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 88 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 88 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

numbering from sixteen to eighteen hours. Later he purchased land in Fresno County,
which he traded for land near Turlock. Here he met with reverses, and for a time
rented land near Waterford, farming about 1,800 acres to wheat. Later he pur-
chased 400 acres of which 200 acres are now covered by the Dallas Reservoir of the
Modesto Irrigation District.

In Stanislaus County, Mr. Crispin married Miss May Milton, a native of Iowa,
who came to California with her parents. She passed away in 1895, leaving four
children: Edna, now the wife of Harry Wood, residing in Modesto, and the mother
of two children ; Charles, auditor for the Oriental Consolidated Mining Company of
New York, now located in Korea; Harry E., one of the prosperous ranchers of this
county, and the father of a daughter, and Laura, the wife of D. W. Sharp, a well-
known rancher in the Paradise precinct, and they have two sons. Mr. Crispin was
married a second time in Modesto, in April, 1898, to Mrs. Flora (Wilkins) Davis,
a native of Los Banos, and the daughter of Frank Wilkins, a resident of Stockton,
where he was a successful harness maker and merchant for many years. Of this union
have been born two children: Francis, now a student in the Modesto high school, and
Harold, still of grammar school age.


Within the last ten years Mr. Crispin has practically retired from active farm
labor. The present family home is on 160 acres, the old Shoemake farm, three miles
northwest of Modesto, on the State Highway, where he makes a specialty of fine figs,
peaches and grapes. He also owns eighty acres in Salida precinct, which is farmed at
present by his son Harry, and valuable city property in Modesto. Mrs. Crispin is an
active member of the Christian church at Modesto, and a member of the Eastern
Star chapter and the W. C. T. U., and was active in Red Cross work during the war.

DAVID T. CURTIS. — An upright and honorable citizen, a thorough and
industrious agriculturist, and an intelligent, patriotic and useful man, the name of
David T. Curtis will ever be numbered among Stanislaus County's foremost citizens.
Especially will he be remembered as the founder of the thriving town of Salida, as
he platted the townsite on his own property and erected the first buildings.

The son of James and Alzina (Hills) Curtis, honored pioneers, David T. Curtis
was born at Columbus, Warren' County, Pa., April 28, 1844, a settlement founded by
his grandfather, David Curtis. Later James Curtis brought his family to Mitchell
County, Iowa, making the journey in covered wagons, and here David T. was reared.
In 1859, with his father and a brother-in-law, W. H. Thornburg, they crossed the
plains to California, arriving in September of that year. Stopping at Hangtown, now
Placerville, there they mined until 1861, when James Curtis returned to Iowa, where
he resumed farming until the fall of 1868, when he again returned to California, where
he spent the remainder of his life.

David T. Curtis remained in California after his father had gone back East.
He was located at Stockton until coming to Stanislaus County in 1864, when he took
up a homestead three miles west of what is now the town of Salida. His first crops
suffered both from the droughts and the depredations of wild cattle. Later, however,
he raised bumper crops and sold them in the mining camps for good prices, and thereby
laid the foundation for the comfortable fortune he amassed. It had been arranged
that as soon as the father should reach California that David would go East to claim
his bride; this he did in 1869, and on October 19 of that year he married Luella
Holloway. That same afternoon he started on the return journey to California,
accompanied by his bride, his mother, a brother, James Lee Curtis, a sister, Rossey,
children of sixteen and eleven years of age, respectively. With two young ladies, the
promised brides of Eldor and Charles Curtis, who had come to California in 1868 by
way of the Isthmus of Panama, they were met by the father at Stockton, Eldor and
Charles, and the double wedding occurred there.

