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 34 of 108)
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his life in Jay township, Clearfield county, Pennsylvania, but his last days were
spent in Iowa.

The father of our subject, Charles Gillis, was born in Victor, Ontario
county, Xew York, February 20, 1820, and married Miss Gelatt, whose birth
occurred in Jay township, Clearfield county, Pennsylvania, March 9. 1822.
For some years they resided in Washington county, Iowa, but during the
early childhood of James Cjillis they removed to ilount Pleasant, Iowa, where
they lived till April 9, 1861, when they started with ox-teams for California.
The journey across the plains consumed five months, but was largely unevent-
ful. On one occasion they came across a horse train stranded, some members
of the train having been wounded while their horses had been stolen by the
Indians. The train with which the (iillis family traveled was not molested
and they reached Empire City, Xe\ada, late in August of that year.

The father engaged in the hotel business in that place, conducting his
hostlery until the following spring, when a heavy rise in Carson river over-
flowed the hotel and practically destroyed the whole property. A new build-
ing was immediately erected upon higher ground, which they occupied as
a iiotel until the fall of 1863, when it was sold, the family removing to Carson
City, where the father engaged in teaming. There James Gillis entered the
public schools, but in the spring of 1864 the family again removed, locating
in Antelope valley upon a farm, which was their place of abode until the
latter part of 1866. when they started for California, reaching Placerville in
December. There they spent Christmas and in January, 1867. arrixed in
Sacramento. The father purchased a house and lot on L street, between
Twelfth and Thirteenth streets, where the family remained till 1870. when
they went to San Jose. During their residence in Sacramento, James L.
Gillis was a student in the public schools there.

After a short residence in San Jose, Charles Gillis rented a fruit ranch
at Saratoga. Santa Clara county, where a year was passed, after which he
returned with his family to Sacramento, in the fall of 1871. His death
occurred in San Francisco, at the age of seventy-five years. The mother is
still living, making her home with our subject. Two daughters of the fam-
ily yet survive: Emeline Lucretia and Sabra Nevada, while two sons and four
daughters have passed away.

.After the return of the family to Sacramento. James Louis Gillis en-
tered a private school conducted by the Rev. M. Goethe, conducted in the Ger-
man Lutheran church, of whicii he was the minister. He left that school Au-
gust 12. 1872, to enter the service of the Sacramento \"alley Railroad Com-


pany as messenger bov. He was to work for three months witliont pay and
then recei\-e twenty dollars per month ; bnt the snperintendent was so well
pleased with his service that he paid him twenty dollars for the first month
and the second month increased his salary to forty dollars. He learned
telegraphy and gained a good general knowledge of railroading in its vari-
ons departments. For some time he served as a telegraph operator and bill
clerk, and in 1876, on the death of C. S. Johnson, a son of the superintendent
and his assistant, Mr. Gillis was appointed to fill the vacancy. After the
resignation of Josiah Johnson, September i, 1878. the superintendent, Mr.
Gillis remained with his successor, J. B. \Vright, until 1894, when it was
thought neccessary to curtail expenses there and he was offered the position
of chief clerk in the freight office at Sacramento. He declined to serve in
that capacity, however, and on the 26th of November, 1894, severed his con-
nection with the railroad. He had served in almost every capacity from
messenger boy up. He had charge of the road in Mr. Wright's absence,
acted as paymaster, and relieved the cashier during his absence from the
state. He was on duty almost constantly during the strike of 1894. after
which he suffered a severe attack of illness as the result of hard work and
exposure to the hot sun during that time.

On Christmas day of 1881 Mr. Gillis was united in marriage to Miss
Kate Petree, of Sacramento, and to them ha\e lieen born three daughters :
Mabel R., Emily G. and Ruth M. The family has a wide acquaintance in
this locality and the hospitalitv of many of the best homes of Sacramento
is extended to Mr. and Mrs. Gillis.

