Chicago Standard Genealogical Publishing Company.

A Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away online

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Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 12 of 108)
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to the public good and sought rather to benefit his county than the aggran-
dizement of self.


Mr. Cassidy, of this review^ was born in Grass \'alley on the i6th day of
January, 1874, his parents being Felix and Xellie (Tobin) Cassidy, and most
of his life has been spent in his native city. His father was born in Michi-
gan, JMarch \2, 1840, his parents having been early settlers of the Wol-
verme state. In 1868 he came to California and has sincfe been identified with
the mining interests of this locality, having at different times filled the posi-
tion of foreman for several mines of this district. He was united in marriage
to Miss Tobin, a lady of Irish birth, who was reared in the Empire state, and
their union was blessed with six children, Fred. F. being the third in the order
of birth.

Mr. Cassidy is a graduate of the high school of Grass Valley, being a
member of the class of 1899. Since graduation he has been connected w^ith
the large grocery house of Clinch & Company, and at present is the head
bookkeeper for the firm. He is also a large stockholder and a director of the
hardware firm of Brady & Cassidy, and is the resident agent of the Milwaukee
Mechanics' Insurance Company.

In politics Mr. Cassidy is a Democrat. He is a valued member of the
Xative Sons of the Golden West, the Benevolent and Protective Order of
Elks, and is a young man of sterling worth, well liked in .social circles and
justly merits the confidence of the business public. '


The subject of this biographical sketch is a native of Harford, Sus-
quehanna county, Pennsylvania, where he was born May 4, 1823. His
grandparents were pioneers of his native county and state, as his remoter
ancestors were of the old Bay state, where the first of the Carpenters landed
in 1636 and the first of the Thayers, his maternal ancestors, in 1638. His
grandparents were among the first settlers of his native town, where Asahel
Carpenter and Amanda Malvina Thayer, were married !May 25, 1822.
They had five sons, — (lideon Judd, Frederick, Cyrus Clay, John and Eni-
mett, — and one daughter, the youngest of the family and named after her
mother, who died when a mere child. Of the family the subject of this
sketch, Frederick and Emmett, are the sole survivors.

Of the Carpenters in recent history. Senator Matt. Carpenter, of Wis-
consin, and Cyrus Clay, brother of our Californian, have lieen most con-
spicuous. The last named. Colonel C. C. Carpenter, having settled in Iowa,
was first on the staff of General Dodge and later on thai of General Logan,




on Sherman's magnificent march through the Confederacy and around
to Washington, whence he returned to Iowa, of which state he was
afterward twice governor and twice a representative in congress. Of tlte
Thayer tribe, on the maternal side, Wilhani H. Seward was the chieftain,
to say nothing of many prominent men in all the higher walks of life.

From this glance at his breed and brood, it will be seen that the subject
of our sketch had in him the elements of his epoch and characteristics.
His career was also influenced by early frontier experience. In 1835 his
father moved in a two-horse wagon, over corduroy roads, to Warren county,
Indiana. Here, while his father followed land siu'veying, he worked on a
little backwoods farm, in sight of the W'abash river. At the end of six
years, saddened by the loss of his mother and brother John, the rest of the
family returned to Harford, where two years later his father and sister
died. Again among friends and relatives who were the founders of Frank-
lin Academy, he was, at intervals for eight years, a student at that insti-
tution. During his academic term he was a fellow student of J. H. McKune
and Amos Adams, before whom, as district judges of California, he after-
ward practiced. His reading of law under a retired professor was sus-
pended in 1849, when he again determined to try his fortunes in the west.
This time Chicago was his objective point, but California was his unfore-
seen destination. With his three comrades and a good outfit, he spent the
summer of 1850 on the plains with the overland pioneers of that year;
and a few days before the admission of California into the Union he
pitched his tent under the tall pines which then overshadowed Georgetown,
minus pretty much all the rest of his outfit.

