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Benjamin F. Branham, our tenth Sheriff, comes from a family of early California pioneers. His father, Isaac Branham, brought his family across plains using a team of oxen, leaving Missouri in 1846. Benjamin still only an infant at the time of the crossing, was born on July 25,1845. The Branham's arrived in the Santa Clara Valley on December 2,1846.
Young Benjamin was educated in the public and private schools of San Jose, finishing his education at the Gates Academy. From 1868 to 1870 he served as Deputy County Treasure. Prior to 1876, when he was appointed Under- Sheriff to Sheriff Harris, Benjamin worked for six years as a farmer and miner. At the end of Harris' term as Sheriff in 1880, he found employment as a book-keeper for the San Jose Savings Bank, and later as a book-keeper for the Mariposa Store.
Benjamin ran for Sheriff on the Democratic ticket in the November 1882 election, winning by a majority of 764 votes. He ran for re-election in 1884, beating Frank E. Williams by a vote of 4,046 to 2,919.
Two well-known murderers went to the gallows during Sheriff Branham's term. On Friday, November 31,1883, Joseph Jewell was put to death in the rear yard of the Santa Clara County Jail for his part in the murders of Archibaild McIntyre and W.P. Renowden. And, on October 24,1884, at 11:07 a.m., Jan Wasielewsky fell through the gallows trap door; Wasielewsky was convicted and sentenced to death for the mutilation murder of his wife.
In 1886 Branham's promising political career came to an abrupt end when he caused a great controversy over the killing of Pedro Pacheco. Pacheco was convicted of assault and was sentenced to ten years in state prison. While in- route to San Quentin, Pacheco, aided by a friend, escaped from the two Deputy Sheriff's who were escorting him. Sheriff Branham immediately organized a posse and went after the escaped felon, finally catching up to him in Kern County. Pacheco refused to surrender, and proceeded to shoot at the officers. In the volley of shoots, Pacheco was killed.
When word of the killing filtered back to San Jose, the Mexican American community became outraged. Just before the November 1886 election, the Mexican American's of Santa Clara County held an "anti-Branham" meeting at the Promis' Hall on North Market Street. Inez Pacheco, a nephew of Pedro Pacheco, appeared before the gathering and beseeched the crowd to vote against Sheriff Branham. It worked. Sheriff Branham lost the race to Jonathan Sweigert, 3,828 votes to 3,378.
After leaving office, Benjamin worked as a successful real estate broker in the San Jose area. In the 1896/97 edition of the San Jose Directory, Mr. Branham is listed as having relocated to South Africa, even though South Africa has no records of his entering the country.
Sheriff Branham next appears in the 1920 census, living in Oriville California. He died there at the age of 84 on March 30,1930.
The San Jose Mercury Herald, April 6,1930
The San Jose Daily Mercury, December 1,1883
The San Jose Daily Mercury, October 25,1884
The San Jose Daily Mercury, November 2,1886
Munro-Fraser, History of Santa Clara County California, Alley, Bowen & Co, San Francisco, 1881
Sawyer, Eugene T., History of Santa Clara County California, Historic Record Co., Los Angeles Calif., 1922
Foote, H.S., Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World, The Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago Ill., 1888