On leaving the railway service Mr. Gillis was appointed chief clerk of
the committee on ways and means of the assembly session of 1895, by Hon.
Judson Brusie, a member from Sacramento and the chairman of the com-
mittee. At the close of the session he received the appointment of keeper
of the archives in the ofilice of the secretary of state and filled that position
until 1897, when, on the solicitation of Chairman W. R. Guy, he was again
appointed the clerk of the committee on ways and means. When his duties
in that connection were ended at the close of the legislative session he again
returned to the secretary of state's office, which he left to accept the posi-
tion of deputy in the state library. He was at that time attempting to
secure the position of state li1:)rarian, but after being defeated for the office
he resigned his position as deputy and returned to the office of secretary
of state. On the assembling of the le.gislature in 1890 he was for the third
time appointed the chief clerk of the committee on ways and means, by its
chairman. L. H. Valentine. On the ist of April, 1899, on the resignation
of the state librarian, Frank L. Combs, he was elected state librarian for
the term ending April, 1902. He has been active in Republican politics
in Sacramento county since 1890 and has given his best efforts for the suc-
cess of the party in every way.

Socially Mr. Gillis is a member of Court Sutter. T. O. F., in which he
has served as the chief ranger and also belongs to the Benevolent Protective
Order of Elks and the Sacramento .\thletic Club. Tn the comnuniitv in


wliicli he is Ijest known, tlie communitv in wiiich lie li\es, he is most hon-
ored and respected. .\ man of rare good judgment, of kindly dis-
position, faithful to friends, loyal .to principle and in all respects an
exemplary citizen, his character embraces all the elements that insure busi-
ness, political and social success and popularity.


The history of California has been one of romantic interest at an early
period and of marked progress at a later date. In the latter epoch Mr. Orr
has been a prominent factor in connection with the development of Glenn
county and is now actively connected with the mercantile and political in-
terests of the communit)'. his home being in Willow, where he successfully
conducts a well equipped store. The residents of California have come to the
Pacific coast from the various states throughout the Union and Mr. Orr is one
of the worthy citizens which Virginia furnished to this commionwealth.

He was born in Lee county, of the Old Dominion, on Christmas day
in 1S49. and is a son of John P. and Priscilla (\\'inn) Orr. His paternal
grandparents were David and Rosa Orr. who spent their entire lives in Vir-
ginia, the fomier dying at the age of eighty years. John P. Orr was born
in that state and became a very prominent farmer of Lee county, where he
died at the age of seventy years. He married Priscilla Winn, also a native
of Lee county, and her death occurred in 1893, at the age of sixty-five years.
Li their family were eleven children, eight of whom are yet living.

George VVesley Orr. the subject of this review, spent the days of his
boyhood and youth in his parents' home, remaining in the state of his na-
tivity till after he attained his majority. Owing to the unsettled condition
of affairs caused by the Civil war, his educational privileges were somewhat
limited, but by experience, reading and observation he became a well informed
man. Li September. 1872. he bade adieu to his native state and crossed
the country to California, locating in what was then Colusa county, but is
now Glenn county. After three years he removed to Arizona, where he
engaged in dealing in stock for three years and then returned to Glenn county.
where he carried on stock-raising for about ten years. On the expiration of
that period he turned his attention to merchandising and has found in this
line of endeavor a profitable source of income, for his store is well equipiied
with everythirig found in his line and his courteous treatment and honorable
dealing have secured to him a liberal patronage.

On the 4th of May. 1882. occurred the marriage of Mr. Orr to Miss
Alice Brockman. a native of Glenn county. They have many warm friends
in the locality and their pleasant home is celebrated for its gracious hospi-
tality. Mr. Orr cast his first jjresidential vote for Grover Cleveland in 1884,
and has since been an earnest advocate of Democracy. While residing in Vir-
ginia he served as deputy clerk of the county and since coming to the Golden
state has lieen an active factor in political circles in Willow. In 1898 he
served as the chairman "f the count\- central committee and his labors were


most effective in promoting tlie interests of the party. He is a member of
the Masonic fraternity, greatly esteemed by his brethren of the order, and
is a genial gentleman, ot cordial disposition and courteous deportment who
gains friends wherever he goes.


