Biography of John Harpst
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





JOHN HARPST. - The decade following the discovery of gold in California was characterized by great activity in prospecting throughout practically every section of the state. As early as 1850 parties of prospectors had explored the country between the head waters of the Trinity and Klamath rivers and the coast, finding sufficient presence of gold to justify the operating of mines for a considerably later period. When John Harpst, a native of Ohio, born in 1839, came to California in 1857, at the age of eighteen years, he sought these mines in Trinity county and for some time followed the search for gold at Canadian Bar. When in the fall of 1858 Governor Weller called for volunteers to take the field against hostile Indians in the western part of Trinity county and the eastern part of Humboldt county, he was among the men who promptly enrolled their names and offered to do service. Under Capt. I. T. Messig he took part in a campaign that lasted through the winter of 1858-59. A number of serious engagements made the winter memorable. In one of these battles a bullet from the Indian lines pierced the left breast of Mr. Harpist and inflicted a serious wound, but youth and powers of endurance enabled him to quickly recover from the effects of the injury.

After the close of the campaign, having seen the advantages of soil and other resources offered by Humboldt county, Mr. Harpst decided to take up residence here. A few years later he became a partner with O. H. Spring in the mercantile business in Arcata, which in an early day was a noteworthy rival of Eureka, although the latter, selected as the county seat in 1856 and incorporated as a city at the same time, soon outstripped all competitors. Near the head of Humboldt bay he engaged in lumber operations with Mr. Spring and James Gannon. Later, with these men, together with D. J. Flanigan and T. F. Brosnan, he founded and operated the Union mill on the bay shore near Eureka. A store and shingle mill were afterward established at Bayside and lumbering together with quarrying operations continued on a very large scale for a long period of profitable years. Eventually Mr. Harpst retired from the heaviest of his responsibilities and for a considerable period before his death, which occurred February 19, 1906, he had enjoyed a rest from business cares. In September of 1896 he married Miss Kate L. Carr, who was born in Weaverville, Trinity county, Cal., the daughter of Thomas Carr, a pioneer of this state, whose sketch may be found elsewhere in this volume. Mrs. Harpst was reared in Eureka and still lives in this city. Lately she has built a large and beautiful residence on the corner of Huntoon and D streets. She has given much care to her gardens, in which she takes much pride, and as the result of her efforts she has one of the most attractive places in the city. Fraternally Mr. Harpst belonged to the Masons and Elks. In the former he had been associated with the blue lodge and chapter in Eureka, a member of the Golden Gate commandery, K. T., and Islam Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., of San Francisco.

In the circles of early settlers, where he was best known, his name stood, as a synonym for honor, while in his general circle of acquaintances, especially among younger generations, he was looked up to as a pioneer who had endured many privations in the period of the Indian troubles and who had merited the best that later years could bestow upon him.

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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