Copyright
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 99 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 99 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Mr. Kewin has been twice married. He was first united to Miss Ann Cockings,
of Michigan, in November, 1892. Four years later his wife passed away. In 1907
he was married to Miss Eudora Hopkins, a member of the famous old Hopkins fam-
ily of Virginia, and a direct descendant of the signer of the Declaration of Independ-
ence, of that name, and herself a native of Virginia. She was a graduate nurse before
her marriage, and came to Modesto from Philadelphia, although reared and educated
in her native state.

Mr. Kewin bought his present property in 1903 and has transformed it into one
of the show places of the county. It has been his residence since 1912; he has sub-
divided it in one-half and- one-acre tracts and is called the Bonnie Brae Tract. Both
Mr. and Mrs. Kewin take an active interest in social and civic life of Modesto. Mr.
Kewin has served Modesto as a city trustee where his business judgment was of great
value to the city. He takes a keen interest in fraternal affairs, and is a member of
the Masons, being affiliated with the Blue Lodge at Modesto and with the Chapter
there, and also an Odd Fellow. Mrs. Kewin is prominent in the Eastern Star.

GUSTAF A. OBERG.— One of the pioneers of Hughson, being one of the first
to locate here after the subdivision of 2,080 acres of the old H. L. Hughson tract,
is Gustaf A. Oberg, who was born in Omaha, Nebr., April 25, 1872, the son of Eric
L. Oberg, who was born in Dieftorp, Nykopingslan, Sweden, December 13, 1840.
He was married in 1868 to Johanna Elizabeth Wickman, and in August of that year
came to Omaha, Nebr., where he was employed as upholsterer with the Union Pacific
Railroad Company. In 1880 he purchased land in Dodge County, Nebr., which he
farmed until 1890, when he sold it and returned to Omaha, where he followed his
trade until Mrs. Oberg came with her daughter, Mrs. Samson, to Los Angeles in
1904. In 1905, he came to California and all located in San Jose, and still later, in
Oakland. In 1908 Eric Oberg came to Hughson as one of the early settlers, and here
he was bereaved of his wife in 1910. He continued to reside here until his death,
March 26, 1921. He had been a consistent member of the Baptist Church since his
conversion at the age of nineteen. Of the thirteen children of Mr. and Mrs. Eric L.
Oberg, eight grew to maturity and seven are still living: Mrs. A. W. Nelson of
Omaha; Mrs. Jean M. Samson of Los Angeles; Mrs. P. S. Daniels of Hughson; A.
W. Oberg of Seattle; D. L. Oberg of Petaluma; Gustaf A. Oberg, of whom we
write, and Clarence E. Oberg of Hughson.

Gustaf A. Oberg, our subject, was reared on the farm in Dodge County, Nebr.,
from 1880, where he attended the public school and assisted his father on the farm,
until 1890, when the family moved back to Omaha, and there he attended night school,
taking a commercial course. For eleven years he was in the employ of a large depart-
ment store, being in charge of the stock room, and then followed other lines of work
until 1905, when he went to Albuquerque, N. M., where he was employed as a clerk
in a lumber yard until March, 1906. He then came to California, locating first at
San Jose and later in Oakland, being employed at both places in lumber yards.

In September, 1907, with his sister, Mrs. Jean Samson, Mr. Oberg came to
Hughson to look over the land in the new subdivision of the Hughson tract, and he
liked it so well that he purchased twenty acres, now the corner of the State Highway
and Euclid Avenue, while his sister bought an adjoining twenty acres. On January



884 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY

1, 1908, he moved onto his ranch, built a cabin and began the improvements that
have helped to make Hughson a success, which was not accomplished, however, with-
out many discouragements and hardships. For several years he was obliged to go
back to the city to work, in order to obtain means to carry on the improvements, but
he persevered, and in January, 1911, he again located on the place, and engaged in
raising fruit, alfalfa and in dairying. Here" he built a comfortable residence, but in
1916 sold it to W. H. Boardman, and built a residence in Hughson, where he made
his home, well content that he cast in his lot at Hughson. In 1917 he had purchased
a tract of five acres, which he improved to figs, peaches and grapes, setting them all
out and caring for them. He now makes 'his home on the ranch.

Mr. Oberg was a member of the Oakland Baptist Church and was one of the
organizers of the Swedish Baptist Church at Hughson, serving as one of its trustees
until so many members moved away that the congregation disbanded, when Mr. Oberg
again became a member of the Oakland Baptist Church.

