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Amador County








            In modern times and to a large extent in the past, banks have constituted a vital part of organized society, and governments, both monarchical and popular, have depended on them for material aid in times of depression and trouble.  Their influence has extended over the entire world, and their prosperity has been the barometer which has unfalteringly indicated the financial status of all nations.  Of this important branch of business John Whitten Surface is a worthy representative; he and his son Jacob being the owners of the bank at Ione, Amador County, California, where they are conducting a perfectly reliable institution, which now receives liberal and constantly growing patronage.

            Mr. Surface is one of the prominent and early settlers of this state.  He was born in Henry County, Missouri, on the 18th of November, 1833, and is of German lineage, his ancestors having come to America from the fatherland at an early day.  The first of the name to locate in Virginia was Jacob Surface, the great-grandfather of our subject, who was German Lutheran in his religious faith. The grandfather, who also bore the name of Jacob, was born in Virginia, as was Jacob Surface, the third, the father of our subject.  Each generation of the family has used the name of Jacob.  The grandfather removed with his family from Virginia to Indiana, becoming a pioneer settler of the Hoosier state.  He located there a large tract of land, which he later divided with his children.  Jacob Surface, the father of our subject, accompanied his parents on their removal to Indiana and was there reared amid the wild scenes incident to life on the frontier.  He married Miss Almyra Cecil, and they became the parents of seven children, four sons and three daughters, of whom three sons and a daughter are yet living, two of the sons being in Ione, while the third is in Los Angeles, California.  Esther V. Neill, now the only surviving daughter, resides in Seattle, Washington.  The father of these children removed to Missouri and died in that state, at the age of thirty-three years, although his father had attained the age of eighty years.  His wife survived him, and, coming to California, died, in Ione, in the sixty-ninth year of her age.  The Surface families, in its earliest history, were farming people, of the highest respectability, and were members of the Christian church.

            Mr. Surface of this review was the second child in his father’s family.  He is largely self-educated, and is a man of much practical information and ability.  In 1852, when only seventeen years of age, he crossed the plains to California, accompanied by his mother, two sisters and two brothers.  They made the journey with ox teams, leaving their Missouri home on the 15th of May and arriving at Volcano, Amador County, on the 17th of September.  Fifty people made the trip together, and there was much sickness, the cholera being prevalent that year; but Dr. Fitchew, a most able physician, was of the party, and was instrumental in saving the lives of those who were ill.  They passed through the Indian country in safety, and settled first in Dry Creek Valley, where Mr. Surface and his brothers engaged in farming, raising grain and stock.  The property on which the family located is still known as the Surface ranch.

            In 1861 Mr. Surface of this review went to Lewiston, Idaho, where he engaged in prospecting.  In 1863 he returned to Ione, where he engaged in the livery business, in which he continued successfully for twenty-nine years, making and saving money.  During that time he also gained a wide and favorable acquaintance throughout the county, and became recognized as a very reliable businessman.  During most of that time he was in partnership with Robert Ludgate, who died in 1878, after which Mr. Surface and his brother became sole owners of the business.  In 1895 the former opened the bank, under the firm name of J. W. Surface & Son, the latter being Jacob Surface, who was born in Amador County and is a very capable and reliable young businessman.  They do a general banking business and from the beginning have met with creditable and gratifying success.  Mr. Surface was also one of the founders of the Amador flouring mill, and is also a member of the Brighton Milling Company, in Sacramento.  He and his son have a fourth interest in twenty-three hundred acres of land in Contra Costa County, which rents for seven dollars per acre and is yearly growing in value, and is used for raising potatoes.  They also have property in Oakland and Santa Cruz, and in Ione have a one-half block, on which they have one of the finest residences in the town, together with other valuable real estate here.

            In 1866 occurred the marriage of Mr. Surface and Miss Mary C. Rector, a native of Arkansas and a daughter of James P. Rector, who came to California in 1855.  Their union has been blessed with three daughters and a son.  The daughter, Susie A., is now the wife of M. C. Harris, of San Francisco; Lucy H. is the wife of L. A. Moberry, assistant cashier in the bank at Ione; and Ethel A. is at home.  The family attends the Presbyterian Church, taking an active and zealous interest in its work.  Mr. Surface was largely instrumental in the erection of the church, and his son Jacob is now acting as one of its trustees.

            In 1855, when he attained his majority, he became a Free and Accepted Mason, and has most acceptably passed through the different branches of the order and is also a member of the Mystic Shrine.  His son Jacob, also when he attained his majority, became a member of the Masonic fraternity, passing through all its branches, including the Mystic Shrine.  He has filled all the offices in the blue lodge and chapter, and is a thoroughly well informed Mason.  He has been a valued member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows for over twenty years and also belongs to the Ancient Order of United Workmen.  He is also a trustee of the Masonic and the Odd Fellows lodges.  He is a good citizen and successful and reliable businessman and stands very high in the county in which he has so long resided.  The cause of education has always found in him a warm friend, and for twenty-five years he has served as a trustee of the Ione schools, doing all in his power to advance their standard and promote intellectual activity in the community.

            In politics he has been a lifelong Democrat, but is not strongly partisan.  For a number of years he took a very active part in county and state politics, but more recently has devoted his attention to his business and local interests, outside the pale of politics.  Through more than forty years’ residence in Amador County he has been a substantial factor in the material upbuilding and improvement of this part of the state, and well deserves honorable mention in its history as one who has ever been true to his duties of citizenship and faithful in all business and social obligations.  He was elected township assessor, serving for four years, and in 1865 was elected the assessor of Amador County, in which position he was retained by re-election for six successive years.



Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: “A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of Northern California”, Pages 143-145. Chicago Standard Genealogical  Publishing Co. 1901.

© 2010  Gerald Iaquinta.



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