Biography of Byron Deming
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





BYRON DEMING. - The pioneer of '50 is the recipient of special honors and the subject of particular distinction in California. Few of that brave band are living today and those that survive have witnessed the wonderful growth of our fair state. They have seen the going of the old ox team and the coming of the steam train and have seen changes that seem more wonderful than a tale from the Arabian Nights. After more than half a century of life in California, Mr. Deming may well be called the pioneer of Humboldt county. Born in Salisbury, Addison county, Vermont, October 15, 1826, he attended the subscription schools in the county, for several years. After completing his schooling, he was employed in the woolen mills in the vicinity, following the trade of machinist, afterwards rising to the position of superintendent of the mills. It was while engaged in the mills that he sustained a serious injury that has caused whim considerable trouble in life. It seems that in working about the machinery one day, his arm became entangled in the shaft and he was injured in such a way as to break his arm and tear the ligaments, leaving him in a delicate state of health for the greater part of his life. In 1850, hearing of the discovery of gold in California, he decided to leave the East and join the seekers for gold. In June, 1850, taking passage on a steamer by way of Panama for San Francisco and crossing the Isthmus, he took passage on the steamer Oregon, arriving in San Francisco July, 22, 1850. Only remaining there a short time, he next went to Sacramento and, entering the mines on the Tuolumne river, engaged in mining for himself and became very successful in his search for gold. While living in Sacramento an epidemic of cholera raged in the year 1851, but he was fortunate enough to escape the dread disease. Hearing of the gold strike in Humboldt county in 1851, he decided to go there and see the field for himself. Coming over the mountains by way of the Trinity River to Trinidad, he encountered great obstacles for there was no wagon road and every foot of the way was marked by terrible hardships. He had taken passage on a ship to sail to San Francisco but it was wrecked in the harbor of Trinidad so he had to remain there. Here he engaged in lightering, carrying the cargo from the large boats ashore in a flat bottomed boat. For this work he received sixteen dollars a ton, and there being a great deal of trade at Trinidad at the time, he became financially benefited. All the supplies for the mines in the interior were shipped first to Trinidad and from there on pack mules to the mines. He also built a saw mill and engaged in lumbering, but in 1854 he gave up his lightering business and moved to Uniontown, which is now the city of Arcata. When he first located in Uniontown there was no town at the site of the present city of Eureka, all the ships landing at Uniontown. His first enterprise was to build a wharf two miles long extending out into the bay, and on this wharf was built the first railroad, in California, built for the purpose of handling the large quantities of freight that the ships brought to the port. Two other men were associated with Mr. Deming in this work, Henry Walker and Stillman Daby, it taking them four months to complete the work. The mails only reached the port once a month after the ships started to make Uniontown a port of call. About the time of the completing of the wharf the Indian wars of Humboldt county broke out but he did not take an active part in them. As there was no undertaking establishment in Uniontown, he decided to engage in that business, and did so for a number of years. Aside from this, he took up the making of pack saddles, and, though not an adept at the trade, he worked up a large business. Men came from far and near to obtain one of the Deming pack saddles. The first one he made was from a box and later his reputation as a saddle maker extended from Oregon to Arizona. Giving up his undertaking business in 1885, he opened a general repair shop, conducting this several years with much success. He was a natural mechanic and the people of the surrounding country would come for miles to have him mend their broken implements. The saying was, "Something broken? Take it to B. Deming." He acquired considerable land in Arcata which he still possesses. He is a member of Anniversary Lodge No. 85, I. O. O. F., at Arcata, having joined the lodge in Vermont in 1850. He was the founder of the lodge in Arcata and is the only surviving charter member. He also did a great deal toward founding the Presbyterian Church in Arcata and was instrumental in securing the services of clergymen from San Francisco, the Reverend Mr. Scott being the first pastor of the church in Arcata. Mr. Deming was superintendent of the Sunday school for a number of years. He served as justice of the peace for fifteen years, has held office as a deputy sheriff, deputy county clerk and notary public for years and was also county coroner. He has always taken an active part in all temperance work and has entered whole heartedly into all movements pertaining to the good of the community. Being a stanch Republican he has also entered extensively into all political affairs. He married, in Arcata, May 26, 1856, Jane A. Pratt, a native of Middlebury, Vermont. When but three years of age Mrs. Deming moved with her parents to Ontario, Canada, locating at Chatham, a town situated between Lake Erie and Lake Huron. At the age of twenty three she came to California with a cousin, coming by way of the Isthmus of Panama, engaging passage on the steamer Columbia with Captain Dahl in charge of the ship, to San Francisco. They are blessed with three children: Eugene Albert, deceased; Byron B., who is married and living at Auburn, Placer county, and Charlotte Louise, deceased. Mr. Deming is truly a pioneer of the county and many monuments attest his good works. He is a man who has always been actively associated with all public affairs tending to upbuild the community, one whose word is as good as his bond and one who holds the highest regard of his fellow men. He is known from one end of the county to the other as a reliable citizen and one for whom everyone has only the highest praise.

From:
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915


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