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 33 of 108)
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iiad visited California, making the journey by way of the isthmus of Pan-
ama. He was accompanied by his two sons, Timothy and Charles, and in
his mining ventures met with a fair degree of success. After some time
lie returned to his farm in the east, taking w"ith him gold enough to gain a
good start in business. Eight sons and two daughters were born of this
marriage, but only three of the number are now "living, and Thomas C. Birney
is the only representative of the family in California.

As stated Mr. Birney came to California in 1857 and worked in the
tlifferent mining camps until 1863, meeting with only moderate success. In
the fall of that year he was elected district assessor on the Democratic ticket
and so capably filled the office that he w^as re-elected and served for four
years. He was then chosen as tax collector of revenue district No. 2 in
Tuolumne county, and later, by popular suffrage, was made county assessor,
in which position he .served with credit to himself and satisfaction to his
constituents until the fall if 1875. He was continued in that office altogether
for six years, or until December. 1875. when he resigned, having been elected
a member of the state legislature. He represented his countv in the general
assembly in a creditable manner, devoting his best efforts to the welfare of
the community and for the advancement of the social, moral, material and
political interests of the state.

For some time Mr. Birney was engaged in the lumber business, and in
1878 he became comiected with quartz-mining, which industry proved to him
a gratifying source of income. He opened the Keltz mine and took out con-
siderable gold, and then sold his interest for three thousand dollars, after
which he prospected for a time. In 1881 he was again elected to the legis-
lature and served during the regular .session and a special term. He has
always been an active member of the Democratic partv. attending its con-


ventions and doing everythins' in his power to advance its snccess along
legitimate lines. His prominence as a political leader is well merited, for he
has a thorough understanding of the issues before the people and his patriotic
spirit is well known. With local interests he is actively and deeply interested
in securing a successful termination of all movements that are inaugurated.
He is now serving as the president of the Tuolumne County Agricultural
Association and is devoting much of his time toward the conduct of credit-
able county fairs. He is also a representative of the mining interests, hav-
ing been one of the heavy stockholders in the Ham & Birney mine, in which
he did considerable development work and then sold the mine for fifteen
thousand dollars. He is now a half-owner of the Bald Mountain mine and
part owner and lessee of the Tansey mine, both of which he is operating,
maintaining his residence at Sawmill Flat in order to be near his mining
interests. He also has a good home in Sonora.

In 1869 Mr. Birney was united in marriage to Mrs. Catherine Smith,
whose maiden name was Boyle. She is a native of New York and by her
former marriage had a son who has been adopted by the subject of this
review, and is now known as E. G. Birney, — an active business man of

Mr. Birney has been a valued member of the Independent Order of
Odd Fellows for the past thirty years, representing both the subordinate lodge
and the encampment. While undoubtedly he has not been without that hon-
orable ambition which is so- powerful and useful as an incentive to activity
in public affars he has ever regarded the pursuits of private life as being
in themselves aboundantly worthy of his best efforts. He has subordinated
public ambition to public good and has sought the benefit of others rather
than the aggrandizement of self.


Among the native sons of San Francisco still identified with the interests
of California is numbered John F. Sersanous, whose birth occurred the ist
of January, 1856. in the year which the great "pathfinder." John C. Fre-
mont, was a candidate for the presidency of the Unitel States on the ticket
of the new Republican party. His father, Michel Sersanous, was l)orn in
Paris, France, and was a merchant and hotel proprietor. In 1854 he became
a resident of California, locating in the state when it was the scene of many
mining ventures and new-formed enterprises. He died in Yuba count)^ and
his wife, the mother of our subject, has also passed away. She was a native
of Ireland and by her marriage became the mother of five children.

