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 Piltdown Man-*-Cardiff Giant-*-Drake's Plate of Brasse-*-Fallon's Journal
California Cavalier: the Journal of Captain Thomas Fallon
Edited by Thomas McEnery
Inishfallon [sic] Enterprises Inc., San Jose, CA, 1978
This book is magnificently printed and bound in the best tradition of Bay Area fine press printers by Smith McKay Printing Company, on "Curtice Delmarva" laid paper, and set "Caladonia typeface," but The Fallon Journal never existed! It is pure invention by the self-styled editor.
(A later printing, by History San Jose, which I have not seen, and have not been able to locate, is said to carry a disclaimer)

Reminiscent of the infamous Drake's Plate of Brass, a hoax perpetrated by E. Clampus Vitus upon Herbert E. Bolton, Professor of American History and Director of the Bancroft Library of the University of California (a fellow Clamper) in 1937, the Fallon journal was carefully crafted hoax by Thomas McEnery, then mayor of San Jose, CA. The fictitious journal was based on many accounts, including Frémont's 1845 government Report and the 1958 translation of the diary of Charles Preuss.

Charles Preuss, "August 10, 1843: Shooting buffalo with the howitzer is a cruel but amusing sport."

McEnery's Thomas Fallon, "3rd December 1843: I am sorry I was unable to see them hunting buffalo with the little cannon. It is no doubt cruel but very amusing."

I first became aware of McEnery's book when it was cited by a Sonoma historian in a manuscript I was fact-checking for him. Excited by this apparently newly found source of information, I obtained a copy.
It did not ring true, and just a bit of checking proved that it could not be. I was able to save him the embarrassment of publishing quoted information and references. The book's dust wrapper biography states that Thomas McEnery was awarded a "masters degree in history" from Santa Clara University. Tsk, tsk.

An example of what would seem to be a very important journal entry by Tom Fallon is:

"13 February, 1844: Carson spends a long time carving on a tree today. I hope it is not for a headstone."

This would seem to be evidence relating to the Kit Carson Tree, cut down in 1888, and currently in a State Parks & Recreation storage facility in West Sacramento. But the tree was not on Frémont's route of February 1844, but rather at the top of today's Carson Pass on the route first opened by the exiting Mormon Battalion of 1848. This became the route of the '49ers.
What was Carson doing there? What was McEnry's Fallon doing there observing? All efforts of the expedition were then in building a nearly 20-miles long road across deep snow from near Markleeville at 5,700' to the Pass at near 9,000' elevation.
But don't be fooled: McEnery's Journal of Thomas Fallon is fiction.
The most likely origin of the blazed tree, if it was indeed carved by Carson, is that it was done as a commemoration in the fall of 1853, when Carson drove a flock of 6,500 head of sheep from New Mexico to California, crossing by the then established emigrant wagon route.

Mayor Thomas McEnery had the city of San Jose commission a bronze equestrian statue of Thomas Fallon at a public cost of over $800,000.00. Completed in 1988, it was found offensive by Hispanic Americans of San Jose, representing "American imperialism and repression of Mexicans," and was put into storage until 2002.
Thomas McEnery's daughter Erin made a film based on it.
From the March 16-22, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

In response to a comment posted on the San Jose Inside website on Public Art Controversies by Jack Van Zandt, on Thursday, July 13, 2006, Tom McEnery responded:

Mon, Jul 17, 2006
As always the serious look at our history gets complicated by a lot of nonsense. Just view the documentary on Channel 54, the panel, and the Aztlan Academy web site, and I believe that you will have more of your questions answered. Oh, and you can get my book, "California Cavalier", if you want a bit of fun and a feeling of the time of Captain Fallon.

Yes, McEnery left a few clues that the journal was fiction (see p. 106 for the most obvious). But, like the many clues provided in the 1937 E. Clampus Vitus publication Ye Preposterous Booke of Brasse, which was intended to undeceive Professor Bolton, the clues are too obscure to undeceive the unwary or those who want to believe.

A single example of the unfortunate result of this hoax is that, as of January, 2015, the book is still available in the History Catalog of the Stanford University Library: Green Library, Call Number F869.S42 F35 1978, Lower Level of the East Wing, Shelving Range 6A (F868.S.497.Q-FR1034.3T)
Many copies of this beautiful fine press book are available on the web, but the prices are quite low, even for autographed copies, suggesting that both sellers and potential buyers are now (2014) aware of the true value.