The end of a long and tiresome journey was the beginning of his life
work in the paradise of miners, where every disappointment had in it the
pleasures of hope and golden visions of fortunes yet to be made. The next
five years, excepting only the summer of 1854, he devoted all his energies
to placer and river mining. Beginning at Greenwood, his mining career
ended at Big Bar, on the middle fork of the American river, where he
organized and engineered the most daring and expensive fluming operation
ever undertaken on that river. By a flume over two miles in length, fifteen
feet wide and four feet deep, the river from Volcano to Big Bar was com-
pletely drained and made to run the wheels and pumps by which it was
done. Eye witnesses of this achievement, and of his discovery and opera-
tions on the Big Crevice at Big Bar, are still living in Placerville. \Vhen
he left the mines for other occupations, he owed nothing, and but for the
festivities of a miner's life in the '50s they would have been largely indebted
to him.

In 1854 the gayeties of mining were varied by a stumping campaign,
in which, with no colleague and few followers, he confronted the fierce
and vindictive conspiracy against David C. Broderick. It was a campaign
of bitter antagonisms, two years in advance of the senatorial election, in
view of which he had Iwcn nominated by the Anti-Gwin Democracy for
the State Senate. Thus tn lead the clansmen of Broderick, in a losing


combat for a desired future reprisal, was a paradox of self-sacrifice not to
be declined. The campaign was made for all that was in it, and with the
result anticipated. Two years later the defeated leader of a forlorn hope
was nominated by the united Democracy and elected to the State Senate
by a signal majority. By the following legislature of 1856-7, the great
northern leader, who was afterward murdered because he was opposed to
slavery, was triumphantly elected to the United States Senate. In the Dem-
ocratic caucus by which he was chosen his champion from the then Empire
county of the state had the honor of being designated by himself to put
him in nomination for the long term. For this purpose the correct order
of nominations was reversed and the short term reserved to be finally con-
ferred on William ]\I. Gwin, by the advice and consent of his successful
opponent, who had too much respect for the determined opposition of his
Eldorado friend to ask of him the mistaken concession to a shrewd and
unscrupulous foe, — a concession for which the only reward of D. C. Brod-
erick was a foul and successful plot against his life.

Such was the fierce and implacable combat in which the subject of
this biography won his spurs and developed his capacity for fighting. It
seems to have forecast his subsequent career. But having no predilection
for legislative positions, which were often at his command, after his sena-
torial term he returned to the scene of his mining ventures. In i860 he
canvassed and voted for Douglas, who had a plurality in the county. In
1862 he was elected, as a pronounced Union Democrat, to the office of
county clerk. In 1864 he canvassed and voted for Lincoln and was an
uncompromising supporter of his administration until the last drum beat
of the Civil war, when he again espoused the cause of Jeft'ersonian Dem-
ocracy, against a Republican majority in the county of fifteen hundred,
flushed with the victories which he had helped to win. Only two years
later, in 1867, he was nominated liy the Democracy for district attorney
and was elected by a handsome majority. Twice re-elected by increased
majorities, in the fall of 1874, three months before the expiration of his
third term, he resigned the office to accept the more difficult service of
standing between his county and its bondhold'ers in the next assembly, to
which he was nominated by his party and elected without a canvass.
Being one of a large Democratic majority in that house, in a contest with
Tudge Archer, of San Jose, he was chosen for Speaker. Between him and
"all the members of that assembly, including Joseph McKenna, then the
leader of the Republican minority, now a Justice of the United States
supreme court, tlie courtesies of personal and official intercourse ripened
into many life-long friendships. During the entire session no scene of dis-
order lasted a minute and not a single successful appeal was taken from his
parliamentary rulings; and, judging from the press comments of the times,
•without distinction of party, he not only accomplished tiie object of his
■election but more than justified his choice as Speaker.

At the close of the session with his legislative record he returned to
Placerville, where on the following 4th of July he delivered the Centennial


oration. The same year, while engaged in tlie practice of his profession,
against his earnest protest, he was impressed into a nomination for con-
gress against Hon. Frank Page and a standing Repubhcan majority of more
than five thousand in his district. After a formal canvass and a foregone
defeat, he once more returned to his home and profession in Placerville.
Two years later, in 1878, without solicitation or reference, he was appointed
by his friend, Governor Irwin, to the responsible office of Supreme Court
Reporter, and in the ensuing two years issued Volumes 52 and 53 in the
series of California Reports. But when the Kearney constitution was
adopted the reporter's salary was reduced from six to two thousand dollars
and he had no further use for the office. He returned to the practice of
law in his own city and county, both of which had voted against the Sand
Lot craze.

