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 97 of 108)
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by reason of his professional ability, is shown by his election to the office of
district attorney of Merced county, in which capacity he is now serving.

.■\ native of Missouri, Mr. McSwain was born in Audrain county, on
the 5lh of December, 1853, and traces his ancestry back to Scotch emigrants
who' left their native countrv and became settlers of North Carolina. In
that slate the grandfather, Daniel McSwain, was born, while the maternal
grandfather, John Fruit, was a native of South Carolina, also of Scotch line-
age, l)oth becoming honored pioneers of Kentucky, and there James Alc-
sVain, the father of our subject was born, reared and educated.

After his removal to Missouri he was married in that state to Miss
Martha Fruit, and there continued to reside throughout the residue of his
davs, passing away in 1861, at the age of fifty years. His wife, with her
six children, subsequently crossed the plains to California, making the jour-
nev with oxen and mule teams. An uncle, Isaac Fruit, was of the company
and Grandfather McSwain was in command. He had previously crossed the
plains in 1849, 1852 and 1854, and again made the journey in 1862. He
was a minister of the Christian church, a man of marked ability and one of
Ca1itiirnia"s brave ])ioneers. On various occasions he was in command of


different companies whicli made tlie long jonrney across the stretclies of sand
and through tlie mountain fastnesses of tlie west, leading them safely to the
Golden state. Four of the six children of the McSwain family that crossed the
plains with the mother are still living. They located in Merced county about
forty miles north of the present city of Merced. In 1884 the honored pio-
neer mother passed away. Her son, Daniel W. McSwain is now a resident of
Modena county, and one of the sisters, Mrs. Patterson, resides near him. The
other surviving sister, ]\Irs. J. A. Hamilton makes her home near the Alerced

John F. ]\lcSwain, of this review, was hut nine years of age when he
arrived in California. He was educated in the public schools and in early
life engaged in raising wheat and stock, but thinking that he preferred a
professional to an agricultural life he took up the study of law and was
admitted to the bar in 1895, since which time he has practiced in Oakland
and Merced. He is well qualified for his chosen calling and he prepares him-
self for his cases with great care, studying the authorities that bear on the
point in litigation. His devotion to his clients' interests is proverbial, and he
has already gained an en\-ial)le position as a representatix-e of the legal fra-

In 1884 occurred the marriage of ]\Ir. McSwain and Miss Sarah R.
Price, a nati\-e of Pierced county, and a daughter of Thomas Price, one of
the \-alne(l pioneer settlers of the state. Their union has been blessed with
two children : Thomas R. and John Floyd. Mr. ^McSwain is a worthy mem-
])er of the IMasonic fraternity and in politics he has always been a Democrat
in his belief. He held the office of auditor and recorder in Merced county,
entering upon its duties in 1881 and satisfactorily filling the position for four
years. He then filled the office of county sheriff for two years, and after-
ward practiced law in Oakland and San Francisco from 1890 until 1896. He
then returned to IMerced and in May, 1900, was appointed district attorney
so that he is the present incuml>ent in that office. Almost his entire life has been
passed in California and he takes a deep and commendable interest in its
progress and advancement.


Dr. Victors is one of the younger representatives of the medical fra-
ternity in Nevada county, and is a prominent accession to the medical brother-
hood in Grass Valley, his ability having gained him a creditable place in con-
nection with his chosen calling. He was born in Santa Clara county. Cali-
fornia. September 16, 1874, his parents being Albert and Maria (Roberska)
Victors. The father was of German birth, and came to America in 1866.
after which he wedded Miss Roberska, who was born in South Carolina
and was of German lineage. For many generations the Victors family has
numbered among its members distinguished physicians and surgeons.

The Doctor" whose name introduces this review, is the eldest in a fam-
ily of four children, and to the public schools of Alameda county, California,


lie is indebted for his preliminary education, whicli was later supplemented by
a course in the State University, at Berkeley, where he was graduated witli
the class of 1895. Determining to make the practice of medicine his life-
work, he then entered the Cooper Medical College, of San Francisco, and
was graduated in 1898. He had had considerable clinical experience in the
hospitals of that city, and in the year 1899 he opened an office in Grass Val-
ley, where he has already won a good patronage. His knowledge of the
scien-e of medicine is quite extensive and very accurate, and his laudable
ambition combined with a deep human sympathy and strong intellectual force,
will no doubt win him prominence and gain him a leading place in the front
ranks of his professional brethren as the years pass by.


