History of Northern California




James McCormick


…is one of the first settlers and one of the most prominent business men of Redding, Shasta County, California.  He is a native of Pennsylvania, born in Philadelphia, November 1, 1831.  He comes of good old Scotch-Presbyterian stock.  His grandfather, John McCormick, was one of the hardy sons of Scotland who settled in County Donegal, Ireland, and reared his family there.  His son James was born at that place, and when he grew to manhood, in 1829, married Isabella Black, also a native of Donegal County.  Immediately after their marriage they emigrated direct to Philadelphia to make their fortune in the United States.  They settled in Philadelphia and Mr. McCormick engaged in the manufacture of starch.  O the two children born to them in that city, the subject of our sketch was the second.  He family removed to Quincy, Illinois, where the father purchased and improved a farm.  The mother died in 1845, and the father lived on the property until his death occurred, in 1886.  He lived the life of an upright and worthy citizen.


James was given his father’s name that he might be an honor to it and perpetuate it in the world.  He was reared to manhood on his father’s farm, went to school in winter and drove the team and held the plow in summer.  When he reached his majority, like his parents, he started out for himself.  He left his home in Quincy, Illinois, in December, 1852, and arrived at San Francisco, February 5, 1853, making the trip via the Isthmus of Panama.  Little did he think when he came to the El Dorado of the West in search of gold, that he was going to help improve and build the grandest commonwealth of the United States.  His first venture was to dig for gold in Tuolumne County.  Some months later he went to Coloma.  The business of teaming was then very profitable and he engaged in that for a time.  He afterward purchased a miners’ supply store in El Dorado County, and conducted it for two years.  After this, and until its collapse, he was n the employ of the Adams Express Company.  Then he acted as Wells Fargo & Co’s. agent nine years, and purchased millions of dollars worth of gold dust.  He removed to Woodland, Yolo County, and worked in the interest of the Western Union Telegraph Company two years.  In 1873 Mr. McCormick came to Redding, and the following three years was operator for the Western Union Telegraph Company.


In 1876 he went East to the great Centennial and also visited his father and his friends whom he had not seen for twenty-five years.  On his return to Redding the firm of McCormick, Saeltzer & Co. was formed, Mr. W. L. Smith being the other member.  They started with $9,000 capital, and conducted the business with remarkable success for ten years.  At the end of that time they incorporated under the firm name of the McCormick-Saeltzer Company, their capital having increased to $100,000.  They have built a brick store, 70 x 200, which comprises five departments, each 40 x 70 feet.  They wholesale and retail general merchandise and furnish supplies to Northern California and a part of Oregon.  Mr. McCormick has been one of the busy factors in building the city of Redding; was one of those who aided in its incorporation; served two terms on its board of trustees.  He was one of the originators of the Shasta County Bank and its first vice-president; also aided in starting the Bank of Northern California, and is its present vice-president.


The day after he was twenty-one years of age Mr. McCormick voted for General Scott for President of the United States.  Since the organization of the Republican party he has been one of its consistent adherents.  His marriage occurred at the residence of Judge Bush, December 16, 1877, the lady of his choice being Elizabeth Buckingham, a native of Whitestown, New York.  He is now engaged in building one of the finest residences in the city. (Pages 334-335)



C. Stohl


…a general farmer of Murray Township, Alameda County, was born in Holstein, Germany, January 19, 1840, and was brought up as a farmer.  In 1864 he emigrated to America, stopping in New York a short time and then came on by way of the Isthmus to California, landing at San Francisco.  Going direct to Murray Township, he has since then, in partnership with another man, been cultivating a tract of 570 acres, with good success.  He is a member of Vesper Lodge, No. 62, A O. U. W., of Livermore, and he was married in San Francisco, September 23, 1867, to Miss Margaret Steinboch.  Their children are Lena, Tillie, Mary and Frederick. (Page 335)