But he was again drawn from his retirement when, in 1879, another
disastrous sand-storm broke over his party and state. For him there was
in the new constitution, with its portentous public and private consequences,
the irony of fate. Going back to its origin in the assembly of which he
was the Speaker, there is a passage of unwritten history, hitherto known
to but few even of his personal friends. As explained by himself, the
legislature at the last previous session had passed and submitted to the peo-
ple of the state an act providing for a convention to revise the constitu-
tion. From the returns of the general election, to which it was referred,
it was found to have received only a majority of votes on that measure
and not of all the votes cast at that election, as in his opinion required.
His judgment was that of the assembly, a majority of which held, against
the dissenting opinion of John R. McConnell, a very able but eccentric
lawyer, who was chairman of the Judiciary Committee, that no call for a
convention had been authorized. To insure this result the Speaker had
exercised his privilege as an assemblyman. Later on in the session he was
taken into the confidence of his friend McConnell, wdio complained that
after putting him in a responsible position he had gone aside from his
office and out of his way to beat a known hobby of a very devoted friend.
He was also informed by the irrepressible advocate of a constitutional con-
vention, that he was about to introduce his hobby again, and to have it
beaten by the Speaker would break his heart. Thus assailed on his non-
combative side, reserving to himself the right to vote against a measure
that seemed to have but few supporters, he consented to keep out of its
discussion. For this inconsiderate promise and the unexpected result, he
has never forgiven himself; and for its ultimate consequences, his repentant
friend went down with sorrow to his grave.

To man the piratical commissions decried by its framers and created
by the marvelous new constitution, was the first order of business. Among
them the railroad commission was freighted with the most inviting rewards
for anti-railroad reformers, who should pose as impartial judges. It was
the most tempting prize in the political raffle of 1879. — memorable for the
fusion of Kearney sand-lotters with the new constitution party. The fusion


candidates for the coveted office of Railroad Commissioner had voted for
its creation and for their own eligibility as first-termers, while members of
the convention. Against such a union of forces and such titles to public
preference and amazement, the subject of this narrative was made once more
an emergency candidate of the undefiled Democracy of his district, which,
to the surprise of friend and foe, gave him nearly lifteen thousand votes.

In proportion to the population polled, it was the largest Democratic
vote received by any candidate for any office, state or district, in that cru-
cial and memorable campaign. For his party it was an auspicious result
and converted uncompromising defeat into ultimate success; and four years
later the man who had from the first confronted and denounced the new
constitution as a shabby fraud on all concerned was renominated for Rail-
road Commissioner by the party which he had thrice served as a forlorn
hope in its direst need, and was elected by the normal Democratic majorit}' !
As was to have been expected, he was followed through the canvass and
into his office by venal and vindictive hatred, inspired by past antagonisms
and resulting- disappointments. But, trammeled by no electioneering pledges
or other prejudgment, as president of the Railroad Commission, which up
to that time had been the tin horn and sport of officious and intermeddling
agitators, he incurred their renewed enmity by dispensing with their patri-
otic services. Thus discarding all sinister and blackmailing influences of
newspapers and demagogues, he made the powers, duties, facts, figures and
constitutional finalities of his office the basis and burden of its administra-
tion. In doing so he substituted settled rules of evidence and of judicial
fairness for the irresponsible clamor of shysters, and panders, whether on
or off the commission, to public prejudice against railroad or other legiti-
mate interests, subject to its jurisdiction and supervision.

Thus, alone were the rulings, orders and decisions of a quasi-judicial
tribunal, made in fact what they were in contemplation and presumption
of law, — "just and reasonable." And in this connection it may also be said
that the official record of the commission during his term of office is chiefly
his in conception and execution; and he has lived to see much, if not all of
it. endorsed by his successors in office ; and so far as controverted in analo-
gous cases, uniformly sanctioned by judicial decisions.