James A\'addell, the train master and agent of the Southern Pacific
Railroad at Rocklin, has spent his entire life in the Golden state. He was
born in Pine Grove, on the 28th of September, 1854, and is a representative
of one of the pioneer families, his father, John Waddell, having come to Cal-
ifornia in 1850. He was born in Kilrain, Ireland, of Scotch ancestry, on the
28th of November, 1819, and was a son of Thomas Waddell, a native of
Edinburg, Scotland, wdio served as a soldier under the Duke of Wellington
and fought in the battle of Waterloo. Subsequently he resided in the Em-
erald isle, and during his residence there the birth of John Waddell occurred.
The latter afterward went to Scotland, in which country he was married, in
1842, to Miss Katie Strain. The same year they emigrated to New Zea-
land, living in that country until 1849, when, on Christmas day, they sailed
as passengers on the schooner Vulcan for California, arriving in Placer
■county in June, 1850. There were one hundred passengers on board, some
of them being intoxicated, and in a fight which ensued the compass was
broken and they were driven about by wind and wave for a long time. ]\lrs.
Waddell had her three little sons with her. The}'- were put on short rations,
having but one poor little sea biscuit and a little water each day. They suf-
fered greatly, enduring such an existence for ten weeks. They were then
sighted l\y a whaling vessel, under the command of Captain Babcock, who
came on board, gave them their bearings and they then sailed into the harlior
at Guam. There thev remained for a month, being kindly treated by the
citizens, fed and cared for without pay.

After arriving in Placer county John \\'addell followed his trade of boot
and shoe making and also conducted a hotel at Pine Grove. He was a very
strong and active man. noted for his athletic prowess, but while performing
some feat of strength he injured one of his legs. This resulted in the for-
mation of a tumor, which when cut out was found to weigh twenty-fi\e
pounds ! It was cut out twice, but still continued to grow and it was finally
decided that if his life was to be saved the limb must be amputated ; but during
the operation he died! This was in 1859, when he was forty years of age.


His religious faith was in harnmny with llie views of the IjeHef of the Pres-
byterian church and lie was a good iiusband, a loving father and faithful citi-
zen. His loss to his wife and children proved a very great one. He had
made considerable money, but had invested much of it in mining enterprises
that proved unprofitable, so he had but little to leave to his family. His
wife was born in Scotland, in 1826, and is now living in Rocklin, at the age
of seventy-four years, one of the highly respected pioneer women of Cali-
fornia. She became the wife of Mr. Connor and was the mother of fifteen
children, but only three of the number are living. She is for the second time
now a widow. Her surviving children are Thomas, of Nevada; Mary F.,
now the wife of James Burchard, of the Burchard Hotel, of Rocklin; and

In taking up the personal history of Mr. Waddell of this review we
present to our readers the life record of one whose long residence here has
made him widely and favorably known. He was educated in the public
schools of Rocklin until fourteen years of age, when he began to earn his
•own living as messenger boy for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company.
By close attention to his duty and as a result of his experience and ability
which he has shown, he lias been advanced step by step to his present position
in the empoye of the company, being now train-master and agent at Rocklin.
For thirty-one years he has been a competent and trustworthy employe of
the road. On the completion of his service as messenger boy he worked in the
roundhouse, later was fireman, brakeman, switchman, yard-master and con-
ductor in succession, and at Truckee he was train-master for two years.
Since 1888 he has been the train-master and agent at Rocklin, and his oblig-
ing manner, courteous disposition and faithfulness to duty have made him

