History of Northern California





Benjamin Shurtleff, M. D.


Among the present representatives of the learned professions identified with Napa is the gentleman whose name heads this sketch; yet so widely is he known, especially in the upper half of the state, that a much more than passing notice of his career and of his antecedents becomes valuable, and even essential, in a history of Northern California.  From manuscript and published records of undoubted authority, this genealogical and biographical sketch has been for the most part compiled.


Dr. Benjamin Shurtleff was born on the ancestral estate in Carver, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, September 7, 1821, a son of Charles and Hannah (Shaw) Shurtleff.  On both sides he is descended, without admixture, from old settlers of New England, members of the first successful colony, that of Plymouth.  The name of Shurtleff has been found in old records of the Plymouth Colony, spelled in various forms and therefore at times incorrectly—something which often occurs when those doing clerical work write names from sound.  The natural evolution of the language may also have cut some figure.  In some cases the name is quite distorted by the spelling, and it appears in different places respectively as Chyrecliff, Shiercliff, Shirtley, Shurtlef and Shurtleff.


The founder of the family in this country was William Shurtleff, who was born in England (probably in Yorkshire), about 1619.  He landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, some time prior to 1635, a youth in his ‘teens.  He is on record as having been enrolled for military duty there in 1643, and also as having been married unto Elizabeth Lettice, October 18, 1655.  While at Plymouth his estate was at Strawberry Hill, near the Reed Pond, not far from the boundary line of Kingston.  He afterward moved to Marshfield, where his name is of record in 1664.  He died there June 23, 1666, being killed in a severe tempest by a stroke of lightening.  In the marriage record referred to his name is written Shirtley.  He is said to have written it with one final “f” – Shurtlef, --and one of his grandsons added an “f,” since which the name has been spelled, as now, Shurtleff.  It is so spelled on the tombstone, at Plymouth, of William Shurtleff, the eldest son of the above first settler, who died in 1729.


William and Elizabeth (Lettice) Shurtleff had three sons, William, Thomas and Abiel.  The latter, born in June, 1666, at Marshfield, was married in January, 1693, to Lydia Barnes, a daughter of Jonathan and Elizabeth Barnes, of Plymouth, who bore him seven sons and three daughters.  Their son Benjamin (first), who was born in 1710, was the great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch.


To supplement this genealogical record it will be necessary at this point to turn back and refer to other of the original families of the old colony.  Isaac Allerton and his family came in the Mayflower to Plymouth, in 1620, among whom was a daughter, Mary.  She in due time was married to Thomas Cushman, who, at the age of fourteen years, came in the ship Fortune, in 1621, with his father, Robert Cushman.  Among the children of Thomas and Mary (Allerton) Cushman was Elkanah, who had a son named Josiah Cushman; and of the children of Josiah Cushman was a daughter named Susannah Cushman, who was married to the aforesaid Benjamin Shurtleff (first), and was the great-grand-mother of the subject of this sketch.


Thus it will be seen that by this union the veins of this branch of the Shurtleff family received an affluent from a conspicuous source more remote in the past than the point to which the family name can be traced.  Isaac Allerton and Robert Cushman were leading and historic characters in connection with the Puritans, not only as regards their settlement in the “old colony” of Plymouth, but in their native England and in their chosen exile of Amsterdam and Leyden.  They lived in the Elizabethan age.  Thomas Cushman, son of Robert, was born in 1607, the year in which, according to Shakesperean commentators, “Antony and Cleopatra” and “Timon of Athens” were written, and nine years before the death of Shakespeare.  Hence his father, Robert Cushman, was strictly a cotemporary with Shakespeare Charlotte S. Cushman, mentioned because so widely known, and who honored the stage more than any other woman America has produced, was a descendant of these Cushmans.


To resume the original thread, Benjamin (first) and Susannah (Cushman) Shurtleff had a son, Benjamin (second), who was born in 1748, and who, being an only son, inherited his father’s estate in Carver, on which his life was spent.  His son, Charless, the father of our subject, was born there, October 20, 1790.  He was reared on his father’s farm.  Soon after his marriage to Hannah Shaw, he removed to New Hampshire, and entered upon a mercantile career.  Abandoning this, he returned to Carver, Massachusetts, where he died at about the age of fifty, being an exception in the Shurleff family, most of whom have reached the Scriptural three-score years and ten, or more.


The above is a mere genealogical outline, necessary in introducing the sketch of a pioneer of California, a descendant of some of the first settlers of the Atlantic coast, and of necessity brief, though much of interest could be written of members of the family, who have attained more than local destinction in various walks of life, but expecially in literary and professional pursuits.  Rev. William Shurtleff, a grandson of the first settler, was a graduate of Harvard, about 173 years ago (1717), when such an education was alone a distinction.  Roswell Shurtleff was a graduate in 1799 and also a Professor of Dartmouth College, during the period when Daniel Webster and his brother, Ezekiel, were students there; and his reminiscences of the college life of these famous alumni are published in one of the biographies of the great statesmen.  Dr. Benjamin Shurtleff, an eminent physician of Boston, a brother of the father of our subject, was a founder of Shurtlett College, at Alton, Illinois, to an extent which caused his surname to be given to the institution.  His son, the late Dr. N. B. Shurtleff, was Mayor of Boston two terms, and did much in aid of the progress of the city, but is more distinguished for his exhaustive genealogical and antiquarian researches, and for the accuracy and value of his writings on these topics.


Our subject has had two uncles, five cousins and a brother who were regular graduates in medicine—the latter the well-known Dr. G. A. Shurtleff, of Stockton.  This gentleman, who came to California in 1849, was a member of the first and second city councils of Stockton, two years Recorder of San Joaquin County, and became a Director of the State Insane Asylum at Stockton, in 1856, and its Medical Superintendent in 1865, holding the position with signal ability until admonished by failing health, brought on by overwork, to resign in 1883.  He was one of the Commissioners who located the Napa State Insane Asylum, and was the author of the bill providing for it.  He has been President of the State Medical Society, and is Emeritus Professor of Mental Diseases and Medical Jurisprudence in the University of California.  He was for years a prominent member of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, and attended the meetings of the Association at Madison, Wisconsin, in 1872, at Baltimore in 1873, at Philadelphia in 1880, and the American Medical Association also in 1880, in New York city.  He was elected, in 1876, as the sole delegate for the State of California to the International Medical Congress.  He was also the first President of the San Joaquin Society of California Pioneers.  Thought now retired from practice, he stands to-day one of the most honored and representative of the medical profession who ever lived in California, and is one of the most favorably known men in the State, in or out of the profession.


Dr. Benjamin Shurtleff spent his boyhood days in Carver, Massachusetts, where he attended the public schools to the age of fifteen years.  He continued his education at Pierce Academy, and when he was nineteen years old he began teaching school during the winter seasons, attending the academy during the intervals until he had completed the regular course.  He first studied medicine with his brother, Dr. G. A. Shurtleff, and afterward with the late Dr. Elisha Huntington, of Lowell, Massachusetts.  He also graduated at Harvard, in 1848, meantime attending Fremont Medical School of Boston, and being in both a pupil of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes.


While at Harvard, in 1846, he heard Rufus Choate’s celebrated speech in defense of Albert J. Terrill, charged with the murder of Maria Bickford, and considers the great advocate’s address to the jury on that occasion the most fascinating display of eloquence he ever witnessed.  Reared in the county where Daniel Webster resided, he occasionally heard him discuss the political issues of those times.  He often speaks of the great orator’s celebrated Marshfield speech, in the Taylor campaign of 1848, as one of rare eloquence and power.


His last year at school was the memorable on in which Marshall discovered gold in California, and the news at once turned his thoughts in that direction.  When the early reports were verified by President Polk’s message, he at once determined to try his fortune on the faraway shores of the Pacific, and began making preparations with that idea in view.  Late in December, 1848, he secured passage on the schooner Boston, then fitting out in the New England metropolis for the trip to San Francisco, and while waiting for the departure of the vessel he put in his time about the city.  Learning through the newspapers that Choate and Webster were to appear on opposite sides of the patent case of March vs.

Sizer, he eagerly availed himself of the opportunity to witness these two giants of the forensic arena arrayed against each other, and as a result enjoyed one of the greatest treats of his life.  Both were at their best, while every available particle of the space allowed for spectators about the courtroom was crowded with the representatives of the brain and the beauty of Boston.  The scene was an inspiring one, and the occasion worthy of its brilliant setting.


