RICHARD BENJAMIN PURVIS
Missouri, which during recent years has come to the front as one of the great states of the Union, has, during the formative period of its history and later, supplied many valuable citizens to California. Richard Benjamin Purvis, the sheriff of Stanislaus County, is one of the most prominent citizens of Modesto. He was born in Callaway County, Missouri, September 15, 1844, and is descended from Scotch-English ancestors, who settled early in Virginia. His parents, Nicholas and Elizabeth (Sterns) Purvis, were born and married in Virginia, and in 1841 went with their six children to Missouri and were among the early settlers in Callaway County, where they made a large farm and became successful agriculturists and lived out their days, Mr. Purvis dying at about the age of fifty years, while Mrs. Purvis lived to the advanced age of eighty-four years, dying in 1883. Their deaths were deeply regretted by all who had known them as active members of the Baptist Church and people of the highest and most admirable character. Three children were added to their family after they removed to Missouri, increasing the total number to nine, of whom six are now living, including the subject of this sketch, who is the only member of his family in California.
When Mr. Purvis came to California he was only nineteen years old. He farmed for a year in Napa County and in 1864 went to Idaho and mined near Idaho City in 1865 and 1866, but with only moderate success. Returning to Napa County, he remained there until 1870, when he came to Stanislaus County, where his enterprise as a famer was richly rewarded. As he prospered he bought more and more land from time to time until he owned an aggregate of eight hundred and nine acres, which he brought to a high state of cultivation and improvement, building on it a good residence and adequate farm buildings, and on which he lived until 1884, when the Democracy of Stanislaus County nominated him for the office of sheriff, for which his upright and resolute character peculiarly fitted him and for which he had had some training, when, as a boy, he had seen dangerous service in the Confederate cause under General Sterling Price. Two years of frontier warfare, in which he had many times risked his life, always coming out unscathed, gave him confidence to pit himself against the criminal and lawless element of Stanislaus County. He was elected and filled the office with so much ability and success that he has been six times re-elected to succeed himself. His work in ridding the county of bad men and in establishing and maintaining law and order was most effective, and very much that would be interesting might be written about his experiences in an official capacity.
Mr. Purvis has been a valued member of the Masonic fraternity since 1873, when he was received as an Entered Apprentice, passed the Fellow Craft degree and was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. Later he took the degrees of capitular Masonry and was exalted to the august degree of Royal Arch Mason, and in 1890 he took the degrees of chivalric Masonry and was constituted, created and dubbed a Knight Templar. He is also an Odd Fellow and a Knight of Pythias; and not only is he popular in all the orders mentioned but is also esteemed as one of Stanislaus county’s most useful and prominent citizens, for his public spirit has impelled him at all times to aid to the extent of his ability every movement promising to benefit his fellow men.
He was happily married in 1876 to Miss Jennie Philips, a native of the state of New York, an influential member of t he Christian Church and a woman of much education and refinement, and their home at Modesto is noted for its hearty and genial hospitality.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2011 Gerald Iaquinta.