John, Costa, one of Sierra county’s most prominent and successful citizens, now practically retired from business pursuits, is numbered among those who have in a very definite way contributed to the general progress and advancement of the community, and he has well earned the leisure which he is now able to enjoy. He was born in Genoa, Italy, on the 18th of November, 1856, and is a son of Antone and Annie (Bachigalupi) Costa, both of whom were also natives of that city, where they were reared and married. In the ‘50s the father joined the gold rush to California, and soon afterward sent back to Italy for his wife and two sons, who joined him at Downieville, Sierra County. There he soon bought out a squatter’s right to a farm near Downieville, where he engaged in farming and dairying. To him and his wife were born the following children: Michael Adam, who was born in Italy and now resides on a ranch near Downieville; John, of this review; August, who was born in Downieville, Antone, a merchant in Downieville; Charles, who died at the age of eighteen months; Mary, who also died when eighteen months old; and Louisa, who was married at Nevada City, California, to Joseph Penozzi, a rancher near Nevada City.
John Costa was reared on his father’s farm and received his education in one of the first public schools established in Downieville, the building having been erected in the ‘50s. Recently Mr. Costa bought this old building and grounds. He tore down the building for the sake of the old lumber and timber, and by a curious coincidence found among the wreckage the original bill for the lumber used in the building. When a young man Mr. Costa went to work for the late Louis Byington, who was at that time a prominent member of the state legislature. He was employed in Mr. Byington’s meat market in Downieville, in which he learned the butcher’s trade. Sometime later he and his elder brother, Michael A., bought the Berg meat market and thereafter conducted it under the name of Costa Brothers for twenty-two years. The business prospered, due to the close attention and careful management of the proprietors, and later they expanded the scope of their operations, buying out the St. Charles Hotel and Annex, and also a hardware store. Later, John Costa also bought out the Gold Bluff mine, which he afterward sold to John Rosenfelt’s Sons to good advantage. He also became the owner of the famous Monte Cristo gold mine, with its twenty-four mining claims, which he still owns. Upon the dissolution of the firm of Costa Brothers, Michael retained the St. Charles Hotel property at Downieville, which he operated successfully until 1906, when he sold it to the present owner, A. Lavezzola. During the subsequent years Mr. Costa has had many and varied interests and, in the main, has been successful in his undertakings. Among his other interests, he went to Nevada and invested in the Washoe Power & Development Company, which proved a profitable venture. When the gold discoveries at Tonopah and Goldfield were made, he bought the Goldfield Extension Power claims, which he also sold at a good profit. In association with Frank Humphreys, the cattle king of the Sierra Valley, he established the Tonopah & Goldfield and for several years did a very extensive business. Of this he recently disposed, retiring to his beautiful mountain home at Downieville, overlooking the Yuba River. He still retains the Excelsior and Monte Cristo mining properties, which he may re-open in the near future. He also owns stock in several very substantial public utility corporations and has given his support to various enterprises which have contributed to the commercial prosperity of Downieville and Sierra County. Mr. Costa was formerly identified with the various transportation lines of this locality, having operated the stage line between Downieville and Sierra City for many years in association with the late Henry Guemion, of Nevada City, and also the stage line between Sattley and Sierra City. For several years he conducted the Sierra City Hotel at Sierra City.
On April 29, 1889, in Downieville, Mr. Costa was united in marriage to Miss Margaret Campbell, of Moorestown, Sierra County, a daughter of David and Margaret Campbell. Her father was actively connected with hydraulic gold mining in this county in former days. Mr. and Mrs. Costa are the parents of two daughters, as follows: Genevieve, who is the wife of Stanley J. Smith, a lawyer in Oakland, California, and the mother of three children, Stanley, Allen, and Margaret, the latter being a senior in the University of California; and Mrs. Emma Folsom, of Oakland, whose son John is a graduate of the University high school at Berkeley.
Mr. Costa has ever shown a good citizen’s interest in matters affecting the general welfare, having served a number of times on the grand jury, and twice on trial juries. He gives his political allegiance to the Republican Party and fraternally is affiliated with the Masonic order, belonging to Osage Lodge, No. 18, F. & A. M., at Downieville.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: Wooldridge, J.W.Major History of Sacramento Valley California, Vol. 3 Pages 359-361. Pioneer Historical Publishing Co. Chicago 1931.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.