Preparations being completed, the vessel made ready to depart with her passengers on January 25, 1849, though on account of adverse weather the start was not effected until two days later.  Those who sailed with Dr. Shurtleff were for the most part fin specimens of bright young manhood of New England, men of nerve, adventurous and of more than ordinary capacity, as indeed were the great majority of the pioneers who came to California before the proofs of California’s golden wealth were actually laid down before their eyes.  Instead of rounding Cape Horn, the vessel route of 1849, the schooner passed through the Straits of Magellan, and without any unusually noteworthy incident, proceeding on her way, casting anchor in the harbor of San Francisco July 6, 1849.  That was quite a noted day in the history of arrivals, as no less than five other vessels of note also appeared in the harbor, namely, the ships Edward Everett and Atilla, and the brig Forest of Boston, and the ships Mary Stewart and Taralinto of New York.  The Boston made the voyage in 160 days, which was more than an average trip, as the California-bound fleet of 1849 could boast of only a few fast sailers.  The ship Gray Eagle, a Baltimore clipper, made the best record of all the vessels of that year, having arrived in San Francisco from Philadelphia on May 18, in 117 days.  But the discovery of gold in California quickened the spirit of commercial enterprise and created a demand for the fleetest ships that mechanical skill and invention could devise.  The Flying Cloud, built at East Boston, in 1850, by Donald McKay, made the voyage in 1851 from New York to San Francisco, a distance of 13,610 miles, in eighty-nine days and eight hours, and on one occasion making 374 miles in twenty-four hours.  No other sailing vessel has ever made the voyage from any Atlantic domestic port to San Francisco in less than ninety days.


Of course all on board had become more or less acquainted during the long voyage, and Dr. Shurtleff recalls, among his fellow-passengers O. M. Craig, the well-known Sonoma viticulturist and the late William Wallace, who was a member of the San Francisco firm of Sisson & Wallace in after years.  He and others debarked from a boat at Clark’s Point, and proceeded to town by a path which followed an undulating course, sometimes twenty or thirty feet above the water, and again only a foot or two over.  Many of the passengers, however, landed from boats about where Montgomery street now is, and spent a week looking about the city, and becoming acquainted with prospects in mining districts.  He was struck with the novel appearance of San Francisco, which yet wore the old Mexican air, and like everyone else he little thought that the place would grow back into the hills, which it has, or that Knob Hill and similar sites would be crowded with the places that stand there to-day; yet he felt that the city must be an important commercial center, and a large one, too, --good places for investment in reality bit for the general uncertainty that hung about land tittles in those days.  The scooner Olivia, which had been with them in the passage through the Straits of Magellan, arrived in San Francisco a few days before the Boston; and as she was to proceed on up the river to Sacramento, our subject, who had been on shore a week, took passage on her for the trip.  This required about three days’ time, and the first night the vessel anchored at the junction of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers, where some ambitious person soon afterward endeavored to start a settlement, which he encumbered with the high-sounding title “New York of the Pacific.”  The Doctor will always remember that night, when the mosquitoes made it so hot for him that he thought there was certainly not more than one place warmer!  On July 16, he landed at Sacramento, where he saw a busy village of tents, among which he recollects seeing only two or three wooden buildings.


As soon as convenient, he proceeded to Beal’s Bar, which is now in Placer County, near the El Dorado line, and commenced mining, meeting with fair success.  Among those in the vicinity was a man from Oregon, who had come down in 1848, and had secured a claim of unusual richness.  His location was then such a fortunate one that he could take out two or three hundred dollars’ worth of gold in a few hours, and he thought the metal would soon become so plentiful that it would not be worth scarcely anything.  As a result, he had sold much of his dust for coin at the rate of eight dollars an ounce, half what it was worth, and had gambled his wealth away or otherwise disposed of it with a lavish hand, thinking he would have a good time while it was worth something, anyway.  Now, things had begun to change.  His claim was not so good, new arrivals appeared every day, and he saw that gold was not going to decline.  He was terribly despondent, and when asked by Dr. Shurtleff the reason of his downheartedness, he related the facts above mentioned, saying he had thrown his gold away when he could get plenty of it, and now, when he realized its value he could not take out more than $50 to $100 worth a day!  He was truly an unfortunate man.


After mining on his own account for a time the Doctor went to work for a company, who were engaged at a point near the confluence of the American River and its south fork, in digging a canal between those two streams.  The dirt taken out in constructing this canal, and which was used in damming the river, was the richest he ever saw, and fairly shined with the yellow metal.  He received $16 a day for his work, and while a few shovelfuls of the dirt taken out would have paid his wages, the result of his enterprise when finished proved disappointing to the promoter of the scheme, who had supposed that the bed of the river would be almost lined with gold.  Another party, above them, imbued with the same idea, had made great preparation for celebrating the turning of the river, which they had also undertaken at that point.  Among the festivities planned was an elaborate banquet, for which they procured all the delicacies known to the mining camp, including even a supply of champaign purchased at great expense in San Francisco.  When the work was completed, and the water commenced to flow through the new channel, they had their banquet and drank their champaign, but an inspection of the river bottom in the morning showed only the barren rock as a result of all their work, and the end of their dreams of wealth.


While mining on the American, Dr. Shurtleff did not entirely neglect his profession, which he practiced when occasion demanded.  In the fall of 1849, hearing the reports of rich discoveries in what is now Shasta County, he went up to Reading Springs, (now called Shasta), where he arrived on the 21st of October, and there resumed mining on Middle Creek, and he took up a good claim in the bed of the creek.  Among the miners on Rock Creek were two ministers of the gospel from Oregon, who worked every day in the creek, including Sundays.  For this some of the miners called them to task, but in reply the preachers said they had families at home to which they were anxious to return as soon as possible, so that the ministers had the best of the argument, expecially as most of those who lay off on Sunday put in their weekly holiday at the gaming tables.


The Doctor continued working in his claim, with an occasional bit of practice until the November 2, 1849; but as the rains then commenced and the high water drove him from his claim, he gave up mining.  The rains caused quite an exodus from the camps.  Some of the emigrants, on their way up there, had laid in heavy supplies of provisions, with a views of selling them after reaching their destination; but when the weather changed in the fall, they wanted to get away, and offered their supplies very cheap.  The late R. J. Walsh, afterward widely known as the extensive Colusa farmer and stock-raiser, who was at one time President of the State Agricultural Society, was then a merchant at Reading Springs; and while he was a far-seeing business man, he was the fortunate possessor of considerable money as well, and he bought in the greater portion of the staples offered.  Flour, for instance, which was always of Chilean manufacture, packed in hundred-pound sacks, was purchased by him at 20 to 25 cents per pound, while freights were 40 to 50 cents.  When communication between that point and Sacramento were shut off by the high waters of winter, prices began to rise on all the necessaries of life, and it was not long until Walsh was selling flour from $2 to $2.25.  Miners would come in and buy a sack, and Walsh would take $2.25 from their sack of dust, the transaction being treated on both sides with as great nonchalance as would be the buying of a fifty-pound sack of flour now.  Other things sold proportionately high.


One of the noteworthy features not to be forgotten about many of these early California mining camps was the large proportion of men of marked ability, from the different pursuits in life, some being representatives even of the learned professions, but all on the same level as miners, store-keepers, etc., with no distinction to be recognized by dress or the other usual signs.  Perhaps at a meeting held to discuss the rights in a disputed mining claim or other matter of that nature, some quiet man who had never made any pretensions or given to his associates any evidence of being more than the ordinary run of a miner, would rise and address the assembly in a speech that would be a credit to the United States Senate.  To illustrate this characteristic it may here be related that Harrison J Shurtleff, a cousin of our subject, who had come out with him on the Boston, came to the tent in which he and the Doctor lived, and announced to the latter that there were some fellows in the lower part of the town, near the creek, who made splendid peach pies.  After that they occasionally visited the pie camp, and patronized the proprietors, who found a ready same for their pies at $1.50 each.  Years afterward the Doctor learned that the men who composed that pie firm were the late Colonel Benjamin F. Washington, an influential Democratic leader and editor of California, and Collector of the port of San Francisco during Buchanan’s administration; Vincent E. Geiger, another prominent editor, and Indian agent at the Nomelachie reservation; and the late Colonel William S. Long, subsequently one of the foremost leaders at the Sacramento bar.  Geiger cut the wood and packed it into camp; Long was salesman and washed the dishes, while Washington made the pies.  These men were Virginians, and could have known nothing of such work previously, but they adapted themselves to circumstances, and their pies were excellent, the only criticism of the Doctor, who had been accustomed to the splendid cookery of New England, being that their upper and lower crusts were a little too close together,--a fact explainable by the high price of the dried Chili peaches used in making them.


