THOMAS B. HARPER
The history of northern California would be very incomplete and unsatisfactory without a personal and somewhat extended mention of those whose lives are so closely interwoven with the development of the state. Among this number is Thomas B. Harper who is classified among the pioneers of 1849 and is now one of the most highly respected citizens of Lincoln. He is a native of Virginia, his birth having occurred in Dinwiddie County, on the 19th of September, 1831. His Scotch ancestors, who were the founders of the family in America, became early settlers of the Old Dominion. His father, William Halloway Harper, was born in Virginia and was married there to Miss Sarah Warshin Scott, by whom he had eight children, all born in that state. The father died in Virginia in 1836, and his widow with her children afterward removed to Missouri in 1837, becoming identified with the farming interests in that part of the country. There the mother lived until her death, which occurred in the fifty-seventh year of her age.
Thomas Burrell Harper, of this review, was only five years of age when his father died, and when a little lad of six summers he accompanied his mother to Missouri, where he was reared and educated. He is now the only survivor of the family. In 1849 he crossed the plains with oxen, traveling with a wagon train of twenty-two wagons, accompanied and commanded by William Pope. They were organized like a military company, the men taking turns in doing guard duty from the time they left Missouri until they arrived at Bear Valley, California. One of the company was drowned while en route, but aside from that no casualties happened and all reached the Golden state in safety. They left their old homes on the 17th of April and reached their destination on the 23rd of August. Mr. Harper engaged in prospecting and mining in Bear River but did not meet with very good success. His brother, George B., and a friend, Benjamin Tucker, were his partners but both have long since passed to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns. Leaving Bear Valley they went to Sacramento and thence proceeded up Clear Creek and while there their efforts were attended with but little success. They also went to Trinity County and later returned to Sacramento. In February, 1850, they proceeded to Nevada County and in their mining operations on the South Yuba for a time took out no inconsiderable quantity of gold. Subsequently Mr. Harper and his brother went to Jackson, Amador County, where again they were successful in their mining operations.
Our subject was also at Michigan Bluff and while at that place he was elected assessor of Placer County, which office he filled during the years of 1859 and 1860, at the same time conducting a store in Auburn. In 1863 he became the agent for the Bear River Ditch Water Company and the same year was elected district assessor, discharging the duties of that office in a capable manner, and at the same time owning and conducting a livery stable. His next venture was as owner of a store in Lincoln, where he has since done a good business, enjoying the confidence and respect as well as the patronage of the public.
He was elected justice of the peace, served in 1893-4 and in 1897 was again chosen to that position, which he is still filling. He is a man of intelligence and good judgment and weighs carefully the evidence and the law applicable to it and his decisions have never been reversed by the higher court. It will thus be seen that through the years of an active business career Mr. Harper has also been frequently honored with public office and he has ever discharged his duties so as to win the commendation of those concerned.
In 1864 occurred his marriage to Miss Frances Rebecca Nickerson, a native of Missouri, who came to California in 1850 with her father, James R. Nickerson, who still survives and is now in the eighty-third year of his age, a respected and honored pioneer living in Nevada County. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Harper were born two daughters, but both have passed away, Laura, when only fourteen months of age, and Hattie, in her twentieth year. She was a beautiful and lovable young lady, a favorite in social circles and her death was deeply mourned by her parents and all who knew her. Mr. and Mrs. Harper have a delightful home which stands near his place of business and is surrounded by trees and beautiful flowers of their own planting. Mr. Harper is the proprietor of a book and stationery business, and is the news agent of the town. He likewise owns his own justice courtroom. He is a member of the Pioneer Society at Sacramento and is a prominent Mason, having joined the order at Michigan Bluff in 1858. He attained the sublime degree of Master Mason at Auburn in 1859, and is a Royal Arch Mason. For four terms he served as master of the Gold Hill Lodge, No. 32, of Lincoln, while of the chapter he is past king. In 1854 he joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and has filled all of the chairs in both branches. He has been district deputy grand master of the encampment, and is past master workman of the Ancient Order of United Workmen. Mr. and Mrs. Harper have a wide circle of friends in Placer County where they have so long resided and possess the happy faculty of drawing them closer as the years pass by. Sterling qualities of character insure them high regard and in the history of California they well deserve honorable mention.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.