SILAS SPYRES. — There are few of the hardships of the life of a seeker for
gold that have not been experienced by Silas Spyres, now one of the prosperous ranchers
in this county. Mr. Spyres has mined in various parts of the West, but his most
interesting experience was in the fields of Alaska and the Klondike, during the great
gold rush into the North, and for seven years he was constantly north of the Arctic
Circle, engaged in operating his own properties. He took out much gold and spent
much, but brought out of the frozen land enough to make him more than comfortable
throughout his remaining years. Coming to California in search of health, which the
long, hard months of labor had shattered, he eventually located in Stanislaus County,
married one of our most prominent and popular daughters, Miss Mary J. Church,
a woman of education and influence, and for twenty years associated with educational
affairs in the county. Both Mr. and Mrs. Spyres are prominent in civic and social
matters in Modesto and are recognized as citizens of rare ability and worth.

Mr. Spyres was born in Lincoln County, Mo., September 5, 1867. His father
was Martin Spyres, a Missouri farmer, who married Miss Mary Belle Jamison,
born January 29, 1840, in North Carolina, and the sister of the late A. J. (Jack)
Jamison, who came to Stanislaus County in 1851, and whose widow now resides at
Modesto; and also the sister of Capt. Carson Jamison, who was in this part of Cali-
fornia in 1849, but who later went to South America. She resided in Missouri until
her death on October 5, 1920. There were six children in the Spyres family, three
sons and three daughters, of whom Silas was the third born. He was reared near
Troy, Lincoln County, Mo., where his mother resided on a twenty-acre farm, after
the death of her husband, which occurred in 1873, as the result of exposure and hard-
ship endured as a soldier in the Union Army, during the Civil War.

When he was nineteen, Mr. Spyres went to Breckinridge, Colo., and went to
work in the gold mines, remaining there until he went to Alaska with the great gold
rush in 1898. He entered the northern gold fields by way of Chilkoot Pass, Lake
Linderman, Bennett, La Barge, and down the Yukon to the Klondike. With the
opening of the season in 1899 he went to Rampart, Alaska, where he opened up mines
for himself, striking gold at No. 4 above Discovery, on Glenn Gulch. From this
mine was taken $73,000 and for seven years Mr. Spyres remained in this section,
braving the terrible cold and darkness for the sake of the treasured yellow metal. He
then came to California to recuperate and falling in love with California climate and
conditions, soon bought eighty acres of G. P. Schafer seven miles east of Modesto, on
the Waterford Road, which he farmed until 1918, when he disposed of it and bought
his present ten-acre place at the corner of McHenry and the Salida-Oakdale Roads.
This is mostly in fruits, including olives, apricots and peaches, the trees having been
set out by the late Romeo Bangs, and here a splendid residence has been built.

On May 14, 1905, occurred the marriage of Mr. Spyres and Miss Mary J.
Church, the ceremony taking place in Modesto. Mrs. Spyres is a daughter of the
late Luke A. and Elizabeth (Davis) Church, mention of whom is made on another
page of this work. Mrs. Spyres grew up in Modesto, and with her sisters was edu-
cated in the Modesto schools, the two oldest sisters being members of the first high



HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 887

school class to be organized by Prof. R. S. Holway, now of the University of Cali-
fornia at Berkeley. All three of these sisters became teachers, Margaret E. being a
graduate of the San Jose Normal School, and Almina and Mrs. Spy res taking the •
county teachers' examinations for their certificates. In the examination of 1889 Mrs.
Spyres stood first in a class of twenty-seven ; her first certificate, however, bearing the
date of March 22, 1885, and signed by W. B. Howard, M. D., county superintendent
of schools, the board of education including: John J. Zielian, J. T. Davies, S. L.
Hanscom and L. J. Maddux. Mrs. Spyres was a teacher in Stanislaus County from
1885 to 1905, at which time she was married to Mr. Spyres. Since that time she has
served five years as clerk of the school board in the New Hope School district. She
is the mother of two children, Velma and Martin, both attending the public schools.