Soon after his arrival at Reading Springs, Dr. Shurtleff was elected to the office of Alcalde, which, as Americanized, was one of almost unlimited power, the incumbent being competent to try any kind of a case as Judge.  An Oregonian named Bowles, charged with murder, had a jury trial before him, the hearing lasting two days.  The counsel for the prosecution was Royal T. Sprague, late Chief Justice of California, while the defense, presented as its attorney W. R. Harrison, a distant relative of the President, who later became the first County Judge of Shasta County, and subsequently District Attorney in Tehama and also in Lassen counties.  The trial, despite the seriousness of the charge, was an amusing one in some respects.  Sprague, who had practiced in New York State and afterward in Ohio, quoted from the statutes of those States in support of his position, while Harrison relied upon the inspiration to be drawn from the codes and reports of Indiana and Iowa, in which commonwealths he had in former time resided.  Judge Shurtleff, who could not have been supposed to be posted on the laws and practice of those States, said that in order to arrive at correct conclusions he wanted the statutes of Massachusetts.  However, he was compelled to rely upon his own judgment.  Bowles was acquitted.  He filled the post of Alcalde satisfactorily to the residents of the district, until the summer of 1850, when he resigned.  The records of the office were destroyed in the conflagration of June 14, 1853, which laid Shasta in ashes.


During the spring and summer of 1850, the Doctor was associated in mercantile business with A. C. Brown, afterward
County Judge of Amador County.  From that time until the latter part of 1851 he continued merchandising, in partnership with Dr. Jesse R. Robinson, who was the first County Clerk of Shasta County, and both meanwhile practiced their profession, to which our subject, after the last mentioned date, devoted his entire attention.  When Shasta County was organized he was elected its first Treasurer, and later as a member of the Board of School Trustees.  With the late Chief Justice Sprague and the late Governor Isaac Roop, of Susanville, he established the first public school in Northern California.  For ten years, by successive annual appointment from the Board of Supervisors, he held the place of County Physician.  He took a prominent part in the Whig party organization, of the principles of which he had been since his early manhood a warm supporter and an earnest advocate.  He was a great admirer of Henry Clay, and has always looked upon his first Presidential vote for that immortal leader in 1844 as the proudest of his life.  As long as the grand old party held together as an organization, he remained under its banners, but when the end came he united with the Democracy.


In 1857 he was tendered the office of County Judge of Shasta County, by Governor J. Neely Johnson, to fill the unexpired term, but declined the appointment.  In 1860 he supported Douglas for the Presidency, and in the following year was elected to the State Senate from the district comprising Shasta and Trinity counties, serving with credit in the two sessions of is term, and adding largely to his already considerable prominence and popularity.  In 1863 as a war Democrat he received the opposition vote for the United States Senate against John Conness.  Shortly thereafter he severed his connection with the Democracy, and in 1864 he supported Abraham Lincoln, in his second presidential campaign.  Since that time he has been an active and ardent worker in the ranks and councils of the Republican party, and in 1872 was nominated by the State Convention of that party for alternate Elector at Large.


In 1874, after a residence of a quarter of a century in Shasta County, he removed to  Napa, where he has since been an honored resident.  In May, 1876, he was elected a member of the Board of City Trustees, and was reelected in 1878 serving both terms as president of that body.  In 1878 also he was elected from the Third Congressional District as one of the Delegates at Large to the State Constitutional Convention, and in the sessions of that important body, which sat from September 28, 1878, until March 3, 1879, he was one of the most prominent figures and earnest workers.  He took a leading part in the debates of the convention, especially where he led the forces opposed to the incorporation in the constitution of an age limit under which candidates should be ineligible for office.  His closing speech on that measure was a masterly and convincing effort, and is here incorporated with an outline of the circumstances of its delivery:


Previous sections having been disposed of, section 24 was taken up, which read as follows:  “No one shall be eligible to the office of the Justice of the Supreme Court unless he be at least thirty-five years of age, and shall have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the State; and no one shall be eligible to the office of the Supreme Court unless he be at least thirty years of age, and shall have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the State:”  Dr. Shurtleff offered as a substitute the following:  “No one shall be eligible to the office of the Supreme Court, or of the office of Judge of the Supreme Court, unless he shall have been admitted to practice in the Supreme Court.”  He then addressed the convention in these words:


“Mr. Chairman:  That leaves it right where it is in the present constitution, and requires no qualification as to age.  I hope that the substitute will at least have a fair support from the Committee on the Judiciary itself.  I see nothing in the history of this State that requires that there should be a limitation upon the age of those who are to be eligible to judicial office.  One of the members of the Judiciary Committee, who, I am sorry to see, is now absent, held the office of Chief Justice when he was only twenty-nine years of age, at least of Justice, and he was made Chief Justice when thirty years old.  Another distinguished jurist of this State, long since passed away, Hugh Murray, was called to the Supreme Bench at the early age of twenty-seven.  Every lawyer concedes that Hugh Murray was one of the most brilliant jurists of the State, young as he was.  Then, if we look further back and examine the history of other States, and even the nation itself, we find that many of the best legal minds have been promoted to important judicial positions when young.  Levi Woodbury, of New Hampshire, was Chief Justice of that State at the age of twenty-seven, and was afterward made a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.  He was a man of signal ability, as evidenced in the various positions which he subsequently held.  His experience while on the bench of the Supreme Court of New Hampshire was of much benefit to him and the people.  James Iredell, of the State of North Carolina, was called to the bench at the age of twenty-six.  Hugh L. White, of Tennessee, was made a Justice of the Supreme Court at the age of twenty-eight.  Stephen A. Douglas was a Judge of the Supreme Court of Illinois at the age of twenty-eight.  Young men, comparatively, have been promoted to the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Judge Story was appointed there by President Madison when only thirty-two years of age.


“Therefore I think it unwise to made this limitation.  Nobody claims that young men have been raised to exalted judicial positions to the detriment of public interest.  I believe in giving the young men a chance.  Martin Van Buren, when a little boy playing marbles and flying his kite in the streets of Kinderhook, told his comrades he was going to be President of the United States.  The fire of his youthful ambition never quenched.  His education completed, he rose quickly to the position of State Senator, then became Attorney General of the State of New York; then Senator in Congress.  He was then appointed Secretary of State by President Jackson, and then Minister to England.  He was then elected Vice-president, and finally reached the goal of his ambition and became President of the United States.  Though opposed to his school of politics, I glory—what American does not glory?—in the success of the ambitious boy of Kinderhook.  It is due to the boys, the young and rising men of California, that the paths of honor shall be left open to them, and I shall not consent, for one, to placing anything in their way.”


This pithy, brilliant and logical speech won the applause of the convention, and carried the cause of that speaker, who thus gained an important point of advantage for the young men of California.


Another debate in which Dr. Shurtleff took a prominent part in this convention, was that of representation in the Legislature.  In opposition to those who favored a large increase in the number of legislators, he took the ground that a small and compact body would be the more effective one, instancing the well-governed State of New York, where State Senators represent constituencies larger than Congressional districts.  This view prevailed, and the provisions of the old constitution in regard thereto remained in force.


In March, 1880, Dr. Shurtleff was appointed, by Governor Perkins, as one of the trustees of the State Asylum for the Insane at Napa, and has been ever since president of the board, and a hearty advocate of the policy which has already given the institution wide prestige.  The incumbency of this position caused his declension of the nomination of the Presidential Elector tendered him by the Republican State Convention of 1884, as he feared his State office might interfere with his eligibility, and an elector then be lost to his party.


Dr. Shurtleff’s career in this State proves him to have been possessed of much more than the ordinary capacity and public spirit as from the first he has taken a leading part in the affairs of his adopted State, and been one of her prominent figures since the pioneer days.  As a professional man he has ranked with the ablest, and as a politician he has moved upon the highest plane, always actuated by the purest and broadest of motives.  As a citizen he is honored and respected far and wide, and loved and esteemed by those who know him best.  Having conserved his strength and physical resources in his young manhood, when the temptations of the gaming tables caused so many of his comrades to fritter away their youth and health by the light of the midnight candle, he is yet, at this writing, in the full possession of his strength and faculties, reaping the dividends on his early investments of self-denial.  Thus it is that he has been in active practice of his profession constantly since 1849, besides attending to his manifold public duties, and he stands today as one of the half-dozen pioneer practitioners yet engaged in their profession.  He is a life member of the Society of California Pioneers.


In his domestic relations he has been happy, and is the head of an interesting family.  On a visit to New England, he was married February 21, 1853, to Miss  Ann M. Griffith, a native of Wareham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.  They have three children, all born in Shasta, viz:  George C., who was born April 7, 1854, educated at Oakland High School, and is now with the great hardware firm of Baker & Hamilton, San Francisco; Charles A., born April 4, 1857, a graduate of Hastings Law School, and now a member of the legal firm of Whitworth & Shurtleff, No. 120 Sutter Street, San Francisco; and Benjamin E., born April 21, 1867, a student in the Medical Department, University of California.