David Curtis made a success of his ranching here and in 1883 he colonized some
of the land at Reedley, Fresno County, that he had secured very cheap, disposed of it
advantageously and later purchased the land upon which Salida now stands. He also
owned property in Tulare County and in Los Angeles. He platted the town of Salida,
erected the hotel and the store building now occupied by C. E. Capps & Company,
installed the water works and was the prime mover in all the town's enterprises. He
donated sites for the public school, the Women's Improvement Club building, the
Congregational Church, and gave to the Southern Pacific Railroad a strip of thirty
feet through the town lying immediately west of the tracks, and two lots for depot
purposes. He was a strong prohibitionist and had a dry clause in each deed, which
provided for a reversion of title in case liquor was ever sold on the premises. He
became extensively interested in raising fine horses for the San Francisco market and
it was while so engaged that his life of accomplishment came to a tragic close, the
injury received when kicked in the head by a horse proving fatal, his death occurring
in November, 1912. Generous to a fault, his many benefactions to Salida will keep
his name in lasting remembrance. His widow, Mrs. Luella Curtis, makes her home
in Oakland at 144 Ninth Street, which had been their home since 1887 and the
scenes of many social gatherings. Mrs. Curtis has been an ardent supporter of the
prohibition cause and president of the Women's Prohibition Party of California. She
is a member of the Ebell Club and she has held offices in state W. C. T. U., and still
gives of her rime to temperance work. She belongs to the Business and Professional

^S . A XLLcsOZ^

k**. & T(LxU


Woman's Club and other philanthropic societies and movements in the state. Mr.
and Mrs. Curtis were members of the Oakland Congregational Church for many
years, and she is carrying on the work instituted by her husband and keeps open house
to all his relatives and friends.

JOHN H. WOODS. — An enterprising contractor of large experience and

capable of meeting almost any emergency, is John H. Woods, who was born in New
York on January 4, 1871, and on coming to California brought with him the Empire
State spirit for doing large things on a generous and lasting scale. Having profited
by the grammar sehool courses of the metropolis, when nineteen he took up carpentering
and for five years served an apprenticeship in New York under J. M. Rogers, con-
tractor and builder. He continued to work in New York City as a journeyman
carpenter, and occasionally made a trip to Chicago or Iowa, to further inform himself
of the growing West; and it was not until 1910 that he came to California.

Mr. Woods settled first in San Francisco, where he followed his trade, and in
1912 became associated with Christian Hansen as his foreman and went to various
points in the state and throughout the Northwest, building in San Francisco, San Jose,
Monterey, Pacific. Grove and Southern California. He spent a short time in Truckee,
when they built there the high school ; and to commemorate the ill-fated Donner party
at Donner Lake, they erected a monument with a concrete center and facings of cobble-
stones, and a bronze statue of the pioneer and his' family eighteen feet high. At Provo,
Utah, they built the engine house for the Salt Lake Railroad. Later he was foreman
carpenter with the Houghton Construction Company and built the Floriston Hotel
between Reno and Truckee on the Southern Pacific.

After that, still as foreman carpenter for the engineer C. H. Hansen, Mr. Woods
went to Sacramento and built the Libby, McNeill & Libby cannery, and then at Tracy
they put up the new roundhouse for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He also went to
Soldier's Summit, in Utah, and constructed the engine house for the D. & R. G. R. R.
These succeeding enterprises completed, Mr. Woods took a vacation and then came to
Modesto, where, with Christian H. Hansen, he formed the partnership of Hansen &
Woods, and with him, in August, 1920, opened offices for both architectural and
building contracting. The firm caters to the largest type of first-class buildings. '

GEORGE SIDNEY KEITH.— A man of pleasing personality and progressive
business methods, who is the longest-established merchant in his field in the town,
is George Sidney Keith, the shoe dealer, who never neglects an opportunity to con-
tribute what he can toward the success of any Turlock movement. He was born at
Lima, Ind., in 1880, the son of S. M. Keith, also a native of that place and a farmer,
who moved to South Dakota in 1884 and followed agricultural pursuits there for
three years. In 1888, when new commercial life seemed to have been infused into
California, he came out to the Golden States and settled at San Jose, and there he
engaged in contracting and building, which he followed until he died. He had mar-
ried Miss Lucy A. Lang, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., and she still resides at
San Jose, the mother of a son and a daughter.

George Sidney, the eldest, attended the public schools of San Jose, including the
excellent high school of that city, and then he went to Santa Clara high school, from
which he was graduated in 1898. Afterward he learned the shoe business under
Robert Butler, beginning at the bottom round of the ladder and continuing until he
became manager for C. W. Green in San Jose. There he remained until 1902, when
he went to San Francisco and continued in the shoe trade until 1907. He next re-
moved to Palo Alto, and wherever he went, he enjoyed more or less success.

