HIRAM A. MESSENGER
The family of Messenger, of which Hiram Ashley Messenger of Gwinmine, Calaveras County, California, is a representative, is descended from English ancestors who came to America before the Revolutionary War; and Mr. Messenger’s grandfather, Cyrus Messenger, was a colonel in the colonial army. Mr. Messenger’s father, also named Cyrus, was born in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and married Hannah Case, a native of Canton, Connecticut, and a member of an old and honorable New England family. He was a farmer and a member of the state militia and a reliable and worthy citizen, who lived to the age of seventy-eight years, his wife dying at sixty-seven. They had nine children, of whom only three now live and of whom Hiram Ashley Messenger is the only one in California. One of his brothers fought for the preservation of the Union in 1861 – 65.
Hiram Ashley Messenger was born at Peru, Berkshire County Massachusetts, July 27, 1832, and was educated in the public schools of his native county. In 1852, when in his twentieth year, he started overland for California with a company from Michigan, paying seventy-five dollars for his board and other privileges; but when he arrived at Green River he exchanged his chance to come with that party to California for an opportunity to go to Oregon with another party, with whom he traveled only a week, however, when he obtained a job of driving an ox-team, hauling freight between St. Joseph and Salt Lake, Utah.
He came on to California and from Lathrop packed his blankets to Stockton. The next day after he arrived at Stockton he went to Latimer’s, now North Branch post office, and from there to Mokelumne Hill, then a big mining camp with a permanent gallows on which undesirable citizens were hanged from time to time! He worked for a time for the “water company” and during the succeeding winter he mined with some success. He entered the employ of the water company in the following spring and next winter “tended ditch” near Cape Horn. In the spring following he worked for Andrews and Cadwaller “driving” lumber for the completion of the flume then under construction to Mokelumne Hill. Then for two years he sold lumber in the Mokelumne lumber yards and afterward was employed on the Chili Hill ditch at Campo Seco, and then he sold water for the water company until 1857, when he was employed on the Calaveras ditch at Murphy’s under “Cap.” Hanford. Later he mined on his own account at Campo Seco, at Oregon Gulch and at Lancha Plana, where he was successful enough to take about forty dollars a week. Later he mined at Jenny Lind, Whisky Hill and South Gulch, where he went with a family named Copeland. In 1861 he discovered copper mines and did the first copper mining in that locality. In 1864 he sold out his interest, for five thousand dollars, and raised a company, at his own expense, and spent a year fighting Indians in Arizona, his command having been duly mustered into the United States service and mustered out the last of June, 1866, at the Presidio at San Francisco. He rendered the government good service, for which he was paid in greenbacks that netted him forty cents on the dollar when he exchanged them for provisions. Returning to Campo Seco he associated himself with W. C. Whetstone and bought the Cosgrove ranch, consisting of one thousand acres, and began raising hay and grain. In 1884 when the railroad was built, he sold a part of his interest, but still retains a fine tract two and a half miles from Valley Springs, where he has a good orange grove and raises many olives, the place being under the management of his son-in-law.
In 1894 Mr. Messenger removed from his ranch to Gwinmine, where he conducts an extensive boarding house and fills the office of postmaster. Politically he has been a lifelong Democrat, but enough has been said of his record during the war to establish the fact that he was a staunch Union man. From the office of lieutenant in the home guard he was advanced to that of captain in the United States service, and he won the title worthily and bears it honorably. He was made a Master Mason in 1862 and is thoroughly posted in the work of the order, and has for many years been the master of Campo Seco Lodge, No. 100, F. & A. M. His sons are also Masons, and Mrs. Messenger and two of their daughters are members of the Order of the Eastern Star. He has been an Odd Fellow for twenty years, was active and prominent in establishing the order at Mokelumne Hill and has passed the chairs in both branches. In 1879 and 1880, just after the adoption of the new state constitution, he was a member of the California legislature and has always done everything in his power to advance the interests in his state and county. A friend of agriculture and horticulture, he has been a director of the San Joaquin County Fair Association and in the organization promoting fairs in Amador County. With Senator Voorhees and Mr. Downes he is a stockholder in the Lincoln mine.
In 1859 Captain Messenger married Harriet L. Wilkins, a native of Nashua, New Hampshire, who came to California in 1854, and they have had five children. Their son, Nelson C., is married and lives at Angel’s Camp. Their daughter Mary Frances married Edward Maher and lives at Campo Seco. Maud W. married William Putnam, who has the management of her father’s ranch. Hiram H., a man of a family, is a worthy citizen of Gwinmine. Harriet Marion is a student at the state normal school. Mr. and Mrs. Messenger and their family are well known and respected, and to the Captain and his good wife is accorded the especial honor due to California pioneers.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.