Pages 289-297



Clarence W. Bush


…one of the most prominent business men of Woodland, and at present cashier and manager of the Bank of Yolo, has been in the banking business for twenty-five years.  He was born August 28, 1848, in Copiah County, Mississippi, a son of J. P Bush, one of the pioneers of that section and a physician, but now deceased.  Mr. Bush’s mother’s maiden name was Nancy Quick; she was a native of Texas and died in 1854, when the subject was a small boy.  When seven years of age he lived one winter in Michigan, then was in New York State and Massachusetts, attending school up to his thirteenth year, principally at Great Barrington.  Then until the age of sixteen years he was clerk in a country store in Central New York.  He then entered the banking business, first taking a position in the First National Bank of Candor, Tioga County, New York, upon the organization of that institution, and he was elected assistant cashier before he left it.  In the spring of 1868 he came to California and remained in San Francisco until the organization of the Bank of Woodland, when he was elected cashier, which position he sustained for thirteen years; then, upon the organization of the Bank of Yolo, he was elected to his present position, and it is by his effort and influence that this institution has been brought up to the high standing which it now enjoys.  Mr. Bush is a member of the A. O. U. W. and of the Protestant Episcopal Church.  He was married October 16, 1872, to Miss Lucy, daughter of Camillus Nelson, an old resident and prominent citizen of Yolo County, and they have two children, --Camillus and Florence.

(Page 297)



George W. Langan


…an attorney at Livermore, was born in East Saginaw, Michigan, February 17, 1849, and was taken by his parents to Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, in their change of residence to that place, where he grew up and was educated.  He graduated at the Mansfield State Normal School in the class of 1870.  Within two years after that he completed the course of study in the law, being admitted to the bar December 5, 1872.  The then came to the Pacific coast and for five years was engaged as teacher in the public schools, at Steilacoom, Washington, Walnut Creek, Contra Costa County; River District and Lodi, San Joaquin County, California.  In 1877 he was admitted to the higher court, of the latter State, and commenced the practice of law at Oakland, where he remained until 1880, when he finally went and located permanently at Livermore, where he has since been a prominent and successful lawyer.


Mr. Langan was a soldier of the late war, enlisting February 26, 1864, in the Sixteenth United States Infantry for the term of three years.  He served one year, under General Sherman on his march to the sea, as a private, and the remainder of the term as a musican, having been honorably discharged February 26, 1867, at Augusta, Georgia, and he is now a prominent member of Lou Morris Post, No. 47, G. A. R.  In addition to his law practice he is interested in viticulture, owning a profitable vineyard near Livermore.


He was married at Livermore, October 3, 1883, to Miss Luella Mendenhall, and now has three children:  Philip M., Chester G. and Verula.  (Pages 297-298)




John R. Palmer


…an attorney at Pleasanton, is one of the prominent citizens of Amador Valley.  He dates his birth March 15, 1836, at Bedford County, Pennsylvania, where he was reared and educated.  He learned the trade of tanner and currier, following it from the age of fourteen to twenty years; and from 1856 to 1861 he was engaged in several callings, --teaching school a few years, photographing, etc., and drifted into the study of law, reading Blackstone and other great legal authorities.  He was admitted to the bar in his native State; in 1861, he was elected District Attorney for three years, and in 1864 re-elected.  After the expiration of his last term, in May, 1867, he bade farewell to friends and associates, and came by steamer by way of Panama to San Francisco.  In a short time he went to Black Rock, Nevada, where he followed mining and prospecting for a time; then, returning to San Francisco, he was engaged in handling various publications for a few months, and in 1868 he located in Pleasanton, where he has since been engaged in the practice of his chosen profession, having had many noted lawsuits in regard to land claims.  He has also been Notary Public since 1870.  He is a gentleman of literary ability, having been on the local staff of several prominent journals; was local editor of the Bed ford Gazette, in his native State, from 1861 to 1867.  He is still unmarried.

(Page 298)




R. W. Lemme


One of the most beautiful places in Napa County is that belonging to Mr. R. W. Lemme, on Spring Mountain, at a distance of about three miles and a half from St. Helena.  The drive up the mountain side, with its ever changing and ever beautiful succession of views over the hills and valley, is charming enough; yet it hardly leads one to expect to find such a place as one comes upon when he reaches Mr. Lemme’s house and grounds.  The estate consists of 282 acres, and was purchased by Mr. Charles Lemme, in 1875, and its improvement immediately begun.  In 1877 was put up a concrete storage cellar of 80,000 gallons capacity, there being another of slightly smaller capacity.  The vineyard now covers eighty-five acres of ground, the varieties planted being Zinfandel, Chasselas, Riesling and Burgundies.  There is a very perceptible difference between this mountain-grown wine and that produced in the valleys, altogether in favor of the former, so much so that a very much larger price is obtained for the mountain wines.  There is upon the place   a great abundance of water, it being piped all over the grounds and to the houses.  Mr. Lemme has dammed the creek that courses down through the ranch for the double purpose of affording a head of water and of providing a fish pond.  But it is about the residence itself that the chief beauty of the spot is found.  A fine grove of young redwoods shades almost too densely the grounds, under them being swung hammocks and easy chairs.  These redwoods are a feature of the place, and an object of great interest.  A large cement tank with German carp and trout, generously supplied by a spring near by, is also shadowed by these trees.  Oranges, walnuts, indeed fruits of every sort are planted and do excellently well, better by far than in the valley, for the place is within the thermal belt, and never knows damaging frosts.  There are two residences on the property, roomy and comfortable, surrounded with flowers and shrubs, and the picture of country loveliness.  In addition to making up his own grapes into wine, Mr. Lemme purchases nearly all the grapes raised upon the mountain and turns them into wine.


He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1857.  He came to California in 1861 with his father, and received his education and upbringing in this State.  His father, Charles Lemme, died in 1886.  Mr. Lemme was married in 1884, to Miss Alice McPike, daughter of J. McPike, who lives near St. Helena.  They have two sons, stout, sturdy little fellows, and one daughter, the picture of good health.  They are named Charles and John respectively, after their grandfathers.  (Pages 298-299)




J. B. Atkinson


The splendid double stone wine-cellar at Rutherford, of Messrs. Ewer & Atkinson, is one of the sightly structures in the county, and upon examination was found to be as well arranged and fitted as could be the case and a model of convenience.  In dimensions the main cellar is 120 x 97 feet in size, two stories in height.  It consists of two cellars adjoining with a stone wall running through.  At the rear is an addition 25 x 40 feet in size, four stories in height, where all the wine-making is done, the upper floor being the crushing room, to which the grapes are raised by elevator.  On the next floor are two large tanks for whit grapes.  On the next floor are the presses, while on the ground floor will be the bottling room when everything is in running order.  The first half of the cellar was erected in 1885, and the other half in 1889.  The total capacity is about 400,000 gallons of wine.  It is the intention shortly to put up a distillery in connection with the cellar.  The building is entirely of stone and iron, and therefore secure from fire.  Water is in plentiful supply from artesian wells, and the building is supplied with automatic bells throughout.  Adjoining the cellar Mr. Ewer has 100 acres of vines, while a little south of Rutherford Mr. Atkinson has a vineyard of 115 acres surrounding his comfortable home.


Mr. J. B. Atkinson is a pioneer to California, and for a great many years has been a leading spirit in the mercantile and financial circles.  He is a native of New Jersey, born in 1827.  In 1849 he determined to come to California, although not yet out of his ‘teens.  He took passage on the ship Sara and Eliza, landing safely after a long and tedious voyage of seven months and twenty days with but one stop, at Valparaiso, in San Francisco, September 7, 1849.  Like all the rest of the world he went to the mines, going in 1850 to the upper waters of the Yuba River.  He soon came back, however, and entered into business in the city of San Francisco, and for twenty years was one of the most prominent wholesale merchants of the city of the Golden Gate.  Perhaps no firm in the city enjoyed a better rate or a greater popularity than that of L. Atkinson & Co.  Since 1855, when he settled down to business, he has been going back East nearly every year.  Ten years ago, in 1880, he decided to abandon the more active part in affairs and retire from business to his elegant ranch at Rutherford.  It consists of 154 acres, of which 115 is in vines.  He is largely interested elsewhere, however, aiming rather to see the better side of life and leaving his foreman to take charge of the ranch.  He is interested elsewhere, however, aiming rather to see the better side of life and leaving his foreman to take charge of the ranch.  He is interested in the Napa Valley Wine Company, in the California Hosiery Company, and is a Director in the St. Helena Bank, etc.  He is married but has no children.  He is one of the most able businessmen, a man of stanch integrity and a leading figure in anything he undertakes. (Pages 299-300)                 



Judge Edwin Rice Bush


…of Woodland, was born in Copiah County, Mississippi, October 17, 1846, son of Dr. J. P. Bush, a pioneer of California of 1849.  The latter commenced practicing his profession in San Francisco about 1851 or 1852, and so continued most of the remainder of his life, but died at Woodland, at the age of seventy-six years.


