The life of Henry Vrooman is one of the most remarkable instances of advancement from the humble walks of life to the highest pinnacle of fame. The history of his career seems more like romance than reality. He achieved greatness; it did not come by chance. He was born in Michigan in 1844, and accompanied his parents on their journey across the continent, arriving in Portland, Oregon, in 1852. At eight years of age he was put to work on a farm, and drifted from one occupation to another until at the age of twelve years he was driving a logging team in one of the lumber camps of Northern California, and at the age of thirteen years he owned a team of oxen, which he used as a contractor until the year 1858. From this time until 1861 he was miner, woodchopper, butcher, milkman and contractor. In the fall of 1861 he commenced to learn the blacksmith’s trade and divide (sic) his spare time to study. His great breadth of mind and keen intellect enabled him to grasp, without seeming effort, abstruse questions, and he was full of enthusiam (sic) to gain knowledge. In 1867 he attended the Pacific Business College and received a diploma. He hammered iron and steel to procure money that he might gratify his ambition of a collegiate course. He went to Cornell University, at Ithaca, but was compelled to return to California on account of failing health. In 1873 he was appointed Engineer of Phoenix Fire Engine Company, No. 1, Oakland, wrote for the Oakland Home Journal and commenced to read law. Within one year he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of California, and to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1881. Mr. Vrooman was appointed Deputy District Attorney and Deputy City Attorney of Oakland, and was elected City Attorney of Oakland and District Attorney of Alameda county. In 1882 he was elected to the State Senate, and was given the complimentary vote for Senator of the United States by the Republican party in 1885. In January, 1873, he was married to Miss Emily Jordon, a sister of Hon. Wm. II. Jordon, Past Supreme Master Workman of the Ancient Order of United Workmen. He commenced life under adverse circumstances, supported a mother, accumulated wealth, and a short time before his death, which occurred in April, 1889, accepted a fee of $25,000 as the leading counsel in an important and warmly contested suit.
Such, in brief, is a meager sketch of the checkered life of a remarkable man; farmhand, butcher, woodchopper, blacksmith, fireman, student, City Attorney, District Attorney and State Senator, in all these varied and incongruous occupations he has won the respect of all with whom he has been connected. Sprung from the lowliest walks of life, he has, by his own unaided efforts, risen to rank with the highest of his contemporaries. A devoted son, an affectionate husband, a kind and indulgent father; a man gifted with extraordinary powers of mind and will; of unwavering fidelity and integrity, his course may well excite the admiration and respect of a community which has reason to be proud of having fostered such a man.
Transcribed By: Cecelia M. Setty.
Source: “Illustrated Fraternal Directory Including Educational Institutions on the Pacific Coast”, Page 34, Publ. Bancroft Co., San Francisco. Cal. 1889.
© 2012 Cecelia M. Setty.