One of the great forces that brings success in life is unyielding tenacity
of purpose. Dash and audacity and superficial cleverness may create a stir
for a time, but they achieve no lasting success. "He can toil terribly," is
what an opponent said of Sir Walter Raleigh. That is true of all success-
ful men. They have simply gained their positions by diligence and thor-
oughness. In America "labor is king," and the sovereignty that the liberty-
loving people i-if this nation acknowledge is that of business. The men of
influence in this enlightened age are the enterprising, progressive repre-
sentatives of commerce and agriculture, and to such ones ad\-ahcement and
progress are due. iNIr. Davis is one who has had the me^ntal poise and
calm judgment to successfully guide and control extensive business affairs
and investments, and at the same time has had a keen appreciation of the
ethics oi commercial life, so that he has not only commanded the respect
of his fellow men for his uprightness but also excited their admiration by
his splendid abilities, which have gained him r;ink among the prosperous
residents of Sacramento.

Richmond Davis was born in Cayuga county. New York, on the 31st
of March, 1835, and is a son of John and Sarah Davis. The father was
a native of the Empire State, and as a means of livelihood followed the occu-
pation of farming. He died in Cayuga county, at the age of sixty years, and
his wife, a nati\e of New Jersey, passed away in the same county when eighty
years of age. She was the mother of four children, two of whom are yet liv-
ing. The representative of the family now prominently connected with the
capital city of California was reared on the family homestead and early be-
came familiar with the duties and labors that fall to the lot of the agriculturist.
To the district school system he is indebted for the educational privileges
which he received. He assisted his father in the work of the farm until
he had attained his majority, when he emigrated westward to Michigan,
and in 1848 purchased a farm in Calhoun county, near Battle Creek, that
state. For four years he devoted his energies to agricultural pursuits there,
and then sold his property preparatory to making an overland journey to
California. With a party of twenty or more, he left Battle Creek and after
a trip of six months' duration across the barren plains and rugged mount-
ains reached Coloma, California, wdiere he secured employment with a man
who conducted a boarding house. Subsequently he came to Sacramento,
then a small mining town giving little promise of the transformation which
was to make it one of the most beautiful and attractive cities on the
Pacific coast. In this locality he turned his attention to farming, which he
carried on very extensi\ely. as, with the passing years, he v,-as enabled to


purchase more land. As the state became more tliickly settled and the land
values rose proportionately, lie made judicious in\-estments in real estate,
and is now the owner of much \aluable propert_\-. whicli ranks him among
the capitalists of Sacramento.


John Aver was born in Cornwall, England. November 17. 1S55. and
is a son of James Aver, who also was of English birth, and was a miner by
occupation. With his family the father came to California in 1875, taking
up his residence in Grass Valley, and in this localit}- he engaged in mining
up to the time of his death, which occurred on the 23d of December, 1876.
He married Susan Grubb, who also was a native of England and who yet
survives her husband, her home being in Grass \^alley. They had seven
children, four of whom are living.

John Aver, the second in order of birth, spent the first twenty years
of his life in the land of his nativity, and is indebted to its school system
for the educational privileges which he received. With the family he came
to .America and entered the mines of California, being actively connected
with that important industry on the Pacific coast until 1883. when he began
dealing in v.ines and liquors, selling to the retail trade. He has, however,
been interested in mining properties since his arrival here, and at the pres-
ent time he is a stockholder in the Unknown, St. John and other mines.
He has resided in Grass Valley continuously with the exception of a few
months in 1893. when he made a trip to the east, visiting the World's
Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and also crossed the .Atlantic to Europe,
spending many pleasant hours among the scenes and friends of his boyhooil.

In March. 1886, Air. Aver was united in marriage to Miss Eliza A.
Shackelton, a native of Grass Valley and a daughter of Robert Shackel-
ton, who was a native of Yorkshire, England, and came to California
in 1850. Like many of the pioneers of the state, he first turned his
attention to mining, but afterward devoted his energies to other pursuits.
He is now living retired. Mr. and Mrs. Aver have three sons. вАФ James H.,
Rodger and Albert C. The subject of this review belongs to Grass Valley
Lodge, Xo. 12. I. O. O. F., and has taken the encampment degrees of the
order. He also belongs to the Indejiendent Order of Foresters, and is a
Republican in his political affiliations. He was naturalized in 18S3. and
has since e.xerci.sed his right of franchise in support of the men and meas-
ures of the "grand old party."