At the age of nine years the subject of this sketch removed with his brothers and sisters to Western Massachusetts to attend school, and then the subject of this sketch attended for several years Sand Lake Collegiate Institute, in New York State, situated ten miles east of Albany; he also attended school at Geneseo, Livingston County, in said State.  After attending for a term the law department of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, he entered the office of the Hon. Scott Lord, at Geneseo, New York.  Judge Lord at the time of his death was one of the most prominent attorneys in the United States, and was at one time the law partner of Hon. Roscoe Coukling, at Utica, and was elected to Congress from that Congressional district.  Judge Bush remained in Judge Lord’s office about two years, and then, after studying in other offices a short time, went to the University of Virginia, at Charlottesville, Albemarle County, in said State, and graduated in the law department in June, 1869.  In August, that year, he came to California and sojourned in San Francisco until the spring of 1870, when he came to Woodland, where he has since resided.  Here he entered into partnership, for the purpose of practicing law, with C. S. Frost, which business relation was broken by the election of Mr. Bush to the office of County Judge.  Shortly after his arrival at Woodland he was elected to the office of Public Administrator for two terms.  In the fall of 1875 he was elected to the office of County Judge, as above mentioned, and assumed the duties of that office on the first day of January following, holding that position for four years.  At the close of his term, under the new State constitution the county and district courts were consolidated, and named the Superior Court; and at the first election thereafter Mr. Bush was chosen the Superior Judge and served a term of five years.  Since that time he has been engaged in the private practice of the law.


Politically Judge Bush is a Democrat.  He has belonged to Pythian Lodge No. 43, K. of P. for several years.


The Judge was married, June 14, 1876, to Mary J. Yerby, a native of California, and they have three sons.  (Page 300)




J. G. Farhner


…one of the business men of Redding, California, was born in Pennsylvania, June 16, 1848.  His parents, Jacob and Elizabeth (Rohm) Farhner, were both of  German ancestry, the former a native of Maryland and the latter of Pennsylvania.  Grandfather Farhner and grandfather Jacob Rohm emigrated from Germany to this country.  The subject of this sketch is the oldest son and third child of a family of ten children, seven of whom are now living.  He was educated in Illinois, and learned the trade of carriage and wagon maker in Missouri, to which State his father had moved.


April 14, 1876, Mr. Farhner came to California and settled at Shasta.  He carried on business there for four years; then removed to Redding and conducted a wagon and carriage-making business and also undertaking.  In 1882 he was elected Coroner and Administrator of the County, on the Democratic ticket.  In 1888 he purchased a furniture store.  The latter part of that year he was one of the organizers of the Redding Planing Mill Company, which he is now running, and in connection with it is doing contracting and building.  He has effected most of the best buildings in the city, including the following:  Good Templars’ Hall, I. O. O. F. Hall, Golden Eagle Hotel, McCormick & Saeltzer’s store, and the Bank of Northern California.  He is an Odd Fellow, a member of the Encampment of the K. of P., and a member of the A. O. U. W.  He is also a member of the G. A. R., having served in the Fifty-eighth Illinois Infantry under General A. J. Smith.


Mr. Farhner was married in 1872, to Miss Amanda Lovina Lockridge, a native of Illinois.  They have four children, the first born in Missouri, and the others in California, viz.:  Lora, Myrta, Ambrose and Emory.  Mr. Farhner has built himself a comfortable home, in which he resides with his family.  By his fellow-citizens he is regarded as an active business man, full of push and energy. (Pages 300-301)




William H. Martin


…a representative pioneer of California, and a highly esteemed citizen of Pleasanton, Alameda County, came to the Golden State in 1850.  He was born in Canada, near Quebec, April 19, 1837, and at an early age was brought into the United States by his parents, who settled in Missouri.  They were John and Catharine Martin, natives of Ireland, who emigrated to Canada in 1825, and in 1840 to Missouri.  In 1850 they came across the plains by ox team to California, arriving at Ragtown, or Diamond Spring, September 8.  They went directly to Searsville, San Mateo County, where William finished his schooling and clerked in his father’s hotel until 1858.  The family then removed to Dublin, Alameda County, and engaged in farming there.  In 1863 William took a trip to the State of Sonora, Mexico, where he engaged in mining for one year.  Returning to California, he located at mission San Jose and conducted a hotel there for eighteen months; then he was a resident at Dublin again for twelve years, engaged in farming and stock-raising.  In 1877 he engaged in the butchering business, in addition to his interests in the farm, which he still owns.  In 1886 he moved to Pleasanton, where he is now successfully engaged in carrying on a meat market on Main street, opposite the Rose Hotel.  He keeps three wagons in his employ to supply the local trade.


He was united in matrimony to Miss Katherine Riley, at mission San Jose, July 13, 1865, and they have two children—Mary and W. J.


Dennis Martin, uncle of the preceding, died June 18, 890, at San Francisco, at the age of seventy-two years.  The name of Dennis Martin will long be remembered by the early pioneers of California, as he was among the very first.  A native of Ireland, he came to Canada in 1825, to the United States in 1838, and in 1844 he started with his father’s family of six children across the plains by ox team, he being the leading spirit of the company.  They arrived in Carson Valley, now the State of Nevada, where they were snow-bound.  Later the entire family successfully crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains on snow-shoes, arriving at Sutter’s Fort on Christmas day.  This trip Mr. Martin claims to have been one of the greatest hardships of his life.  In the spring of 1845, Mr. Martin returned to the valley and in due time brought over his wagons and outfit.  Settling in San Mateo County, he put up the first sawmill in this State, working in the Redwoods of that county.  In 1853 he converted it into a flour-mill, building another saw-mill near the site of the first.  Mr. Martin had a family of six children, of whom there are three now living.

(Page 301)


W. W. Hannum


…deceased, formerly a farmer near Cacheville, was born April 23, 1828, in Robertson County, Tennessee, a son of Miffin Mayppen and Nancy (Pitt) Hannum, natives of Tennessee.  The senior Hannum was a farmer and remained in Tennessee until his death.  Mr. Hannum, our subject, was brought up on a farm, and at the age of twenty-one years he went to Morgan County, Missouri, where he was employed most of the time as a farm hand until he came to California in 1850.  He came overland, with ox teams, being about three months on the road.  Until 1853 he followed gold mining in El Dorado County and vicinity, and then went down to the valley in Yolo County and commenced agricultural pursuits upon land he had purchased two miles from Cacheville.  He sold this out and in 1879 rented land until his death, which occurred in 1885, when he was fifty-seven years of age.  He was a member of Yolo Lodge, No. 81, F. & A.M., for twenty-six years.  The mention of his name revives tender memories and kind recollections among all who were acquainted with him.


August 18, 1857, he married Mrs. Eunice Mateer, a native of Illinois, who died May 6, 1866.  By that marriage there were four children, three of whom are now living:  Charles H., Martha e., wife of A. G. Mitchum, and James A.  Mr. Hannum was again married Maya 24, 1870, to Miss Priscilla Hill, a native of Missouri, and by this marriage there were also four children, namely:  Albert S., Eunice C., Warren H. and William C.  After the death of her husband, Mrs. Hannum came down into the valley and purchased her present home, in 1887, consisting of twenty-eight acres, two miles south of Woodland.  It is principally devoted to the production of alfalfa, which is here a very profitable crop.  She also has a small vineyard, and manages to support herself, with the aid of her children.  Their home is one which shows neatness and comfort.




Henry Hogan,   


a prominent and promising young attorney, is a native of California, born in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, September 2, 1860.  He received his primary education under private tutors, up to the age of twenty years, when he entered St. Mary’s College, San Francisco, where he graduated in 1879 as Bachelor of Arts.  He commenced the study of law in the office of Judge Robert Crouch, now Superior Judge of Napa County, and completed his course at the law school in Albany, New York, graduating thereat in May, 1883.  He was selected by the faculty to deliver the class oration, being the first student from west of the Mississippi to receive the honor.  This oration, entitled “The Perils of Asiatic Immigration,” struck a popular chord in the hearts of the people of the Pacific coast, and it was generally reprinted there, while in the East it opened up a fuller knowledge and consideration of this important question, which was then being agitated in Congress in the form of the Exclusion Bill.


Returning to San Francisco, he entered the law office of M. M. Estee, late chairman of the Republican National Committee, and chairman of the convention which nominated Benjamin Harrison for President.  Here he remained as head clerk until the fall of 1884, when he was tendered by the Democratic party of Napa County the nomination for District Attorney.  This he accepted, and, notwithstanding the fact that Napa County is strongly Republican, he was elected by 109 majority in the campaign in which Blain carried the county by 300 majority.  He was renominated in the succeeding election and was again elected.  During his incumbency he prosecuted several murder cases, and a large number of important felony cases successful.


