EDGAR M. BANVARD
Edgar M. Banvard, of Alta, Placer County, is one of the most highly respected old settlers of the state, his residence in California covering a period of forty-eight years. A native of New York City, he was born on the 31st of December, 1820, and is of French lineage, his ancestors having been early settlers of America’s metropolis. His grandfather and his father, both of whom bore the name of Daniel Banvard, were also natives of New York City. The father removed to Rochester, New York, where he was engaged in active business from 1822 until 1825. In the latter year he removed to Cincinnati, Ohio, which was then a far western district, the work of progress and civilization having been scarcely begun in that portion of the country. He remained in the grocery business in Cincinnati for five years and then removed to Louisville, Kentucky, where in 1830 he resumed merchandising in the grocery line, continuing at that place for four years. In 1834 he took up his abode in Peoria, Illinois, whence in 1839 he removed to St. Louis, Missouri, his death occurring there in February, 1840, when he was forty-six years of age.
In early manhood he married Miss Maria Hunt, also a native of New York City. There the wedding was celebrated. She was a descendant of an old Holland Dutch family that was established in New York at a very early period in its existence. They had eight children and the mother attained the very advanced age of eighty-five years. Mr. Banvard is now the only surviving son of the family. Two of the sons, Benjamin H. and Daniel, crossed the plains with ox teams in 1849 and were engaged in mining in this state until 1860, when Daniel died, after which Benjamin returned to the east, his death occurring in Chicago, Illinois.
Mr. Banvard, of this review, was educated in Peoria, Illinois, and began his business career in the mercantile establishment of Alter & Howell, of Peoria, Illinois. Determining to seek a home and a fortune in the far west, he made his way to California by the Isthmus route. On the 14th of January, 1851, he wedded Miss Abby Shurtleff, a native of Morgan County, Illinois, and a daughter of Milton Shurtleff. She was born February 23, 1829. The young wife remained in the east for three years and then joined Mr. Banvard in his California home. He had tired of his mercantile experiences, and, as potatoes were commanding a very high price in the Golden state, he with a partner engaged in the raising of that vegetable, making it his first business venture on the Pacific coast. They rented forty acres of land near Oakland and raised a very large crop, but the price of potatoes went down and they lost considerable money. His next venture was that of painting and paper hanging, and he followed that business for about two years, making from six to eight dollars per day. Subsequently he met Dr. Crandall, an acquaintance from the east who advised Mr. Banvard to go to Auburn, and accordingly he arrived at that place in 1855. The Doctor was the treasurer of Placer County and the secretary of the Bear River Ditch Company. He made Mr. Banvard his deputy treasurer and he also performed much of the work of the secretary for the Doctor, by whom he was paid one hundred dollars per month and also given his board. He was continued as the deputy treasurer of the county, under Treasurer Philip Stoner, and in 1860 was elected the treasurer of the county, on the Union ticket, discharging the duties of the office so capably that he was re-elected in 1862. His connection with the county finances therefore covered a period of eight years and was one in which he gained the highest commendation, for he proved himself to be entirely trustworthy and reliable.
In 1866 Mr. Banvard removed to Alta, where the Central Pacific Railway had just been built. He purchased the Depot Hotel and was its popular landlord for eighteen years. In 1869 he was elected a member of the state assembly and for four years he represented his district in the law-making body of the state. His prominence was shown by the fact that during the two sessions he was chairman of the finance committee. He has been a lifelong Democrat, unfaltering in the support of the principles of the party, and he has taken an active interest in the work of the party conventions. His efforts have contributed in a large measure toward securing Democratic success, and as a county and state officer he gave to the duties of his positions the fullest attention.
After three years spent in California, Mr. Banvard returned to the east for his wife, making the journey by way of the Isthmus of Panama. They returned by way of the Nicaragua route, bringing with them their first-born son, Louis Howell, who is now the secretary in the train dispatcher’s office in Sacramento, a young man of intelligence and ability. Their second son, Charles Edgar, was born in Auburn on the 7th of June, 1857, and is now employed in a large sawmill in Tuolumne County. Mr. Banvard is now, in 1900, in the eightieth year of his age, and his wife has reached the age of seventy-one years. They are a well preserved old couple and deserve honorable mention among the pioneers and prominent citizens of their adopted state. They have a nice home at Alta and several other dwellings, and three hundred and twenty acres of farming land, and are passing the evening of a well spent life in peace and comfort. Mrs. Banvard is an estimable lady who shares with her husband in the high regard which is uniformly given him. Mr. Banvard has borne an active part in the work of developing California from its primitive condition to its present state of progress, and in public and private life he has commanded the respect, confidence and good will of his fellow men.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.