REV. G. W. GRANNIS. — Active for years among the worthiest members of the
Christian ministry, the Rev. G. W. Grannis of Turlock has risen to national emi-
nence through his advanced, liberal views and his broad, humanitarian sympathies,
whereby his work to spread the Gospel has met with phenomenal success. He was
born at Hannahstown, Butler County, Pa., on August 24, 1847, the son of John
C. Grannis, a native of Franklin County, Pa., who was an expert shoemaker of the
old-fashioned type and had a large trade extending throughout Butler County. In
1867 he removed to Dent County, Mo.; and afterwards he removed to Illinois,
where he died. He belonged to a family which can trace its ancestry back to
Flanders. Edward Grannis came to America in 1644, and settled near New Haven,
Conn., where the name, Grannis Corners, originating with this family, is still known.
He had two sons, John and Joseph; and from the son John is our subject descended.
Several ancestors were in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Mr, and
Mrs. John C. Grannis had nine children, and six are still living.

The second eldest, G. W. Grannis, was reared in Butler, and later at Lawrence,
Pa., and he received a good education in the public schools. When sixteen years
old, he responded to the call for defenders of the Union, enlisting in Company E,
One Hundred and Ninety-third Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and he was on
detached service in Maryland, and did provost duty throughout that section. He was
mustered out at Pittsburgh, Pa., in November, 1864; and for a while he followed
railroading out of Allegheny, Pa. In 1867 he went with his parents to help them get
settled, intending to return East again ; but in Dent County, Mo., he was licensed to
preach by the St. Louis Conference, and later on he was ordained as minister. He
preached in Missouri until April, 1872, when he spent the time until fall in Arkansas,
and in 1874 he was transferred to the Pacific Northwest, and became a pastor at
Walla Walla, Wash. Thus he came to have fourteen years of experience in the
Christian ministry in Eastern Washington. During this time, he was presiding elder
for four years, and he was pastor at Boise City and also Canon City.

In 1888, Rev. Grannis was transferred to the Oregon Conference, where he put
in thirteen years; and during that time he was stationed at Astoria, at Portland, and
at Salem, and then for a time he was agent for the Willamette University. In 1901,
he was transferred to the Pittsburgh Conference where he held several pastorates;
and while at Walton Church, an industrial section of Pittsburgh, he was led into the
great work with which he was destined to be associated, that of securing one day a
week for rest; and there the Sunday Rest Association was started, which resulted in
wide industrial reformation. It was commenced in one corner of his church, when
two members of his congregation came to him to ask him what could be done to
secure a needed rest to the employees. The steel mills were a veritable slaughter
house, ambulances being required frequently, in some cases as many as from ten to
fifteen times a day, to carry overworked employees to the hospitals. The association
then formed, demanded the safeguarding of human life and increased precautions
against so many accidents. In this society the term "Safety First" originated.

After an investigation prompted by Rev. Mr. Grannis and his associates, Jones &
Laughlin and the U. S. Steel Corporation decided it did not pay to overwork their
men, and granted them one day in seven to rest. Mr. Grannis then turned his
attention to the abolition of unnecessary work in the post office on Sundays. He



888 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY

investigated the delivery of Sunday mail, and found that less than one-half of one
per cent of the mail was called for on Sundays, and fifty per cent of this was called
for by children, and only twenty-five per cent of them had any mail ; fifty per cent
of the employees of the post office were required to render this limited service.
On August 30, 1909, at St. Paul, Rev. Mr. Grannis addressed the National Con-
vention of Letter Carriers, and he told them that he thought that with their
undivided aid they could stop the delivery of Sunday mail — a thing that was actually
accomplished in two years. They first got Congress to so amend the law that post
office employees received as compensation one day free of the six days following those
on duty; and then Rev. Mr. Grannis, by wide interviews with postmasters and offi-
cials, pressed the campaign for the one day of rest a week in every state of the
Union. His prominence in the Allegheny Sunday Rest Association led to his selec-
tion to lead the national movement ; and on that account he came to the Coast
to make his home and give his attention especially to the Pacific Coast states.

In the spring of 1909 he purchased a residence and lots in Long Beach; but he
soon met with a railroad accident, and while convalescing he traded his Long Beach
property for Turlock land, a ranch lying ten miles southwest of Turlock. This was
in the spring of 1914. In 1917, he actually located here, and he has since greatly
improved the property, and made of it a farm of which anyone might be proud.

The first marriage of the Rev. G. W. Grannis occurred in Missouri in 1872,
when he was united with Miss Eunice Barnes, a native of Wisconsin, who died in
1909. He was married a second time, in October, 1910, at Columbus, Ohio, to Miss
Catherine Stannard, a native of England and a graduate of the Ohio Normal School.
Mr. Grannis reared a boy, Frank L. Grannis, who is a graduate of Willamette
University, and is now an instructor in the high school at Eugene, Ore. During the
shortage of ministers at the time of the World War, Mr. Grannis accepted the
pastorate of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Escalon, and at the next conference, he
was reappointed pastor by the bishop. He awakened their interest to improve the
church property, with the result that they finally built a new and attractive church,
which was dedicated on April 10, 1921, Mr. Grannis having acted as the superin-
tendent of construction until it was successfully completed.

