El Dorado County
In the early mining days of El Dorado County one of the best known figures was Arthur Litten, whose activities at that time were in the field of commerce, in which he rendered a great and appreciated service to the miners and was rewarded with substantial success. He was a good citizen in the best sense of the term and during more than his fifty years residence here he commanded the highest measure of public regard. Mr. Litten was born in Kentucky, December 10, 1831, and when two years old was taken by his parents to Illinois. As a boy he rode thirteen miles each day to attend school, and he also studied privately, thus acquiring a finished education. In 1853, just after he had attained his majority, he crossed the plains to California, with five horses, one a riding horse, reaching Placerville August 19th. After a few days there, he continued on to Dry Creek, where he remained three days. His next stop was at Jay Hawk, where he spent ten days in the mines, at the end of which time he concluded he was not cut out for a miner. With eighty dollars and a team of mules, he drove to a wholesale grocery house in Sacramento where he spent his limited capital in the purchase of overalls, picks, shovels, and beans and other goods needed by the miners. At the prices of those days eighty dollars did not buy a very large stock. It took him three days to make the trip and on his return he found the miners waiting for him, so that he very quickly sold all of his stuff right from the wagon. He repeated these trips a number of times, each time having more money from his profits to reinvest in goods. Finally the wholesale house induced him to open an account and put in a stock of goods. On his fourth trip he brought back with him three boards, out of which he made shelves, which he put up in a tent. He scarcely got his goods on these shelves until they were sold, but eventually he did succeed in getting a stock. In the meantime he erected a store building and conducted a prosperous business there until 1859, when his health became impaired.
He bought claims to about three thousand acres of land, to which he later added seven hundred acres. The government land grant to the railroad took some of this land and he later had to buy it back. The first piece of improved highway in California, about one and a half miles in length, was constructed in front of the Litten property and was a toll road and Mrs. Litten, who had come across the plains in 1852, was the first person to ride over it. Mr. Litten established a store on his property, facing the toll road, and there he sold hay, grain and supplies to the continuous line of freighters, who were hauling supplies to the Comstock mines, so that Mr. Litten did a large and profitable business there. Mrs. Litten also contributed to the success of the business by making pies, which she sold at fifty cents a slice. In those days the Litten’s were well known in all of the mining camps of California, Nevada and Arizona. Mr. Litten became well-to-do, owning much stock, many horses and large mining interests.
Although an active and prominent supporter of the Republican Party, Mr. Litten would never consent to run for office. He was a member of the Masonic order and lived up to the sublime teachings of the time honored fraternity. His death occurred in 1910 and his wife passed away in 1913. They became the parents of four daughters, of whom the survivors are Julia, the widow of the late J. C. MacDonald, and Stella, who still lives at the old home. Both sisters became teachers, and throughout the community where they have lived for so many years they are very highly esteemed.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.