JOHN CRAIG BOGGS
The pioneers of a community are certainly deserving of gratitude, for they master the rough conditions of nature, meeting the hardships and trials which must be borne ere the land gives bountifully of its fruits. Rich in agricultural resources, California yet had for her pioneers a mighty task in preparing this great state for the incoming tide of settlers who were to carry forward the work already begun by the pioneers and aid in placing California in the front rank among the commonwealths that constitute this nation. The traveler of today, as he sees its splendid mining camps, its richly cultivated fields and orchards, it’s beautiful homes and thriving cities, can scarcely realize that hardly half a century has passed since the entire northern and central portion of the state was a wild region, dotted here and there with mining camps, having little of the comforts of civilization and separated from the east by almost interminable stretches of sandy waste or by a long and tedious ocean voyage.
Mr. Boggs was among the pioneers of 1849 who, attracted by the discovery of gold, came to the Pacific coast. He is a native of Pennsylvania, born in Greencastle, Franklin County, on the 18th of October, 1825. On the paternal side the parents were of German lineage and on the maternal side of Scotch descent, the ancestry having been early settlers of the colonies and participated in the events which form the colonial history, and the men were in the Revolutionary War.
Dr. John Boggs, the father of our subject, was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, on the 17th of August, 1787, and was a fine classical scholar and learned physician. Throughout his entire life he resided in Greencastle and during the War of 1812 he served as a surgeon, being then a young practitioner of twenty-five years of age. For thirty years after the second struggle with England he continued to practice medicine in Greencastle, one of the most beloved and eminent physicians in the county. He was a devout Christian man and was ordained as an elder in the Presbyterian Church of Greencastle. Of liberal and generous impulses, his home was celebrated for its hospitality and in it he had a “prophet’s chamber,” in which the ministers of all denominations were entertained. Without distinction the rich and poor alike were the subjects of his professional skill. He was married, in 1817, to Miss Isabella Craig Allison, a daughter of William Allison, a prominent resident of Greencastle. They reared eight children, two of whom, F. Johnson and Charles H., became distinguished ministers of the gospel and made life records of great usefulness in the world. Others of the family were highly talented and respected in other departments of life. Their honored father, Dr. Boggs, passed away on the 12th of July, 1847, at the age of sixty years, and his wife attained about the same age. Five of the family still survive.
John Craig Boggs, who was the fourth born, received a public-school education, but was of a somewhat restless and adventurous nature and did not take readily to the classics and theology as did his brothers, and consequently when gold was discovered in California he was attracted to the mines and took passage on a sailing vessel from Baltimore, on the Xylon, and sailed around Cape Horn to California. His father had died two years previously, but he secured the consent of his relatives and of his mother, who gave me one thousand dollars with which to start out upon his perilous voyage. The captain of the boat proved a rough and overbearing man, who put the passengers on a short allowance of water and treated them very inhumanely. The passengers therefore elected a committee to wait upon the captain and compel him to land and get water. A. A. Sargent, later United States senator, Robert Armstrong and Mr. Boggs were chosen as the committee, and they succeeded in persuading the captain that it would be better for him to land and secure a sufficient supply of water; but such had been his course on the voyage that Mr. Sargent reported him to the United States consul at Rio de Janeiro and he and his mate were relieved from command of the ship. While on the voyage one of the passengers jumped overboard and was drowned, but all the others reached San Francisco in safety on the 14th of September, 1849. They found a town of a few rudely constructed buildings, but on and among the sand hills, the bay extending to the present site of Sansome Street.
Mr. Boggs proceeded to Wood’s dry diggings, now the beautiful city of Auburn, where he arrived on the 28th of September, 1849, in company with his partner E. M. Hall. They had been up the Sacramento on the I. O. O. F., and at that place Mr. Boggs met his brother, William Allison, whom he had not seen for four years. The meeting was a great but happy surprise. At Sacramento they secured pack mules on which they loaded their effects, while the men walked the entire distance to Wood’s dry diggings. This was before Auburn was given its name. There wre five men of the company and they at once engaged in digging and washing the dirt for gold. On the first day Mr. Boggs picked up a nugget worth sixteen dollars, which greatly elated him and his companions. They made money fast and spent it as easily and went frequently from one camp to another. Our subject was in Nevada and Yuba counties, and in 1854 returned east to visit his relatives; but in the spring of 1855 again came to California. He was one of the large company that flumed the American River at great expense; but the enterprise proved a failure. The most successful day which Mr. Boggs experienced during his mining ventures was at Concord bar on the Yuba River, where he took out one hundred dollars. Like the other pioneer mines, he had times of good fortune and of adversity. He was a man of liberal impulses and his generosity led him to spend his money freely. He has always continued his interest in mining and is now a half owner of the Never Sweat mine at Canada Hill, above Michigan Bluff. He is also interested in the oil lands of Kern County and was one of the pioneer fruit growers in Placer County, also one of the first to engage in the fruit shipping business. He has certainly been one of the leading men in advancing the interests of his county.
In early life Mr. Boggs was a Whig, but became identified with the Republican Party on its organization. After returning from the east in 1855 he was made deputy sheriff of his county and for ten years he held the office of constable, rendering very efficient service in maintaining law and order. He was elected sheriff of Placer County, filling the position until 1883 and proving himself to be a most fearless and reliable officer. He was instrumental in ridding the country of the famous Tom Bell and Rattle Snake Dick. He was also the assessor of the county for one term, and perhaps not a resident of this locality is better acquainted with Placer County and its affairs than Mr. Boggs. His was the honor of establishing the first Republican paper in the county, known as the Stars and Stripes. He began its publication in 1863 and continued to be its owner until 1865, when he sold out to W. a. Silkirk.
Mr. Boggs was united in marriage in 1857 to Miss Livisa Chandler Harrington, of Maine. Unto them have been born two children, one of whom is living, John Gove. The daughter, Isabella Allison, passed away in her thirty-second year, greatly beloved by hosts of friends. After forty-one years of happy married life Mrs. Boggs was taken from her husband by death. She had come to California in 1856 and was one of the brave pioneer women whose influence in the affairs of the states was very marked. She possessed considerable talent, was earnest in support of her honest convictions and had a very large circle of warm friends. On the 16th of April, 1899, Mr. Boggs wedded Miss Alice S. Watson, of Sacramento, a native of Missouri and the youngest daughter of General Ralph Watson, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, who was general-in-chief of the state militia. Her mother was in her maidenhood Miss Julia Crawford, of Virginia, a descendant of one of the old families of that state. Her father removed to Missouri and became prominently engaged in the raising of blooded horses and cattle. He lived in that state only two years, and during that time Mrs. Boggs was born.
In 1852, accompanied by his family, he started across the plains for the Willamette Valley in Oregon, taking with him a drove of stock and herders to care for them. The elder daughters of the family, Miss Anna Watson and Byrd Watson, had horses to ride, and the party was excellently equipped. After passing Fort Laramie the father was stricken with cholera and died, the widow and the family then being left to continue the sad journey alone. After arriving in Salem, Oregon, Mrs. Watson let out her stock on the shares. She resided in that state until 1861, at which time she removed with her family to Sacramento, where Mrs. Boggs remained the greater part of the time until her marriage. She is an accomplished and intelligent lady and she and her husband are now living very happily in a beautiful residence in Newcastle, their home being surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowers of his own planting. He is now capably serving at the postmaster of the town, during the administration of President McKinley. Still strong in body and intellect, he is a grand representative of the California pioneers of 1849.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.