John Benjamin Hartsough is a Forty-niner and one of the best known characters in Northern California. He is one of oldest Americans born in the city of Detroit, Michigan. His birth occurred in the year 1811, twenty-five years before Michigan became a state. His father, Christopher Hartsough, was born in New Jersey. In the war of 1812 he was captured by the Indians, carried into Canada, pressed into the service of the English as an alien and drove a team for the English army. He married Delight Haskins, a native of Connecticut. Her father, Elisha Haskins, was a wealthy citizen of Connecticut, who removed to Canada and settled in the London district, about the year 1825, the English government giving him lands for settling there. This worthy couple, Mr. and Mrs. Hartsough, were the parents of sixteen children. The subject of this sketch was the third of their five sons.
He received his education at Detroit, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. While in Rock Run, Illinois, in 1837, he was converted and soon afterward began to preach. In six months he was licensed as a local preacher and went into his first work at Leadmine, Wisconsin, on the Apple River district. When Mr. Hartsough left home to enter the ministry his father, who was a follower of the teachings of Tom Paine, did all in his power to prevent his son's going and said many hard things of which he afterward repented. When they again met the father clasped his son in his arms and expressed his sorrow for the bitter things he had said. The young minister gave his father briefly the plan of salvation; he promptly accepted it and was converted. During Mr. Hartsough's preaching in Illinois and Wisconsin his ministry was blessed with numerous revivals. He labored in the vineyard of the Lord in those two States for ten years.
His health failed, and with the hope of securing a beneficial change, he came to this sunny clime, reaching California September 15, 1849. He engaged in mining until the first of May, 1850, with moderate success. Then he went over the mountains to carry provisions to the emigrants, who were starving and took their poor stock in exchange. The stock was pastured for a month, after which it was driven over the mountains. At this work Mr. Hartsough made considerable money. In 1851 he opened a grocery and provision store near Nevada City, supplying the market with his own cattle. This business he continued two years, during which time he purchased the ditch stock of a broken down company. He put the ditch in order and kept it four weeks. It, however, proved a perpetual Sabbath-breaking business, and because of that he sold it to his partner, who, in three years, realized nearly half a million of dollars from it. This ditch is still running. His partner sold it and went to San Francisco in 1862. There he engaged in stock speculations, met with reverses and drowned himself in the bay and his body was never recovered.
Mr. Hartsough sold his store and shop and removed to Yolo County, where he engaged in farming and stock-raising. In 1863 he was elected to the State Assembly, and, being a staunch Republican, used his best endeavors to keep his State in the Union. It was largely due to his efforts and to those of a few of his colleagues that the State was saved and kept from the bloodshed and disgrace that would have followed. During a great deal of his ministry his work has been gratuitous and done for the love of the cause. He has rendered much efficient service in helping to build churches in Northern California. In Redding, where he now resides, he purchased the church site for $500 with his own money, and carried on the enterprise of building the church to its completion.
In 1864 he settled his business, put his land into money, and with some stock removed to Contra Costa County. From that time until 1890 he had regular work in the ministry. He is now in his eightieth year and has retired from active ministerial labors. He owns a small farm in Colusa County and a home in Redding. He tells the following little reminiscence of his preaching:
In February, 1850, while he was holding services in a new store in Georgetown, El Dorado County, a lot of gamblers from a tent near by rushed down the street, ringing bells and rattling tin pans, shouting "Fire. Fire." His congregation made haste to get out. In a quiet voice he asked them not to be excited but to go quietly. Soon afterward they all came back, accompanied by a number of those who had made the disturbance and sat quietly to hear the sermon.
In 1838 Mr. Hartsough wedded Miss Lucy Titus, of Michigan. Their union was blessed with two children, one of whom died and the other, Christopher resides in Oregon. After four and a half years of married life his beloved companion died of pleuro-pneumonia, and he was left with his two infant sons. In 1858, fifteen years after her death, he married Mrs. Eliza Stoirs, a native of Missouri, reared in Wisconsin. While Father Hartsough has attained his four-score years, he is still quite active and walks perfectly erect with a firm, quick step. He carries such a benevolent smile on his face that one cannot fail to see that he loves God and is at peace with Him and with all the world.
Transcribed by: Melody Landon Gregory August
Source: Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California, Lewis Publishing Co., 1891 pages 763- 764 -765