In 1880 Mr. ^\'addell wedded Mrs. Ida Euretta Cross, a native of
W'aterford, New York, and a daughter of S. C. Clow, of the Empire state,
who came to California in i860, and died at Rocklin, in 1897, one of the
highly respected citizens of that place. Mrs. Waddell had one child by her
first husband, who is now acting as a clerk in her stepfather's office. Mr.
and J^Irs. Waddell have three children: Myrtle E., Ida M. and James C.
Thev have a nice home, standing in the midst of handsome, well-kept
un'unds, and the surroundings and furnishings of the place indicate the
ictnu'd and cultured taste of the owner. Mr. and Mrs. Waddell are valued
nienibers of the Order of Rebekah, which they joined on its organiza-
tion at Rocklin. She was its first noble grand and is a past noble grand.
He was also the first noble grand of the subordinate lodge, and has also
filled all of the chairs of the independent Order of Odd Fellows, and is one
of the active and substantial members of the fraternity, taking a deep inter-
est in its growth and upbuilding. Fie is also a member of the Independent
Order of Foresters. He and his family enjoy a high standing and the esteem
of a host of friends in the state of which he is a most creditable native son.
but those who have known him from boyhood are numbered among his
warmest friends, indicating an ujiright career.



\\'illiam Button Comstock, who a few years ago was the mayor of Sac-
ramento and whose history has been closely interwoven in other ways with
the municipal affairs of this city for some years past, is a native of New
Hampshire, his birth having occurred in Jaffrey, Cheshire county, that
state, on the 19th of May, 1839. He is the third in the family of five chil-
dren, whose parents were Jonathan J. and Roaney (Button) Comstock,
who also were born in the Granite state. Both the paternal and maternal
ancestry were for several generations natives of Xew England, and the line
of descent can be traced back to early influential families of German and
Welsh extraction who resided in that section of the country. The father of
our subject was a farmer by occupation, and with the labors of the fiekl and
meadow William B. Comstock early became familiar. He assisted in the
work of plowing, planting and harvesting from early spring until the crops
were garnered in the autumn, and then through the winter season pursued
his education in the district schools of his native state. On attaining his
majority Mr. Comstock went to Boston, where for several years he occu-
pied a clerkship in a mercantile establishment.

In the spring of 1864 he started for the new Eldorado of the west, tak-
ing passage on the steamer Champion, which sailed from the Atlantic coast
for Panama. After crossing the isthmus he boarded the historic steamer
Golden Age, which arrived in San Francisco on the 27th of March. He
made but a brief stay in the metropolis, going thence to Sacramento, where
he was again employed for a time as a clerk. Later he began business on his
own account as a dealer in furniture and has. since conducted that enterprise,
meeting with prosperity in the undertaking. His present place of business
is located on Fifth street, near the corner of K street, and his ware-rooms
are well filled with the most modern patterns of furniture in all grades. He
carries a large stock ready to meet the public demands from all classes, and
•his honorable business methods and earnest desire to please have secured
to him a liberal patronage.

In Sacramento, on the 24th of November, 1867, was celebrated the
marriage of Mr. Comstock and Miss Susan F. Gregory, a native of jNIis-
souri, who was reared by her paternal uncle, Br. E. H. Gregory, a physician
and surgeon of St. Louis, wdiose reputation is almost world-wide. He has
probably won more medical titles than any other representative of the pro-
fession in that city. He is a professor of the St. Louis Medical College,
and surgeon-in-chief of the Mullanphy Hospital, which owes to him its
national reputation. He was the president of the American Medical Asso-
ciation, one of the greatest honors that can be conferred by the profession
in the country. He has also been the president of the State Medical
Society and at the present time is the president of the St. Louis Surgical
Society. Although he is now nearly se\-enty years of age he has one of the
largest surgery practices in the central Mississippi valley, his patronage extend-
ing far beyond the confines of St. Louis. He has performed some of the


most wonderful operations known to science and lie yet possesses tlie activity
of a man of much younger years, and the indications are that his period of
great usefulness will continue for some time to come. He is a man of ami-
able disposition and of genial manner. He is a close student, who has not
only kept abreast of the times and the progress that is continually being
made, but has also been a leader in scientific investigation along the lines of
medical and surgical practice. The fact that he has the largest consulting-
practice in the city is an indication of the reputation which he enjoys among
his professional brethren. The grandfather of Airs. Comstock was ^\'illiam
Gregory, a celebrated attorney of Fredericksburg, \'irgiiiia, in which city
he was born. Later in life he was made the president of the Princeton Law
College, of Kentucky. On the maternal side Mrs. Comstock is descended
from the Na^c family, of Pennsj-lvania, and representatives of the family
became California pioneers of 1849. Air. and Airs. Comstock have one
daughter, Sophia P., a young lady of culture and innate refinement. She is
a graduate of the Sacramento high school of the class of 1889, and on
leaving that institution she matriculated in the State University at Berkeley,
where she was graduated with honors in the class of 1893. Since the fall
term of 1897 she has been engaged in teaching Latin and also some of the
English branches in the Elk Grove Union High School, where she is greatly
esteemed, both by teachers and scholars. Air. Comstock and his family occupy
a leading position in social circles, and all who pass through the portals-
of their cultured home enjoy a most cordial hospitality.


