History of Northern California



JEAN ARBIOS, a farmer and vineyardist nr Pleasanton, was born July 4, 1832, in Eysus, Basses-Pyrenees, France, where he was reared and educated, and brought up on a farm. His parents were Joseph and Jeanne Maria (Laroude) Arbios, natives also of France. The father died in 1865 and the mother in 1885. Mr. Arbios came to America in 1864, landing in New York, and soon afterward came by way of Panama to this State, and was employed at farm labor for a time near San Francisco; next he was at the Almaden quicksilver mines for a year as a butcher; then he was engaged in mining until 1867 at Boise Mines, Idaho; then he was employed in conducting a dairy for five years in Marin County, this State; in 1872 he went to Sunol, and finally he located upon his present place , a mile and a half south of Pleasanton, on a farm of thirty-three acres, eight acres of which is in vineyard. He also owns 160 acres of pasture land eight miles southeast of Sunol. He was married in France, February 18, 1857, to Miss Genevieve LaLanne, a native of Lurbe, Basses-Pyrenees, France. Three of their children, Joseph, Mary J. and John P. were born in France; and the other three, Edward, Theresa and Harry, were born here in California. Mr. Arbios became a naturalized citizen in 1881, at San Francisco.
Page 451

PETER LAUENER, a farmer near Capay, was born April 26, 1835, in Switzerland, the son of Christian and Ann Lauener, natives also of that country; the father, by occupation a farmer, died there in 1849, at the age of forty-five years. Peter was brought up on a farm in Switzerland until 1851, when he emigrated to America, with his widowed mother and five other children, and came direct to Richland County, Illinois, where he remained until 1859, on a small farm owned by his mother. In 1859 he came overland to California, by way of Pike’s Peak, where he remained two weeks. The ensuing winter he spent at Placerville, and during the following spring he entered Capay Valley, and worked for wages until he purchased his present place in 1887, which he is preparing for a fruit farm. It comprises 300 acres, and is situated three miles from Capay. He has a sister in Yolo County, and a brother at Sonora. He is a member of Lodge No. 242, O. C. F., at Capay.

He was married in 1872, to Miss Nancy Lang, a native of New York, and a sister of J. A. Lang, an old, time-honored pioneer of Yolo County. Mr. Lauener is an energetic and prosperous farmer, with brilliant prospects before him.
Page 458

ROBERT J. ADAMS, Sheriff and Tax Collector of Amador County, was born in the province of Quebec, Canada, November 10, 1846. He received his education in the public schools of that country. His father was a farmer, and Robert stayed at home until about the age of twenty, when he came to California and engaged in the lumber business on the Mokelumne River. He remained in that business until 1882, then took a position with F. M. Whitmore, as book-keeper and business manager for about two years. In 1884 he was nominated, on the Republican ticket, for Sheriff, but was defeated in the election. In 1884 he went to work for the Amador Canal Company, where he remained till 1886. In that year he was again nominated for Sheriff and this time elected. In 1888 he was re-elected, and is the present Sheriff of Amador County. His parents were natives of Scotland. His father still resides in Canada and is well advanced in years: his mother died in February, 1887 at the age of sixty-five.

Mr. Adams was married May 17, 1887, to Miss Ann Nickols. They have three children living; the oldest, Nellie O., is twelve years of age; the second, Alexander Garfield, is nine years old; the third died at the age of three years; and the fourth, Robert J., is four years old. Mr. Adams is a gentleman of pleasing address, but firm in the line of his duty, and makes a very efficient and popular officer.
Page 458

LOUIS J. FONTENROSE, County Clerk, Auditor and Recorder of Amador County, is a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, now serving a fourth term as County Clerk for Amador County; was born September 27, 1850. He came to California in 1857, receiving his education in the public schools of Amador County at Sutter Creek. He resided with his parents at Sutter Creek till 1879, then came to Jackson, having been appointed Deputy County Clerk, which position he held until March, 1880. In 1879 he was elected on the Republican ticket, as County Clerk, and in March, 1880, took the office, which he held until January, 1883. He then received the nomination for re-election by the Republican party, and was defeated by a small majority. In the fall of 1884 he was again nominated by his party for the County Clerk and elected, and has held the office ever since.