On February 28, 1910, Mr. Keith located at Turlock and bought out a general
merchandise stock, all of which he soon disposed of entirely except the shoes. He
then opened a shoe store, and having made it exclusively an exclusive stock, he rapidly
built up an enviable trade and with it an equally enviable reputation for first-class
wares and an exemplary way of selling them. He made friends for Keith's, which
soon came to be a synonym for the largest shoe stock in the county, and friends always
mean patronage and prosperity. He joined the Board of Trade, of which he has been


trustee, and the Business Men's Club, becoming president of it for a while ; and he
took an active interest, as a Republican, in seeking to raise civic standards.

At San Jose, in 1907, Mr. Keith was married to Miss Jessie E. Warner, a native
of Wisconsin, and two children have brightened the life of their happy home — Helen
Jean and Robert Sidney. Mr. Keith is a member of the Knights of Pythias, in which
he is a past chancellor of Turlock Lodge No. 98, and he is a member of the Dramatic
Order of the Knights of Khorassan in Stockton.

H. E. CORNWELL. — Preeminent among those who have done much to make
Modesto the greatest dairy center in California is Stanislaus County^s pioneer breeder
of Holstein cattle, H. E. Cornwell, who ranches on the Prescott Road about two and
one-half miles northwest of the town. He is perhaps the breeder who has exhibited
most Holstein-Friesian cattle and won the most prizes in the county.

He was born at Fayetteville, Washington County, Ark., on June 16, 1872, and
grew up till his sixteenth year in that state, when he came to California, traveling
alone, and followed later by his parents. His father, George Cornwell, now eighty-
one years of age, is a native of Tennessee, in which state his mother, Mary Riggins
before her marriage, was also born. They are now living, retired, at Glendale. Our
subject was the second of a family of eight children, and the first to come to California.

He began at the foot of the ladder when he took a job as a farm hand, and for
ten years he worked for wages here and there on farms in California, and never missed
a day. At the same time, he worked his way through the business college at Los
Angeles. When a boy in his early 'teens in Arkansas, it is a significant fact that the
first twenty dollars he had saved from his hard-earned wages, working for fifty,
seventy-five cents and one dollar a day, he spent in order to buy a cow which he let his
parents have in order to assist in their living.

He was married at Los Angeles, December 25, 1897, to Miss Huldah Jewell, a
native of Green County, Iowa, who was fourteen when she came to the City of the
Angels, accompanying her parents, both of whom are now dead. Six years after his
marriage, Mr. Cornwell came to Stanislaus County and purchased the forty acres
which is now his home place. Later on, he bought the forty acres across the Prescott
Rqad in the Wood Colony precinct, of which he later disposed of twenty acres, and
there he has made very substantial improvements. Mr. Cornwell has been very Suc-
cessful in his agricultural experience, raising some splendid crops. His exhibits at
fairs has brought him prizes on pumpkins, quinces, sweet potatoes and muskmelons,
and he was the first to make a success of raising Henderson bush lima beans, which
has since become a most valuable crop in this section. Besides belonging to the Milk
Producers Association of Central California, he is a member of the National Hol-
stein-Friesian Breeders Association, which have their headquarters at Brattleboro, Vt.,
where all of his stock is duly recorded. He also belongs to the state and the Stanis-
laus' County Holstein Breeders' Association.

Seven children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Cornwell and have shared in
the esteem accorded the family as among the most representative people in the Wood
Colony, and the most progressive and prosperous citizens of Stanislaus County. Homer
A. married Miss Bessie Cowan of Prescott precinct and a niece of Thomas H. Cowan,
a bonanza wheat farmer of Riverdale, Fresno County. They have three children- —
Genevieve, George and Ruth ; Winnie is at home ; Adah is a senior in the Modesto
high school, and so is her brother, Fred; Irma is a sophomore in the same institution;
Linnie and Minnie were twin sisters, but the latter died when she was two months
old, and the former is now in the seventh grade of the grammar school. Mr. Corn-
well, who is a Republican, is a member of the Modesto lodge of Odd Fellows, and his
son Homer, who is an enthusiastic Odd Fellow, has been through the chairs and the
encampment there, and was representative to the Grand Encampment held at Sacra-
mento in October, 1920, when he was elected district deputy.