John F. Sersanous was reared and educated in Yuba county, California,
and in 1870 went to Colusa and began learning telegraphy, with P. L. Wash-
burn, as a preparation for life's work, ^^^^ile thus engaged he sold news-
papers in order to meet his expenses. In 1871 he went to Princeton and took
charge of the telegraph office at that place. In 1873 he took charge of the
Wells-Fargo express office and also engaged as a clerk in the general mer-



chandising store of Smith & Mendelson. After tlie death of both partners Mr.
Sersanous was apixjinted one of tlie atlniinistralors, with Hon. Jolin Boggs,
closing the estate in a satisfactory manner to all concerned. In 1880 he
removed to Willow. He became the bookkeeper in his father-in-law's hard-
ware store in Willow, Glenn county. iMr. Freeman died October 4, 1896,
since which time Mr. Sersanous has been the administrator and manager of
the business. His excellent business and executive ability enabled him capably
to control the enterprise, and under his guidance the business steadily increased,
bringing to its owners a handsome financial return.

On the 15th of August, 1880, Mr. Sersanous was united in marriage
to Miss Emma F. Freeman, a daughter of George W. Freeman, who for
many years was one of the most prominent business men and wealthiest citi-
zens of Glenn county. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Sersanous now living
are Claude I., Freeman and Marie. They have also lost three children.

His fellow townsmen, recognizing his ability and talents as a financier
and his trustworthiness in all life's relations, have freciuently called Mr.
Sersanous to public office. He was elected county treasurer in 1895, and
was again chosen for the position in 1898. He discharged his duties with
marked promptness and fidelity. He cast his first presidential vote for S. J.
Tilden and has since affiliated w-ith the Democracy on national issues. He
is a prominent member of the Masonic fraternity, the Independent Order of
Odd Fellows, the .\ncient Order of United Workmen and the Xati\e Sons,
all of Willow. He is also a member of Chico Lodge, Xo. 423. Benevolent
Protective Order of Elks, and the Knights of Pythias. His has been an
honorable career over wliich there falls no shadow of wrong or suspicion
of evil, and he justly commands the confidence and regard of his fellow men.


Eleazer S. Potter, who is living in Plymouth. Amador county, came to
the state at an early era in its development. He is numl)ered among the
native sons of Connecticut, his birth having occurred in Harwinton, Litch-
field county, on the 16th of November, i8j6. The family is of English lineage
and was early founded in the New England states. Isaac Potter, the father
<if Dur subject, was born in that state and married ]Miss Hanna Scovill.
They were farming jieople and stanch Presbyterians in their religious faith.
The father attained the age of sixty- four years, while his wife departed this
life in her sixtieth year. Three of their eight chiklren are still living, namely:
Syntha, now tlie wife of B. F. Wyne. a resident of Platteville. Wisconsin;
Abijali. who also is living in Wisconsin; and Eleazer Scovill, of this review.

The last named was reared on his father's farm, acquired a good com-
m<in-scho(il education and entered u])on his business career as a peddler in
his native state. In 1847 he removed to Illinois and thence to Platteville,
Wisconsin, remaining in the latter place for three years. He afterward spent
two years in Missouri in search of lead ore and then returned to the Badger
state, where he occupied a clerkship for a time. In 1852 he paid seventv-five


dollars fur the privilege of coming with an ox train across the plains to Cali-
fornia. He also worked for his passage. One boy in the train (Hed of
cholera on Big Sandy river, but with that exception all reached their destina-
tion in safety. Mr. 'P(jtter arrived at Volcano, Amador county, in the fall of
1852 and at once engaged in placer-mining, making from ten to twelve dollars
a day. Like others, however, he lost much that he made in mining opera-
tions and after two years went to Tuolumne county. In 1853, in Drytown,
he saw the heads of Joaquin and Jack on exhibition. They were atrocious
murderers and robbers who had been captured and killed. On one occasion
during those early mining days Mr. Potter and two companions were engaged
in placer-mining when a young, green-looking fellow came along and asked
them where he had better begin digging; thinking to play a joke on him,
they told him to dig near a certain tree. He followed their advice, and,
much to their surprise, secured more gold than all the others. His findings
soon enabled him to return home with a handsome competence. After a
time Mr. Potter engaged in merchandising at the Arkansas diggings, pur-
chasing his goods in Sacramento. That venture proved a profitable one, and
after five years he removed to the Buckeye valley, where he was engaged in
business for four years, when he came to Plymouth. In 1866 he purchased
one hundred and sixty acres of land adjoining the town, and has since been
engaged in farming, — raising grain, hay and stock. His industry has been
rewarded with success and he is now one of the substantial citizens of the

In 1858 Mr. Potter married Miss Harriet Louisa Howard, of Forest
Home and a :i.ajtive of Michigan. They have fourteen children, five of
whom are now living, namely: H. E., a prominent merchant of Plymouth;
F. M.. who is a successful farmer; Mary, now the wife of L. G. Griffith;
Kate, the wife of Dennis Madden ; and Charles, who is living with his father.
Mrs. Potter, who was a true and loving wife and mother, died in 1897 and
lier loss was deeply mourned throughout the community.