His parents are natives of Italy, both born near Genoa. They came to America about the year 1845 and settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they remained several years, when they removed to Baltimore, Maryland, where they resided till 1857. His father then removed with his family to California and settled in Amador County, where he established a home at Sutter Creek, and remained until his death, which was in 1874. His mother is still living, at the old home at Sutter Creek. He died at the age of fifty-five years. His mother is now about sixty-five years of age, and is active and vigorous for one so advanced in years.

Mr. Fontenrose is a very pleasant gentleman, strictly attentive to his business, and has many warm friends, irrespective of party, throughout the county.
Page 459

, Justice of the Peace and real-estate dealer at Pleasanton, dates his birth in Canada, near Bellville, March 14, 1851, where he was reared and educated. His first engagement after the cessation of his school-days was as a book-keeper in a manufacturing establishment. His father, Jacob E. Van Der Voort, a native of Canada, whose ancestors were from Holland, was a farmer by occupation, and at the age of twenty-one years was elected a Representative to Parliament. His wife’s name before marriage was Deborah Hageman; she also was a native of Canada and of Holland descent; both the parents died in 1853. The subject of his biographical mention came into the United States in 1870, locating at Sunol, California, where he was engaged with his uncle, A. S. Sabome, on his farm for twelve years; and then until 1884 he was engaged in agricultural pursuits on his own account. He then moved to Pleasanton, and for two years was connected with Albert E. Crane in real-estate business, having an office also at San Francisco. In 1886 he was elected Justice of the Peace, and in 1888 was re-elected. In the real-estate business he is now connected with Carnall, Fitzhugh, Hopkins & Co.; capital stock, $100,000. This company was incorporated with the following officers: Nathan C. Carnall, President; William M. Fitzhugh, Vice-President; George W. Hopkins, Secretary; Bank of California, Treasurer. Mr. Van Der Voort is also engaged in fire and life insurance and in debt collections. He is a member of industry Lodge, No. 53, A. O. U. W., of Pleasanton. He is a Republican in his politics, and is active in local affairs.

He was married at Sunol, September 9, 1884, to Miss Alameda Frakes, and they have one daughter. His wife’s father, a native of Kentucky, and her mother, a native of Illinois, were married at Santa Clara, and have seven children.
Pages 459-460

WILLIAM OBERHOUSE, a Yolo County farmer, was born May 5, 1828, in Prussia, and was only six months old when his father died. In 1845 he emigrated to America, landing at New Orleans. The first five years in this country he was a resident of St. Louis, Missouri, engaged as a ship-calker. In the spring of 1850 he came overland with mule teams to California, driving a team every day and having the ground only for a bed every night. He was just ninety days in making the trip, which was a pleasant one. He was among those who were the first to go upon the south side of the Humboldt, where there was plenty of feed. Arriving at Sacramento, the company disbanded and Mr. Oberhouse followed mining two months at Coloma, when he was taken sick and returned to Sacramento. Then he went by water from San Francisco to Humboldt County, being three weeks on the ocean. He visited Scott’s River and Scott’s Valley and Shasta Creek on mule-back, and, his mule becoming mired in the snow, he turned him down upon his side and dragged him down the hill by the tail! He stopped two weeks on Shasta, or Whisky Creek, and was raided one night by some Indians. Some of his company were killed and some robbed. He returned to Sacramento and drove a water-wagon until 1858 when he returned to Missouri by way of the Isthmus. Remaining at St. Louis until 1855, he came again to California, by way of the Isthmus. After visiting Sacramento and Yolo County, he took a piece of land in Solano County, which afterward proved to be grant land and he rented it for a time. Crossing the creek into Yolo County he purchased a squatter’s claim to a tract which he has ever since made his home and which he has highly improved. There are now 480 acres of the homestead, and he raises hay, grain and live-stock. It is three miles east from Winters.

Mr. Oberhouse was married in 1854, to Miss Frederica Bearnbum, a native of Prussia, and they have had three sons and four daughters, namely: Emma L., wife of George Sims; Ella L., George, William D., Louis E. and two deceased. All the sons are married.
Page 460