As has been said, Mr. Cornwell is the pioneer and one of the principal breeders
of Holstein-Friesian cattle in Stanislaus County. His farm is on the Prescott Road,
about two and a half miles northwest of Modesto, in the Wood Colony precinct. His
senior herd sire, tipping the beam at 2,400 pounds, is Sir Johanna De Kol Rag Apple,



and ranked at the top at the show. He is out of the cow Adirondac Wietske Dairy
Maid, the best in the state, and holds the Pacific Coast record, and now finished a
year's record with 31,800 pounds of milk and 1,296 pounds butter, placing her the
fifth cow in the world for milk and butter. She also holds the United States record
for milk and butter tests, continued for thirty and sixty days, with an average better
than thirty-four pounds for seven days for four years in succession.

Mr. Cornwell's junior herd sire is Hiske Senorita, and his sire was Prince Hiske
Walker, full brother to Lady Hiske Walker, with a thirty-four pound record as a
four-year-old. He is three-fourths brother to Miss Valley Mead De Kol Walker,
with a thirty-seven pound record, which won three times the world's prize record in
one year. She is the dam of the bull that sold for twelve thousand dollars at Higdon's
sale in Tulare, and he the sire of the bull that sold for $41,000 to Mrs. Anita Baldwin.
His dam is Senorita Ciruela Mechthilde III, with a sixteen-pound two-year-old record,
and one of twenty-three pounds for three years, twenty-five pounds for five years, and
707 pounds for the year as a three-year-old. She won over $300 in butterfat prizes at
fairs in less than three years. A sister to the said junior herd sire, namely, Ciruela
Walker, took the first prize at the State Fair in 1919, and freshened on the ground,
made eighteen pounds of butter in seven days as a two-year-old. She received the
grand champion prize at the Fresno and Stockton Fairs that year and the first prize
at the State Fair in 1920, and she was also the first on butterfat at the State Fair in
1920, making for the year ending 1920 534 pounds of butter in ten months.

Mr. Cornwell has eight more half-sisters to this cow, and they are among the
most valuable cows in California. He keeps only the best of registered stock, and
has, all told, a herd of sixty-five head of registered Holsteins, large and small. He
began breeding Holsteins in Stanislaus County in 1906, and is, therefore, the pioneer
breeder, with the experience of a quarter of a century in breeding Holsteins in par-
ticular. He has bred from the five leading strains, as follows: 1. Ignar De Kol, one
of California's great bulls, the sire of two world's record daughters; 2. Prince Hiske
Walker; 3. King of the Pontias; 4. Sir Skylark Ormsby Hangville, and 5, King
Segins. His cattle have been bred from pedigreed stock of proven quality for milk
production and the production of butterfat ; and while breeding, he has incidentally
developed size and virility, working step by step, using the best of judgment and keep-
ing at it persistently. In this important scientific work Mr. Cornwell has been ably
assisted by his gifted wife and his enterprising son, Homer, both of whom have proven
to be right-hand assistants.

DAVID ANDERSON MILLARD.— A successful merchant and general truck-
man, widely and favorably known for his enterprise in carrying a large stock of feed
and grain, and then in being able and ready to haul the same for any distance, is
David Anderson Millard, one of the best exponents in Turlock of the square and
liberal deal. He was born in Pennock, Kandiyohi County, Minn., November 26,
1879, the son of Louis Anderson, a farmer, and was reared on a farm. Louis Ander-
son also came to California, in 1902, and was a pioneer for a while at Hilmar, later
locating on a farm west of Turlock, where he died from a runaway accident. His
good wife, Caroline, also died here. They had nine daughters and one son, and all
reside here but one, who is living in Los Angeles, and one who died in Minneapolis.
On coming to Turlock, our subject found two other residents by the name of David
Anderson, and it was not long before such a confusion arose in the delivery of their
mail that he was persuaded to change his name. This he did by the addition of
"Millard," thus retaining the original form, after all.

As a boy, David received a good public school education while growing up on
the farm, and he finished off at Willmar Seminary. In 1902 he came out to California
and to Turlock with his father and bought 190 acres at Hilmar, somewhat improved
property for which he then paid thirty-two and a half dollars an acre. They devoted
it for a while to general farming, then planted forty acres to peaches and grapes, and
forty acres to alfalfa, and the family still own forty-five acres of the fruit orchard and
vineyard. In 1907, they bought eighty-five acres one mile west of Turlock, which they
improved to alfalfa and fruit; and this has since been so subdivided that six of the


sisters reside upon it. Two years before, about 1905, David Millard had started
one of the first nursery establishments hereabouts, but in two or three years he sold
out his nursery stock. Then, at about the present site of the Southern Pacific freight
depot, he was manager of the local branch of the Merced Milling Company, continu-
ing in that capacity, while the neighborhood steadily grew, for five years.