W. A. C. Smith


…real estate and insurance dealer, St. Helena, was born in Lincolnshire near the celebrated St. Botolph’s Church with its 365 steps to the top of its steeple, the date August, 1834.  He was intended for a shoemaker, and learned that trade while a boy, and from the premature age of ten years having to depend solely upon his own support.  Drawn irresistibly to this land of liberty and opportunity, in 1851 he used his earnings to bring him across the Atlantic to Philadelphia, and to set him up as a farmer in the Conestoga Valley, Pennsylvania.  He was not satisfied, however, with a life of manual labor, and had been profiting by every chance to enlarge his knowledge and complete his education, stinting himself to get the necessary books, and studying far into the night to master their contents.  By the winter of 1852-’53, he was prepared to take and teach a country school, this employment being only the stimulus to further studies, as from this time until 1875, when he finally gave up the teacher’s occupation, he was a very hard student, and becoming so proficient especially in mathematics as to win a solid and lasting reputation.  To give an idea of the energy and economy which the Professor manifested at this early and formative period of his life, it may be stated that he walked a distance of three and a half miles night and morning to the Pennsylvania school, in order to save $2 out of his meager salary of $18 per month.  Later he went to Onodaga County, New York, where he taught for some time.  In 1857, he came to California, via the Isthmus of Panama, and for three years devoted himself to mining in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, but afterward engaged in teaching in the mining regions, until in 1862 he removed to Vacaville in Solano County, taking charge of the public schools in that town.  His eminence as a mathematician at this time led many of the pupils then in attendance at Vacaville College to resort to him to perfect themselves in that science.  In September, 1863, he was appointed principal of the St. Helena schools, giving up that position in the following year to accept the professorship of mathematics in the Academy at Healdsburg.  In 1865 he purchased the Democratic Standard newspaper in that town, and for two years conducted it as editor and proprietor, in an able and efficient manner.  In 1866, he was recalled to St. Helena to resume the principalship of the public schools, a position he held for nearly ten years continuously, with great efficiency.  Meantime, he became extensively interested in vineyard and other business, and finally in 1876 opened a private bank in St. Helena, at that time the only banking establishment in the town.  This he carried on until in 1886 he gave up the banking business and has since then devoted himself strictly to real-estate, insurance and conveyancing business, having also a large interest in internal revenue broking for the many distillers and others in his county.


Professor Smith is a Democrat in politics, decided yet liberal in his sentiments, and a leading man in his party, having frequently been chairman of county and other conventions.  His family consists only of wife and one child. (Pages 335-336)



John Meyn


…a farmer near Livermore, was born in Holstein, Germany, September 10, 1858, and was brought up as a farmer.  In 1882 he emigrated to America, stopping a short time in New York and then came across the continent by rail direct to Livermore, near which place he has since resided.  He is in partnership with his father-in-law, C. Stohl, in the cultivation of 570 acres of ground devoted to farm products generally.  He is a member of the Sons of Hermann, of Livermore, is a liberal Republican, but spends no time in politics.  He was married in San Francisco, October 18, 1885, to Miss Lena Stohl, and he now has two children, --
Bertha and Minnie. (Page 336)



Dennis McVicker


The fine ranch belonging to Colonel J. D. Fry of San Francisco, situated near Yountville, Napa County, has been under Mr. McVicker’s management for over twelve years, and its present high state of cultivation and fine appearance is due to his care.  He is moreover a practical horse-breeder, taking an enthusiastic interest in the Colonel’s fine stud of horses under his charge, and breeding the fast animals that have made the stud famous, such as Arab, out of Arithon, dam Lady Hamilton, and other well-known horses.  He is also engaged in rearing Holstein and short-horn Durham cattle and Southdown sheep.


Mr. McVicker was born in Napanee, Canada, in 1851, where his father, John McVicker, is a farmer.  He left there in 1868, when nineteen years of age, and has resided almost constantly in California since, engaged entirely in the business of horse breeding and raising, sometimes on his own account and at other times in the employment of others.  For four years he was with Mr. Tallant in Wheatland, for two years with Mr. Jasper, and then at San Jose with Frank Malone, as also in Sacramento and elsewhere for himself.  He owns some property in Sacramento, which he is improving, and is an active, energetic and thoroughgoing man in all he undertakes.  He was married to Miss Annie McLennan, in San Francisco, in 1886.  They have one child. (Page 336)



Lewis Olds


…a Yolo County farmer, was born June 5, 1822, in Worcester County, Massachusetts, a son of Cheney and Anna (Walker) Olds, natives of Massachusetts.  The father, a farmer and shoemaker, was a soldier in the war of 1812 and received a pension from the Government.  He was a pioneer settler in Illinois, in 1836, in Whiteside County, where he lived until his death in 1874; his wife survived until 1883.  They had six sons and three daughters.  Lewis was raised on a farm, and when of age he engaged in lead-mining in Wisconsin for several years.  In 1850 he came across plain and mountain to California with horse teams, the trip occupying four months.  He arrived at Hangtown and commenced mining at Coloma.  In the fall he went down in the valley to sell some stock, and he also killed some animals and elk.  Late in that season he went to San Jose and spent the winter.  In the spring of 1851 he was a short time in San Francisco, and then spent three years in the mines at Yanke Jim’s and Michigan Bluff, with moderate success.  In 1854 he settled upon his present property, six miles from Woodland, which he obtained from the Government by pre-emption, and on this he made all the improvements now existing there.  The place consists of 160 acres, and he carries on general farming and stock-raising.