This well-known citizen of Stanislaus county is one of the largest stock-
raisers in this portion of the state and has been largely instrumental in
improving the grade of stock raised in this section of California. His efforts
have therefore been of public benefit, for the impro\-ement of stock adds to
its market value and the wealth of the agricultural class is thereby augmented.
The rich pasture lands of the Pacific coast provide excellent opportunities
to the stock-raiser, and this industry has become a most important feature
in the commercial interests of the Golden state.

Air. Clifford's farm is located two miles east of Knight's Ferry and he
has been a resident of the state since 1852, coming here a young man of
twenty-one years. He was born in Danville, Caledonia county, Vermont.
on the I2th of April. 1831. His grandfather. Joseph Clifford, was born
in Scotland. At an early day he emigrated to the Green Alountain state^
where his son, Rufus, the father of our subject, was born and reared. As
a companion and helpmate on life's journey, he chose Miss Lydia Badger,
a native of Hartland, Vermont. They became industrious farming people
and worthy members of the Alethodist Episcopal church and spent their
entire lives in Vermont, the old homestead continuing their place of abode.
The father passed away at the age of sevent^'-two years, but the moUier
attained the very advanced age of ninety-two years. They were the parents


of nine children, six of \vh(im are living. \\'illiam R. Clifford, a bmther
of onr subject, came to California and died in Stockton, this state, in 1803.

Eldad Alexander Clifford acquired his education in his native town and
in his youth worked at farming and in a cotton factory in New Hampshire,
where he remained until allured by the discovery of gold on the Pacific coast
he made his \vay to California, by way of the isthmus route. On reaching
this state he went direct to the placer mines at what was then called Poverty
Hill, a mining camp formed of tents. For three years he engaged in placer
mining through the winter season and in the summer months followed team-
ing, hauling goods from Stockton to Sonora, Columbia and Chinese Camp.
For fourteen years he followed teaming, finding it a profitable venture, for as
there was no 'other means of transportation the teamsters commanded good
prices for their services. Mr. Clififord afterward traveled as a salesman for
a wholesale liquor and cigar house, and at the same time purchased hides
and tallow. For six years he devoted his time to the purchase of pelts and
hides, and then purchased a flock of sheep. For twenty-four years he was
engaged in the sheep-raising industry, having as high as eight thousand
sheep upon his ranch at one time and realizing from his labors in one season
as high as eleven thousand dollars. In 1898 he sold his sheep and is now in
the cattle business, having five hundred head of cattle. He breeds Hereford
cattle and his herd includes thirteen thoroughbred bulls. Thus he has
greatly improved his own stock and that of his neighbors, so that fine grades
of Hereford cattle are found upon the markets and command excellent

On the 24th of April, 1868, INIr. Clift'ord was united in marriage to Miss
Ella W'ilkins, a native of St. Catherines, Canada, a daughter of Elijah and
Sarah Wilkins. Her father is now in the eighty-eighth year of his age, but
her mother has passed away. Mrs. Clifford was reared in Stockton and in
Stanislaus county where she now makes her home. She is well known, hav-
ing many friends among its best people. Mr. Clifford gives his political sup-
port to the Republican party, but has never sought or desired public office,
his attention being given closely to his business interests, which have resulted
in bringing to him an excellent financial return.


