STEPHEN C. WHEELER
Forty-eight years have passed since Stephen Clark Wheeler came to California and the work of transformation has been almost that of magic, such marvelous changes have occurred during that period. The best type of citizenship of the east came here to found the great commonwealth, and their labors have resulted in the formation of a state which ranks with the best states in the east. Mr. Wheeler has been a witness of the wonderful growth and development of California and deserves honorable mention among her pioneers. He is now residing on a farm two miles northeast of Plymouth, where he is carrying on agricultural pursuits, having a valuable and improved property.
A native of Indiana, he was born in Jackson County, on the 14th of November, 1828, and traces his ancestry back to Edward Wheeler, who was born in England. He immigrated to America in 1726, locating at New Haven, Connecticut. There Zebadiah Wheeler, the great-grandfather of our subject, was born, and New Haven was also the birthplace of Nehemiah Wheeler, the grandfather who became one of the heroes of the Revolution. James Wheeler, the father of our subject, was born in Rutland, Vermont, July 15, 1803, and married Druzilla Brown, a native of Kentucky, who also was of English lineage and a representative of an old Virginia family. Her father, Jacob Brown, removed from Virginia to Kentucky at the time when the “dark and bloody ground” was first becoming the home of the white race. Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler had two daughters and a son, but our subject is now the only survivor of the family. The mother died in the twenty-eighth year of her age, but the father, long surviving, attained the age of eight-two years. He was a farmer and merchant and in his community was known as a very reliable businessman.
Mr. Wheeler, of this review, was reared to manhood in Indiana and to the public-school system of that state is indebted for the educational privileges he enjoyed. At the age of fourteen years he entered upon his business career as an employee in a flouring mill, continuing in that occupation until twenty-two years of age. He was married on the 21st of February, 1850, to Miss Mary Ellen Thompson, a native of Jeffersonville, Clark County, Indiana, and a daughter of Benjamin Thompson. One child was born to them in the Hoosier state, Laura E., who is now the wife of Nelson Hinkson, of Eugene City, Oregon. In 1852 Mr. Wheeler with his young wife and their daughter started on the long and hazardous journey across the plains to California, making the trip in a wagon driven by oxen. There were fourteen in the company, and, after six months and eleven days spent upon the way, arrived at their present location in what is now Amador County. Mr. Wheeler engaged in placer mining three miles north of Plymouth, and also followed quartz mining for a time. In connection with his father he erected a four-stamp mill and developed the Wheeler mine, which proved to be a very profitable property, as they secured thirty thousand dollars in three months. This mine is now owned by the Bank of California and is called the Alpine mine, but is not being worked at the present time.
Mr. Wheeler purchased his farm in 1859, has built thereon a good residence, has planted a fine orchard and made all the other improvements and accessories necessary to a model farm. His well-directed efforts have brought to him a comfortable competence which enables him to surround himself and wife with all the comforts of life and many of its luxuries. In 1872 he erected a ten-stamp mill on his farm, which he conducted for four years, when he sold it and ceased his mining operations. In 1891, however, he and his sons constructed a five-stamp mill, which they conducted for five years, meeting with a fair degree of success in the enterprise. In 1896, however, he bonded it to Salt Lake parties for twelve thousand dollars, and they have since erected a twenty-stamp mill and expended twenty-eight thousand dollars in improvements. Owing to a default in payment all rights were forfeited and it has thus reverted to Mr. Wheeler, who is in full control of same.
Through the forty-eight years of his residence here Mr. Wheeler has given the greater part of his time and attention to the development of the rich mineral resources of the state, making farming a side issue. He is a thoroughly informed and practical miner, being an excellent judge of gold-producing minerals and an expert in handling the same.
Eleven children have brightened the home of Mrs. and Mrs. Wheeler during their residence in California, and with one exception, all are living. These are Laura E., now Mrs. Hinkson; James Nelson: Norman Everett; Julia, the wife of Benjamin A. Downey; William T; Orpha Ellen, the wife of William E. Wise; Arthur Alvin; Mamie D., who is a graduate of the Normal School of California and a successful teacher; Mabel E., who also is engaged in teaching; and Cecil, who is the proprietor of a barber shop in Plymouth. Mrs. Wheeler is a member of the Christian Church and was one of the brave pioneer women of California who courageously met all the hardships and difficulties of a frontier life, assisting their husbands in making homes on the Pacific slope. She has reared an interesting family of eleven children and is an intelligent and entertaining lady who commands the respect and good will of all with whom she comes in contact.
Mr. Wheeler is an active member of the Grange, of the Friends’ Alliance and of the People’s party, being one of the delegates to the convention which was held in Los Angeles in 1891 to organize the party. He received the nomination for county treasurer, but its numerical force was not sufficient to elect him. He has, however, taken an active part in many movements which have contributed to the prosperity and development of this region. He aided in organizing the school district in which he has so long resided, and his labors have been effective in promoting the educational standing of the community. For thirty-eight years he has been a school trustee and has done all in his power to improve the condition of the schools. He served two terms as a member of the county board of education. He and his wife were worthy pioneer people who fully merited the high regard of their many friends and deserve mention in the history of their adopted county.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.