B. F. STERN. - One of the most enterprising mercantile establishments in Eureka is that of the Humboldt Commercial
Company, whose president, B. F. Stern, is a merchant of forty years' experience, a native of Humboldt county, and
one of the most energetic "boosters" for Eureka and one of the largest contributors to her progress.
His sons, L. E. and H. A. Stern, are associated with him, as vice president and secretary of the company, respectively.
They are wholesale dealers in staple and fancy groceries. Mr. Stern has given largely of his time to projects for
placing Eureka in better communication with other points, and for public utilities and conveniences that attract
a high class of residents and wide awake business men. Mr. Stern's birthplace was Arcata, then known as Uniontown,
where his father, Henry Stern, was a pioneer merchant.
Henry Stern was a German by birth, and leaving his native country when a young man landed at New York, where he
remained for a short time. In 1850 he came to California by way of the Isthmus, and settled in Humboldt county,
carrying on a general mercantile business at Uniontown (now Arcata) during the remainder of his life. He lived
to be only thirty two years old, dying in 1862 of a hemorrhage brought on by seasickness when he was crossing the
Humboldt bar. In 1854 he married, at Arcata, this county, Miss Emily Armstrong, daughter of Thomas Armstrong, who
first came to California in 1848, returning east for his family, whom he brought across the plains in the year
1852. The first civilized community the ox train reached on the Pacific coast was at Shasta, whence they proceeded
down to San Francisco on a flatboat, from there coming by sailboat to Arcata, being three weeks on the trip. Four
sons were born to Mr. and Mrs. Henry Stern: B. F., Oscar D., George D., and Henry S., of whom two survive at this
writing, B. F. and Henry S., a dentist in San Francisco.
B. F. Stern, the eldest child of his parents, was born June 4, 1856, and was reared and educated at Arcata, attending
the public schools. When sixteen years old he went to work there, beginning to earn his living as a farm hand in
the employ of Isaac Minor. At the age of eighteen he entered the line he has ever since followed during a period
of forty years there have been only thirty days that he has not been deriving an income from the mercantile business.
His first position of the kind was as clerk in the store of A. Brizard, at Hoopa, Humboldt county, and since 1897
he has had his own establishment at Eureka, which he acquired that year under the name of the Humboldt Commission
Company. In 1906 the business was incorporated under the laws of the state of California as the Humboldt Commercial
Company, under which title it has since been carried on; the officers have been previously mentioned. Mr. Stern
began doing business at the location which has been retained as highly convenient, at the foot of D street, the
storehouse and wharf being his property. The wharf frontage is one hundred twenty feet long, and a spur of the
N. W. Pacific railroad runs to the storehouse, so that the transportation facilities, both by land and by water,
are all that could be desired. The large three story building is well stocked with sugars, spices, salt, flour,
meal of various kinds, soaps, candies, canned goods, salt fish, cigars, and household goods, the assortment being
large and complete to meet the steady demands of the trade which has been built up. Three salesmen are kept constantly
busy covering the territory adjacent to Eureka. When the business was first established on the present basis William
Cluff, of the William Cluff Company, pioneer grocers of San Francisco, joined the Sterns to assist in the organization,
but since his death his interest has been taken over by Mr. Stern. Having begun to learn the details of the grocery
trade in a humble capacity, Mr. Stern is thoroughly familiar with his business from every standpoint, and he has
combined his comprehensive understanding of its needs with untiring industry in the application of his ideas to
the work of holding old customers and gaining new ones. The substantial patronage he now caters to has been acquired
by years of study of the wants of buyers, of their appreciation of the best service, and progressive methods in
the handling of orders. The shipping facilities of the firm are a great advantage, and the system employed is up
to date in every particular, eliminating needless labor and providing the quickest service with less "red
tape" than the merchant of the last generation would have thought seemly. The Humboldt Commercial Company
does its banking through the Bank of Eureka. In addition to the business property mentioned, Mr. Stern has other
holdings of value in the city, besides his timber lands in the county.
Encouraging the spirit of helpfulness among the business men of Eureka, and its citizens generally, Mr. Stern has
helped many worthy enterprises, and if his own affairs have prospered thereby so have those of his neighbors. He
has been working enthusiastically towards a "larger Eureka," has been a loyal member of all the development
associations and promotion clubs, and was particularly active in establishing the chamber of commerce, of which
he has been president. He was one of the original members of the Railroad Promotion Committee, whose object was
to obtain through railway connection with San Francisco; is a member of the Humboldt and Eureka Development Associations,
and of the Humboldt Promotion Committee, and has given valuable service in the interest of all these bodies.
Born during the pioneer period of this region, Mr. Stern has a distinct recollection of the excitement during the
Indian trouble of 1862, and remembers being taken to the old Coddington store at Arcata for safety, the women and
children being protected there when most of the men were required for defense. He has a wide acquaintance among
the surviving pioneer residents of Eureka, Arcata and Hoopa valley.
Mr. Stern married Miss Julia Hopkins, the ceremony being performed at Arcata in 1878. She came to California from
Missouri. Four children have been born to this marriage: Charles F., now a member of the State Highway Commission,
married True Aiken, and they reside at Berkeley, Cal.; L. Edgar, of Eureka, vice president of the Humboldt Commercial
Company, married Grace Cochrane; Walter E., of Eureka, engaged in the general insurance business, married Ida McCoy,
of Red Bluff, Tehama county, Cal.; Henry A., secretary of the Humboldt Commercial Company, married Marguerite Smith,
of San Francisco.
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915
Humboldt County, CA
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