BENJAMIN HODGE LEWIS
Among those who have been distinctively conspicuous in connection with the substantial upbuilding and legitimate progress of the attractive little city of Vallicita, Calaveras County, very definite recognition must be given to him whose name initiates this paragraph. It has been his fortune to be identified with the town from the days of its early establishment and with every advance movement he has been connected, being recognized as one of the leading and enterprising businessmen of the place and as one who has contributed liberally and with enthusiasm to every cause which has had as its object the growth and prosperity of Vallicita.
Mr. Lewis arrived in the Golden state in 1853. He was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in the vicinity of the birthplace of James K. Polk, his grandfather having been one of the first settlers of that portion of the state. The natal day of our subject is August 28, 1834. He is descended from Virginian ancestry, related to the Lee’s, Washington’s, Green’s, Houston’s, and other prominent families of the Old Dominion who bore an active part in shaping the policy of that state in colonial days and were participants in the war of the Revolution. The ancestry may be traced back to Earl Lewis, an English nobleman, who was the progenitor of the family in the south. The father of our subject was married in Tennessee in 1826 to Miss Eliza J. Shaw, also a native of that state and a daughter of Rev. Shaw, a Presbyterian minister of Tennessee, who owned extensive property interests and many negroes, whose services were utilized in the operation of the plantation. Three children were born unto them in Tennessee. In 1849 the father came to California, crossing the plains to this state, after which he began mining in Volcano, Amador County. Subsequently he went to Sacramento and conducted a race track at Brighton. In 1850 he removed to Sonoma County and founded the town of Petaluma, but the title was faulty because of a Spanish land grant and he removed to Carson Valley, where he purchased a large drove of cattle from emigrants. He then put them out to pasture in the valley, and when they were in good marketable condition brought them to California, where he sold them at a fair profit. Later Mr. Lewis engaged in mining at Vallicita, successfully continuing his search for the precious metal for a number of years. His prominence as a citizen and his fitness for public office led to his election as one of the supervisors of the county, in which capacity he served for four years.
When the Civil War broke out he was a strong Union man and enlisted in a company of which he was elected captain. He joined General Connor’s regiment, which was stationed at the fort southeast of Salt Lake City for the purpose of quelling any insurrection among the Mormons. He was thus made chief of the staff of General Patrick Connor, with the rank of adjutant general, and while stationed there formed the acquaintance of Brigham Young and was a potent factor in keeping peace among the peculiar band of religious people there. Mr. Lewis continued in the service of the government until the close of the war, after which he returned to Vallicita and was again elected supervisor of his district, serving four years. Being now well advanced in the evening of life he retired from active business, and in 1891 he was called to his final rest, when eighty-nine years of age. His wife’s interest in her father’s estate caused her to remain in the south for several years after her husband came to California, and she spent only a portion of her time in this state, her death occurring in Texas in the eightieth year of her age.
Benjamin H. Lewis, whose name introduces this review, is now the only survivor of the family. He was educated in the old Jackson College, in Columbia, Tennessee, pursuing the law course there, after which he was licensed to practice. The year 1853 witnessed his arrival on the Pacific coast. He made the journey with William T. Lewis, a relative, sailing from New Orleans and arriving safely in San Francisco, where our subject secured the position of delivery clerk in the San Francisco post office. Later he obtained a clerical position in the customhouse of that city. In 1855 he came to Vallicita, where he engaged in mining at Kelly’s gulch, taking out considerable gold. He found one nugget worth one hundred and six dollars, and he and his companion took out on an average about two ounces of gold each day. In 1857 he was appointed tax collector, in which capacity he served for some time, collecting all the different taxes on licensed money. Subsequently he was elected justice of the peace, filling that office for eight years, and through his fair and impartial administration he “won golden opinions from all sorts of people.” Since that time Mr. Lewis has engaged in the practice of law. He was associated with John Reddick in all appeal cases from justice courts in which he was interested, and later with Frank Solonski. During the past forty years he has been recognized as a leading member of the bar in his section and has maintained his high position by reason of his continued study and his comprehensive familiarity with the principles of jurisprudence. He has improved three fine homes in California and came to his present place of residence in 1870. Here he has one hundred and sixty acres of land, on which he is raising fruit and stock, and is spending the evening of a very active, useful and honorable life under the shade of the trees which his own hands have planted.
In 1859 Mr. Lewis was united in marriage to Miss Mary Isabell, a native of Missouri and a daughter of Ewin Isabell, one of California’s early settlers. Ten children have been born unto them, namely: Green Hampton; Mary Auhaline, now the wife of Charles McPort; Ewin; Sarah, the wife of Dennis Burns; Eliza, the wife of Clay Hallock; Robert E.; Martha, the wife of Albin Lumbers; Hall, Ellen and Benjamin H.
Mrs. Lewis is a valued member of the Methodist Church and the family is one of prominence in the community. Mr. Lewis gives his political support to the Democracy and keeps well informed on the issues of the day, thus being able to support his position by intelligent argument. The record of Mr. Lewis is that of a man who has by his own efforts worked his way upward to a position of affluence. His life has been one of industry and perseverance, and the systematic and honorable business methods which he has followed, together with his diligence and ability in his profession, have won him the support and confidence of many. Without the aid of wealth he has risen to a position among the most prominent men of the state, and his native genius and acquired ability are the stepping stones on which he mounted.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.