Editor McEnery has his Thomas Fallon begin his journal with the death of Xervier.

July 4, 1843: Fort Lancaster: Xervier nearly turned completely around by the bullet as it tore into his back. He was lifted off the ground and crashed into a chair smashing it into several pieces. As he lay flat staring up at me I felt a strange exhilaration--I was breathing heavily and my heart pounded against my chest. I know it was right to kill him and I had killed before but never at so close a range. The shirt he wore was steaming [sic] with powder burns. Two men carried him to the blacksmith's shop. I guess it an odd thing to begin my journal with his shooting, but after it was done I knew that I had begun a new time in my life--things that should be recorded. Things I could never return from.

This above is fiction, built as an introduction from the following authentic accounts.

Rufus Sage, Rocky Mountain Life; or Startling Scenes and Perilous Adventures in the Far West, 1846.

July 11, 1843: Witnessed the death of an old mountaineer [Xervier] at Fort Lancaster, who came to his end from the effects of a pistol wound, received in a drunken frolic on the 4th. The ball entered the back about two inches below the heart, severely fracturing the vertebrae and nearly severing the spinal marrow. He lived one week succeeding the occurrence, and meanwhile suffering the agonies of death. His body below the would was entirely devoid of feeling or use from the first, and as death preyed upon him by piecemeal, he would often implore us with most piteous and heart-melting appeals kindly to end his miseries by hastening his end. The murderer [Thomas Fallon] was left at large, and in two or three weeks subsequent accompanied Captain Frémont to Oregon.

The Journals of Theodore Talbot; 1843 and 1849-52.

He [Colonel Dodge] brought news of the death of Xervier, one of his men, who had been shot in a frolic, or rather a brawl, on the 4th of July by Thomas Fallon, a hand belonging to St. Vrain's fort.

John Charles Frémont, Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44

July 28, 1843: A French engagé, at Lupton's fort, had been shot in the back on the 4th of July, and died during our absence to the Arkansas. The wife of the murdered man, an Indian woman of the Snake nation, desirous, like Naomi of old, to return to her people, requested and obtained permission to travel with my party to the neighborhood of Bear river, where she expected to meet with some of their villages. Happier than the Jewish widow, she carried with her two children, pretty little half-breeds, who added much to the liveliness of the camp. Her baggage was carried on five or six pack-horses; and I gave her a small tent, for which I no longer had any use, as I had procured a lodge at the fort.

Tom Fallon, the murderer of the Snake woman's husband, was engaged by Frémont as a voyageur at Lupton's Fort, and traveled with the expedition (along with the widow and her children) as far as Sutter's Fort, where he was discharged and paid $129.35 for his services. Far from the romantic Cavalier of McEnery's book title, Tom Fallon is never mentioned by name in the narrative of Frémont's Report, nor by any other recorders of the expedition's events.

McEnery refers to Tom Fallon as Captain Fallon, but in his Roster of California Volunteers in the Service of the United States, 1846-1847, historian Col. Fred B. Rogers used the code Bn next to Tom Fallon's name, which indicates "Element of the Battalion not ascertained," and Fallon's name is attached to no Company in the battalion. Apparently a camp follower.

I know that Fallon was not officially commissioned--that he was operating as an irregular--because my own 3-great grandfather, John Grigsby (Grigsby-Ide Party, 1845), was commissioned Captain of the garrison at Sonoma by Frémont on Aughust 4, 1846, and then again by Comm. Robert S. Stockton as Captain of E Company in the California Battalion of Mounted Riflemen on October 13, 1846 under [then] Major John C. Frémont. I have seen documentation of inlistments, commissions, and his discharge papers at Los Angeles dated January 20, 1847. I also have a copy of Captain Grigsby's daily log for E Company kept on the 400 mile march from San Juan Bautista to Los Angeles.

Tom Fallon is not to be confused with trapper William O. Fallon--called Big Fallon, or Le Gros Fallon, who was instrumental in Frémont's operations in California during the Mexican War, 1846-47.


©1999, 2014
Bob Graham