In July, 1886, he took a short vacation, revisiting Albany, New York, where he was married to Miss Emma Von Kruen Mann, only daughter of P. H. Mann, of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad, whose acquaintance he had formed while at the law school I 1882.  He then established himself in the active practice of his profession, in which he has already built up a satisfactory business.  Mr. Hogan is a member of the Native Sons of the Golden West and Past President of Napa Parlor and a Grand Trustee of the order, also a member and President of the Young Men’s Institute.  (Pages 301-302)




Honorable Gurdon Backus


The Argonauts of California are a race by themselves, standing up like giants among the people who have flocked in to profit by their early trials, hardships and tireless labors, just as the huge redwoods overtop the smaller trees of the forest.  California can never do sufficient justice by her pioneers, for the reason that without them she would never exist.  They came thousands of miles over sea and land, literally taking their lives in their hands, and notwithstanding the most incredible difficulties and dangers they fought their way, and as a result we of a later day are reaping the benefits of their sufferings, in this, the fairest of all lands.


Amid the many life-histories of the pioneers that it has been the good fortune of the writer to pen, he can safely say that none have been so full of incident, of interest, of indomitable energy, of great accomplishment and of lessons worthy the reading and remembering as that of Gurdon Backus, which we here present.


He was born in the old Green Mountain State, November 6, 1820, and is therefore at the time of this writing nearing the close of the sixties, yet as active, as energetic and as young in appearance as if he had yet to touch the half century.  Of his earlier days and of his family we present the following:--His father was a contractor and builder of ships, and built the flag ship Saratoga at Vergennes, Vermont, which whipped the English at the battle of Plattsburg; was on board himself as volunteer.  He died in Burlington, Vermont, when Mr. Backus was but eight years old.  He was a first class chip builder and mechanic, traveling all over the continent in the course of his business.  He had six children, two boys and four girls.  The youngest son, brother of Gurdon, left his home for the battle-fields of Mexico, where he fell in battle.  Commodore McDonough boarded with his grandmother at Vergennes, Vermont, during the building of the fleet in 1814.  The maternal grandfather, Colonel Nichols, was a pensioner of the Revolutionary war.


The subject of this sketch was brought up on a farm until fourteen years of age, and was then engaged in the clothing business in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Burlington, Vermont, and next in New York city.  He was an active worker for Harrison in 1840, and was a member of a log-cabin club.  He entered business for himself at the age of nineteen years, and was in the clothing trade until he came to California.  He was married twelve days after he reached his majority.


Mr. Backus was among the first to set out from his Eastern home for the El Dorado, leaving Burlington, Vermont, January 13, 1849, and New York in March, for the long trip across the continent, driving a six-mule team from the city of St. Louis.  He tramped the whole seventy-five miles from Cumberland to Brownsville, being three days and a half on the old National road.  The long journey was successfully accomplished with the usual hardships and difficulties, but without serious mishap, and the Golden State was reached August 29, 1849, the arrival in Sacramento, then the objective point for every one, in the September following.  After a few days in this city, Mr. Backus went up to Redding’s Diggings in the northern end of the Sacramento Valley, but did not remain long after the winter rains came on.  He made his way back to Sacramento, through miseries and difficulties, such as can only be appreciated when heard from the lips of the men who underwent them.  He took a position in the Empire Hotel, kept by Keefe & Butler, the latter a brother of the celebrated General, at $195 a month and board, remaining with them until the end of January, 1850.  Then he opened the Anglo-Saxon Hotel on Front street, and continued the business with good success until the fall of that year.


The outbreak of cholera, however, induced him to transfer his energies to another point, and accordingly we find Mr. Backus in San Francisco in November, 1850, homeward bound for the East, with a comfortable little pile of $17,000 worth of gold dust in his sack.  He did not get farther than that city, however, and soon leased the Commercial Hotel, on the corner of Jackson street and Jones Alley, where Colonel Haraszthy now has his wind depot, paying no less than $800 for his monthly rental.  He made the house the best and one of the leading hotels in the city, for he always does his best, and was patronized by the best class, and fairly earned money for a while, having bought the house and enlarged it, when the disastrous conflagration of May 4, 1851, swept the hotel and all its contents out of existence, and left Mr. Backus with only $50 in his pocket.


Nothing daunted he stepped aboard the Sacramento boat the next day, determined to go back to the mines and retrieve his fortune.  On reaching that city, he was accosted by a Jewish merchant, J. Pinchover, on the levee, and offered a position with him as clerk at $150 a month and board.  This position he retained until the end of December, 1851, and then, receiving a Government clerkship, he went to Vallejo, then the State capital, and with this begins another and more prominent chapter in the eventful life of the worthy pioneer.  At this time, too, begins the literary activities of Mr. Backus, letters from him giving the best resume of matters, political and general, of all published, appearing in the Eastern and other papers.  Fortunately he kept a diary of those early days,--a perfect treasure house of facts and circumstances used for this article.  He took an active part in the great struggle over the State capital, working energetically in the interests of Sacramento.  He went one night through the rain and darkness, up the Sacramento River for State Senator Henry E. Robinson, to assure his vote for the final test.


Mr. Backus clerked in the Legislature until May, 1852, when he began business in Sacramento for himself on J street, in the clothing trade, gradually enlarging his business and launching out into new departments of enterprise until he was one of the most extensive dealers in central California.  In April, 1853, he was made Harbor-master of Sacramento, holding the office for two years, being then and afterward largely interested in Sacramento scooners and shipping.  In 1851 h3 built for himself the fine mansion at the corner of Tenth and E streets, then one of the finest residences in the city, and still ranking with any for beauty and comfort, surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowers, and bringing out his family from the East to occupy it.


In March, 1852, Mr. Backus became the Sacramento agent for Charles Crocker, who was then carrying on a store at Negro Bar, and later on he admitted Mr. Crocker as a partner.  November 2, midnight, 1852, occurred the great fire, which destroyed almost the whole city, his store among others.  His house and one other were the only houses left north of J street on Tenth street, and he fed and housed his friends for some time to the number of sixteen or more, among them E. B. Crocker and wife, whom he was instrumental in saving from the horror of that fearful night.  There was great suffering at this time, and the price of provisions went up to fabulous rates, yet through all Mr. Backus went unflinchingly and nobly, helping his friends, although himself one f the greatest losers.  The general election had just taken place, and the ballots, etc., had been carried to his house and were thus saved.  In February, 1854, he went into business in partnership with W. R. Strong, of Sacramento, now so well known, and was again extensively launched into business, only to lose everything again by fire, July 12, 1854, at midday.  In 1855 he was elected Public Administrator, holding the office for two years.


The war feeling that resulted later in the desperate civil struggle was already rising high.  In all this Mr. Backus was for the Union, “first, last and all the time;" and when Lincoln’s call for volunteers was made, he at his own expense published a notice calling for volunteers, organized three companies, and at great expense and difficulty outfitted them, through the Union Club of Sacramento, and kept them together until the war department sent out an officer, Colonel Kellogg, to take command.  He aided in organizing the Union Club of Sacramento, formed of men whose united action did more than almost any other cause to keep California in the Union, and stifle the hot Southern desire for secession and war, although the leaders of this element were his close personal friends.  The money raised by Mr. Backus and the Union Club was the means of arousing the movement that placed this State among the loyal commonwealths and steadied the feelings of all.  His son, General Samuel W. Backus, so well known for his many public positions and his great worth of character, now Postmaster of San Francisco, was his father’s right-hand man in all of this, and he himself went East and served honorably and well throughout the civil struggle.


For seven years Mr. Backus was in the internal revenue service in San Francisco, going to that city in 1861.  Sixteen years ago he accepted the agency of the Southern Pacific at the important station of St. Helena, the wine center of California, a position which he still holds with satisfaction to the business public.  His beautiful cottage home in the eastern part of the town is the picture of home-like comfort, being surrounded by trees and veritably embowered in flowers and flowering shrubs.  He was a member of the common council of Sacramento (sitting with Mark Hopkins) in 1853, which built up the city, improved its streets, etc., and was active in railroad matters.