In politics Mr. Potter has always been a stalwart Republican, and in
1883 was chosen by his party as a candidate for county supervisor. Being
elected, his service was most creditable, gaining him high commendation.
Since 1851 he has been a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows
and is now the treasurer of his lodge. His life has been characterized by
unfaltering activitv and bv reliability in all business transactions, and all
those who know him esteem him for his sterling worth.


The benefits which certain classes of invalids derive from the healthful
and invigorating climate of California are known the world over, and Cali-
fornia has become the field of labor of many medical specialists who have
gained a national reputation. Prominent among these is Dr. Richard ^^^
Kent, tlie jjroprietor of the new sanitarium at Carter's, Tuolumne county.


w lio is one of the best known and most successful physicians and surgeons
in his part of the state.

Dr. Kent was born in Xew York city January i6, 1861, and is descended
from Enghsh ancestors who settled early in the colonies. His great-grand-
father in the paternal line was a lieutenant-colonel in the Revolutionary army
and was killed in one of the battles for American independence. His son,
Thomas Kent, came with him from the north of England and located in Xew
\\)rk. where he became a chemist. Richard Kent, a son of Thomas Kent and
father of Dr. Richard W. Kent, was born in Xew York city in 1820 and is
living there at this time, at the age of eighty years. He married Elizabeth
Martin, a native of Dublin. Ireland, who came to Xew York when a little
girl and died when Dr. Kent was a child, leaving four children, of whom
he is the only survivor.

Dr. Kent received a good English and classical education in Xew York,
and, after a due course of reading and study, was. in ]\Iarch, 1886. grad-
uated in medicine in the medical department of the University of the City
of Xew York. He practiced his profession in Xew York city until 1890.
when he came to California and became a surgeon for the Sierra Butts Alin-
ing Company at Eureka Mills, Plumas county, which position he retained
for five years. He then located in Sonora, Tuolumne county, where he was
in private general practice until 1900, when he built the Carter's Sanitarium,
a sightly and commodious structure, tlie ground floor of which is occupiesi
largely by Dr. Kent's drug store and offices, the rooms above being fitted up
for the accommodation of about twenty invalids, for the comfort an<l treat-
ment of whom every convenience and appliance is at hand. The location
of this institution is a favorable one, its altitude of two thousand six hun-
dred feet feet above the sea level being considered neither too high nor too
low. While Dr. Kent's practice is general, he makes a specialty of pulmonary
and nervous diseases, in the treatment of which he has been markedly suc-
cessful. He is the physician to the West Side Flume and Lumber Company,
which employs about seven hundred men. and to the Sierra Railroad Com-
pany, which has its terminus near his sanitarium. His professional standard
is high and he is in all ways a physician to be trusted. He holds member-
shi)) in the California State Medical Association, is a Mason and an Odd
Fellow, and in ])olitics is a Republican. \\'hile a resident of Xew York
city he was a member of the board of health.

Dr. Kent was married, October 24, 1899. the lady of his choice being
Miss Jose))hinc Walker, a native daughter of California. She is a daughter
of D. J. Walker, a highly respected citizen of San Francisco.

