George Henry Tinkham.

History of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres online

. (page 40 of 177)
Online LibraryGeorge Henry TinkhamHistory of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres → online text (page 40 of 177)
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and his father before him was a preacher in the Baptist Church, who dropped dead
while vigorously exhorting in the pulpit. This zealous devotion to the tenets of
the Baptist faith was a characteristic of Curtis Cressey, who married as his first
wife Miss Susan Littlefield, a native of Kennebunk, Maine, lived to be eighty-three
years old and died at Brownfield, in that state. The progenitors of the Cresseys
came from England, and some early representatives of the family in America were
prominent in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Mrs. Susan Cressey died in her
thirty-sixth year, the mother of six children.

Brought up on a New England hillside farm, Albert L. Cressey began life as a
Yankee farmer's boy amid conditions not very inviting, and for a few years he at-
tended the district school for from only six to eight weeks every winter, and such
education as he acquired was obtained by self-directed reading and in the broad and
instructive field of human experience. He did not like to pick cobble stones out of
the field, the inevitable lot of the New Hampshire farmer's boy, and having obtained
permission, when sixteen, to visit a sister at Great Falls, N. H., a cotton manufactur-
ing city on the Saco River, soon tried his hand at work in the mills, but did not like
that work, and then went to Portsmouth, N. H., where he worked at shipbuilding.
An elder brother was in Boston, and Albert made his way into that city and took a
job driving an omnibus from Dock Square to Canton Street, before the advent of
street cars in that section. He next became a brakeman on the railroad, and later a
fireman on the Boston and Worcester Railway. Later on he went back to Boston
and took a job with the express company.

Young Cressey was ambitious to "go West," and for a while thought of migrat-
ing to Wisconsin, where he had some relatives. Just then he happened to meet a
man from California, and the more that he talked with him the more he became
interested. Fortunately, he had saved enough money to bring him out to the Coast,
and so was not long in traveling to New York, and in sailing from New York to
Aspinwall (now Colon) on the old side-wheeler steamship "George Law," on her
last trip ; for on her very next trip she went down when well out from New York.
Albert crossed the Isthmus on the railway, and then took passage on the old "Golden


Gate" steamship to San Francisco on what proved to be her last successful trip, for
she, too, went down when next she breasted the waters. He landed at San Fran-
cisco about June 1, 1857.

His money was then exhausted, but he borrowed four dollars from a friend to
pay his passage up the river to Stockton, where he arrived penniless. A farmer by
the name of Grattan offered him a job on his ranch, and his first work in California
was binding grain after a cradler. He had been thus occupied for three days when '
D. C. Madison and his assistant came from Stockton to Mr. Grattan's place, to test
out the first reaper ever built in California, a wonderful contrivance built at Stock-
ton by Madison. Mr. Cressey drove the machine and cut Mr. Grattan's grain and
that of a neighbor. This was the first reaper ever made in California, and by means
of it so much more labor was accomplished in a short time that he and Mr. Grattan
made enough the first season to pay for the machine.

While working for Mr. Grattan, Mr. Cressey took up 160 acres of Government
land on his own account, and in 1859 put in a crop ; but worms attacked the grain, and
the crop was such a failure that he ran into debt $300. He put in a crop the next
year, and then he experienced something of the greatest importance in its after effects
He and all of his neighbors had to build levees to protect their ranches from th<
high water and overflow of the San Joaquin River ; but because he was a new settler
inexperienced and poor, his levees were not as high or as good as those about him,
and when a great rain fell late that spring, his levees burst, the river flooded the land,
and he and his fellow-ranchers thought that his wheat was ruined. On the contrary,
it took a new start, so that his yield was ninety bushels per acre, while his neighbors
had scarcely any wheat over eight inches high, and hardly any grain. It showed what
water on wheat, that is, what irrigation would do, and was the first demonstration
of the kind in the San Joaquin Valley.

Mr. Cressey was a neighbor of and became a good friend of Captain Charles
Weber, an extensive San Joaquin farmer and landowner and founder of Stockton,
and obtained his consent to build an irrigation ditch through Weber's land, in a short
time getting such results that he made money from his crops. He invested in horses
and mules, and commencing with six mules to a wagon, he undertook freighting be-
tween Stockton, Sacramento, Shingle Springs and Placerville to the mining camps
in the mountains, going as far as Carson City, Genoa, Gold Hill, Virginia City and
Chinatown in Nevada. His business increased, and he was able to expand to two
eight-horse teams, with freight wagons and trailers. He lived through all the gold
excitement in Nevada, and also through the Civil War, the effects of which were
not much felt in the extreme West. Horses and mules were in such demand then
and brought such high prices during the war that he in time sold his sturdy animals to
the Government and bought a dozen oxen instead. With these he continued freight-
ing, working from four to eight yoke on a wagon, and meanwhile he sold grain to the
Government at high prices. After a while he was able to buy a dozen mules in
Stockton, and all in all he continued freighting for ten years.