Mr. Backus has always been a clear-sighted and acute observer of the events of which he has made a part.  He is a powerful writer, an exact and careful business man, a good conversationalist, and a most genial host.  His popularity is shown by his long occupancy of his present position, where he has to meet and adjust affairs with all classes of people, not less than by the majorities which he has received when a candidate for public office.  He is an honored member of the Pioneer Society of San Francisco, and of Washington Lodge, No. 20, F. & A. M. of Sacramento.  His motto through life has been, “Duty: results take care of themselves.”  (Pages 303-305)




E. M. Keys, M. D.,


Livermore, was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, May 14, 1855.  In 1874 he began the study of medicine in the office of his father, L. H. Keys, M. d., an old practitioner, and in 1878 attended lectures at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Keokuk, same State, and graduated there.  He practiced five years at Walker, Linn County, Iowa, and five years in Hampton, Iowa, and in the fall of 1888 came by rail to California, first locating at Pescadero, then Monterey for a short time, and finally in 1889 he settled in Livermore, taking up the practice of Dr. W. B. Taylor, and now has a lucrative business, his success being marked.  He is a member of Anchor Lodge, No. 191, F. & A. M., and also of the K. of P.,--both at Hampton, Iowa.  March 1, 1878, at Earlville, in Delaware County, Iowa, he married Miss Jennie R. Carter, and they have two children:  Fannie and Harold. (Page 305)



Chauncey Carroll Bush


…called the father of the active business city of Redding, is one of the men of mark, who with others planned and laid the foundation of the prosperity of the county of Shasta.  He comes of good old Revolutionary New England stock.  His great-grandfather, David Bush, married Thankful Pettibone at Smisburg, Connecticut, and had two sons, born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  The eldest of these sons, David Bush, Jr. (Mr. Bush’s grandfather), was born October 29, 1762, and married August 13, 1783, Anna Brown, a twin daughter of Major Jacob and Anna Brown.  They had seven children, all born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  The third of their family, Daniel Brown Bush (Mr. Bush’s father), was born May 18, 1790.  David Bush, one of Mr. Bush’s uncles, reared several children, among them Charles P. Bush, a Congregationalist minister in Michigan, and his brother, George Bush, a Congregationalist minister in New Jersey.  Peregrine, another of them, married a daughter of John Francis, a Baptist minister, and their son, John P. Bush, was at one time publisher of the Oneida (New York) Observer.  The Judge’s ancestry were all men of distinction in their town.  Jacob Brown, his maternal grandfather, in 1775, joined the Revolutionary army in Boston, was elected a Major and marched through Maine to Quebec, Canada, with Benedict Arnold.  All the soldiers suffered with hunger, and they were compelled to eat horses and dogs.  Mr. Brown died on the Plains of Abraham, with small-pox.  Mr. Bush’s grandmother’s uncle, John Brown, was a lawyer in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, joined the Revolutionary army, was made a Colonel, and was killed by Indians and Tories in ambush at Stone Arabia, New York.  Major Henry C. Brown, a cousin of his grandmother, was sheriff of Berkshire County for twenty years.  Mr. Bush’s father, Daniel Brown Bush, married Maria Merrick, a daughter of Lieutenant Joseph and Mercy (Smith) Merrick.  They had three sons and three daughters, of whom he was the youngest.  His mother died when he was five months old.  His oldest brother, Joseph Merrick Bush, has resided in Pittsfield, Illinois, since 1838, and has published a paper there for over thirty years.  Judge Bush’s eldest sister, now Mrs. Ellen Dewitt Hatch, resides at Big Timber, Montana, and is a writer of much ability.  His sister, Maria Merrick, married Hon. Jackson Grimshaw, a noted lawyer of Illinois.  His brother, Colonel Daniel Brown Bush, resides in Portland, Oregon, and is manager of the Home Mutual Insurance Company.  He served through the Mormon war at Nauvoo, Illinois, after that through the Mexican war and through the war of the Rebellion.  Judge Bush’s father married for his second wife, a widow, and a daughter of Captain Greer, of New York city.  They had five children, only two sons of whom now survive.  One of them, a brother of Judge Bush, is Colonel Edward Greer Bush, a graduate of West Point, who served through the war of the Rebellion.  There is a sister, now Mrs. Lucia Bates, residing at Pittsfield, Illinois.  Judge Bush’s family are noted for longevity.  His father died November 23, 1885, aged ninety-five years, six months and five days, and none of his brothers died under seventy years.


Judge Bush was born July 31, 1831, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  His parents moved to Pittsfield, Pike County, Illinois, in 1834, then called the far West.  In 1850, at the age of eighteen, he crossed the plains, by way of St. Joseph’s, Missouri, Fort Hall, Fort Laramie and Carson Valley, arriving in Hangtown, now Placerville, July 22, 1850; wintered at Ophir, near Auburn, until February, 1851, and then removed to Shasta County, arriving at Shasta February 21, 1851.  For several years he followed mining, then clerking in stores and engaged in other callings.  In 1861 he was elected Justice of the Peace in Shasta, afterward Associate Judge of the Court of Sessions.  The next year he was elected County Judge, and re-elected twice afterward, the satisfaction given to all parties during the first two terms being so great that the Democrats declined to nominate a candidate against him the last term.  During his three terms as County Judge, only one case was appealed to the Supreme Court, and that was affirmed.  Having decided to remove from Shasta he declined to let his name go before the people for re-election.  For ten years he was engaged in merchandising to Shasta.  He spent much time and money in trying to induce the railroad company to build their road to the town of Shasta.  Failing in this he decided to move to the newly projected town of Redding, and induced a few of his neighbors and friends to do likewise.   Acting upon this decision, the night of July 22, 1872, found Judge Bush sleeping on a soft pine board, with one blanket over him, on the lot where now stands the Bush block, which at present contains the Bank of Shasta County, Chambers & Campbell’s hardware store, the post office and other occupants.  August 12 the first bill of goods from a general stock of merchandise in the town of Redding, was sold by him.  He cast his lot with the town, and has staid and worked for its success.


It is no disparagement to the efforts of others to say that Judge Bush is the father of the city of Redding, and the father is and has just reason to be proud of his child, as it has become at eighteen years of age a fine city with its many brick blocks, electric lights, fine system of water-works and sewerage, and every brick laid and every timber put in place to make it the lovely, populous city it is destined to become.  It is a monument to his sagacity, enterprise, faith and tenacity of purpose, and is destined to become the “city of the north.”  Judge Bush is now its very efficient Postmaster, and has held the position three different terms and makes a very obliging and prompt official.  He held the office of United States Court Commissioner for twenty-two years.  Has been a Mason for twenty-five years, and Master of Western Star Lodge two terms, and of Redding Lodge two terms, and is now Grand Bible Bearer of the Grand Lodge.  He has been a School Trustee for several years, taking a deep interest in educational matters.  Was a member of the School Board that erected Redding’s fine brick school house.  He was the founder of the Bank of Shasta County, and its first president.  He was a delegate to the National Convention at Chicago, that nominated James G. Blaine for he Presidency, and was one of the Pacific coast committee that visited him at his home in Augusta, Maine, and congratulated him on his nomination; and he was also one of the committee that notified Logan of his nomination at Washington, District of Columbia.  Although not a communicant he is a firm and consistent supporter of Sabbath-schools and churches.  During the war he was a worker for and a member of the Sanitary Commission.


In 1865 he was married to Miss Ida M. Schroeder, and they have had seven children, three of whom died in infancy.  The surviving children are Eda Ellen, Chauncey Carroll, Jr., George William and Harry Edward.  Judge Bush and his estimable wife are held in high standing by their neighbors and a large circle of acquaintances.  Their silver wedding was held Jun3 27, 1890, and their warm friends gathered around them in throngs to do them honor.  The pleasant and commodious home was filled to overflowing, as well as their beautiful grounds that surround their home.


Mrs. Judge Bush and daughter, Eda, are members of the Presbyterian Church, and constant workers in the church and Sabbath-school, Mrs. Bush being now and for several years Assistant Superintendent.  The family is noted for its many charities and assistance in times of distress, Miss Eda being a very active member of the Young Ladies’ Aid Society, that is well known for its good works.  (Pages 305-307)




H. H. Pitcher


The Bank of Livermore—This solid financial institution, which has proven so beneficial in this valley, was opened for business as a private institution on the 13th of March, 1885, and on the 11th of December, 1885, was incorporated under the laws of California.  The board of directors, consisting of all the stockholders, was as follows:  Thomas Varney, H. H. Pitcher, G. W. Langan, John Taylor and T. H. B. Varney.  The first officers were:  Thomas Varney, President; H.H. Pitcher, Cashier, and G. W. Langan, Attorney.  After the death of Thomas Varney, which occurred February 13, 1890, T. H. B. Varney became President, and John Taylor Vice-President.  The bank, which has a paid-up capital of $100,000, handles practically all the business of the Livermore Valley.  The bank has been a success from the start, and the volume of its business is constantly on the increase.


H. H. Pitcher, the able cashier of the Bank of Livermore, is a native of Sacramento, born August 16, 1850, his parents being E. M. and Jane H. (Hay) Pitcher, the former a native of New York, and the latter of London, England.  Both came out to California at the same time with Strowbridge, and, becoming acquainted on the steamer, were married after their arrival in California.  Mr. Pitcher, Sr., was for a time in the cattle business, but afterward conducted a hotel in the country a short distance from Sacramento.  He also engaged quite extensively in dealing in fine horses, and imported some of the first fine stock ever brought to California, Among these was the noted John Nelson, which as a famous animal.  He was also for a time in the mercantile business in Sacramento, in connection with Mr. Strowbridge.  His death occurred in Sacramento County, in 1863.