C. Olds, his brother, was born in August, 1832, in Cattarangus County, New York, was raised on a farm in Illinois, and was twenty years of age when in 1852 he came across the plains to California with ox teams, the time of the journey being five months.  After arriving here he spent five years at the mines at Yankee Jim’s with moderate success, in collecting gold.  Then, in 1857, he settled in Yolo county upon a farm adjoining his brother, where he has ever since been a constant resident engaged in agriculture.  In 1868 he returned to Illinois by way of the Isthmus, and in 1889 he visited Illinois again, but is more than ever satisfied with his location in the Golden State. (Pages 336-337)



Honorable Chancellor Hartson


…deceased, was born in Otsego County, New York, in 1824, his parents being Horace and Asenath (Lidell) Hartson.  The Lidells were of English descent and had long lived in that State, and the family seat was Exeter, where the mother of our subject was born.  The Hartsons were of Scotch ancestry, and the founders of the family in this country settled in New England.  His grandparents on this side were John and Sybil (Hitchcock) Hartson.  His father early engaged in the tanning business, but later in life established himself in agricultural pursuits.  The subject of this sketch graduated at Madison University, New York State, and then at Fowler Law School, at Cherry Valley, in 1848.  In 1850 he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of New York.  Came to California the same year.


In July of the following year he came to Napa, where he at once entered upon the practice of law, and soon became popular.  In September, 1851, he was elected to the office of District Attorney, and at the close of his term the people chose him for the more important position of county judge, which he filled with ability until 1858.  In the meantime, in 1856, the Republican party first entered the field as a national organization, and Judge Hartson, who had previously been a Whig, threw the whole force of his strong nature into the service of the new party of progress.  Almost alone he stood at that day a champion of the party’s cause in the community, but his strength proved of untold benefit in the cause of Republicanism.  He was a regular and interested reader of the New York Tribune, and as the tone of that paper was exceedingly radical in favor of the new party and indeed of abolition, the fact of his taking it caused murmuring and even threats among the extremists in the ranks of the opposition.  Observing this, Judge Hartson sent for additional copies of the great journal, saying that if one copy of the Tribune causes such a commotion, he would like o see the effects of two dozen! which  he subscribed for and distributed among the people; but the threats against him were not carried out.  He felt that there were troublous times ahead for the country, and bent every energy to the task of building up a strong support for the Government, with the result that when the civil war came on he was conceded the greater part of the credit for the strong organization of the Republican party which then existed.  In 1861 he was elected to the Lower House of the State Legislature, and when the Assembly was organized for the important work of that session, the “war Legislature, “ he was chosen Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.  In 1862 he was elected to the State Senate, and in that body was also appointed by its president to the first place on the Judicial Committee.  His record in the Legislature of California during these, the Nation’s darkest hours, is a part of the State history; and his unselfish services were duly appreciated by the constituents who sent him there, and who, by their suffrages, kept him in the Senate continuously until 1866, when affairs again began to wear their former peaceful aspect.


He then felt that he deserved a rest from his arduous labors in the public behalf, and returned to the practice of his profession, which had naturally suffered while he was in the Senate.  The law claimed almost his entire attention until 1871, when, for the first time, he entered extensively into the fields of finance.  In that year he aided in the establishment of the Bank of Napa, and upon its organization was elected president.  He conducted the affairs of the bank with unusual executive ability until January 1, 1879, and his management gave it wide prestige.  In the meantime he also took a prominent part in the organization of the Bank of Lake, at Lakeport, and of the board of directors of which he was for years a member.


