PRENTICE M. TRASK
Prentice M. Trask is carrying on farming in Tuolumne County, and the years of his identification with the interests of this portion of the state covers almost five decades. He arrived in the county in 1852 and is now residing upon a good farm near the town of Columbia. Born in the far off state of Maine, he is a native of the town of Industry, in Franklin County, his natal day being May 9, 1829. The blood of English and German ancestry flows in his veins, for from both the fatherland and the merrie isle came his ancestors to the new world, first establishing homes in New Hampshire and later in the Pine Tree state. Jonathan Trask, the father of our subject, was born in New Hampshire and was married in Maine to Miss Martha Jewell. They were farming people and highly respected citizens, and they became the parents of fourteen children, of whom thirteen reached maturity, although only four are living at the time of this writing, near the close of the year 1900. One of the sons, John Ruggles Trask, came to the Pacific coast in 1853.
The subject of this review was educated in his native state, and with the hope of bettering his financial condition in California he started for the Pacific coast. He made the journey by way of the Isthmus of Panama. Many of the passengers had ship cholera and a number were buried at sea. Such experiences on those plague-stricken ships were very trying, but Mr. Trask was fortunate enough to escape the disease and arrive safely in San Francisco on the 11th of July, 1852. He made his way direct to Columbia, which was then a town of miners, and much excitement existed owing to the rich gold finds of this locality. The number of miners and settlers was so great that the town was the third in size in the state, being exceeded in population only by San Francisco and Sacramento. At that time and for years afterward the whole country for miles in every direction was considered good mining property and vast quantities of gold have been taken from among the rocks and in the gulches and ravines.
Mr. Trask at once engaged in mining in Coral Gulch, and for eight years had numerous claims which he worked and sold. He has taken out from eight to thirteen and a half ounces of gold in a single day, and after operating his mine sold the property at from three hundred to five hundred dollars. His experience, however, has not been altogether fortunate, for at times he has met with failure and disaster, and like others, he has paid considerable money for claims that proved to be of little value. Probably not a resident of the entire state found that his career as a miner was altogether fortunate. Periods of prosperity were followed by periods of financial depression, some claims yielding rich deposits, while others gave nothing in return for labor. Mr. Trask is thoroughly familiar with the history of the excitement in the early mining camps and knows fully the story of the development of California as it became settled with emigrants from all over the land. Many men of worth came to the state, but there were others who had little regard for law or the rights and liberties of those with whom they were associated. Such men were not deterred from the perpetration of any crime, and the law-abiding citizens were forced to take matters in their own hands. Vigilance committees were formed and without trial by court or jury the offenders suffered summary justice. Although Mr. Trask participated in no hanging, he witnessed several and endorsed the action, for the punishment was fully merited. His career, however, was rather a peaceful one, as he was never robbed or was never in any great danger that he knew of from that class of people.
In 1860 the subject of this review turned his attention to farming, securing one hundred and sixty acres of land a mile and a quarter north of Columbia. Here he is engaged in the raising of vines and fruits of many varieties. He has departed from the old method of irrigating and cultivates entirely without water. A visit to his farm to see the luxuriant growth and the healthy condition of his vines and trees is all that is needed to convince one that his method is practical, his returns larger and his labors and expenses much reduced. He is the first man in Tuolumne County to have adopted this method of raising fruit, and is exceedingly well pleased with the results. His vineyard contains twenty-five acres, or about twenty-five thousand vines, and has six acres devoted to fruit trees of various kinds.
His home is located on the summit of a large hill, being two hundred feet higher than Gold Springs, of one hundred rods distance, and affords a most commanding view of the surrounding country. The trees which adorn his home and the fruit trees on the top of the hill are all of his own planting. Upon that farm he has since resided and he now has a good home and all the needed comforts of life. His prosperity is well merited, for it has been secured by honest effort and indefatigable energy. Throughout the long years of his residence in this state he has been ably assisted by his wife and children. In 1854 he returned to Maine, to wed “the girl whom he had left behind,” and there he was happily married to Miss Susie M. Pierce. He spent nine months in the Pine Tree state and then, accompanied by his bride came by way of the Nicaragua route to California, locating first at Gold Springs, where he now resides. Four children came to bless his home, of whom three are still living, namely: George M., who is now the owner of a livery barn in Columbia; Florence M., the wife of Adolphus C. Davis, the leading merchant of Columbia; and Clara J., the wife of Edward Doyle. The mother departed this life on the 1st of January, 1897. She was a most highly esteemed lady, a faithful wife, a devoted mother and an accommodating friend. Mr. Trask has since remained single, living upon his farm, which he owns in connection with some valuable mining interests, being one of the owners of the American quartz mine, which is an excellent producer. He has been a life-long Republican and an enterprising, honest and industrious citizen, temperate in all things, faithful to every trust, one of California’s best pioneers.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.