Rev. Grannis was made a Mason in Canon City Lodge, Grant County, Ore.,
in 1876, but since then he has demitted, and he is now a member of Turlock Lodge
No. 395, F. & A. M. He is a member of Turlock Post of the G. A. R., in which he
is a past commander, and it is interesting to note that he was also commander of the
G. A. R. post at Long Beach for two years. In former years, he served as aide
on the National Commander's staff. Mrs. Grannis is active in both the church and
the Ladies' Society, and also in the Woman's Relief Corps; and like her husband she
is strong for temperance, and a hard worker for the Eighteenth Amendment, although
subscribing to the platforms of the Republican party.

JESSE M. FINLEY. — Among the progressive agriculturists in Stanislaus
County, Jesse M. Finley of Waterford is well known as one of the successful growers
of grain. He owns a large and excellent ranch in the Waterford district, and rents
as much more. He was born in Dade County, Mo., on March 20, 1869, the son of
John M. Finley, a native of Missouri and a farmer there, who married in that state
Miss Sarah Haley; and in 1873 he came to California with his parents, who settled
on a ranch six miles west of Modesto. A few years ago John M. Finley died at
Modesto, in his seventy-sixth year. He had served in the Union Army in the Civil
War; and Mrs. Finley passed away in Modesto when our subject was twenty-six
years old. They had seven children, one of whom died very young, and four are now
living, a sister. Mrs. Lulu Thompson, who resides at Modesto, the wife of Walter O.
Thompson; Dr. J. H. Finley of Seattle, and Mrs. Fannie Ross of Oakland. The
third in order of birth was Jesse, who attended school in Modesto.

Jesse M. Finley is an adept at grain farming, and raises for the most part barley.
He formerly owned a fine ranch near Waterford, consisting of 300 acres, and there
built the elegant residence now owned by John Roen. His present home place is the
Timbell Ranch, about six miles northeast of Waterford, made up of 1,040 acres, which




Jtftiti-



HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 891

he bought in 1917. He has always rented extensively, in addition to owning land,
and now farms 2,600 acres in Waterford precinct. He owns and operates a seventy-
five horsepower Holt caterpillar tractor and combined harvester and thresher, and
as a member of the Farm Bureau he has encouraged the use of up-to-date machinery.

Mr. Finley is an organizer and a stockholder and director in the Commercial
and Savings Bank at Waterford. He was also active in organizing the Waterford
Irrigation District, and as one of the original directors, he is enthusiastic about the
project. He started rice growing in 1919, and he has rented out 400 acres well suited
to that culture to August Dickow, who was the first rancher to grow rice on a com-
mercial scale in the Waterford district.

At San Francisco Mr. Finley was married to Miss Edna Welch, a native of
Waterford and the daughter of Chas. E. and Sarah Welch. The latter still lives at
Waterford. Fraternally Mr. Finley is a member of Modesto Lodge No. 1282, B. P.
O. E., and being interested in the cause of education has served acceptably as a
member of the Waterford school district, and is with the Chamber of Commerce.

JOHN H. HOLT. — A very successful man in the commercial world of Stanislaus
County, who brought to California the fruits of a valuable business experience, was
the late John H. Holt, who was born at Lewisville, Wis., November 28, 1869, and
reared for some years in South Dakota. His father was Joseph Holt, who entered
the Fourth Wisconsin Cavalry at the age of only sixteen, and served throughout the
Civil War. Then he married Miss Sina Cotton, a native of Ohio, who removed to
South Dakota in 1881 and there homesteaded land, selecting a tract in Kingsbury
Count)'. Later he removed to Willow Springs, Mo., where he now resides, his
wife having died about thirty years ago. Of their six children, John was the only son.
He attended the public schools of South Dakota, and then studied at the State Agri-
cultural College at Brookings, after which he engaged in farming on the old home
place. Next he became manager of the Atlas Elevator Company at Manchester, and
after that he engaged in the mercantile business in that town. Then he went to
Mesaba Range, near Marble, Minn., where he worked for a hardware merchant.