Once nicely on his feet, Mr. Cressey came to Stanislaus County near what is
Modesto and bought four and a half sections of farm land. There was no Modesto
then, and wild animals abounded. He herded his stock over the plains where there
were antelope, deer and bear, even grizzlies in the mountains, and he also lived through
the flood of 1862. He went shopping in Stockton in a rowboat and even rowed his
boat into the stores and out again, bringing home the necessary goods. He next went
to Merced County, and there purchased 15,000 acres, getting it for ninety cents an
acre. Coming back to Paradise, Mr. Cressey and his brother bought a half interest in
a mill operated for many years by a Mr. Perkins. He traded half an interest in the
mill for half an interest in the Merced farm land, and the plant became known as
the Perkins and Cressey Flour Mill at Paradise.

Mr. Cressey and his brother organized and opened the Modesto Bank, the first
bank in Stanislaus County, of which Calvin J. Cressey became president and so re-
mained until he organized and assumed the management of the Grangers' Bank at
San Francisco, when Albert L. Cressey became president and manager of the Modesto


Bank. The two brothers were partners in these and various other business enter-
prises until the death of C. J. Cressey in 1892. Mr. Cressey also helped secure the
right of way for the Southern Pacific Railroad, and in the fall of 1870 ran the first
train to Modesto. And since Cressey Brothers continued to be the owners of the
bonanza wheat farms, they built the first grain warehouse at Merced, and erected
another warehouse at Modesto, soon after the railway came. Mr. Cressey bought
several well-improved ranches near Hanford. As might be expected of one so long
interested in the problem of rural transportation, Mr. Cressey was for some time
road overseer in San Joaquin County, and also built the Sacramento road.

Mr. Cressey was for years a hard worker, and to this fact and to his industry,
together with his business acumen and his willingness to dare in order to share, must
be attributed his well-deserved success. When, for example, he had harvested such a
bumper wheat crop after a serious drought and a sudden rain in the Calaveras Valley,
because his fields were irrigated, while his neighbors' crops were failures, he sold
his wheat at his granaries at five cents per pound, and took notes from the purchaser
at two and a half per cent per month ; and it was ten years, in some cases, before he
received final payment. The Cressey -brothers were for a while in the sheep and wool
growing business, and it was the proceeds from that enterprise that enabled them to
start in the banking business. From the one-story brick building of the Modesto
Bank has come the more recent structure, one of the finest buildings in the Valley, a
great credit to Mr. Cressey 's spirit of enterprise. Among Mr. Cressey 's farm hold-
ings must be mentioned ranches in San Luis Obispo, Kings, Merced and Stanislaus
counties, and among his superior stock should be listed an imported Percheron stallion
weighing 2,200 pounds with which he did much to improve the draft horses in his
locality. His interest in the affairs of both the city and county was always active,
and for every movement for the general benefit he gave his moral support and finan-
cial aid. He was the president for years of the Stanislaus County Agricultural Asso-
ciation. As a business man, through and through, he conducted enterprises which,
while sources of profit to himself, have been of unquestioned community benefit.

In 1870 Mr. Cressey returned East to marry Miss Sylvia Swan of Maine, who
came back to California with him as a bride — a woman of great nobility of character
who proved a most faithful wife and mother. She died in February, 1895. Four
children were born of the union. Charles died in his sixth year; Nellie S. is the wife
of Claude M. Maze, a farmer of Modesto ; Alberta Sylvia now resides in New York,
and George A. is vice-president of the Modesto Bank. On November 18, 1901, Mr.
Cressev married his second wife, Miss Hilda Marshall, a native of Georgia, and a
woman of education, culture and genius. She has been a resident of California since
1884 and of Stanislaus County since 1901. Mr. Cressey was an Odd Fellow of more
than thirty years' standing.

FRANK A. CRESSEY.— Not often does it happen that a man's life ebbs to
its close at the age of sixty-two years and leaves behind a stainless record for almost
a half century of accountability; not often does it happen that a man's business asso-
ciates are among the first to declare him one of the noblest of men ; yet this is the
character ascribed to Frank A. Cressey, whose death, March 10, 1918, was not only
a loss to those of his name, but to the community as well. A descendant of old New
England stock, Frank A. Cressey was born in Maine in September, 1856, and during
the same year, his father, Calvin J. Cressey, migrated to California, settling in San
Francisco, where he was prominent in the banking business, besides taking an active
part in local activities; also his vast real estate holdings required much of his attention.

