HON. E. P. COLGAN
It is a well attested maxim that the greatness of a state lies not in its machinery of government; nor even in its institutions, but in the sterling qualities of its individual citizens, in their capacity for high and unselfish effort and their devotion to the public good. Edward P. Colgan is one in whom public confidence is reposed in recognition of his true merit. He is now serving his third term as the state Comptroller of California, and is a most trustworthy and capable official, whose fidelity to duty is manifest by his long continuance in office through the power of the popular ballot. Although well fitted for leadership and justly deserving of the honors conferred upon him, in manner he is plain and unassuming; a genial, courteous gentleman, possessed of the true democratic spirit and preferring to be known to his friends, and the circle is by no means a limited one, simply as “Ed Colgan.” He has been closely identified with the Republican Party for nineteen years, during which time he has always evinced a deep interest in state and national politics and has materially aided and been of influential benefit in local affairs.
Mr. Colgan was born in Santa Rosa, California, in January, 1856. His father, Edward P. Colgan, Sr., was born in New York City, entered upon his business career in the capacity of printer’s devil, and later he served as a carver in a restaurant. He was thus employed until after the discovery of gold in California, when he made his way to the Pacific slope, going around Cape Horn to San Francisco where he opened a restaurant. He conducted that enterprise until 1853, and during his residence in San Francisco was married, July 20, 1851, to Miss Elizabeth Staub; who was born in Baden, Germany, and with her mother and two brothers crossed the Atlantic to the United States in 1848. Her father, Jacob Staub, was born in Baden, Germany, and there spent his entire life, his death occurring there when he had reached the age of fifty years. He was a man of considerable prominence, served as burgermeister or mayor of his town for many years, and held other positions of public trust. After the death of the father the mother and children came to the new world, and in 1849 Mrs. Colgan and her sister came to California, by way of the straits. She is still living in the old family home in Santa Rosa, but frequently visits her son in the capital city.
After the marriage the parents of our subject continued in the restaurant business in San Francisco until October, 1853, when they sold out and removed to Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California, opening a hotel at that point before the city was laid out. The town was platted, however, the following year and his hostelry, known as the Santa Rosa House, was the pioneer hotel of the place, and like its proprietor was very popular with the traveling public. The old building is still standing and is now used as a blacksmith shop. Toward the close of his life Edward P. Colgan, Sr., went to San Diego, California, hoping to improve his impaired health, but all to no avail, for he died while on the return trip. In early life he took a very active interest in politics, and, though he never sought or desired office for himself, labored earnestly to promote the growth and insure the success of his party. All through the dark days of the Civil War, when sectional feeling ran very high in California, the stars and stripes floated above his hotel and signified his unwavering allegiance to the Union. No one could mistake his position, and when he passed away at the age of fifty years, the community lost one of its most valued and honored citizens.
Edward P. Colgan, whose name introduces this review, spent his childhood and youth in his native city and acquired his education in its public schools. On laying aside his textbooks he began to prepare for the practical duties of life, and learned the trade of blacksmithing, which he followed for more than thirteen years and doubtless, developed thereby his fine physique.
Mr. Colgan was married, in Santa Rosa, November 24, 1880, to Miss Mary Smith, a native of Sonoma County and a daughter of John and Tressa (Banks) Smith. Her paternal grandparents were Jacob and Eliza (Elliott) Smith, who were pioneer settlers of Illinois, originally from Kentucky. With a party they crossed the plains to California and became residents of Sonoma County in 1854. Mr. Smith was a very prominent and influential early settler of that section of the state, and largely aided in its public development and growth. He died in Santa Rosa, at the age of seventy-five years, and his wife passed away at the same age. The maternal grandparents of Mrs. Colgan were Willis and Evelyn (Thomas) Banks, natives of Kentucky, whence they removed to Kansas, where Mrs. Banks died. In 1875 Mr. Banks came to the Golden state for his health, where his death occurred in Bakersfield, when he had reached the age of seventy-five years. John Smith, the father of Mrs. Colgan, was a native of Quincy, Illinois, and by occupation was a lumberman and farmer.
In 1854 he came overland with his parents and a large party to California, Dr. Boyce, now of Santa Rosa, being among the number who then made the long and perilous journey across the plains. They were six months on the way and Mr. Smith first took up his residence upon a farm near Santa Rosa. Subsequently he removed westward into the mountains, where he operated a sawmill and conducted a lumber business. He and his wife are still living.
During the Civil War the Banks home in Kansas was a rendezvous alternately for Federals and Confederates and many an exciting episode occurred there. Mrs. Colgan has spent her entire life in the Golden state. She acquired her early education in a primitive school among the mountains where her father operated a sawmill, and later was graduated in the Santa Rosa high school with the first class that completed the course in that institution. She is a cultured and refined lady and a loving and faithful wife and mother. She is a lady of genuine worth and the honors which have been accorded her in connection with her husband’s position have by no means affected her sweet womanliness. She believes not in station, but in character, and true worth and not position is the passport to her friendship. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Colgan have been born five children, but one died in infancy. Those still living are Edlo May, Evelyn, Ralph Waite and Helen.
Mr. Colgan first became actively connected with political affairs in 1886, in which year he was elected county sheriff. However, he has given a stalwart support to the Republican Party since casting his first presidential vote for James A. Garfield in 1880. He filled the office of county sheriff for a term of two years and so fearlessly and acceptably discharged his duties that he was re-elected for a second term. In the meantime his loyalty to the party and his fitness for political duties became known throughout the state, and in 1890 he was the choice of his party for state comptroller. For three terms he has now filled that office, and over the record of his public career there falls no shadow of wrong or suspicion of evil. His course has ever been honorable and straightforward, and he has never been drawn into any factional differences, content to let the voice of the people chose or reject him. That he has the public confidence in an unusual degree and that he fully merits it, is indicated by his long retention in office. He is the first to reach the office in the morning, the last to leave it at night, and neglects no duty or detail no matter how unimportant it may seem.
Mr. Colgan is very prominent in civic societies and is a valued member of various orders, including the Masonic fraternity and the Mystic Shrine, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Native Sons of the Golden West, the Knights of Pythias and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He is also prominent in every good work to advance humanitarian interests or promote the industrial growth of the state. With him friendship is inviolable, and at great sacrifice to himself he will favor a friend if it is at all possible to do it. In manner he is cordial and genial and has the regard of all with whom he has been brought in contact. His unassailable reputation makes his career an honor to the pages of the history of the state that has honored him and which claims him among her native sons.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.