The prosjierity and welfare of every community depends upon its com-
mercial and industrial activity. .A. worthy repre.sentative of the business
interests of Drytown. .Allen McWayne, is successfully engaged in merchan-
dising and also fills the positions of postmaster and express agent. He is


numbered among the wortliy sons of California whom Ohio lias furnished
to the golden west, his birth having occurred in the city of Toledo, on the
4th of August, 1855. As his name indicates, the family is of Scotch origin.
His grand lather came from Scotland to America at an early day, serving as
a soldier in the war of 18 12 and lixxd to the very advanced age of ninety-
seven years. His son, U. McWayne, was born in New York and whe-n a
young man removed to Toledo, Uhio, where he made his home for some
years. He became the owner and captain of a schooner on the lakes and
throughout his entire life was connected with marine interests. He married
Eliza Cheeney, a native of New York, whose people were prominent early
settlers of the state of Michigan. Four children were born of their union.
The father was a valued member of the blue lodge, chapter and commandery
of the Masonic fraternity and exemplified in his life the ennobling principles
of that craft. He died in 1888, at the age of sixty-six years, but his widow
is still living and yet makes her home in Toledo, Ohio.

Allen McWayne, whose name introduces this review, was educated in
his native city and there learned telegraphy, entering upon his business career
in the capacity of a telegraph operator. He was first employed by the Lake
Shore & Michigan Southern Railway; but, thinking that the west offered
better opportunities, he came to Dry town, in 1876, and organized the mer-
cantile firm of McWayne & Company, being associated with two partners.
This relationship was maintained until 1890, at which time Mr. McWayne
became the sole proprietor. He has since carried on a general store, being
the leading merchant in the town. In 1892 a fire destroyed his property
and he lost a large stock of goods, on which he had no insurance. With
characteristic energy, however, he again opened a store, purchasing the
stock of William Jennings, a grocery merchant, and now has a large and
well appointed establishment. His brick block, forty by one hundred feet,
is filled with a complete stock of general merchandise, and he enjoys a
very extensive trade and the good will of his fellow citizens. He is careful
in purchasing, keeping in mind the demands of the public; and his earnest
desire to please, combined with his reasonable prices, has led to his success.
He is also a stockholder in several valuable mining properties, including
the Pocahontas mine, of which he is the superintendent and secretary.
This is a very valuable enterprise, including a rich mine and a ten-stamp
mill located on the main fissure of the great northern Mather lode, which
crosses Amador county, and along it are located in this county about thirty
mines and mills. The Pocahontas Company is capitalized for two hundred
and fifty thousand dollars, the shares selling at a dollar each. Mr. McWayne
also owns four hundred acres of land near Drytown, on which he is exten-
sively engaged in raising stock. He owns his freight teams and hauls
his goods from the railroad stations to his store. Recently two valuable
mining claims in which he was interested have been sold at a good profit,
thus bringing him a ready sum of money. His business career has been a
prosperous one. yet it has not been without reverses. Some time after the
fire robbers entered the store, blew ojien the safe and took all the money


he had ; but he was not discouraged, liis loss seeming to serve as an impetus
for renewed effort. His industry is indefatigable and his resolution most
marked. He carries forward to successful completion whatever he under-
takes, and his labors have been crowned with e.\cellent financial returns.
He has also been the postmaster of his town through the administration of
both Presidents Cleveland and ^NIcKinlcv, and is a representative of the
express company.

In 1876 Air. McWayne was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth J.
Williams, of Archibald, Ohio, a daughter of Henry F. W'illiams, a respected
pioneer of the Buckeye state. Their union has been blessed with two chil-
dren : Earl C, who is now in college in San Francisco, studying electrical
engineering and assaying; and Edna, who is a student in Stockton. On
January 21, 1900, Mr. McWayne was called upon to mourn the loss of his
wife, who died very suddenly in San Francisco. 2^1rs. McWayne was a
member of the ^lethodist church and a lady of culture antl retinement,
occupying an enviable position in social circles.

