CHARLES ALLEN CURTIS
One of the representative men of Calaveras County, California, residing at Murphy’s, is the subject of this sketch. He came to the state in 1849 and has never regretted the venture.
Mr. Curtis was born in Richmond, Maine, on the 15th of April, 1825. His ancestry was English, his great-grandfather Curtis emigrating from that country to the United States and settling in Maine at a very early day. His son Charles carried on the name and the same religious belief in the same state, living to the age of eighty-four years and dying a highly respected and lamented citizen. William Curtis, the father of our subject, was born in Maine in 1798 and lived there to manhood, marrying Mary Kelley, of the same place. They lived to the average age noted by the Psalmist, having been the parents of a large number of children, three of whom survive; but Mr. Curtis, our subject, is the only resident of California. They were of the Baptist faith, good and worthy people who left the world better than they found it.
Charles A. Curtis was educated in his native state and grew there to manhood. About that time the breezes from the western country began to bear tales of the golden country on the Pacific, and with the thousands of others from the east he turned his face in that direction. Under the capable seamanship of Captain Woodbury of the staunch bark, Lanark, he engaged passage around the Horn and arrived safe and sound after a voyage of five months.
Mr. Curtis made his first attempt at mining at Hawkins Bar, on the Tuolumne River, but was quite discouraged for a time. He was taken sick, probably from the new conditions of life, and retired to Stockton for the winter. The following April he arrived in Murphy’s and worked with success on the land immediately back of where the Michler Hotel now stands, and in different portions of the town. The diggings were rich and he did well, he and four companions picking up twenty ounces a day. He found several seven and eight dollar nuggets and in one panful of dirt had twenty-four dollars.
In 1852 Mr. Curtis became one of the organizers of the Union Water Company, continuing in charge of it for seven years, selling water to the miners. His natural ability was soon recognized and he was made the assessor and tax collector for the town, continuing in that office for four years. Good roads became almost necessities, and he was the man who as roadmaster for twelve years with that undertaking. It required energy and capital, in those days. He was one of those who made the road to the “Big Trees,” and was one of the four men who cut down the only one of those monarchs of the forest that has ever fallen. The cut was made eight feet from the ground and after the thick bark had been removed, it remained thirty-two feet in diameter.
Since that time Mr. Curtis has engaged in farming, owning several tracts of land. He built his home in Murphy’s in 1854, when lumber was one hundred dollars per thousand feet. Now beautiful shade trees surround his house and it seems an ideal place in which to pass many happy years. Like many an eastern lad, Mr. Curtis had left a promised bride behind him, and when fortune had favored him he returned and in Boston, Massachusetts, was married to Miss Catherine Caswell, a native of that city. The return trip was made by the Isthmus. The family of Mr. Curtis consisted for five children: Charles William and Melvin, ranchmen; Mary Jenett, the wife of Edson Thorp, deceased at the age of forty years; Richard, deceased; and Henry, who met death by accident.
In 1879 Mr. and Mrs. Curtis celebrated the first quarter-century of their married life with a silver wedding. In a cozy corner of their parlor may be seen a large collection of rich designs of the white metal, being tokens from their many friends. Their lives must be spared only three more years till the half-century mark has been reached, when they will have the pleasure of celebrating their golden wedding. Both Mr. and Mrs. Curtis are respected and beloved in the community where they are best known. Mrs. Curtis is a consistent member of the Congregational Church, a good and devout woman, while both represent well the best citizens of Calaveras County.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.