GEORGE E. GOODMAN has lived in California since 1852, and in Napa since 1855. Born in Rochester, New York, in 1823, he attended the common and high schools of that city up to the age of nineteen, when he removed to Memphis, Tennessee, where he had an uncle in business, and engaged as a shipping clerk in a cotton commission house, remaining there until 1852. Returning to Rochester for a visit to his parents, he proceeded to New York and thence to San Francisco by way of Panama, arriving October 3, 1852, after a trip of thirty days. Among his fellow-passengers on that trip were ex-Senator W. M. Gwinn, ex-Congressman McCorkle, Mr. Hardenburgh, formerly Surveyor-General of the State, and Nicholas Luning, the millionaire of San Francisco. During the voyage Dr. Swinn frequently prophesied the building of the transcontinental railroad, which was carried out twenty years later. Mr. Goodman was engaged in the wholesale grocery and produce business in San Francisco until 1855. At that time business in San Francisco was very lively, and all merchandise was shipped around Cape Horn. Passengers and mails only came by way of Panama. When Mr. Goodman crossed, the railroad was built for only about fourteen miles up the Chagres River, then about ten miles by rowboat, and the rest of the way by mule to Panama. Thus it will be seen that no merchandise could come by the Panama route, which at that time was hardly capable of carrying the passengers and mails. This left a grand opportunity for the wide-awake speculators who then abounded in San Francisco to get up corners on certain accommodations, and at the same time rendered the market liable to be so glutted with other articles that boxes of tobacco, for instance, weighing from 140 to 150 pounds, were used for crossings in the streets, and doubtless in some parts of the city these boxes could now be found marking the foundations of those streets. At times corners were mode on goods so that they sold for fabulous prices, and at others they would not bring the cost of freights. In 1855 Mr. Goodman left San Francisco for Napa, where he engaged in mercantile business as a member of the firm of Hart & Company. Their trade was very extensive, reaching as far as Clear Lake, in Lake County. At that time there was much wheat raised in the Napa Valley region, while Berryessa and other valleys were large producers of stock, and Napa was the shipping and supply point. Everything was hauled by ox teams, many of which had come across the plains from the East. He continued in the mercantile business until 1859, when he engaged in banking, as a partner of his brother, under the firm name of James H. Goodman & Co., private bankers. This was the first bank established in Napa County. Money was worth three per cent per month, and profitable use could be made of it even at that figure. He has remained in this business since that time, and continuously on the same block. In consequence of the death of James H. Goodman, in 1888, the firm was changed to a corporation, under the name of James H. Goodman & Co. Bank with $500,000 incorporated stock and $800,000 paid-up capital.

In 1861 Mr. Goodman took the place of the County Treasurer elect, who went to Virginia just previous to the breaking out of the war and failed to return. After serving out Mr. Wood’s unexpired term, he filled the office by successive re-election for a period of almost nine years, when he declined further nominations. He has always been a member and liberal supporter of the Presbyterian Church. Both he and his brother James H. contributed largely to the building of their fine edifice, costing over $30,000, fully half of this amount being furnished by these gentlemen. They were also largely interested in building the gasworks of that city, owning much of the stock, and were the principal promoters of the Napa City Water Company, furnishing to a large extent the means necessary to its successful development.

He was married in 1860, to Miss Carrie A. Jacks, a native of New York, and the daughter of Judge P. Jacks, of Napa. They have two children, Harvey P., now engaged in the bank as Vice-President, and George E. Jr., also connected wit the bank as Teller. Mr. Goodman has always been a supporter of the Republican party. He is largely interested in the Eshcol vineyard and wine cellar, and, from his position as a large capitalist and the leading banker of the place, is naturally an important factor in all its business interests, while his broad and liberal views and his generous assistance in the promotion of large enterprises have given him a powerful and wide-spread influence throughout this section of the State.
Page 460

D. B. HURLBERT. -We mention here one of the oldest citizens of Madison, a farmer and stock-raiser of Yolo County, who once owned the land upon which the flourishing village of Madison now stands. For the purpose of starting the town, he donated the land there to those who would properly improve it. He located here in 1865, coming from New York State, where he was born in 1811. His journey across plain and mountain was a specially difficult one. He visited a number of localities and several cities, but concluded that California was the best of all, and hither he came, in 1851, with his own team. He first stopped in Hangtown, from 1851 to 1854; then he returned to Wisconsin, and located upon a farm with his family. Subsequently he sold that place and resided nine years in Minnesota. Starting then for California, he lost all of his cattle on the way, and he went off into Montana for a time, and since then he has been a resident of his present place in Yolo County, landing here November 18, 1865. He purchased 844 acres, sixty-three of which he gave for the village of Madison; and he also has given to his two sons a ranch, to one a quarter-section, and to the other 391 acres. He still holds the home place of 413 acres, his residence being one-fourth of a mile from the village of Madison. He is successful in raising large quantities of fine wheat and cattle. He is a member of the Knights Templar, Masonic blue lodge, and the I. O. O. F.