The early education of Frank A. Cressey began in the public schools of Modesto,
later supplemented with a course at the Santa Clara College. After his graduation,
he entered the Grangers' Bank of San Francisco under his father, and was finally
promoted to the position of assistant cashier in that institution. He later resigned to
enter the manufacturing business and was thus engaged for five years. Returning to
Modesto, he entered the Modesto Bank as assistant cashier and director, with which
institution he was actively connected for fourteen years. In 1895, he purchased the
controlling interest in the Modesto Gas Company and became the president of the


company. Meanwhile, he acquired extensive real estate holdings in Merced, Stanislaus
and San Luis Obispo counties, which required much effort and intelligent planning.
In 1902 he, with W. R. High, I. W. Updike and several other prominent citizens
of Modesto and vicinity, organized the Farmers & Merchants Bank, and Mr. Cressey
became its first cashier. He was a prominent figure in the activities of Stanislaus
County for thirty years.

The marriage of Mr. Cressey united him with Miss Emily Collins, a native of
Liverpool, England, coming to California with her parent's when eighteen years of
age, her father, Joseph C. Collins, being a realtor in San Francisco; she passed away
May 15, 1903, the mother of six children, five of whom grew to manhood and
womanhood. Fraternally Mr. Cressey was active as a Mason and Odd Fellow. He
was an official in the Episcopal Church, he and his family being active members of
the local organization. His entire life was actuated by high and honorable principles
and his activities have been far-reaching and resultant.

During the year 1917 he journeyed to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore,
Md., in search of relief from an ailment which was considered of a minor nature,
but the operation performed did not restore his health and he passed away May 11,
1918. For many years he served the community in various ways, as irrigation director,
school trustee, fiduciary agent, and in other responsible capacities, and his demise was
a keen loss to the community. Mr. Cressey was identified with that class of men who
place integrity, civic pride and public spirit above the more sordid ideas of existence.
He found occasion, at various times, to lend his assistance in a practical way toward
the promotion of the material welfare of the community in which he resided for so
many years, and was highly esteemed by all who knew him best for his splendid traits
of character and for the admirable example furnished by his industrious career.

C. C. BAKER. — In the annals of Stanislaus County a name that will ever
stand preeminently as one of its worthiest citizens is that of Christopher Columbus
Baker, an Argonaut who cast his lot with the Golden State in the stirring days of '49.
A true representative of the type of men who have made the West, his life, is an
example of perseverance and indefatigable energy, combined with an unflinching hon-
esty and integrity, which left an indelible impress on the community in which he made
his home for so many years. His wisdom had been largely gained by observation, as
the advantages of his youth were limited, but he gained a greater degree of success
than many who at the start were blessed with better advantages.

C. C. Baker was born at Lexington, Ky., February 14, 1830. His father, Dudley
Baker, was born on November 22, 1791, and his mother, Margaret Baker, on Septem-
ber 26, 1797. The family later removed to Missouri and resided there until 1849,
when the excitement occasioned by the discovery of gold turned all eyes in the direction
of California. Father and son joined an emigrant train that was starting on the
perilous journey across the plains, and C. C. Baker, then a young man of nineteen,
drove one of the ox teams on the long trip. Arriving in California, he settled on
lands on the Tuolumne River and engaged in sheep raising, at which he prospered.
In 1851 he went back to Missouri via the Isthmus of Panama, returning the follow-
ing year across the plains with a drove of cattle and mules. Later, when it was shown
that grain farming in this section was profitable, Mr. Baker was not slow to take
advantage of the new industry, and his uplands were farmed to grain, while on his
river bottom lands he continued to raise sheep, mules, cattle and horses. At the time
of his demise, on June 10, 1908, he was the owner of some 4,000 acres in Stanislaus
County, most of it along the Tuolumne River, west of Modesto.

When the movement to form the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation districts was
started in Stanislaus County, Mr. Baker was at once the front and sinew of the opposi-
tion, not because he believed that irrigation would not be good for the country in
general, but because he had honest convictions that the law would not hold the test
of time and the courts, and because he felt that it would work hardships upon others,
who, as he did, owned vast stretches of bottom land which would be arbitrarily in-
cluded within the districts and which would not be benefited by irrigation, while each
acre of it would be assessed for irrigation taxes. His fight against irrigation districts

Online LibraryGeorge Henry TinkhamHistory of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres → online text (page 40 of 177)