THE MACOMBER BROTHERS,
GEORGE & HENRY S.
The history of pioneer life has long rivaled in interest the tales of battles and of life on the tented field. Without the roar of cannon and musketry or the inspiring notes of fife and drum, hosts no less brave and determined have gone forth into the wilderness to reclaim it for purposes of civilization and have fought the hard battle of conquering the wild land, the sturdy forest and the rocky fastnesses of the earth, making each yield of its treasures such elements as can be utilized for man. This is an arduous labor and one to which are due recognition and commendation; and therefore in preparing a history of California it is with pleasure that we introduce the life records of such worthy pioneers as the Macomber brothers, whose identification with the state antedates the formation of its territorial government.
The Macomber brothers, of Sonora, California, are actively identified with the industrial interests in their section of the state, where they are extensively and successfully engaged in the manufacture of cider from apples. They also manufacture pickles, champagne cider and vinegar, and deal in grain and dried fruits. Under their capable management, owing to executive force and keen discernment, their business has assumed extensive proportions, bringing to them a very desirable prosperity.
The Macomber brothers are highly respected California pioneers, who arrived in Hangtown in April, 1850. They were natives of the Empire state, born in Utica. George Macomber was born in May, 1814, and was long associated with his brothers under the firm name which is still maintained. He was a thoroughly reliable businessman and a representative California pioneer. His death occurred on June 3, 1900, in the eighty-sixth year of his age. Henry S. Macomber was born in December, 1836, and Frederick Macomber in February, 1838, and since their brother’s death they have continued to conduct the business.
As stated above, they arrived in California in the year 1850. They left the Empire state the previous year and secured an outfit in St. Louis, Missouri. This outfit consisted of horses, a wagon and mining utensils and a large supply of provisions. They traveled much of the way with Johnson Lawton’s train, but during the latter part of the journey they came on ahead, following trails and cut-offs that shortened the distance. On the journey, when in company with the train, they had much trouble with the Indians. At Goose Creek a large number of the savages were hidden in the willows which are abundant along the banks of the stream, and from that retreat they fired on the emigrants. One of them received a shot through his head, but the travelers immediately returned the fire and drove the Indians out of the willows. Later they could be seen like the shadow of a great cloud on the mountainside, as they passed over out of range of the guns of the white men. At Green River the Indians succeeded in stampeding all the stock the emigrants possessed and again the party started out in pursuit and succeeded in killing four of the Indians, capturing the stock and securing forty Indian ponies besides. As they neared California they met supply wagons which had been sent out to meet the needy emigrants. They were obliged to pay very high prices for provisions, but the Macomber brothers had no need to buy, as they had brought plenty with them. They followed the Fremont trail and had no trouble in getting water or finding their way, for they were guided by a Mr. Ayres who had previously crossed the plains.
On arriving at Hangtown the Macomber brothers proceeded to the south mines and engaged in the search of gold at Angel’s Camp, on Angel’s Creek, where they worked for about six months, meeting with excellent success. They removed to Jamestown, Tuolumne County, where they secured a good claim and mined with rockers on Blackstake Gulch. Success also attended their efforts at that place, for they took out from forty to two hundred and fifty dollars per day. The diggings were very shale, only from a foot to a foot and a half deep. The brothers remained there for about two years and also mined at Maloney and Murphy before leaving Calaveras County. They had very rich claims at those places and their success far surpassed their highest expectations. They also mined at Table Mountain, having one of the best claims there and taking out what might be considered a fabulous amount of gold. At Shaw’s Flat and Wood’s creek they also did well. They usually worked the claims out pretty close, as they thought, but sold the last one for one thousand dollars. They mined in Volcano in Amador County, but did not meet with as good success there as they had elsewhere.
When they abandoned mining the Macomber brothers purchased the Bailey & Morgan sawmill and fifteen hundred acres of heavily timbered land, adding to that property until they were the owners of twenty-six hundred acres. They operated the sawmill with excellent success until a fire swept over that section of the country and destroyed their mill and lumber to the value of about one and a half millions feet of lumber and eight thousand dollars invested. Soon afterward they sold the timber land and the sawmill site and came to Sonora, where they purchased the Morse orchard, comprising twenty-two acres of land, located in Sonora, and planted apples, pears, grapes and other fruits. From that beginning they have developed a very extensive business, dealing in fruit, cider, vinegar, champagne cider and pickles. In each department they have met with very gratifying success and their products are shipped all over the country and to some foreign ports, the superior quality insuring them a ready sale in all markets. They have a plant well equipped for carrying on their work and the volume of their business has annually increased until its magnitude represents a large outlay of capital and a proportionate income derived from the sale of their goods.
In their political views the brothers are Republicans, who take a deep interest in the welfare of the party, doing all in their power to promote its growth and success. They have a wide acquaintance through the state in which they have so long ranked among the more successful businessmen, and they belong to that class of honored pioneers to whom California owes her present progress, prosperity and advanced position. They aided in laying wide and strong the foundation upon which has been reared the superstructure of the commonwealth that it is the pride of the entire nation. Their labors have contributed largely to the growth and upbuilding of their portion of the state and no history would be complete without mention of the Macomber brothers.
The above limited biography does not include their individual enterprises and has been taken from the diary of Henry S. Macomber.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.