C. H. & E. F. TAYLOR.

C. H. & ¥.. F. Taylor constitute the firm of Taylor Brothers, the pro-
prietors of a large factory and machine shops in Grass Valley. Their busi-
ness was established in i86r and they probably have the largest and best
equipped factory in the interior of northern California. The plant, located


on Mill street, is built of brick and is operated exclusively by water power,
which is owned by the firm. The various departments of the foundry, machine
and pattern shops are all supplied with the best and latest improved mechanical
appliances for conducting their work, and their products are of such superior
grade as to win for them a liberal patronage. They make a specialty of the
manufacture of mine pumps, car wheels, shoes and ties, and also manufacture
and repair steam-engine boilers, quartz-mill machinery, building castings and
wrought-iron pipe. The firm is doing a large and constantly increasing busi-
ness throughout Xevada and adjacent counties, the brothers being practical
and expert machinists, who control their e.xtensive plant with marked ability.

C. H. Taylor, the senior member, was born in Grass Valley March 4,
1866, his father being Michael C. Taylor, a native of Ireland, who was born
in 1829 and came to America when fourteen years of age. He, too, is a
machinist by trade, and followed his chosen vocation in many of the eastern
cities. He went from New York city to Ohio, thence to the Isthmus of Pan-
ama, from which point he sailed for California. In 1861, in connection
with J. M. Lakman and Philip Francis, he established the business which is
now con<lucted by his sons. For many years it was under his immediate
supervision, but at length he retired and is now a resident of San Francisco.
His wife, who bore the maiden name of Maria Ouinn. was born in Ireland in
October. 1828, and they became the parents of three children. The mother
died in October, 1898.

Charles H. Taylor spent his boyhood days in Grass \"alley and pursued
his education in the public schools, being graduated in the high school with
the class of 1884. He learned the machinist and molder's trade with his
father, and his business experience has always been along the line of his
present connection. He was married, in this city. November 14, 1896. to
Miss Harriet J. Cryer, a native of Grass Valley, and in the community they
have a large circle of warm friends. In politics he is a Republican. Socially
he is connected with Quartz Parlor, No. 58, X. S. G. W., and with the
^'oung Men's Institute of this city.

E. F. Taylor, the junior member of the firm, was born in Grass \'alley
July 8, 1869, and is a graduate of the high school of the class of 1887. He
also learned the machinist's trade under his father's instructions, and his life
has been one of industry and enterprise. In 1894 was celebrated his mar-
riage to Miss Ann Thomas, a native of Pennsylvania and a daughter of
William R. Thomas. They now have three interesting children, — Emmet C
Harriet and Helen B. Like his brother he is a Republican, and is identified
with the same social organizations.

The firm of Taylor Brothers is one of the most prominent in business
circles in Nevada county. Both Charles and E. F. Taylor are financially
interested in mining properties and are actively concerned in the development
of the rich mineral resomxes of this section of the state. In business they
enjoy an unassailable reputation, and their comprehensive knowledge of the
founder's and molder's trades, combined with their capable management and
sound judgment, have secured to them success. As citizens they contribute


to the welfare of the town and county by their support to many measures for
the gfeneral good, and are ever loyal to the interests of the state. Having
always resided in Grass Valley, their acquaintance is a wide one, and those
who have kno\\-n them from boyhood are numbered among their stanchest


As county superintendent of schools Frank Sej'mour Reager is promi-
nently connected with the educational interests of Glenn county. He was
for a number of years a successful teacher and his labors have been most
effective in promoting intellectual advancement in this section of the state.
\We\\ qualified in his chosen calling, he has gained prestige as a representa-
tive of the educational profession, and in this connection he well deserves
mention among the leading citizens of northern California. He was born
on a farm near Orland, Glenn county, June 20, 1868. and is a son of Martin
A. and .Vmanda (Goodrich) Reager. His father was born in Flint Hill,
\irginia. and when nineteen years of age crossed the plains to California.
He drove an o.x team, but himself walked nearly all the way. He was
attracted to the far west by the discovery of gold and for a year he engaged
in mining, but not meeting with the success that he had anticipated he turned
his attention to a pursuit with which he was more familiar, locating in the
Sacramento river valley, where he carried on agricultural pursuits for ten
years. In 1850 he took up his abode in what is now Glenn county and
became one of its succe.-^sful farmers, devoting his energies to the operation
of his land throughout his business career. He was a Democrat in his
political, affiliations, liut never sought or desired public office. He died in
December, 1895. but his wife, a native of .Albany, New York, is still living,
her home being in the village of Orland. Most of her children are yet living,
one son being a teacher in the high school in Orland, while a daughter is
also successfully engaged in teaching.

