JOHN C. EARLY
In every part of the United States natives of Virginia have made their mark, and this is no less true of California than of the south, of the middle west and of the east. John C. Early, one of the most respected citizens of Calaveras County, was born on his father’s farm in Franklin County, Virginia, in 1830, and is a member of one of the most respectable families of that state, his grandfather and the grandfather of General Jubal A. Early of the Confederate Army having been brothers. Melchizadek Early, the father of John C. Early, was born in Virginia also, and married Louisa Ferguson, a native of that state. In 1835, after they had had three children born in Virginia, Mr. and Mrs. Early, with their little family, started for Pike County, Missouri, and Mrs. Early died by the way in St. Charles County. Mr. Early died in Pike County in 1865, the day after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee to General Grant. He had then attained his sixty-sixth year and recalled with regret the days when his people had been wealthy and influential planters in the south.
John C. Early, who is the only surviving member of his family, crossed the plains to California in 1850, with horses and mules and arrived at “Hangtown” August 1. His party consisted of himself and eight other young men, and they had two wagons, with four teams to each, and were well armed, but were not molested by any one and made the journey without any unusual adventure. Mr. Early passed the winter of 1850-51 at Auburn, Placer County, and early in the year last mentioned began mining on the north fork of the American River and did well. The following year he mined on Randolph Flat, Nevada County, with satisfactory results, taking out in one day one hundred and seventy-five dollars worth of ore. Then he tried and made a failure of farming in Colusa County and resumed mining. In July, 1856, he went to Oroville and mined there, meeting with good fortune. In November of that year he went to San Andreas, where he continued mining until 1863. The war between the north and the south was now well advanced, and being a southerner by birth, he deemed it his duty to bear arms in defense of southern principles. Accordingly, returning to Missouri he enlisted in Company E, Second Regiment Missouri Mounted Riflemen, and served under General Forrest in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, participating in the battle of Tupelo, Mississippi, and in many other engagements and skirmishes, without receiving a wound and serving continuously until after the surrender of General Lee. At the close of hostilities Mr. Early took the oath of allegiance to the United States and has since been a thorough American, knowing no north or south.
He remained in Missouri until 1871, and then returned to California and became one of the owners of the Sheep Ranch mine, one of the dividend-paying properties of Calaveras County, and after considerable wealth had been taken out of it he sold his interest in it to Haggin and his associates for one hundred and eight thousand dollars, and the mine has yielded good profits to this day. Mr. Early has other valuable mining interests and has proved himself a businessman of much ability.
In 1880 Mr. Early married Miss Mary M. Steel, a native of Placer County and a daughter of John Steel, a prominent citizen, a biographical sketch of whom appears elsewhere in this work, and has a pleasant home at San Andreas in which to spend the evening of an eventful and successful life. Mr. and Mrs. Early have two daughters, Rhoda and Mary, whose presence adds attractiveness to their parents home. Mr. Early is a life-long Democrat and is influential in the councils of his party, and he is a prominent member of the Masonic fraternity, and he and his family occupy a high place in the esteem of his fellow citizens. He has several times visited his former homes in Virginia and Missouri.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.