CHARLES J. HELLWIG
Charles John Hellwig, one of Auburn’s genial and intelligent old-time residents, came to California in 1852 and for many years has been the reliable dealer in and manufacturer of harness in the town in which he now lives. The record of his life, briefly sketched, is as follows:
Mr. Hellwig was born in Prussia on the 25th of February, 1826, a son of Carl August and Adelgumla (Schultz) Hellwig, both natives of Prussia. Carl August Hellwig was an officer in the Prussian army and participated in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte. Both he and his wife were members of the Lutheran Church, in the faith of which they reared their family. Of their five children, three are still living, namely: Charles John and Theodore and their sister Mrs. Frances C. Vandeler, the last two being residents of Brooklyn, New York.
Charles J., the eldest of the surviving members of his father’s family, was educated in his native land and there learned the harness and saddler business. In 1848 he came to the United States in search of civil liberty, and upon his arrival in this country located in New York City and went to work at his trade. He was thus occupied there when news of the discovery of gold in California spread like wife-fire over the country. Imbued with a spirit of adventure and with a desire to see something of the country, as well as to make his fortune in the far west, young Hellwig set out for California. He sailed from New York via the Nicaragua route for San Francisco, which port he reached in due time and whence he at once went to the mining districts. His first mining experience was in El Dorado County, near Coloma. In speaking of his early mining days, Mr. Hellwig says that the largest nugget he ever found weighed eleven ounces, and his six weeks’ most successful mining averaged one hundred and seventy-five dollars per day. This was on the Middle Fork of the American River, in the latter part of the summer. The following winter he had a drift claim in the tunnel of which he put all the money he had taken out of the river. He continued to mine for about two years, chiefly in Placer County, after which with the money had had made in the mines, he purchased a farm. On this farm he lived two years, devoting his time to its cultivation and improvement, only to find, at the end of that time that it was a Spanish grant and that his title to it was not good. Thus he lost the land, improvements and all. He had money enough left, however, with which to establish himself in the harness business, which he did in Auburn, in 1861, and here for the past forty years he has conducted a successful business, passing through the fires which swept away portions of the town, and surviving the financial disasters that overthrew many a business house. Throughout his whole career here he has enjoyed the confidence and esteem of all who have in any way whatever been associated with him.
Mr. Hellwig has been a reader all his life and has kept himself well posted on the general topics of the day. In Masonry he has for years taken a deep interest, has received the higher degrees of the order, including the thirty-second of the Scottish Rite, and has been honored with high official position. He is a past master of the blue lodge and past high priest of the chapter. Politically he is a Democrat, but has never sought or held office, his own private business claiming his time and attention.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.