In the fall of 1911, Mr. Holt came to Pomona, Cal., and the following spring
he removed to Turlock and soon engaged in the butcher business, running a meat
wagon for seven years. With Mr. Hill, he started the City Market, and they were
successful from the beginning. They made many improvements, installing an ice
machine, so that they had the largest cold storage plant in the town. He was a member
of the Board of Trade and did much to help in the growth of the town.

At White, S. D., April 16, 1893, Mr. Holt was married to Miss Cora Bouchie,
a native of Iowa. Her father was Joseph Bouchie, born in Richmond, Canada, of
French descent, and her mother was Elizabeth Currier, a native of New York. They
were farmers in Iowa until they removed to Kingsbury, S. D., where Mrs. Holt re-
ceived a good education in the public schools. Ten children were born to Mr. and
Mrs. Holt, and all but one are still living: Homer met an accidental death; the
other children are Everett, Guy, Sidney, Clarence, Emory, Raymond, Alice, Vesta and
Ethel. Mr. Holt was a member of the Odd Fellows, Loyal Order of Moose and the
Independent Order of Foresters. Since his death, on September 6, 1920, Mrs. Holt
continues to reside at their comfortable home, looking after the interests he left, and
is rearing and educating the children as she had planned with her husband. She is a
member of the Independent Order of Foresters.

CHESLEY I. BENTLEY.— A thoroughly-trained machinist who also has
executive business ability is Chesley or Chet Bentley, a worthy representative of a
family of early settlers who became permanently identified with Central California,
and the owner and proprietor of the Service Garage at Waterford. He was born at
the Lone Star Ranch about eight miles south of Oakdale, on June 4, 1894, the son
of Isam H. and Mae D. Bentley, and the grandson of the late R. H. Bentley of
Oakdale, whose brother, J. D. Bentley, is the oldest living pioneer of Stanislaus
County. Mr. and Mrs. I. H. Bentley had three children ; and the others beside our
subject were Maud, now Mrs. George Stangier, who is in business at Pendleton,



892 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY

Ore., and Mrs. Lorena Moore, now deceased, who became the wife of Elmer Moore,
an extensive rancher not far from Pendleton.

. When Chet was a boy of two years, his parents moved to Oakdale, and from
there they moved on to Sonora, in 1899, and from Sonora to Modesto in 1905. Mrs.
Bentley and the lad took up their residence in San Francisco before the, earthquake,
and so it happened that they were there during that awful calamity. Their house
stood through the "quake," but it was ordered blown up by the fire chief as the
flames advanced, and soon it was dynamited. Chet lived at various places, attend-
ing the public schools at Sonora, Modesto, Pendleton, Seattle, San Francisco and
Waterford, where he graduated from the grammar school. Then in Oakland he went
in for manual training and took a technical course in telegraphy, specializing in radio
or wireless. With the exception of ten years spent in the Bay Cities, in Oregon and
in Washington, and for five years in the radio service of the merchant marine at
sea, he has been in Stanislaus County all the rest of his life.

With the knowledge he had acquired of radio or wireless telegraphy, it was
easy for Mr. Bentley to enter the United States merchant marine as a radio operator;
and he spent five interesting years at sea on eighteen or twenty different ships, begin-
ning with the United States Wireless Service. He has circumnavigated the globe, and
crossed the equator six times ; he has doubled Cape Horn twice ; he has- visited China,
Japan and the Philippines six times, and Russia twice, South America four times, and
sailed the Mediterranean Sea, the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal, as well as
the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and has visited Northern Africa and India, Aus-
tralia, New Zealand and Alaska. And after all this he is content to settle down in
Stanislaus County, and believes it to be the best place upon earth. He was in the
Radio Service from 1911 to 1916, and was in the U. S. Naval Reserve in 1913 dur-
ing the Mexican Revolution.

In 1917, Mr. Bentley returned to Stanislaus County and was married at Water-
ford to Miss Edith Horsley, and now they live in Waterford at the home of her
father, Chas. C. Horsley. One child has blessed their union — Barbara Mae. Fra-
ternally Mr. Bentley is a member of Modesto Lodge No. 1282, B. P. O. E., and Twin
Town Lodge No. 342, K. of P., and with his wife is a member of Baptist Community
Church, while he is a publicity chairman of the Waterford Chamber of Commerce.

In 1920 Mr. Bentley bought out the Service Garage at Waterford. He employs
two competent mechanics steadily, and does a regular garage and auto repair business,
making a specialty of acetylene welding and auto truck and tractor work. He has a
first-class machine shop, with power lathe drill, press and up-to-date tools, and a



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 99 of 177)