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Pen Portraits

Autobiography Of State Officers, Legislators,

Prominent Business And Professional Men Of

The Capital Of the State Of California;

Also, Of Newspaper Proprietors,

Editors, And Members Of The

Corps Reportorial


Compiled by

R. R. Parkinson,


In Sacramento City, during the Session of the Legislature of 1877-8.






Introductory Remarks.




In publishing this book, the compiler has but one object in view, and that is to make it different from any other yet published on the Pacific Coast during the legislative sessions.  It has been the custom to publish homographic charts and hand books, and to a certain extent these have been necessary and proved all-successful; but in this book we have given to the public a series of autobiographies of not only the state officials and members of two branches of the Legislature, but of pioneer merchants, business and professional men of the capital of the State of California.  The pamphlet is not confined to the above-mentioned, for within its pages will be found sketches from the lives of the men who are classed as Bohemians:   Those bright luminaries, who make rogues tremble by the shake of the pen more than warriors do by the thrust of the sword; of the class who, oft-times despised, are the controllers of society and the masters of millionaires.  Nothing has been set down in malice, and if an improper mention of any man's name occurs, it is earnestly hoped that charity for the failings of poor humanity may cover with its mantle of peace the shoulders of the desirous-to-do-right publisher.  Mark Twain was looked on as a fool when he first started in the reportorial profession, and yet with all his extraordinary idiosyncrasies succeeded in making his publications acceptable; and so, as Bunyan said, this little book is cast abroad for the benefit of whosoever it may concern.




The State Officers.


The Governor.


[Siskiyou County]


Govenor William Irwin is a native of Butler County, Ohio.  He was elected to the proud position of Governor of California in 1875, and is now in the third year of his occupation of that responsible office.  A man of fine personnel; of 50 years of age, or thereabouts; he wears his years well.  He is gentlemanly in appearance, courteous in demeanor, and particularly kind to visiting strangers, without reference to political creed.  The Governor is a graduate of Marietta College, Ohio of which he was a tutor, for some time, subsequently.  From his native State he went to Chicago, where he read law, and from whence he came to California in 1852, and settled down in Siskiyou County, and their established the Yreka Union, which paper was recognized as the ablest country newspaper in the State.  In 1861 he was elected to the Assembly of the State as representative of his adopted county, and in fact, his maiden legislative position, won honors of no mean order.  In 1869 Mr. Irwin was elected to the State Senate, and there, as the records show, took a prominent position.  He was re-elected, in 1873, to the same honorable position, and won the esteem of all members by his impartial rulings and knowledge of parliamentary usages as President pro tem.  In the name of the election of Lieutenant-Governor Pacheco to the Gubernatorial chair resulted in placing Mr. Irwin in the vacated seat of Mr. Pacheco and Mr. Irwin became Lieutenant-Governor and Warden of the State Prison, and, as in all other acts of his political life, gained both honor and friends in the occupancy of the second-highest office in the State.   Governor  Irwin is a married man, and has, we believe, one living daughter.  He is a resident and a taxpayer, and esteemed very highly in social as well as political circles.  He has the reputation of a gentleman ever ready to extend a helping hand to charitable, religious and other institutions that tend to the amelioration of the condition of his fellow citizens.  The Governor is an uncompromising Democrat, but we conceive him to be in every respect actuated by the best motives in all he does, and entirely free from that strong animosity that sometimes characterizes men of his party.  So far the administration of Governor Irwin has proved acceptable to the majority, and we failed to find anyone who is not willing to accord to him the title of an honorable, gentlemanly man.




The Lieutenant-Governor


[Sierra & San Francisco Cos.]


We now come to speak of a gentleman of whose record we know a deal, personally, having had the pleasure of his acquaintance in early days in Sierra County.  Hon. James A. Johnson is a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, and acknowledges (with great compunction and many blushes) to 48 years of pilgrimage on this mundane sphere.  [We put his age at 50--Rept.]  Mr. Johnson was educated in the medical profession, and graduated with honor from the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia.  (We recollect how you tugged at that wisdom tooth of Doc., in your office at Rabbit Creek, in 1857.)  Mr. Johnson gave up the medical profession some years since, and at the time of his election to the present position was a practicing attorney in San Francisco.  The Lieutenant-Governor represented Sierra County in the State Legislature for two terms, and was twice elected to represent the Third Congressional District in the Lower House of Congress.  He acquitted himself to the entire satisfaction of his constituents, and is recognized by all who know him as an honest representative of the people.  Mr. Johnson is a tall, slight man, of imposing appearance.  He tries to fight the ravages of time as much as possible, and to see him with his tall plug hat on, he does not look over forty-five; but the hat off, and those few hairs (he seems to so to delight in) thrown off the upper part of his cranium, and the incipient skating rink appearing, he looks all he confesses to.  As the presiding officer, the Lieutenant-Governor is a success.  He is gentlemanly in all his doings, and his legislative experience makes him entirely au fait in parliamentary rules and usages.  He is a Democrat to the heart's core; a man of family; a genial gentleman, and one who never discards an old friend.




