James McCauley, a very highly respected California pioneer of 1849 residing at Ione, was born in Virginia on the 4th of January, 1828, at the head waters of the Roanoke River in Montgomery County. He is of Scotch-Irish lineage, his grandparents having removed from Scotland to the county of Ulster, Ireland, whence representatives of the name came to America in 1720, locating in New Hampshire, where the grandfather of our subject was born and resided for many years, there raising his family. He fought in the Revolutionary War, valiantly aiding the colonists in establishing American independence. John McCauley, the father of our subject, was born in New Hampshire and removed to Virginia when a young man. In the latter state he married Miss Cynthia Robinson, who was born in the Old Dominion. In the county of his adoption Mr. McCauley became a man of much influence and was a recognized leader in the Democratic Party. He was a warm friend of William Smith, the Governor of Virginia, and of Hon. Ballard Preston, who served as the secretary of the navy under President Taylor. He was born in 1795 and died during the period of the Civil War, at the age of sixty-eight years. By his first marriage he had four children and by his second marriage eight.
Mr. McCauley, of this review, was the eldest son and second child of the first marriage. His mother died in the thirty-second year of her age. She was a devout Methodist and an earnest Christian woman who had the warm regard of all with whom she was associated. In the academy at Salem, Roanoke County, Mr. James McCauley acquired his education.
He had just attained his majority when the discovery of gold was made in California, attracting to the Pacific slope hundreds of men from all parts of the country. He joined a joint stock company and with mule teams they crossed the plains, reaching their destination after a tiresome journey of one hundred days. Although the trip was a tedious one they were unmolested by the Indians, nor did they experience many of the trials which fall to the lot of emigrants. They arrived in Sacramento city, when it was only a camp. Captain George Tyler, conducted the company, and twenty-nine others composed the party.
Mr. McCauley engaged in mining on the Yuba River, but was not successful in his ventures there and returned to Sacramento. Later he went to Placerville, where he made some money, although none of the miners of that locality had any wonderful finds. They were all inexperienced and concluded that the gold of the rivers and creeks must have been washed down from some great gold bluff from the mountains, and he and others went over on a “wild goose chase” in search of the supposed gold bluffs. After many tiresome days of travel they returned, reporting that they could not find the great gold bluffs from which they had expected to take the precious metal in large pieces. Subsequently they went to Georgetown. Mr. McCauley loaned his money to Messrs. Tyler & Parrish, who engaged in taking supplies eastward along the route over which the emigrants came. This was an act of benevolence and at the same time a source of profit, for as they neared their destination many of the emigrants were almost destitute, their supplies having given out.
Later Captain Tyler and his company became of owners of the Hardy land grant and Mr. McCauley worked for them, taking care of cattle on Cache creek. He was with them two years and then engaged in farming six hundred acres of land at Cacheville until 1856. In that venture he made some money by the raising of stock and crops, but lost much of this, and when his funds were almost exhausted he was elected the assessor of Yolo County, in which office he served for four years. He then engaged in conducting a hotel in Clarksville, in El Dorado County, and when three years had passed he came to Amador County, where, on the Q ranch, he began raising deciduous fruits. In that business he met with good success. In 1873 he took up his abode in Ione, where he again conducted a hotel, being the proprietor of the Arcade Hotel and later the Commercial Hotel, which he conducted until 1892, when he retired from active business, having in the meantime acquired a handsome competence that supplied him with all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life. At one time during his business career in California he met with a serious loss by fire, which seriously crippled him financially, but with characteristic energy he began the task of retrieving his lost possessions and his labors were at length crowned with success.
In 1868 Mr. McCauley became a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and has since been one of its valued workers, holding various offices and at the present time serving as the financial secretary of the lodge at Ione. He is a man of superior intelligence and has done some literary work in connection with various journals. He is a very kind-hearted man, generous almost to a fault, and greatly to his credit can it be said that while he was born in the south and many of his friends were in the Confederate army during the Civil War, he was a loyal advocate of the Union cause, strongly upholding the central government at Washington. At that time he allied his interests with the Republican Party and has since faithfully worked in its ranks. He served for one term as a justice of the peace and is at present holding the same position. At one time he was nominated for the state legislature, but through a division in the party was defeated.
In 1857 Mr. McCauley was united in marriage to J. E. Winchel, a native of Illinois. She is a member of the Presbyterian Church and all of the family attend that church and take an active interest in its work. The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. McCauley has been blessed with five children, and the family circle yet remains unbroken by the hand of death. Their children are Florence, now the wife of Dr. A. L. Adams, a prominent physician of Ione; Calla, the wife of C. M. Wooster, of San Jose; Gladys, at home; Lena, the wife of J. M. Maddox, of Sacramento; and Erma, who is with her parents. The family is one of prominence in the community and the members of the household occupy leading positions in social circles.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.