As a representative of the class of substantial builders of great commonwealths who have served faithfully and long in the enterprising west, we present the subject of this sketch, who is numbered among the pioneers of Jackson, Amador County, and who has ever nobly aided in establishing and maintaining the material interests, legal status and moral welfare of the community. Though he has passed the seventieth milestone on the journey of life, he is yet actively connected with business affairs in Jackson and is the pioneer photographer in Amador County, having taken up his abode here in the year 1855.
Mr. Kay was born in Massachusetts on the 18th of December, 1828, and is a representative of an old English family. His father, William Kay, was born, reared and married in England, the lady of his choice being Ellen Entwissel. In 1825 he immigrated with his wife and two children to the new world and spent his last days at Fall River, Massachusetts, where his death occurred in 1837, when he had attained the age of forty-seven years. His wife passed away at the ripe old age of ninety-five years. They had eight children, of whom six are still living, one brother, William R. Kay, being a resident of Jackson, while a sister is living in New Jersey. The others, with the exception of the subject of this review, are still residents of Massachusetts.
Wallace Kay, the fourth of the family, was only eight years of age at the time of the father’s death. He was then thrown upon his own resources and has since depended upon his efforts for a livelihood. His business career has been marked by honor and integrity, and though he has met with many hardships and difficulties he has always enjoyed the respect of his fellow men. He was first employed in a print factory, his work being to spread the colors with which the prints were made, and for his services the little lad received a dollar per week. He made his home with his mother and for three hours each day he, together with the other employees of the factory, were instructed in the English branches of learning. It was thus he secured his education. He remained in the factory until his twentieth year, being promoted from time to time through its various departments, his wages being correspondingly increased until at the time he left the establishment he was receiving a dollar per day. He then spent three years as an apprentice at the machinist’s trade and later worked as a journeyman in different shops, earning a dollar and seventy-five cents per day. He next took Horace Greeley’s advice and came west to grow up with the country, for the gold fields of California were then attracting many young men to the Pacific slope. He sailed from New York on the 5th of October and landed at San Francisco twenty-five days later, made his way up the river to Sacramento and thence by stage to Jackson.
On the 10th of June, 1860, Mr. Kay was united in marriage at Sutter Creek to Miss Electa Jane Harding, a native of Ohio and a daughter of Amos Harding, of that state. She had come to California only a short time previously and here she met and wedded Mr. Kay. Their union was blessed with seven children, five of whom are living, namely: Emma, the wife of Walter Judson, of Lincoln, Placer County, California; Eva D., now the wife of Herman D. Tripp, who is the superintendent of the mine at Sumdum, Alaska; Henry Edwin; and Inga and Alma Roberta, at home. They have a delightful and commodious residence on one of the beautiful hills in the picturesque town of Jackson and enjoy the warm friendship of many of the best people of this locality.
For four years after his arrival in the town Mr. Kay engaged in placer mining, but met with only a moderate degree of success, and in 1859 began photographic work by taking ambrotype pictures. Many indeed are the changes and improvements which have been made in the science of photography since that time, yet he has always kept abreast with the progress made and now has a well equipped art gallery, supplied with the latest appliances and conveniences for doing first-class work. He gives excellent satisfaction to his patrons and derives from his business a good income, yet prices are very much lower than when he first opened his gallery, for he now sells cabinet photographs at two dollars a dozen and other work in proportion.
Mr. Kay has been a very active and valued member of the Masonic fraternity for the past thirty years, having been raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason in Jackson in 1869. For nine years he has filled the office of master in the lodge, has served in all the different offices of the chapter and for two terms was its high priest. He has also been representative to the grand lodge of the state, and both he and his wife are members of the Eastern Star, in which she has the honor of being past matron. Mr. Kay cast his first presidential vote for John C. Fremont in 1856, and has since continued steadfast in his political faith, doing all in his power to advance the welfare of the party. His upright methods of dealing and his reliable judgment in all matters of public interest have won for him a place of distinction among the leading men of his adopted country and in the history of northern California he well deserves mention.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.