him, and remained near Sacramento for two years and a half, then establishing a tannery at Sutter’s Fort. Hides were bought at a nominal price, and the business was very successful. In connection with the tannery Mr. Boulieu kept a general store. During Fremont’s operations in the conquest of California, in the Mexican War, he bought largely of the goods, leather, and merchandise of Mr. Boulieu, for which the latter has never been paid. Nearly all of his live stock was seized for use during the war, and for this loss he has as yet received no compensation. His bills against the government, amounting to $15,000, have never been allowed. Mr. Boulieu’s services to the government of eleven months under Fremont, in the expedition of 1844, and under the “Bear Flag,” entitled him to better usage.
After living at Sutter’s Fort for two years and a half, he moved to Santa Rosa, Sonoma Valley, where he remained eleven years. In 1856 he removed to the Willows and took possession of his present home. Here he owns 190 acres of as fine land as can be found in one body in Santa Clara County. Fifty acres are in fruit, of which twenty acres are set to prunes, five to apricots, four to peaches, and the remainder furnishes a general variety of cherries, apples, pears, etc. The orchard is young but coming into bearing the present year (1888). He has devoted his time to general farming, grain-raising, etc. Mr. Boulieu owns a fine residence, which is surrounded by all the appurtenances of a well-conducted ranch. His first wife lived but two years after marriage and left one son, Oliver, who now lives at Santa Clara. His present wife, formerly Miss Elise Pinard, a native of Canada, he married in 1857. They have eleven children: Louis, Elise, Rosalie, Marie, Albert, Charles, Victor, Catherine, Adella, Theodore, and Lionell J.
After an active
life Mr. Boulieu is permitted to enjoy a hale and hearty old age, in his
pleasant home, in the midst of prosperity, which he well deserves.
Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler
Proofread by Betty Vickroy