Mr. Reager. of this review, has spent his entire life in Glenn county.
He first pursued his education in the little school on the home farm, and
afterward continued his studies in Orland. also spent one term in college.
Of a studious nature, his investigations have been largely carried on outside
of the school-room and through his imaided cft'orts he has become a man of
scholarly attainments and broad general information. He was thus emi-
nently qualified for the work of teaching, and in 1888 became actively con-
nected with the profession. He successfully conducted the schools of Orland
until iSq8, when he was elected county superintendent, in which position
he has since served with credit to himself and .satisfaction to the public.

On the I "til of Se|)tember, 1899, Mr. Reager was united in marriage
to Miss Emma Scribner, a lady of culture and refinement who was born in
Tehama county, California, and is a graduate of the Orland .schools. They
have one daughter, Mary .\nianda. born .\ugust 26, 1900.

Since casting his first presidcnlial vote for Grover Cleveland Professor


Reager has been an advocate of Democratic principles and by his ballot has
supported its nominees. He belongs to various civic societies, including the
Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Independent Order of Foresters and
the Masonic fraternity, all of Orland, and in the first named he has filled
all the chairs. He also belongs to the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks
at Chico. He and his wife are consistent Christian people, taking an active
part in the work of the church and occupy an enviable position in social
circles, where true worth and intelligence are received as passports into good


This gentleman has been prominently before the people of Sacramento
for many A-ears. In business and in politics he has commanded the highest
respect and confidence of the public. Unassuming, conservative, conscientious
and honest in the discharge of duty, he has always bee regarded in an emi-
nent degree as safe and reliable in every relation of life. The men whose
biographies are really the most interesting and instructive are not those who
through some exceptionally favorable opportunities have been suddenly
thrust into prominence, but are those whose lives have been a steady and grad-
ual development and progress. Mr. Gillis is a representative of the latter class.
There have been no brilliant flashes in his career but a modest, faithful
following in the path of duty wheresoever it led and a constant exhibition of
substantial, dependable character. He is now occupying the position of state
librarian of California and is eminently qualified to discharge the important
duties devolving upon him.

James Louis Gillis was born in Richmond, Washington county, Iowa,
October 3, 1857, and is a son of Charles and Emily Eliza (Gelatt) Gillis.
His paternal grandparents were Enos and Lucretia (Hart) Gillis. His mater-
nal grandparents were Richard and Eliza (^lorey) Gelatt. The former
was born in Savoy, Massachusetts, and died in Bentonsport, Iowa, at the
age of sixty-three years. The latter was born in Charlton, Worcester county,
Massachusetts, and died in Bentonsport, at the age of fifty-two years. On
the maternal side the ancestry can he traced back to John Gelatt, who came
from Paris, France, at the end of the French and Indian war in 1755, being
then eighteen years of age. His father was a wealthy silk manufacturer. John
was induced to come to this country by the offer of French officials of a govern-
orship of some territory here, but instead of this he was given a gun and put
into the ranks. He settled in Taunton, Massachusetts, where he married
and had three sons and a daughter, namely: John, George, Abraham, and
Lydia. From Taunton he removed to Savoy, Massachusetts, where he died
when about one hundred years of age. George Gelatt, the second son. was
born in Taunton and lived through that pioneer epoch in the history of the
colony when the settlers had to carry their guns to church in order to protect
themseh-es from possible Indian attacks. When a young man he enlisted
in the Kex'olutionarv war and scr\cd in the navv for seven vears. After


American independence was secured lie married Hannah Collins, of Bedford,
.Massaciiusetts, and to tlian were born three children, after whicli they
ic-mo\ed from Bedford to Savoy, Massachusetts, where three more children
were added to their family. These were all sons, save one, namely: Robert,
Collins, Abigail, George, Richard and Jonathan. The father died in Gibson,
Pennsylvania, December 3, 1852, at the advanced age of one hundred years, and
his wife passed awa\- at the same place August 24. 1848, at the age uf ninety-
one years. Richard Gelatt was a lumberman and spent the greater part uf

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 33 of 108)