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S. M. Mezes. Born of pure Spanish lineage and early identified with the beginning of history in California, S. M. Mezes was one of the pioneers whose life expresses all that is most characteristic in the moulding of the state. He was one of the typical grandees of old Spain, and carried his chivalric ideals far in colonizing the new country and casting it for all time in the spirit of romance. Having come to Porto Rico while a boy, he became, at the age of twenty-one, the president of the largest and most influential bank in the island. Forced by the climate to leave Porto Rico, he came to California, arriving on February 22, 1850. It was an exciting era for one of his traditions with the magnificent spur of the work of the great Spanish discoverers, explorers and world builders. The gold of the Indies sought for in Columbus’ time was now visible, like a fabulous dream come true, while the new Republic of the United States of America and the old Spanish dynasty joined forces and interests on the far western shore of discovery.

Upon his arrival in California, Mr. Mezes organized the firm of Ranke, Cipriani & Mezes for the purpose of distributing the great Spanish ranchos and he soon became a leading figure in the history of the state. Distinguished by his unusual energy and administrative ability as well as by his rare knowledge of the law, he was largely responsible for the satisfactory settlement of the questions arising out of the Spanish land grants. He was one of the original patentees of the Rancho de los Pulgas and played part in the disposition of the claims of squatters. The prestige of his birth and strong personality, combined with his control of extensive land interests, made him one of the political dictators of the day. Redwood City was at first named Mezesville after him, but its name was changed later at his own request, because of his dislike of publicity. To this aristocratic aversion for public acclaim is due the fact that he is less generally known than others whose influence on early California history was far less vital than his. Nevertheless he was a man of rare courage and decided character, typically Spanish in his aims, a part of the old dominion which sought to make the magnificence and splendor of California civilization equal the exceptional gifts of her climate and land resources.

Mr. Mezes chose Belmont for the location of his home and he gave to his home county the land in Redwood City which was used for the courthouse, the adjoining park and the cemetery, and he also contributed most of the cost of erecting the courthouse itself. Had he lived to old age, he doubtless would have influenced the destinies of California politics to a far wider extent than he did, but he died in 1884.

Mr. Mezes married Miss Juliet Johnson, the daughter of Sidney L. Johnson, one of the most prominent members of the early bar, who was chosen, in conjunction with the late Justice Field, to revise the codes of California. Mrs. Mezes, who survived her husband, was a woman of the highest culture and attainments, widely traveled, a distinguished linguist and a charming social leader. They had four children; Isabel, buried in Perth, Scotland; Juliet Louise, buried in Paris, France; Sidney Edward, now president of the College of the City of New York, one of the most eminent of American scholars and educators, an author of distinguished works on philosophical subjects and the director of the Territorial, Economic and Political Section of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace after the World War in 1919; and Carmelita, who married an Englishman, Ernest M. Phillips-Wynne, of and old and distinguished diplomatic family. In addition to these two living children, Mr. Mezes has two grandchildren who rendered signal service in the recent world war: Edward Cyril Wynne and Sidney Mezes Wynne. The former graduated cum laude from Harvard University, finishing a difficult course in three years. He entered the army at the outbreak of the war and after having reached in a very short time the rank of captain and having seen continuous active service during the war, he was assigned for duty at the Peace Conference. He was decorated by both the United States and French governments for bravery in action and distinguished service. Since the war he has been in the Diplomatic Service, where he has already won promotion and recognition. Sidney Mezes Wynne attended the University of California and served in the navy during the war. Having his grandfather’s business ability and energy, he is now engaged in business in San Francisco in association with the firm of Ingrim, Rutledge & Company.

The aims of the Spanish aristocrat, imperfectly realized in his own life, have thus been carried to distinguished fruition in the son and grandsons, whose pride it is always to be in the forefront of national endeavor, leading the thought and progress of both the state and nation of which they are a part. They are exponents of that fine Americanism, which has drawn from the best blood of the old world, yet retained its integrity in the ideals of the great republic.

Transcribed by Elaine Sturdevant



Source: "The San Francisco Bay Region" Vol. 3 page 382-383 by Bailey Millard. Published by The American Historical Society, Inc. 1924.

© 2004 Elaine Sturdevant.


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