Biography of Thomas W. Sweasey
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





THOMAS W. SWEASEY. - One of the oldest, if not the oldest living pioneer in Humboldt county, is Thomas W. Sweasey, prominent business man of Eureka, where he has made his home for many years. Although now well past eighty two years of age he is hearty and robust of health, and his intellect is as bright as in the days of his prime, when he was proving such a factor in the development of his county and state. He is a man of great force of character and has accomplished many things of importance and has accumulated a large fortune by his endeavors. He has suffered severe reverses at times, through the loss of valuable timber lands and also in mining ventures in Alaska, but has always recouped himself and continued, with splendid success in the end. He has had many exceptional pioneer experiences and his tales of the early days read like a romance. He and his father and family blazed the trail, cut the brush and trees, and brought the first wagon to Eureka that ever came overland, all those before having been shipped in by steamships. He also established and ran the celebrated overland stage from Eureka to Ukiah, carrying the mail for more than twenty years, and was also one of the pioneer hotel keepers of Hydesville. He is noted throughout the county for his integrity of character, as well as for the active part that he has taken in all the affairs of the city and county for so many years. He is now the manager of the Fashion livery barn, owned by Richard Sweasey & Co. (Richard Sweasey being his brother), and is part owner of the Fashion stable, corner of Fourth and G streets, besides owning other valuable property in and near Eureka.

Mr. Sweasey was born in London, England, July 6, 1832, the son of William J. and Anna (Crouchey) Sweasey, both natives of England. When he was but four years of age his parents came to America, settling at Harmony, Posey county, Ind., where the father engaged in farming. The family at this time consisted of three children, three others having been born in America. They were: Margaret, later Mrs. James Henderson, of Sacramento, who died about a year ago; Esther, now the widow of Henry Axton, residing in Eureka; Thomas W., the subject of this sketch; Louisa, Mrs. Powers, of Fresno, now deceased; Anna, Mrs. Gillette, of Stockton, now deceased; and Richard, one of the most prominent men of the county and also one of the wealthiest, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this edition.

It was in the fall of 1849 that the family left their home in Indiana for the long journey across the plains to California. They came as far as the Missouri river, wintering near St. Joe, Mo., and early the next spring continued on their way. There was a train of ten wagons, with three yokes of oxen to each, and much loose stock, including cows and horses. The father was the captain of the train, and practically its owner. They wintered that year on the Calaveras river, and the following spring moved near San Francisco, where the father took up government land and engaged in farming. In 1854 he came to Eureka and engaged in the general merchandise business, and also for a time farmed on the O'Neil river. He built the steamboat Humboldt in partnership with his son Richard, who still owns the vessel, which is running from Seattle to Skaguay. The opening of an overland trail for wagons from the "outside" into Eureka marked an important step in the history of the county, giving a new means of travel. Over this trail the Sweaseys, father and sons, brought six of the wagons that they had brought from Indiana, about three hundred head of cattle and fifty horses. They crossed the Sacramento river at Benicia, where were then the only white settlers on the trail into the Eel river valley. This road is still traveled.

The farm on which the elder Sweasey located his family was on the Eel river, near the present site of Hydesville, and here they resided for a number of years. When the father and the son Richard went to Eureka and engaged in the merchandising business, Thomas W. remained in charge of the ranch, conducting it with much success for a long time. He established, in addition, a stage line from Eureka to Hydesville, later extended it to Blocksburg, and at a yet later date extended it through to Ukiah, this being the famous overland stage, which for twenty years carried the mail between Eureka and Ukiah under his management.

The marriage of Thomas W. took place in 1853, uniting him to Miss Sarah Davis, of Redwood City, San Mateo county, Cal., the daughter of a well known pioneer family of the state. Mrs. Sweasey bore her husband four children, all natives of Eureka, and well and favorably known throughout the county. They are: Elizabeth, now Mrs. S. F. Bullard, of San Jose; William, married to Catherine Forse, and living at Rohnerville; Ellen, now Mrs. Foss, residing at Samoa; and Daisy, now Mrs. Nelson, residing at Hydesville.

From 1897 to 1900 Mr. Sweasey was engaged in gold mining in Alaska, being located at Dawson. He made his way over the Chilcoot Pass, packing his grub over the mountains; he built a scow from lumber he had whipsawed and went down the Yukon to Dawson. He was fairly successful in his ventures, but failed to find the wealth that he had so ardently hoped to locate there. For the past eleven years he has been in the livery business in Eureka, and in this line has been especially successful. In addition to his business ability Mr. Sweasey is popular with many friends throughout the county. He is a stanch Democrat, and although he has never been actively engaged in the politics of his party he is well informed and takes an influential part in all questions of public interest, especially when they are local issues that affect the welfare of the community. He is also well known in fraternal circles, and is a prominent member of the Masons, having united with that order when he was a young man.

The boyhood days of Mr. Sweasey did not afford him much in the way off educational advantages. He was nineteen when the family came to California, but Indiana was also a frontier country at that time, and the schools were few and inferior. He received most of his training from his mother, and attended school but four months in his entire lifetime. The mother died in Indiana, and after coming to California there was no further opportunity for educational pursuits. In spite of this handicap, however, Mr. Sweasey has done his full share in the development of his section of the state, and is well informed on all questions of the day. The standing of the family has always been high, and he has done much to keep it so. The county bears many marks of his industry and application, and he is esteemed as one of the leading citizens of Eureka and Humboldt county.

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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