Prominently identified with the business interests of Nevada City is
Thomas Benton Gray. The Keystone state has furnished California with a
large proportion of its exemplary men whose warm sympathy and willing
hands have been prominent factors in the upbuilding of this great state.
Among the number may be mentioned Mr. Gray, who was born in Sunbnrw
Center county, Pennsylvania, on the ist of July, 1834. On the paternal sitle
the ancestry can be traced in this country back to 1620, when the Gray fam-
ily was founded in America. For many generations the Grays were prom-
inent in England, and Sir John Gray was killed at the second battle of St.
Albans, in 1461. The family crest was a lion couchant. Desire Gray, a


■daughter of Edward Gray, married a Mr. Kent and with him came to Amer-
ica in the Mayflower, in 1620, she being the first white woman to land in
this country. Her brother, John Gray, came later. He was a government
pensioner, having lost an arm in the English navy. From him our subject
is descended, being of the sixth generation removed. In all of the wars of
the nation representatives of the name have loyally defended American
rights. John Gray, the second of the name and a son of John Gray, the first,
•was born in the latter half of the seventeenth century and married Ruth
Hebbard, in Beverly, Massachusetts, on the 28th of April, 1704. He died
February 29, 171 2, and his widow afterward became the wife of Benjamin
Webster. John Gray, a son of John and Ruth (Hebbard) Gray, was born
in Beverly, Massachusetts, May 17, 1707, and at \Mndham, Connecticut, on
the 26th of February, 1728, married Anne Hebbard. After her death he
wedded Catherine Gardner, at Sharon, Connecticut, the wedding taking place
on the i8th of September, 1747. She was the gTeat-grandmother of our sub-
ject and died in Sharon, in 1761.

James Gray, a son of John and Catherine (Gardner) Gray, the grand-
father of our subject, was born in Sharon, Connecticut, August 3, I759-
On the 26th of March, 1786, in Sharon, he married Parthena White, who
was born in Sharon, in 1768. They had five sons and four daughters, of
whom John White and James w-ere born in Rutland, Vermont, while the
others were natives of Hartwick, Otsego county. New York. In 1805 the
grandfather, James Gray, removed from Bath, Steuben county, New York,
and with his family settled in what has since been known as Gray"s Valley
or Hollow, in Tioga county, Pennsylvania. He owned a tract of dense
timber land a mile square, on which a few settlers lived in log cabins, and in
the forests there were many deer, elks, bears, panthers, wolves and foxes.
Gray's Valley has since continuously been the home of some members of the
family. At present Lafayette Gray, a second cousin of Thomas B. Gray, is
living there. The grandfather, James Gray, died at the home of his son
\'ictor, in Covington, Pennsylvania, in 1845. He served throughout tlie
Revolutionary war, part of the time under his brother. Captain Silas Gray,
of the Fourth New York troops. He was in several battles, notably the
storming of Stony Point, Juty 15, 1779.

On the maternal side Mr. Gray, of this review, is also descended from
old Revolutionary stock. His grandfather. Royal Cole, who was born in
Dutchess county. New York, in 1757, served in the war for independence in
the Fourth New York militia and also with Rhode Island troops. He was
at the battle of Brandywine, Trenton and Princeton and was with Wash-
ington's forlorn hope at Valley Forge in the winter of 1776. His wife,
Hannah Cole, acted as a nurse in the Revolutionary war. Tliey reared two
sons and seven daughters and made their home in \\'ellsboro, Tioga county.
Pennsylvania, where they both died. The grandfather was ninety-seven
years of age at the time of his death, which was occasioned by patriotic
excitement July 4, 1852. His wife was more than ninety years of age when
called to the home beyond.


John White Gray, the father of our subject, was born in Rutland, \'er-
mont, January 3, 1788, and removed with his parents to Gray's Valley, Tioga
county, Pennsylvania. When the country again became engaged in war
with England he donned the uniform of the nation and went to the front
under General Harrison. During the battle of Chippewa he sustained a
severe wound in the forehead from a well-directed saber blow of an enemy.
Prior to the war, in 1806, he had purchased the remaining time of his
minority of his father for three hundred dollars, and entered upon an acti\-e,
useful and sucessful business career. He founded the city of Covington.
Pennsylvania, and was for many years a leading politician in that state, being
twice a member of the Pennsylvania legislature. He was a great admirer
of Thomas H. Benton and Stephen A. Douglas, having met them and worked
with them in politics. He also enjoyed the personal friendship of General
A. C. Dodge, W. F. Coolbaugh and Henry Gear, all since United States

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 97 of 108)