Biography of William J. McNamara
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





WILLIAM JEWETT McNAMARA. - The lives of the pioneers are the heritage of the present generation. Without their endurance of privations, without their heroic patience in danger and hardship, the opportunities of today and the possibilities of tomorrow could not come within the angle of vision. Due honors are given to the life and labors of William Jewett McNamara, a pioneer of 1858 in Humboldt county, a native of the state of Maine and in youth a resident of Aurora, Ill., but best known through his association with the material upbuilding of the Pacific coast. In the early period of his connection with Humboldt county he worked in the butcher business for R. M. Williams, making his headquarters on a ranch near Eureka. While engaging in the driving of a pack train from Hydesville over the mountains to Trinity he endured not only hardships, but also the most constant and grave dangers. The Indians were numerous and hostile in that day and frequently he had narrow escapes from them.

After a period of mercantile activity in Canyon City, Ore., where he made a specialty of supplying the miners with outfits for the mines, in 1868 Mr. McNamara returned to Eureka and on Front street opened the first men's clothing store in the town. Later he moved to Second and E streets and admitted L. T. Kinsey into partnership, continuing with that gentleman for some years, but eventually buying out his interest and taking into the firm a son, W. A. McNamara, as a partner, under the title of McNamara & Son. When the father and son went out of business the former removed to Washington and for three years engaged in the hotel business at Hoquiam. On returning to Eureka he acted as manager of the Vance hotel for six months and then retired to private life. His death occurred at his Eureka home June 26, 1911. Surviving him are the three sons of his first marriage, William A., James A. and Fred W., also his second wife, formerly Mrs. Virginia C. (McDaniel) Scott, a member of an old Virginian family and a pioneer of California who crossed the plains in 1852. Her father, William McDaniel, a Virginian, started with his wife and four children to cross the plains in that year, but while en route one son died. Mr. McDaniel was captain of the train, which reached Auburn, its destination, in safety, and there he died in 1867. Mrs. McNamara was educated in the public schools of Auburn. She now lives in the old home in Eureka, at the corner of E and Fifth streets, which she has owned since 1867, and which in the meantime has become very valuable property.

In the early history of Eureka Mr. McNamara was particularly prominent. With later years there was naturally a relinquishment of many of the movements that deeply interested him in young manhood, but he still kept posted in all measures for local progress, although not able to actively identify himself with such work in the latter part of his life. He served as a member of the Volunteer and Veteran Firemen's Associations and was an Exempt Fireman. At one time he acted as chief of the fire department. Realizing the imperative need of adequate fire protection, he aided every movement looking toward that end. Nor was he less energetic in assistance given to other worthy projects. Educational affairs had his genuine cooperation. It was his desire to maintain a high class of citizenship in Humboldt county and he was a leading member of the committee of fifteen that drove the Chinamen out of Eureka.

While he had many narrow escapes from Indians in early days, perhaps he was never in greater peril than on one occasion when, starting out in a small rowboat for a trip over the Humboldt Bar and up Eel river, he was nearly wrecked in the rough sea. His memory was little short of remarkable and often in his later days he held friends in almost spellbound interest as he narrated tales of the pioneer period, enlivening each story with his keen humor and lively wit, and bringing to the listeners a vivid appreciation of perilous or amusing happenings of bygone days.

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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