That a man whose life has been so full of exceptional situations and
exacting episodes has after all a sunny soul and social side, is his greatest
merit. Of him, therefore, the best things remain to be said. In 1857,
while he was in the State Senate, he was married to Miss Mary A. Whit-
ney, then recently from her paternal home in W'heelock, Vermont. With
him she has shared and survived the vicissitudes of his busy career. Of
their two sons, Prentiss is married and has a life sketch in this book; and
Galusha resides with his parents, as does their daughter, Mollie, who is a
gifted and cultivated musician.

At intervals for many years, subject to overruling circumstances, the
paternal head of the family made the storm a shelter and was much away
from home. But in recent years, as editor and proprietor of "The Mount-


ain Democrat," the oldest and Isest equipped journal in Eldorado county
and one of the three oldest in the state, he has devoted himself to his edi-
torial and private affairs. Besides his paper he has a handsome residence
m Placerville and a small suburban ranch. As a man and politician, friend
and foe, his fearless courage of settled convictions and self-reliant staying
qualities, inspired by clear conceptions of right and wrong, have been the
dominant and decisive characteristics of his long and eventful life.


That the plenitude of satiety is seldom attained in the affairs of life is
to be considered as a most grateful and beneficial deprivation, for where ambi-
tion is satisfied and every ultimate aim realized — if such is possible — there
must follow individual apathy. Effort will cease, accomplishment be prostrate
and creative talent waste its energies in supine inactivity. The men who have
pushed forward the wheels of progress have been those to whom satiety lay
ever in the future, and they have labored continuously and have not failed to
find in each transition stage an incentive for further effort. Hugh M. La Rue
is one whose efforts have been continuous and whose labors have won him a
position among the representative business men of the state. His identification
with California and its interests also covers a period greater than that of
almost any other of its citizens, and no history of Sacramento county would
be complete without the record of this honored pioneer.

Hugh AlcElroy La Rue was born August 12, 1830, in Hardin county,
Kentucky, and is a representative of one of the old families of America. The
family is of French lineage, the original ancestors being Huguenots, who left
their native land to seek freedom of conscience in the new world. They
located in Virginia. — two brothers, one of whom was Jacob La Rue, the
great-grandfather of our subject. That was at an early period in the develop-
ment of the Old Dominion, and representatives of the La Rue family have been
pioneers of Virginia. Kentucky. Missouri and California. The grandparents
of our subject were William and Sarah (Hodgen) La Rue, the former a native
of Virginia, whence he removed to Kentucky about 1787, and died there some
years later. His home was in La Rue county, which was named in his honor,
and his son, Jacob H. La Rue. the father of our subject, was born December
3, 1799, in that county, where he followed the occupations of farming and
black-smithing. Subsequently he removed to Lewis county, Missouri, but his
last days were passed in California, taking up his residence in this state in
1873. His death occurred in 1884. He was a relative of Governor Helm and
other prominent men in Kentucky. His wife bore the maiden name of Sarah
C. McElroy, who was born in Washington county. Kentucky. She was a
cousin of Governor Proctor Knott. She became the mother of four children,
of whom two are now living. Hugh M. and J. Hodgen. the latter a resident
of Fresno, California. Her death occurred when about twenty-eight years of
age. Her ancestors were Hugh and Deborah (Dorsey) McElroy. the former
of Scotch and the latter of L'ish lineage.


The ancestors on the paternal side can lie traced back in Scotland to the
first half of the seventeenth century, and the family is of Celtic origin. In the
latter part of the seventeenth century members of the family removed to Ire-
land. The religious faith of the McElroys was that of the Presbyterian
church. The great-grandfather of Mrs. La Rue was James McElroy, who had
three sons, one of whom was Hugh McElroy. who married Ester Irwin, and
removed from Virginia to Kentucky in 1788. They became the parents of ten
children, including Hugh McElroy, the grandfather of our subject. He mar-
ried Deborah Dorsey, and his death occurred in Washington county, Ken-
tuck3\ His widow afterward married again, and resided upi^n the farm where
the birth of Abraham Lincoln occurred, in La Rue county, Kentucky. She
was more than ninety years of age when called to the home beyond.