In his political views Mr. McWayne is a pronounced Republican,
unswerving in his advocacy of the principles of the party. He is :i charter
member of Amador Lodge, A. O. U. \V., and was made a Alaster ^Mason
in 1882, in Drytown Lodge, No. 174; soon afterward he was elected to
the office of secretary, and has since filled that position in a very credita-
ble manner, having the confidence and respect of his brethren of the fra-
ternity. He has made a good record in Amador county, both as a business
man and citizen. He has a wide acquaintance among the most prominent
residents in this part of the state. His ability well fitted him for leader-
ship in political, business and social life. The terms "progress" and "patri-
otism" might be considered the keynote of his character, for throughout his
career he has labored for the improvement of every kind of business or
public interest with which he has been associated, and at all times he has
been actuated by fidelity to his country and her welfare.


.\long the legitimate lines of business Mr. Peart has won creditable
success and is to-day the leading merchant of Colusa. He was born at
Cook Cove. Guysboro county. Xova Scotia, on the 9th of November. 184S.
and is a son of John William and Philo Afin 'fCook) Peart. On the
paternal side his ancestry can be traced back to Godfrey Peart, who died
on the 9th of November, 1868. at the age of seventy-nine years. Godfrey
Peart, the grandfather, married ALiry Ann Lavinia Cribbin. whose death
occurred May 10, 1869, when she had reached the age of seventy-seven
years. John \\'. Peart, the father of our sul.)ject. was born in Guysboro,
Nova Scotia, on the 23d of May, 181 7, and died August 29, 1S86, at the
age of sixty-nine years. He was a farmer and trader. His w'ife was born
at Guysboro, in 1812, and died in California, June 16, 1895, at
the age of eighty-three years. She was a daughter of Elias C. and Anne


(Horton) Cook, tlie former horn December 16. 1788, the latter April
23, 1794. The grandfather died August 28, 1870, at the age of eighty-
two years, and his wife passed away December ii, 1894, when more than
one hundred years of age.

Elias Cook Peart attended the public schools during the winter season and
throughout the remainder of the year assisted in the work of the home farm,
taking a man's place from the age of thirteen years. In 1868 he emigrated
to California, by way of the water route from New York and across the
isthmus of Panama. He arrived in San Francisco the day before the great
earthquake. In November of the same year he secured employment in a
small store at Knight's Landing, where he remained until the spring of
1869, when he went to Grand Island, Colusa county, and since that time
he has been a resident of the county which he regards as the most favora-
ble spot in all the land. In this opinion he certainly cannot be far wrong,
for nature has made this a very desirable location, with its rich farming
country, well watered by good streams.

When Mr. Peart arrived in Califcjrnia he had a cash capital of only
thirty dollars, nor did he depend upon influential friends to aid him. He
enjoyed good health, was enterprising and possessed of resolute will and
he stood upon his own merits. His first employer was Barney Roseberry,
now of Woodland, California, and on leaving his service he entered the
employ of J. H. Goodhue, formerly of Grand Island, but now deceased.
After clerking for two or three years, Mr. Peart established a mercantile
store at Leesville and entered upon a prosperous career at that place, but
a disastrous fire swept his business entirely away. After paying all his
debts in full he had only a linen duster besides the necessary clothing.
With determilned spirit, however, he established a business in Colusa on bor-
rowed capital, but found the expense attached to an incorporated town too
great for one in his limited circumstances. Accordingly he returnesil to
Leesville, where he erected a store building and dwelling, but in about two
years he sold his business and real estate to Dr. J. H. Clark, for his health
was failing him through overwork.

Hoping to be benefited thereby, Mr. Peart went on a sea voyage to
New York and thence along the coast to Nova Scotia. He crossed the
bay of Fundy several times, but the experience was not a pleasant one and
he says he has no wish to make the trip again. After returning to Cali-
fornia he assumed the management of a general mercantile store at Grimes,
California, owned by the Grangers' Corporation Company. In about a
year he purchased the enterprise and successfully conducted it in connec-
tion with branch stores in Arbuckle and Colusa. He was also at one time
identified with the store in Maxwell, but has recently disposed of much of
the mercantile business, although he is still conducting the leading estab-

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 34 of 108)