In 1846, in Wisconsin, he married Margaret Ream, and they have two children, - Charles M. and George R. Mr. Hurlbert’s parents were Daniel and Sybil (Martin) Hurlbert, natives of Connecticut. His father, a farmer, died in the State of New York.
Page 461

C. M. DAMERON, a farmer and stock raiser of Yolo County, was born in 1832 in East Tennessee, the son of Felix J. and Mary (Damarel) Dameron. His father, a native of North Carolina, and a horse-trader by occupation, died in 1848, in Cobb County, Kentucky; and his mother was a native of East Tennessee. The Damerons were French Huguenots and came over in the same ship with the Dupuys, Tribins and Clays, settling in Virginia and North Carolina in 1700. Mr. Dameron’s mother was from Scotland. Te subject of this notice came overland to California in 1854, with a party of friends, some of whom are still living in his neighborhood. He worked his way by driving stock. Stopping first in Marysville, he followed mining and lumbering in that vicinity and in Butte County for two years, and in 1856 he settled upon his present place, where he took up 160 acres of the best land. He now has 640 acres of well improved land, whereon he raises grain principally and some live-stock.


In 1864, in Woodland, he married one of the ladies who came across the plains with him, Miss Mary Browning, a native of Monroe County, Kentucky, and they have tow children living: Rowena and Charles F.,; Montie B. died in 1879.
Page 462

DENTON V. CRUMBRINE, one of the successful and energetic farmers of this county, is a native of Washington County, Pennsylvania, born November 20, 1847, the son of Abraham and Sarah A. (Boyd) Crumrine: the former is a native of Pennsylvania, and a millwright by trade, and the latter is a native of Virginia, who moved to Putnam County, Illinois, in 1856. In 1862 the subject of this sketch enlisted in the regular army, the Sixteenth Regiment of United States Infantry, serving as a private soldier nearly three years. He then re-enlisted in the Second United States Infantry, serving until after the close of the war, and during his army service he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant-Major of his regiment, and was honorably discharged at Livingston, Alabama, in 1867. After his return to Illinois he engaged in the milling business with his father and brother. In 1872 he sold his interest to his brother and associated himself with the coal mines of Bureau County, Illinois. In 1875 he sold his interest in the mines and in the following year came by rail to California, locating near Marysville, and engaged in farming on the Feather River. This enterprise proved a failure, caused by the overflow of the river for two years in succession, inundating his farm and entirely destroying his crops both years. Nothing daunted, however, he looked around to mend his fortune, and in the fall of 1877 he came to Tehama County, landing here without a dollar, but by hard work he has come to the surface, and now resides on his farm of 200 acres, located in the foothills twelve miles west of Corning, where he carries on farming and stock-raising.


Mr. Crumrine was married in LaSalle County, Illinois, October 1, 1872, to Miss Ellen R. Barr, whose father was one of the early settlers on the Vermillion River, that State. They have four children: Romeyn E., Mabel H., Burrett and Ralph O. Politically Mr. Crumrine affiliates with the Democratic party, and takes an active part in political matters. He has represented his party in the State and also in County conventions, and at the last election was their candidate for State Assemblyman. He is a prominent member of the G.A.R.; and affiliates with the F. & A. M., Moline Lodge, No. 150 and also the A. O. U. W., No. 187, of Tehama.Page 462

JOHN SIMPSON. - Among the prominent and progressive men in the business circles of Tehama for the past thirty-five years is the gentleman whose name heads this sketch. He was born in Dumfries, Scotland, March 22, 1837, the son of John and Robinia (Craik) Simpson, who were of Scotch parentage and emigrated to the United States in 1838, locating in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, where our subject was reared and educated. He afterward learned the blacksmith and machinist’s trades, which he followed until 1856, when he came via Panama to California, remaining in San Francisco but a short time. He then came to Tehama and took charge of the shoeing department and repair shops of the old California State Company, remaining in their employ until 1868. Mr. Simpson then became the partner of Charles Harvey, now deceased, in 1869, of which firm A. G. Toombs became the third partner, and they conducted a general merchandise business under the firm name of Harvey, Simpson & Company. In 1873 Mr. Simpson withdrew from the firm, taking as his interest the town water-works, which the firm then owned and controller. His next enterprise was the establishing of an extensive hardware and tin business, carrying a large assortment of crockery, glass, wood and willow ware, also agricultural implements of all kinds. His store is located at the head of Main street, where he owns one of the best appointed and most complete establishments in this section of the county, carrying a stock the year round of $25,000.