Secretary Of State


[Sacramento, Monterey, Santa Cruz & San Benito Cos.]


Hon. Thomas A. Beck, it is just about as jolly, genial a little gentleman as can be found once in a year.  Curly gray hair adorns a head that Stephen A. Douglas might have envied, so massive and Daniel O'Connell-like does it look.  Mr. Beck is a native of Belfast, Ireland, and about 46 years of age.  In 1852, Mr. Beck came to California from his adopted State of Illinois, whither he went when quite a small boy.  Six years ago Mr. Beck was elected to the Senate by the voters of Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, and represented them with credit to himself and to the benefit of his constituents.  He was elected at the last State election to his present position, and fills the office worthily and to the entire satisfaction of the people of California, his agreeable manners and a happy disposition making him a general favorite.  Mr. Beck is a married man, a resident and a taxpayer of this city.  One of his sons, a very bright young man, occupies the position of deputy, in his office.  The secretary is a strong Democrat and a very active worker in that party.  Mr. B. is processed of a fund of the true Irish wit, and the merry twinkle in his eye predisposes a stranger in his favor.




The Attorney-General


[Placer Co.]


General Jo Hamilton, is a native of Barron County, Kentucky, and was born April 16, 1830, consequently is now in his forty-eighth year, although he looks somewhat older.  He is a gentleman of fine conversational powers, and singularly attractive as a companion, making one feel at home with him immediately after a casual introduction.  The General came to California in 1859 and settled in Forest Hill, Placer County, where he continued the practice of law up to the time of his election to his present position.  He was twice elected District-Attorney of his County, and in 1864 was Democratic Elector for McClellan and Pendleton, and made a success as a stump speaker during that campaign.  In 1867 he was elected Attorney General of the State, and served in that capacity with honor.  In 1871 the General was defeated by his Republican opponent.  In 1872 Mr. Hamilton again appeared as Presidential Elector and stumped the State for Greeley and Brown.  In 1875 General Hamilton was again elected to his present position, and although an ultra Democrat, has the good feeling and best wishes of all political parties, and is unanimously conceded to be an upright, it incorruptible lawyer.  General Hamilton is a married man, a property owner and taxpayer.  Handsome he is not, but genial he surely is: "a man of infinite jest and humor," well read legally and historically, and brimful of anecdotes.




The State Controller




Hon. W. B. C. Brown, is a well preserved gentleman, 47 years of age.  He is a native of Meade County, Kentucky, and a married man.  Mr. Brown was deputy under Mandeville at the time of his decease, as exceeded that gentleman in the office.  He is considered a most excellent officer, and is as gentlemanly a person as any stranger need desire to meet with; a man of culture, and possessed of more than an ordinary share of general intelligence.  Mr. R. S. Gardiner is Deputy Controller; Mr. Anthony Hubbs, bookkeeper, and R. D. Stephens, M. H.  Benjamin,  Charles Parsons and Mrs. Helen P. Mandeville, clerks in the office.




The State Treasurer


[San Diego & San Jose]


The gentleman whose so worthily fills his office is Mr. Jose G. S. Estudillo, a native of San Diego, California, of Castilian descent, and at this time forty years of age.  Mr. E. filled the position of Treasurer of San Jose County for twelve years, and was for three years Assistant Cashier of the Commercial Bank in the City of San Diego.  He was elected to his present position three years ago, and has given general satisfaction in the management of the business confided to his keeping.  Mr. E.'s cousin is a chief clerk, and Mr. George M. Norton second clerk in the office.  Like all educated native Californians, the State Treasurer is a perfect gentleman in manner, and no one who ever casually meets him can leave the office without feeling that he has been honored by the visit and introduction, for the suave manner of Castilian ancestry crops out in spite of himself.  In politics, Mr. Estudillo is a Democrat, as are all his fellows in office.