H. H. Pitcher, the subject of this sketch, was reared in Sacramento, and there received his education.  When but eighteen years of age he entered the employ of Treadwell & Co., a large mercantile firm there, as book-keeper.  That firm became insolvent, and their creditors, the Bank of California, took their stores and placed Mr. Pitcher in charge of the business at Sacramento to close.  He closed the business there about two years later, and so well pleased were the bank officials with the work of the young man that they made him a favorable offer to enter the Bank of California in San Francisco, which he accepted, continuing there until starting in the Bank of California in 1885.


Besides his banking interests, Mr. Pitcher is largely interested in the chrome iron trade, he and Mr. Knight, of San Francisco, handling in partnership nearly all of the product on this coast, and shipping most of the ore to the Kalion Chemical Works, Philadelphia.  Mr. Pitcher has a fine ranch of 500 acres in El Dorado County, not far from Placerville, which he is planting largely to fruit, to which the land is specially adapted.


Mr. Pitcher was married in San Francisco, February 3, 1872, to Miss Annie G. Clark, a native of San Francisco, and daughter of Reuben Clark, the leading architect of the State  Capitol at Sacramento.  They have two children, viz.: Pearl F. and Hazel Belle.


Mr. Pitcher is a member of Masonic Lodge, F. & A. M., and Doric Chapter, R. A. M., of Livermore; and of Golden Gate Commandery, Knights Templar, and Islam Temple of the Mystic Shrine, San Francisco.  Mr. Pitcher is a Republican politically.  He was elected a member of the Board of Trustees of Livermore in May, 1889, and was chosen president of the board.  In May, 1890, he was re-elected.


Mr. Pitcher is a high-toned, honorable gentleman, of rare business qualifications, and is indeed a valuable acquisition to Livermore and its surrounding valley.  (Pages 307-308)



            John Aylward


Livermore Spring Water Company was incorporated in 1874 by John Alyward, Robert Livermore, Valentine Alviso, Michael Mullanay, Charles Hedzal and W. Gibbons.  The first officers elected were:  John Aylward, president; W. Gibbons, Secretary; and Robert Livermore, treasurer.  The first board of directors consisted of Messrs. Hedzal, Aylward, Livermore, Alviso and Mullanay.  In 1878 a mortgage upon the company’s plant was given for the purpose of obtaining ready means for prosecuting the work, and it was foreclosed and bought in by John Aylward in 1885, since which time he has been sole proprietor.


The water used in this system is obtained from two sources—the Arroyo Mocho and the Los Positos Springs.  The point on the Mocho from which water is taken is about three miles from Livermore, giving a fall of 125 feet.  The Los Positos Springs are about two and a half miles from town, and this gives a fall amply sufficient for all purposes.  Water is conveyed to the city through iron pipes of the best construction, and over ten miles of piping are used in the entire system, which supplies the life-giving fluid for all domestic as well as fire purposes in Livermore.  Much credit is due Mr. Aylward for the active interest he has taken ever since becoming connected with the water company, in the matter of improving its facilities.


John Aylward, proprietor of the Livermore Water Company, and the leading spirit in this valley in the line of manufacturing, is a native of Ireland, born in the county Kilkenny, in January, 1843.  He was reared at his native place, and there commenced the blacksmith’s trade.  In 1865 he came to America and located in Boston, where he continued the trade with T. K. Very, veterinary surgeon, who had a shop where the most intricate work in horse-shoeing was performed in a scientific manner.  Under instructions there Mr. Aylward obtained a thorough knowledge in that branch of his trade, and, having a natural taste for the trade he had adopted, he became expert in the business.  To this day he attributes much of his success to the knowledge obtained in the shop of Mr. Very.  He remained with the latter until September, 1866, working as a journeyman after he had finished his trade.  Leaving Boston, he proceeded to New York, where he took passage for California on the steamer Santiago de Cuba (since sunk).  The vessel was shipwrecked and he returned to New York and again took passage, this time on the steamer San Francisco.  He made the trip via Nicaragua, finishing the journey on the Pacific side on the steamer Moses Taylor, and landing at San Francisco on the 7th of October.  He soon went to Mission San Jose, where he worked for N. Bergmann six months, then started in business for himself, doing general job work, and built up a fine trade.  To this he gave his personal attention until 1874, when he came to Livermore to start a shop and manufacture the iron piping for the Livermore Spring Water Company.  His business in Livermore proving a large one, he sold out his shop at mission San Jose in 1876 to James Stanley (now public administrator).  Mr. Aylward has made a through success of his shop in Livermore.


In 1886 he patented a hay press, which, it can be said with strict adherence to the truth, is far and away ahead of any other press now in use.  Other hay presses are simply not in competition with it.  Though the machine has many skillful devices for the perfect compressing of hay, yet everything about it is of such strength that there is practically no stoppage for repairs when once in operation.  This is accomplished, too, without making the press at all unwieldy.  In fact, it is a handsome-appearing machine.  Two bales of hay are constantly being made at the same time by the process used, so that there is no loss of time or power.  The saving in cost of compressing is very great, and then the bales are very compact, so that it is possible to get in a car about twice as much hay as if packed by other machines.  In shipping either by sea to the islands or by rail to the coast points, this is a great item, the difference in this particular alone affording a good profit to the commission man.  About fifty of the Aylward presses have been made by the proprietor, who has been unable to supply the demand, and the writer of this article predicts great results for Mr. Aylward when the merits of his great hay press become known in other sections as they are now recognized in the Livermore Valley.  He is also manufacturing the Aylward Automatic Gate, constructed of either iron or wood, which also has a wide reputation and a good sale.  Mr. Aylward is a natural mechanical genius, and has patents on other useful articles, which, however, he has never pushed, owing to the pressure upon his time by other machines and general business interests.


He was married at Mission San Jose in May, 1869, to Miss Margaret Downs, a native of Ireland, but reared in this country at Nantucket, from childhood.  They have six children, viz.:  Mary Frances, wife of John J Aylward, of San Francisco; Richard, who is with his father in the shop; Lulu, John, Grace and Edward.  Mr. Aylward has held the office of Trustee of Livermore, though he is in no sense of the word an office seeker.  He is now a supporter of the principles of the American party.  He is a member of Mosaic Lodge, F. & A. M., and Doric Chapter, R. A. M., of Vesper Lodge, A. O. U. W., and of the Legion of Honor.  If Livermore reaches the destiny outlined for her by some, it will be through the efforts of just such men as Mr. Aylward, who, while a safe and conservative man, has that spirit of true progress, aided by pluck and perseverance, which is always the leading factor in building up communities. (Pages 308-310)


Daniel W. Smith

…engaged in agriculture near Livermore, was born in New York city, December 9, 1836.  At the age of two years he was taken by his parents in their removal to England, and he received  his schooling in Kent.  At an early age he chose seafaring life as a vocation, and he followed it in various capacities for many years, from cabin boy to ordinary seaman; and in 1856 he became part owner and took command of the schooner Ida  Jane, of San Francisco, a coasting merchantman.  After running this vessel until 1869 he resigned and sold his interest.  Moving to Livermore he purchased 112 acres of land near that place and has since been engaged in cultivating it.  “Captain Dan, as he is universally called, is fifty-four years of age, hale and hearty, and has the respect and friendship of his fellow farmers and acquaintances.  His father, John Smith, was a native of Castine, Maine, while the mother, Maria, is a native of Edinburg, Scotland.  The Captain was married in 1870, at the mission San Jose, to Mrs. Helen Welch, nee Hickey.  She has a daughter, named Agnes.  (Page 310)


Samuel Kirkham

…a farmer five miles southeast of Woodland, and an early settler of Yolo County, was born June 19, 1827, in Butler County, Ohio, a son of George D. and Mary (Dennis) Kirkham. His father, a native of Kentucky, was a tanner and also a farmer, and moved first to Ohio and then to Illinois, and to California in 1876, where he died, July 7, 1878.  Samuel also worked in the tannery and upon the farm until he was twenty-two years of age, when, in the spring of 1850, he came across plain and mountain to California with ox teams, being on the road from April 28 to August 20.  He remained at Hangtown until 1854 engaged in mining, when he selected his present home, which has long been a model residence.  Mr. Kirkham is a very liberal-hearted man, generous to a fault and has generally been too “easy” with his debtors, else he would have been worth thousands more than he is.


He was married in 1860 to Miss Mary R. Chandler, a native of Ohio, and a daughter of Salmon and Naomi (Beebe) Chandler, who came to California in 1859 and who are now both deceased.  Mr. And Mrs. Kirkham have had two children:  George E., deceased, and Naomi J., wife of Jonathan Scott Harmon, of Oakland.  (Page 310)


A Memorial & Biographical History of Northern California: Chicago : The Lewis Publishing Company, 1891

Transcribed by Janice Giachino, January, 2007  Pages 289-310


Site Created: 23 January 2007

Martha A Crosley Graham

Rights Reserved: 2007