Since Mr. Simpson located in Tehama he has been prominently identified with the growth and prosperity of the town and county: has now in course of construction, at the head of Main street, a large tank about sixty-two feet above the town level, with a capacity of 20,000 gallons of water, which is intended principally for fire emergencies, and he has also two tanks of small capacity for supplying the town with water. The supply drawn from the Sacramento River by steam power is inexhaustible. In addition to his business property he is the possessor of a fine residence, with beautiful and well-kept grounds, and many choice varieties of citrus and deciduous fruits, under a high state of cultivation. Mr. Simpson is one of Tehama’s enterprising and public-spirited men. Has represented the county in the Legislature in 1873-‘74, and was appointed County Supervisor by Governor Stoneman in 1884. His sons, John and George, are employed with him in business, and now have charge of Wells, Fargo & Company’s express and postal telegraph system of Tehama.


Mr. Simpson was joined in wedlock at Carbondale, Pennsylvania, September 8, 1856, with Miss Jennette McNeal, a native of the Keystone State and of Scotch parentage. They have six children, of whom four are deceased. Politically Mr. Simpson is a Democrat and takes an active part in the local matters and also affiliates with the F. & A. M., Moline Lodge, No. 150 and the A. O. U. W., Tehama Lodge No. 187, of Tehama.
Page 463

GEORGE W. TABER, a farmer of Capay Valley, Yolo County, being one of the old settlers there, was born in 1847, the son of Lorenzo and Eveline (Painter) Taber. His father, a shoemaker by trade, died in Capay, February 10, 1878, and his mother died at the same place, August 22, 1883. Mr. Taber came across the plains in 1852 to California, with the family, and they stopped in Sacramento, and the father ran a hotel in the foothills during the fall of 1861 and winter following. After residing six years in Oregon he became the proprietor of a fine ranch in Capay Valley, which is still the homestead occupied by the subject of this sketch, who is well and favorably known through the valley for his good qualities. The farm contains 340 acres of well improved land, within three miles of Capay, and his principal product is grain.


August 14, 1882, in Woodland, Mr. Taber married Mrs. Catherine J. Harley, and their children are: Jennie, the wife of Lee Wood, a farmer in the valley; Allen and Yuba.
Page 464

WILLIAM SIMS, a prominent citizen near Winters, Yolo County, California is a wonderful land. Its inhabitants have become renowned the world over for a spirit of enterprise and perseverance that has never been witnessed elsewhere. It is indeed a land of gigantic undertaking and grand achievement, even in this country of great attainment, remarkable for the conspicuous success which the resources of the country so uniformly grant to them who are diligent in attention to business and adopt judicious methods. It is therefore a peculiar pleasure to write the history of the lives of Californians. A striking example is the gentlemen whose name heads this article.