General P. F. Walsh occupies this position by appointment of the Commander-in-Chief, Governor Irwin, and of course holds his office contingent on the approval of his Excellency.  Mr. Walsh is a native of Ireland, forty years of age, and married.  He served all through the late war in the Union army, but is, of course, a Democrat.  The General is a fine looking man, and very gentlemanly in his demeanor; in fact, a very pleasant acquaintance, as almost all of the educated gentleman of his nationality.  We propose to improve the acquaintance of this military gentleman.  The bi-ennial report of the Adjutant-General is before us, and we consider it an exceedingly well gotten up document.




Superintendent Of Public Printing


[San Francisco & Sonoma Cos.]


Frank P. Thompson, Esq., occupies this very important position, is a native of Kanawha County, Western Virginia, and is now 44 years of age.  He came to California in 1851, and followed the business of printer, in Sonoma County.  He afterwards returned East and was one of the Engrossing Clerks of the U.S. Senate, under the administration of Mr. Buchanan.  In 1859 he was appointed U.S. Inspector of Customs at San Francisco.  In 1860 he bought into the Sonoma Democrat, a prominent Democratic journal published in Santa Rosa.  Mr. Thompson also occupied other prominent positions in California, in 1875 received his present appointment from his old friend, Governor Irwin.  For the position, no better could have been selected.  He is respected by all under his control, and also by all who have the pleasure of his acquaintance.  Mr. Thompson is exceedingly kind to traveling members of the press, and the printers look on him as a friend in need.  He is a young and good looking man, very prepossessing in his manner.  He is an old-time Democrat, as indeed are all the State officials.




The Surveyor-General


[Yolo & Solano Cos.]


Hon. William Minis, the incumbent to this office, is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was born, in 1819, and, is, consequently, 59 years of age.  He is a well-preserved man and does not look his age.  The General is a pioneer of the coast, having arrived in California, March 7, 1849.  In 1852 he settled in Yolo County and was one of the first farmers in that district.  In 1853 he was elected Surveyor-General of Yolo County, and twice re-elected to the same office.  In 1857 he was elected to the Assembly, and was elected Sheriff of Yolo County in 1865 and re-elected to the same position in 1867.  In 1869 Mr. Minis was elected joint Senator from Yolo and Solano counties, and in 1875 to his present position.  The General is a man much respected by all who know him, having the entire confidence of the people among whom he has lived and properly served for so long a time.  Mr. Minis has always been a Democrat, but, as we understand, with one of the conservative class.  He is a married man of family, and considered by all who know him as the right man for the position.  Like all the State officers of California, the Surveyor-General takes a pride in assisting newspaper men in their researches after knowledge of matters and things, and, like old Californians, dearly loves his adopted country.




Superintendent Of Public Instruction


[Alameda Co.]


Ezra S. Carr, of Oakland, Alameda County, married; born in Stephentown, Renssalar, New York, 1819; educated in the Renssalar Polytechnic School, Troy, New York, where he received the degrees of Bachelor of Science and Civil Engineer; was three years an assistant in the New York Geological Survey; graduated in Castleton Medical College, Vermont, in 1842; was Professor of Chemistry and Physiology in the above-mentioned institution 11 years; and also Professor of Chemistry and Pharmacy in the Philadelphia Medical College, Pennsylvania.  In 1853 was appointed Professor of Chemistry in the Albany Medical College, and of Chemistry applied to the Arts in the University; was Professor of Natural Science in the New York State Normal School, in Chemist to the State Agricultural Society.  In 1856 was appointed Professor of Chemistry and Natural History, and of Agricultural Chemistry in the State University of Wisconsin; also a Regent of said University; was one of the Commissioners appointed to make a geological survey of the State; was three years acting Professor of Chemistry in the Rush Medical College, Chicago; received the degree of L. L. D. from the Lawrence University; in 1868 removed to California, and in 1869 was appointed Professor of Agriculture, Chemistry and Horticulture in the University of California; in 1875 was elected the Superintendent of Public Instruction in California; has been President of two State Medical Societies in Vice-President of the National Medical Association; has been a member of the American Association and for the Advancement of Science since its foundation; has been a constant contributor to medical and educational literature, and is the author of the work just issued entitled Patrons of Habits of Husbandry on the Pacific Coast.  Mr. Carr is a fine specimen of the gentleman of old school, courteous to all with whom he comes in contact, and but not a person that at first sight would be taken for a student or a scientist, but he improves on acquaintance and is like old wine --all the better for the keeping.



Submitted by: Nancy Pratt Melton.