In 1879 W. J. Maclay was elected to the Assembly, but shortly afterward his death occurred.  To fill the vacancy thus caused so much pressure was brought to bear upon Mr. Hartson, that, despite his earnest protestations, he was compelled to accept the nomination, which was heartily ratified by the people at the ensuing election.  In this session of the Legislature, with the prestige of his former service and the advantages of the ripe judgment and mature mind he then possessed, he stood the peer of any man upon the floor of either House, and his natural ability as a shrewd financier came into splendid play upon the question of revenue and finance.  His speech on Assembly Bill No. 404, embodying these subjects, was conceded to be the master effort of the session, and so great was the demand for it that an edition of 75,000, subsequently published, was in a very short time exhausted.  An extract from this address, which will not be out of place in this connection, will give the reader an idea of the force and character of the man who uttered these sentiments:

“I rise under deep feelings of embarrassment and regret, inspired principally by the painful recollection that in the advocacy of this great constitutional measure, I am in conflict with the wishes of many highly esteemed friends, in and out of this House, whose good will I crave, and for whose opinions I entertain the highest respect.  Nothing but a strong sense of duty and a clear conviction of right has impelled me to take so decided a stand, and maintain it with whatever of vigor and ability I possess.  So far as I am concerned, I have no trouble in so construing that language as to tax all credits, all stocks and all property.  I am decidedly in favor of rolling back and off the industries and lands of this State, and back up on the bondholders and stockholders, the great burden of taxation that belongs to the latter class to bear.  I came here to do a great constitutional duty.  I promised the suffering men and women of my home, when elected, that I would stand up for their rights against power and wealth and prerogative.  I am here by my voice to fulfill that promise.  My judgment approves that measure, and the work done for its accomplishment is the work of my hand and my heart as well as my intellect.”


In November, 1880, Judge Hartson was reelected to succeed himself in the Legislature, and took an active part in the sessions of that and the following year.  In 1881 he received, at the hands of President Garfield, the appointment as Collector of Internal Revenue for San Francisco district, and filled out his term of office in a masterly manner.  This was his last public position.  His death, which occurred suddenly, September 25, 1889, was a shock to the community, and drew forth expressions of profound regret throughout the entire State.  From the Napa Daily Register is taken the following account of the circumstances of his death:  “About one o’clock, to-day, as Hon. Chancellor Hartson was passing from the library of his home into the sitting room, he fell to the floor as if in a faint, when a gentleman, who happened to be present, placed him upon a lounge and ran for a doctor.  Meanwhile Mrs. Hartson worked incessantly over the loved and lifeless form of her husband with the restoratives she had at hand, but in vain.  Drs. Wrightman and Hostetter soon arrived, and one glance at the ashen face of the prostrate man was enough to tell them that the vital spark had fled.


“Mr. Hartson had been complaining of not feeling well for a week or more, but he was up and about all the time, engaged in the temperance work he had so cordially espoused, and no one had any idea that his end was so near—that the rest he had so royally earned was at hand.  Death was probably occasioned by paralysis of the heart.”


The eulogies recited after his death show forth a character of greatness and nobility and true integrity, such as falls to the lot of but few men.  That those who knew and respected him in life may tell further of his history and characteristics, the following extracts are here given.  In the course of the funeral address delivered by A. J. Nelson, D. D., pastor of the Epworth Church, San Francisco, that eloquent divine took occasion to say:


“His life was an unceasing benediction to the community, the church and the State.  In the history of the State, I find him in her legislative halls again and again, both in the Assembly and the Senate; the choice of the best people of the State more than once for Governor and for Congress.  But he was no politician.  Too honest to be a demagogue, too wise to be deceived by political tricksters, he preferred integrity to office, and manhood to money.  But he left his impress on the political history of the State and party he loved so well.


“He was the friend of the common people.  He stood like a wall of granite against political power, the influence of money, and the prerogatives of office and party.  He was a financier of no ordinary ability, and had he loved money as he loved integrity, he would have been a millionaire.  In every position he has occupied, he has shown himself the peer of any man in the management of the affairs of State.


“He was a beneficent man as well as benevolent:  his purse and heart were open alike to all good works.  In the early history of your city he is found on the board of trustees of the Presbyterian Church.  He was president of the board of directors for the Insane Asylum, and president of Napa County Bank.  His name is but a synonym for Napa College.  On every board he was the chief brain and inspiration of all forward movements.  He represented his own church at the last general conference held in New York City, in May, 1888.  He took a part in the great debate—the right of women to a seat in the general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  He voted for and maintained with his usual enthusiasm the right of his sisters to a seat in the highest councils of his church.  General conference elected him a member of the National Committee of the American Sabbath Union.