He dates his birth July 14, 1832, in Fayette County, Virginia, of humble parentage. His early days were spent upon a farm. He left Virginia March 19, 1849, and located in Cass County, Missouri, expecting to begin the study of law with an uncle there; but the gold excitement of California drew him on as with a hurricane. May 7, 1850, he crossed the western line of the State of Missouri, his mind not full of adventure but on honest principle. Coming with an ox team, he met with the usual experiences of the route, and remained about eight days in Salt Lake City. The last 300 miles he came on foot, arriving at Georgetown, August 31, 1850. He began work in the American River mines at $7 a day, but worked only three days and a half when fever attacked him and held him to his bed for three weeks. Alone in a strange land and his means exhausted, not having even a “two-bit” piece with which to secure a scanty meal, he soon found a man with a heart that recognized his condition and took him in; but his exposure had caused a relapse and for nearly three years he was an invalid. He spent some time in a store as a clerk and book-keeper. In 1856 he went to Lake County, where he was engaged in farming until 1861; then he went to Yolo County and purchased a squatter’s title, which he afterward sold, in 1863, for $400. Purchasing an outfit, he commenced teaming to the mines, and at the end of the first season he had $20 as the result of all his work! But with a remarkable degree of grit he continued in the same business the following season, and made sometimes as much as $100 a trip. In 1866 he put on another outfit and made as high as $700 a trip. From 1867 to 1876 he was engaged in running threshing -machines, in which business he was successful. In 1869 he took a contract to cut 900 acres of grain for $4,500. In 1870 he purchased his present property,-240 acres three miles northeast of Winters, - upon which he built a large and elegant resident in 1887. He now has some 560 acres in Yolo County, on which he carries on general farming, and he also has some thirty-five acres in fruit. Thus, after the privations, failures and sickness already referred to, on his coming to California, we find him to-day enjoying prosperity in connection with a fine ranch and a comfortable home. He takes great interest in political affairs, but does not aspire to office, although he has often been asked, - even to fill some of the highest stations in the county and State. He voted at Murderer’s Bar, at the first election held in California. He has been one of the School Trustees since 1862, and now nearly all the business in that relation is imposed upon him. He became identified with the Grange movement in 1873, in which he has taken a very active part. He is a large stockholder in the warehouse at Winters, and also in the Bank of Winters, of which he has been vice-president since its organization. He is a member of Lodge No. 195, F. & A. M., of Dixon Chapter, No. 48, R. A. M.; of Lodge No. 33, K. of P. at Winters, and for fourteen years of the I. O. G. T., of which he is now G. C. T.


In 1857 he married Miss L. A. Sims, a native of Ohio, who was reared in Virginia, and they have four children: George, Wilburn, Nora and Fred.
Page 464

ANDREW B. AITKEN. - Among the many prominent and progressive business men of Tehama County, none, perhaps, are more worthy of mention than the above named gentleman. His residence in California dates back to 1858, and since that period he has been prominently identified with the mercantile business men of this and other sections of the State. Having been eared to a business life from boyhood, he has indeed been a close observer of the ups and downs that naturally follow those pursuits, and he has witnessed the rise and fall of many prominent business operations. He himself has shared the fate of others before him, not so much perhaps through his own indiscretion or oversight as by the stumbling-blocks placed in his way by lukewarm friends in whom he had confided and confidentially trusted. As is natural in business life, our subject found himself worshiping at the shrine and zealously courting Dame Fortune; and just at the time when he believed that she was fairly won-she evaded his grasp, and substituted her ungovernable daughter, Mis-Fortune, and left them to settle the question as best they might. The old adage that “business life seldom runs smooth” meets many cases. However, our predictions are that progressive men will surely rise to the surface in spite of the impediments thrown in their way.


Mr. Aitken is a native of the Old Keystone State, born in Luzerne County, June 13, 1853, and at an early age he came with his parents via Panama to California, locating in Tehama County. Our subject attended the public schools of Tehama and Yolo counties, and later attended the grammar schools of Sacramento, completing his education at Marysville. Here he was the recipient of a handsome prize given for best scholarship, by Mayor C. M. Gorham, now of San Francisco. Immediately following his school days, he became the clerk of Charles Heintzen, a banker, merchant and mine operator of Forest City, Sierra County, remaining in his employ until 1872, and was then employed by the firm of Cooley and Cady. After severing his connection with this firm he became the salesman of Harvey Simpson & Co., of Tehama, remaining in their employ and handling the business of Wells, Fargo & Co.’s Express until 1878. He then came to Riceville, where, June 13, 1878, he opened a general merchandise store, operating it under the firm name of A. B. Aitkin & Co., continuing until the railroad was built, November 1883, when his store and the town was moved near the road, and the town of Corning succeeded that of Riceville. The following notice appeared in the Corning “Observer”, September 21, 1889; - “The firm of A. B. Aitken has closed its doors. Mr. Aitken is the successor to the firm of Simpson & Aitken, which started business twelve years ago at Riceville and entered on the road to prosperity. Two years ago Mr. Simpson retired from the firm, to the surprise of all, and from what we can learn the good feeling that before existed did not continue. Poor crops and long credit, with a very low price for white and 35,000 sacks on hand was perhaps the cause. The only wish is that the suspension may be only temporary, and that Mr. Aitken will be on his feet again soon, as it would be a sad blow to Corning should this gentleman be compelled to retire from business. He has been its main stay for many years, and it was through his enterprise that Corning is what it is. With Mr. Aitken’s retirement from active life, many things that were about to be purchased for the advancement of Corning will stand still in their present condition, unless we are blessed with another enterprising citizen like him”.


