EUGENE EDGAR TREFETHEN
TREFETHEN, EUGENE EDGAR, junior partner of the firm of Chapman & Trefethen, Attorneys at Law, Oakland, was born in Oakland, California, January 11, 1875, the son of Eugene A. and Ada S. (Van Sickle) Trefethen. In the first half of the seventeenth century his father’s family, which was of Welsh origin, came from England and settled in the State of Maine, while his mother’s ancestors were among the early Dutch residents of new York. His father reached California about the year 1869, where he became interested in railroading and in timber lands. Eugene E. Trefethen was practically raised on the east side of the Bay, and on August 31, 1905, was married in San Francisco to Miss Georgia Van Voorhies Carroll. The children of this marriage are Carol A. Trefethen, Dorothy J. Trefethen and Eugene E. Trefethen Jr.
From 1883 to 1889 Mr. Trefethen attended the old Lafayette Grammar School and the Cole School of Oakland. He was a student at the Oakland High School from January, 1890, to December, 1892, and after graduation in the latter year took a post-graduate course in the same institution. In 1893 he entered the University of California, but shortly before the close of his course in the College of Social Science an injury to his eye compelled him to leave without his degree. Two years later however, he returned to the University, and was graduated Ph.B., with the class of ‘99. While there he was especially prominent in debating and also as a varsity contestant for intercollegiate honors in the half-mile run.
The two years that Mr. Trefethen remained away from the University, ‘97-‘98, he spent in Alaska, mining, chopping wood, which he sold to the steamers on the Yukon, and packing provisions on his back, at so much a pound. Among his companions in this strenuous existence were the now well-known author, Rex Beach, and other celebrities. From more than one viewpoint the experience was a valuable preparation for Mr. Trefethen’s subsequent career.
After his graduation from the University he took a course in shorthand and typewriting, and in September, 1899, entered the law office of Chapman & Clift, as stenographer and clerk. In his spare moments he studied law, and on September 11, 1901, was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. The firm of Chapman & Clift dissolving in 1902, Mr. Trefethen remained in Mr. Chapman’s employ, as an assistant attorney, in which capacity he proved his worth sufficiently to be chosen, in June, 1910, as a partner, under the firm name of Chapman & Trefethen.
The firm’s practice in recent years, especially since Mr. Chapman’s appointment as trial counsel for the Oakland Traction Company, has been chiefly in corporation law. Formerly, however, their work was largely on the other side of the fence, in the prosecution of damage cases. In some of these, in which Mr. Trefethen was associate counsel for the plaintiff, important questions of law were settled. This was especially so in the case of James vs. the Oakland Traction Company, in which suit was brought for $15,000 damages for personal injury. In was determined that a person riding on a car was entitled to have exercised in his behalf and as one of the elements of the contract of carriage, the degree of care in its propulsion required by statute. Before the trial the law had been repealed. It was contended by counsel for plaintiff that the latter was still entitled to the benefit of the law, which was in force at the time of the accident.
Although Mr. Trefethen had intended at one time to be a mining engineer, since he has “found himself” in the law he has concentrated his energies on his steadily growing practice. His club life is confined to the Nile Club of Oakland and to the Royal Arcanum, a fraternal order.
Transcribed 3-3-10 Marilyn R. Pankey.
Source: Press Reference Library, Western Edition Notables of the West, Vol. I, Page 381, International News Service, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta. 1913.
© 2010 Marilyn R. Pankey.