“We admire a man that stands for something; some thought; some great principle; some party; some church.  When such a man dies, the world loses something; his friends have something to bury, and posterity something to honor and to copy,--some incarnation of some living issue.


“The evening work of his life was an original and well-planned assault on the saloons, that have blasted the hopes of thousands of families, and are the chief blight upon all the prospects of the State.  He fell in the midst of his plans, a martyr to the cause; an overworked brain and a burdened heart which gave way under this great pressure.


“He was my friend and brother: a truer heart never beat in the mortal bosom.”


Rev. John Coyle, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Napa city, and Rev. Richard Wylie, of the Napa Presbyterian Church, each delivered an eloquent address, in which they paid tribute to his many noble qualities of head and heart.  The newspapers of the State expressed the general sorrow felt upon the death of Judge Hartson,and the following extracts are but expressive of the general tone:


“Thus suddenly one of the most kingly of men has been summoned from earth.  It is as if some grand temple had fallen—some mighty oak had been twisted from its well-rooted foundation—and so sudden we are dazed by the unlooked-for blow.  The eulogies that shall be spoken over his casket need no artificial force.  They will partake of the sincere sorrow that dwells in every true heart that knew and appreciated Judge Hartson—the loyal head of a beloved home, the sympathizing friend of suffering humanity, the one out of the few who ever said by his acts, ‘I dare do all that may become a man.’


Napa is in mourning, for she is in the shadow of a great affliction:  her truest and best citizen is no more.”--Napa Daily Reporter.


“In the death of Hon. Chancellor Hartson the State loses one of its most honored citizens.  As a citizen, his integrity of purpose was unimpeachable, and as a politician he stood on the highest plane.  He was honest in all his dealings, whether with men, the interests of the State, or her relations to political matters.  He was a man of great force of character, and during many years of public life made a marked impression on the affairs of the State, always for the best interests of the commonwealth.  His death causes sincere regret in all parties; and hundreds of intimate friends, familiar with his sterling traits of character, will regard his sudden death as a personal bereavement.”—Oakland Times.


“The State of California has met with an irreparable loss in the death of Chancellor Hartson, which occurred at Napa yesterday.  He was one of our ablest and purest men, and as a citizen, and a man of business, his equal is seldom found.  As a lawyer Mr. Hartson was able, and as a public speaker he had few equals.  His political record had no stain.  As a business man he was a model.  But those admired and loved him most who knew him as a true and unselfish friend.”—Oakland Inquirer.


These references to Judge Hartson show him to have been one of the strongest and truest of characters—a might power in whatever he participated.  In his home life he was exceedingly happy, and a brief reference to his immediate family will be fitting in this connection.


Mrs. Hartson was, previous to her marriage, which occurred January 26, 1854, Miss Electa Burnell.  She is a native of Sinclairville, Chautauqua County, New York, and a daughter of Rev Joel and Electa (King) Burnell, both of whom were natives of Massachusetts.  After their marriage in that State, they removed to western New York, where they took up a large farm.  While living there, Mr. Burnell studied law, was admitted to the bar, and afterward became Judge, in which capacity he served many years, being one of the leading men of western New York, and one of the most active figures in public affairs though in no sense an office seeker.  He afterward became a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, serving the churches throughout Chautauqua County, where he was loved and honored to a high degree.  He and his wife both died in New York.  Of their sons five grew to maturity, viz.:  Madison, who became distinguished as one of the ablest jury lawyers of the nation; he died in 1865, in New York; Lorenzo, who followed the ship-building industry, and afterward was navigator, died in California, in 1857; Joel, who became a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, now resides at Eureka, where he supplies the local congregations; Ransom, a lawyer, came to California in 1850, practiced in the courts of this State served in its Legislature, and died in February, 1879; and Philo, a physician, died in 1857.


Judge and Mrs. Hartson reared four children, viz.:  Burnell C., Ernest, Channing and Daisy Asenath.  Ernest died August 22, 1884, being thus cut off at an untimely age from what would have undoubtedly been a brilliant career.  He was a lad of great promise, of an unusually manly demeanor, and gave evidence of signal musical ability in addition to other qualities, which made him a general favorite.  He was the pride and almost constant companion of his father, who was grief-stricken beyond expression by the loss of his boy.  He never recovered from the shock, and indeed his own death is thought by many to have been hastened by this cause. (Pages 337-341)


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

Transcribed by Janice Giachino, February, 2007  Pages 334-341


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Martha A Crosley Graham

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