Mr. Aitken was joined in marriage in Tehama Township, March 17, 1877, to Miss Ella I. Miller, a native of Iowa, and they have three children: Jennie Irene, Liston E. and Irma J. Mr. Aitken affiliates with the order of F. & A. M., Moline Lodge, No. 150 of Tehama, also the Corning Council, No. 160, O. C. F. of Corning. Politically he is a Republican and takes an active part in local politics, and is at the present time Notary Public of Corning.
Page 493

JOHN W. FARMER, the pioneer of the cheese-making interest in California, has been a resident of this State since June 1855. Born in Cayuga County, New York, near the city of Syracuse in 1820, he early engaged in the dairy business as well as in buying butter and cheese for the New York and Boston markets, and continued in that vocation until he came West. On his arrival here there was but one dairy ranch in Solano County, and there butter was the only product. Purchasing a ranch of 800 acres three miles from Vallejo, he began to establish a dirty for the purpose of making cheese also. Soon afterward he sold 450 acres, at the price he gave for it, $13 an acre, and finally the remainder of the land became so valuable that he was sold, also at $100 an acre. He then bought another ranch, 550 acres, about six miles from Vallejo, then in Solano County, but now in Napa County, and on that place he followed dairying until about a year ago, devoting his attention principally to the manufacture of a fine grade of cheese; he had the reputation of making the finest cheese in California. While other cheese was selling at twelve and half cents a pound he received no less than twenty-five cents a pound. For a number of years he also managed the ranches and dairies of General Frisbie, and later of the Vallejo Land and Improvement Company, but for the last few years he has been retired from active business. He has been a member of the Masonic order for the past forty-eight years, being now the oldest Freemason in Solano County, a member of the Naval Lodge, No. 87, of Vallejo, also of the Eastern Star Chapter. He has a charming home and family circle, and is now enjoying the rest which he has so well earned in his long life of labor and enterprise.


His parents were Josiah and Nancy (Eidridge) Farmer, and as a boy he was raised in the same part of New York State where the great leaders of Mormonisn were brought up. He was a play-mate of Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, Mr. Clausen and Mr. Hooper. Mr. Farmer’s cousin, H. S. Eldridge, was one of the most prominent of them and was in charge of the co-operative store at Salt Lake City, and was also president of the Salt Lake City and Ogden banks; he owned a third of the co-operative store and was also its manager.
In 1837 Mr. Farmer married Miss Phoebe Farmer, and they had five children, of whom three are now living, in California, namely: Winfield Scott, now engaged in the cattle business in Solano County; Hiram Milo, now an engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company; and Emma, now the wife of J. C. Rounds, of Vallejo. One son, Coburn, died in 1880, and a daughter, Mrs. Ella Rounds, died in 1873. Mrs. Farmer died in 1884, and in 1886 Mr. Farmer married Mrs. Mary Ballard, a native of Pennsylvania.
Page 493 - 494

MATTHEW ROOT BARBER, fruit-raiser near Martinez and an old and respected pioneer of the county, was born August 7, 1815, in Delaware County, Ohio, son of Joseph Barber, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Clara, daughter of Rev. Daniel Kent, of Benson, Vermont. When he was two years old his parents moved to Bond County, Illinois, where they were engaged in farming and stock-raising. Losing both his parents when young, he was taken by the family of Hon. Elam Brown, of Morgan County, Illinois, to bring up. He obtained the usual common-school education and at the age of twenty-one started out in the world for himself. He followed farming and wagon-making until March 15, 1849, when he joined a train for the Golden State. After a weary journey of six months, he stopped at Hangtown and followed mining in that vicinity for a short time; then he engaged in the redwood lumber trade near San Antonio, then in Conta Costa County. He wrote tickets at the residence of Hon. Elam Brown for the election of delegates to form a State Constitution; also wrote tickets for the election of the first county officers. The county then included also Alameda County. After that he followed the carpenter’s trade, building several of the first houses in Martinez, some of which are still standing. On February 14, 1851, he returned to Illinois by way of the Isthmus and New Orleans, and brought overland his family and a drove of cattle, arriving at Martinez August 22, 1852. During the ensuing fall he purchased his present beautiful place, then consisting of unbroken hills and plains with no improvements, two miles from Martinez. Upon his fine farm he now raises a variety of excellent fruit, including grapes, which alone occupy an area of fifty acres. Mr. Barber was elected to the office of Public Administrator for four successive terms, as shown by the records. His marriage to Miss Orpha Bean, of Pike County, Illinois, took place November 14, 1837, and their children are: Maria B., born December 30, 1838, is now Mrs. Lander, of Martinez; William H., born February 8,1841, deceased; Daniel N., born August 5, 1843, deceased; Elam B., born June 13, 1847; and Clara E., born January 29, 1849, is deceased. Her first husband was Hon. George W. Bailey, of Martinez, and her second husband was Judge James E. Goodall, of Bodie, California
Page 495

