Each community is judged by the character of its representative citizens, and its social, intellectual and business standing is determined thereby. The sterling worth, commercial ability and enterprise of the leading men are mirrored forth in the public life of the town, and therefore the history of the people of prominence is the history of the community. No account of Oakdale would be complete without the life record of Thomas Richardson, a man whose public spirit is manifested in his many efforts to improve the conditions and promote the upbuilding of the town. He came to the state in 1850 and now resides on a large farm in Stanislaus County, three miles west of Oakdale.
Mr. Richardson was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, on the 28th of September, 1818, and is of English, Scotch and Irish descent, his ancestors being among the early settlers of Virginia and participating in the events which find mention in the annals of the Old Dominion. One of the representatives of the name also served in the war of the Revolution. Robert Richardson, the father of our subject, was born in Virginia, removed to Kentucky and at the time of the War of 1812 entered his country’s service under command of General William H. Harrison. He married Miss Catherine Bullen, who was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, a daughter of John Bullen, one of the heroes of the war for independence. They removed to Pike County, Missouri, and a number of their children were born there. In 1827 they took up their abode in Pike County, Illinois, becoming pioneer settlers of that locality, where they secured government land, the father developing thereon a good farm upon which he made his home until the time of his death in 1845. While in Missouri he held the office of tax collector. Both he and his wife were Baptists in religious faith and were upright, reliable and respected farming people. Mrs. Richardson passed away in the fifty-sixth year of her age. They were the parents of eleven children, of whom all reached mature years, but only two of the number are now living, the sister of our subject being Fammey, the wife of William Wagener, a resident of Pike County, Illinois.
Thomas Richardson, of this review, was eight years of age when with his parents went to the Prairie state, and in the primitive log schoolhouse of the neighborhood he pursued his studies through a short period each winter. At the time of early spring planting he took his place in the fields to assist in the cultivation of the farm and was employed with plowing, cultivating and harvesting until after the crops were garnered in the autumn. His life was passed in the quiet routine of the farm until 1850, when the country became stirred by news of the gold discovery in California and he determined to make his way to the El Dorado of the west. Accordingly he joined a company of ninety men that secured an outfit in Pike County and started in a train of twenty-nine wagons on the long and arduous journey across the plains. They were well supplied with provisions, and, as two physicians were of the party, were protected against prolonged illness. The journey was made by way of South Bear River, Green River and Humboldt, and they were on the journey about six months, at the end of which period they arrived in Hangtown, now Placerville, September 18, 1850. Although many emigrant trains suffered greatly from cholera, only three of their party had died of the disease.
Mr. Richardson began his career as a placer miner with pan and rocker on the American River below Coloma. He met with a fair measure of success, taking out considerable gold, and followed mining until 1851, when he returned to his home by the water route in order to bring his family to California, and with them he journeyed across the plains in 1852. On the 9th of January, 1845, he married Miss Lucinda Jane Wagener, a native of Tennessee, and they had two children, John and Mary Jane, ere their removal to the Pacific coast. Their daughter has since departed this life. The son is still living and cultivates a farm near his father. The year 1852 proved a very disastrous one to many emigrants, the cholera being very prevalent among those who journeyed across the plains, but the train with which the Richardson’s traveled lost only one of their party, a woman. However, they saw many newly made graves along the route. Mr. Richardson had the honor of being the commander of the companies with which he traveled on both of these journeys across the plains.
When with his wife and little family our subject arrived in California he settled on one hundred and sixty acres of government land that are included within the boundaries of his present ranch. This region was then an unsettled country and there were many Indians in the locality, but he never had any trouble with them. He had brought with him from Illinois forty head of cattle and horses and he engaged in stock raising. Notwithstanding that he met with many reverses in business, he diligently prosecuted his labors until he became the owner of nine thousand acres of land and was numbered among the wealthiest men of Stanislaus County. This grand old pioneer is now living retired from active business in a large and commodious frame residence that stands on the extensive ranch which his enterprise and industry have secured to him. He leases his land and the rental therefrom supplies him with all of the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life.
After their arrival in California Mr. and Mrs. Richardson became the parents of a son, Ephraim, who is now residing in Oakdale. There are also eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife, who long shared with him the sorrows and joys of life, traveling by his side as a faithful companion and helpmeet on life’s journey for fifty-two years, was called to her final rest on the 19th of January, 1897, at the age of seventy-two years, four months and fifteen days. She was very devoted to her family, counting no sacrifice or labor too great that would promote the happiness or enhance the welfare of her husband or children. In return she received their deepest love and respect, and she also enjoyed the warm regard of a large circle of friends.
For many years Mr. Richardson has been a worthy member of the Masonic fraternity and is now a representative of Oakdale Lodge, No. 275, F. & A. M. He also belongs to Modesto Lodge, No. 49, R A. M. His political support has long been given to the Democracy and at one time he served as a justice of the peace, but has never sought or desired office. Throughout a long and active business career he has been known as a man of unquestioned integrity, his word being as good as his bond. His life has been an active and useful career, in which determined purpose has enabled him to conquer all obstacles and advance steadily upon the path to success until he has reached the goal of prosperity. At the same time he has taken an active part in the work of developing the rich lands of California, and of reclaiming the waste stretches for the purposes of civilization. Such men therefore wrought for the prosperity and upbuilding of the communities which they represented.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.