Having seen the need of still another provision for the wants of the community,
Mr. Millard started in 1912 a feed, flour and seed business, opening his own store on
Marshall Street on the railroad reservation; but in 1916 he bought and built his
present site on Third Street. He sells hay, flour, potatoes, salt and other commodi-
ties usually found in his line, buys only the best, replenishes his stock frequently and
so carries only fresh goods, and offers the same at the lowest price possible. He also
carries on a general trucking business, owning two Fageol trucks. He is a live mem-
ber of the Turlock Board of Trade, contributing actively to its effective work, and
profiting by its co-operation ; he also belongs to the Progressive Business Club, Tur-
lock branch, and is a member of the finance committee.

At Turlock, in May, 1911, Mr. Millard was married to Miss Ida W. Olson,
a native of Wisconsin, but reared from the age of fifteen in Turlock, who attended
with him the Swedish Mission Church, where Mr. Millard was once secretary. But
they now belong to the Swedish Mission Tabernacle where he is superintendent of
the Sunday school. Before coming to Turlock, he was a charter member of the
Swedish Mission at Hilmar.

In 1917, Mr. Millard and his wife made a three months trip to their homes in
the East, where they found many changes in the interval since they left there.

ROBERT CHARLES GECKLER.— A far-seeing, successful business man
whose enterprise is well reflected in his ideally-appointed funeral parlor, one of the
best in all the state, is Robert Charles Geckler, the efficient and popular mayor of
Turlock, who came to California nearly a score of years ago. He was born in Orange,
Franklin County, Mass., in 1882, the son of E. F. Geckler, also a native of the Bay
State, and the grandson of Charles Geckler, who was born in Germany and crossed
the ocean to the United States when he was only sixteen years of age. A year later,
like so many of his fellow-countrymen who gaye their all to support the cause of their
adopted country after they came here, he enlisted as a volunteer for the Mexican War,
after which he returned to Massachusetts; and when the Civil War began, he quite
as freely and patriotically enlisted in defense of the Union and served as a member of
Company K, Twenty-second Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry. He was employed in
one of the large car-shops at Chicopee, Mass., although he resided at Springfield, and
had charge of the work in gold lettering until his death. E. F. Geckler, on the other
hand, is living in Turlock, after having been inspector for the New Home Sewing
Machine Company at Orange, Mass., for nearly forty years. His good wife, who was
Clara J. Foskett before her marriage, is also living, the center of a circle of devoted
friends; she was born at Orange, Mass., and is a member of an old New England
family of English descent. She is the mother of two children, both boys — Burton
Edward, who is in Springfield, Mass., and Robert Chase, the subject of our review.

Brought up at Orange, Robert Geckler attended both the grammar and high
schools there, obtaining an excellent preparation for his future tussle with the world.
Having an uncle, F. W. Foskett, later president of the First National Bank at Con-
cord, living in Concord, Contra Costa County, Mr. Geckler came out to California in
1901, and worked on the latter's farm; but the next year he went to San Francisco
and followed steel-ship fitting at the Fulton Iron Works until the steamer "Progres-
sive" blew up, killing thirteen men. Mr. Geckler, who was at work on the ill-fated
vessel, escaped unhurt, and then he accepted employment in the Union Iron Works
and was busy for eight months on the U. S. cruiser "South Dakota," helping to lay
her first shell plate.

In 1904, Mr. Geckler quit shipbuilding and entered the 'undertaking field under
J. C. O'Connor; and having completed the study of embalming, he joined C. H. J.
Truman, and was with that undertaking establishment in San Francisco and Oakland
through the trying experiences of the earthquake and fire. After the first, he was


manager of the San Francisco business, and he was also deputy coroner under Dr.
Walsh during the earthquake and fire periods, and remained with -him for four years.

Mr. Geckler next went onto his ranch in Glenn County and was one of the pio-
neers in the Jacinto unit of the Sacramento Valley Land Company, under W. C.
Wooster, having a farm two miles north of Jacinto, on the old Glenn home ranch.

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 88 of 177)