HON. HENRY HOOK.- One of the best known officials of the United States Custom House of San Francisco, is Assemblyman Henry Hook, of Martinez; Contra Costa County, who is cashier. He, like many other prominent citizens of this State, came to California with his parents in early times, his family arriving here in 1850, coming direct from Arrow Rock, Missouri, where young Hook was born, October 1, 1848. Almost immediately upon the family’s arrival in this city they departed for the gold fields of Hangtown, now Placerville, where they remained till 1851, when they moved to Sacramento and engaged in the merchandise business, and continuing in that line until the fall of the following year, when they moved to this city, and continued in the same line of business, locating on Jackson street, where they carried on a very large business, until they were driven out by the fires of 1852-’53. William Hook next turned his attention to the building of a hotel to accommodate the State Legislature at Vallejo; but before the completion of the hotel a change was made in the location of the State capital, and the capitol building started here in Vallejo was never completed. We next find the enterprising father of the subject of this sketch located in the mercantile business at Martinez, Contra Costa County, going there in 1854, where the family has since resided, the firm then being known as Agnew & Hook, the former being the founder of the well-known dry-goods firm of Murphy & Grant, of this city. Mr. Hook amassed a large fortune, and converted the same into farms throughout Contra Costa County, giving his realty interests his whole time. He gave up his mercantile pursuits, and died, near Martinez, in 1882. Young Hook was given an excellent education, attending the public schools of that county till 1865, when he entered the Benicia College, graduating in 1867.


Returning to his home, he engaged in farming one year. At the age of twenty years he was appointed abstract clerk in the naval office of the United States Custom House, remaining in that position until 1875, after which he accepted the position of salesman in the carpet department in E. Hook’s well-known store in Oakland. After ten years of continuous labor, he took a trip over the United States, visiting every large city of the country, and was the guest of President Hayes, at Columbus, Ohio, just before his election. He commenced farming on the ranches he now owns, in Contra Costa, in 1877. In 1886 he was nominated for County Treasurer of Contra Costa County. Having made such a thorough canvass when running for office, and being energetic and active, the Republicans of that county nominated him for the Assembly in 1888. He was elected by a large majority. While a member of the State Legislature, Mr. Hook filled several prominent positions on various committees. He was the father of the agricultural bill that was passed by both houses, separating his county from Alameda and San Francisco. He was also a strong advocate of, and was mainly instrumental in having the appropriation bill of $10,000 passed for the location of the United States Grange, thereby causing the first sitting of the United States Grange in California; was also the main-stay and backer of the Feeble-minded Home bill, which is now located at Hillgirth, Sonoma County. At the solicitation of his many friends he was induced to accept the position which he now fills,-cashier of the United States Custom House. Since he has been connected with the Custom House he has made many friends, who speak of him in the highest terms


In 1873 Mr. Hook married Miss Elizabeth A. Benningham, assistant principal of the Oakland High School, and they have one child, born February 8, 1875, and named Elizabeth Benningham
Page 495

RICHARD and THOMAS HEXT, farmers in Yolo County, west of Davisvillle, are the sons of Richard and Elizabeth (Lucom) Hext, natives of England. Richard was born in March, 1835, and Thomas, May 13, 1832; the former came to California in 1851 and the latter in 1854. Richard located in Sacramento, and worked at different jobs for ten years. On the arrival of his brother they went together into Yolo County, and purchased a tract of 450 acres on Putah Creek in 1857, and in 1869 he purchased the place where they now live, containing 960 acres and situated west of Davisville four miles, and ten miles from Woodland.
Page 496


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

Transcribed by: Carol Andrews ,  August 2008  Pages 451-496


Site Created: 17 August 2008

Martha A Crosley Graham

Rights Reserved: 2008