Hugh McElroy La Rue spent his early boyhood days in Kentucky, but
when about nine years of age accompanied his parents on their removal to
Lewis county, Missouri, which was then largely inhabited by Indians and was
situated on the ver}^ border of civilization. Our subject was thus reared
among the wild scenes of pioneer life, and when not more than fifteen years
of age became imbued with a strong desire to cross the plains to the Pacific
coast. Even prior to the discovery of gold he \vas making preparations to that
end. and when the news was received that the precious metal was found in
California he was all the more anxious to make the contemplated trip, and
became a member of the expedition to cross the plains under the leadership of
V. A. Sublette and Dr. Conduitt. They crossed the Missouri river at Boone-
ville and on the 2th of April, 1849, l<^ft Independence, Missouri, which was
their last point within the limits of civilization. By way of the Platte river,
South Pass, Sublette's cut-off and Fart J tall they traveled over the inter-
vening stretches of country between Missouri and California, crossing the
Truckee river about twenty-seven times in thirty miles.

On the i2th of August, they reached tlie Bear river mines at Steep Hol-
low, and near that place during the succeeding six weeks Mr. La Rue had his
first mining experience. After visiting Grass Valley, Nevada, and Deer
Creek, he located at Fiddletown, Amador county, now called Oleta, being one
of the first party of white men to build a cabin at that point. They discovered
and operated the first mines there, and soon after their arrival they were
joined by a party of men from Arkansas, among whom were several violin
players. The winter being much too wet tb permit of mining comfortably,
they passed their time largely in violin-playing, card-playing and dancing, and
thus the name Fiddletown was given to the new settlement. Subsequently
Mr. La Rue went to Willow Springs, four miles west of Drytown. and pur-
chased a small eating-house, which he conducted until the first of March. At
that time he removed to Marysville, California, and in the sjiring of 1850
went on a trading expedition to Shasta, carrying with him a stock of provisions
and groceries, which he sold directly from the wagon at that place to the mer-
chants and miners, receiving very excellent prices, and his goods were the
first to arrive there. He received forty cents a pound for flour, from a dollar
to a dollar and a fjuarler for pork, sugar, coffee and rice, and aliout eight dol-


lars a gallon for whiskies and brandies. After making one more trip to that
point he came to Sacramento, in June, 1850.

In this city Mr. La Rue turned his attention to blacksmithing and wagon-
making, but the cholera epidemic of that year forced him to close out his busi-
ness and he went to the Xorris grant, — Rancho del Paso, — where he rented a
small tract of land and began the cultivation of vegetables. He was after-
ward engaged in raising grain and stock, and was thus occupied until 1857,
when he planted an orchard of seventy-five acres, principally in peach trees,
— the most extensive orchard in the vicinity at that time. In the new enterprise
he met with good success until the floods of 1861-2 damaged his orchard. Mr.
Norris failed that year and Mr. La Rue then purchased the property, but the
floods of 1868 utterly destroyed the tract and ended the venture.

In 1866, however, he had purchased about nine hundred acres of land in
Yolo county, and, feeling the necessity of providing his children with better
educational privileges and also of being nearer his Yolo ranch, to which he had
added additional purchases until it was two thousand acres in extent, he
removed to Sacramento. After the floods of 1868 he sold his interest in the
Rancho del Paso tract and gave his attention exclusively to the Yolo ranch.
He has made many improvements, and is recognized as one of the leading
representatives of agricultural and horticultural interests in this section of the
state. He now has about two hundred acres of vineyard, one hundred acres of
almonds and ten acres of prunes. He raises all kinds of grain, and is one of
the extensive and leading stock-growers in central California, making a spe-
cialty of Hereford and Durham cattle and mules. In Napa county, this state,
he has extensive vineyard property, and derives from his vineyard and fields
a handsome income. In the cultivation of his land he has followed very pro-
gressive methods, ready to adopt all practical improvements in the way of
operating his land and raising grains and fruits.

Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 12 of 108)