Biography of John M. Vance
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





JOHN M. VANCE. - The late John M. Vance, of Eureka, at the time of his death the president of the Humboldt County Bank, became a resident of the county the year before he reached his majority, and it was the scene of his remarkable success, for in the management of extensive railroad, timber and milling interests he proved himself equal to unlimited responsibilities. He attained a position among the most prosperous business men in this region, yet he always retained his reputation as a citizen whose operations were of value to the community, opening up possibilities in various lines of industry and trade which have enriched all this section. As a banker and general business man his activities led him into varied enterprises, which brought out his versatility and developed a degree of judgment uncommon even among the well experienced.

Mr. Vance was a Canadian by birth, and came to California with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. George Vance, in the year 1865. They died a number of years ago, as did also his uncle, John Vance. John M. Vance was born January 4, 1845, at Chipman, Queens county, New Brunswick. After coming to Humboldt county he learned the trade of millwright, at which he was employed for a number of years, acquiring a familiarity with the practical side of the work which aided him greatly in his later responsibilities. In partnership with his brother in law, Thomas Baird, he carried on a commission and shipping business for some time, and then became superintendent in the mechanical department of the Dolbeer & Carson lumber mill. His superior qualities and earnest application to his duties won the confidence of his uncle to such an extent that during his last illness, in 1892, John Vance sent for his nephew and intrusted him with the management of his vast railroad, timber and milling operations. Though his duties were many he set about the rather stupendous task of mastering their details, familiarizing himself with his uncle's plans for the extension and development of the various interests involved, and had early opportunity for testing the practicability of his ideas. He carried the extension of the Mad River railroad into the heart of the immense tract of redwood timber which formerly was owned by Charles King, and for about two years gave his time principally to extensive logging and milling operations there, also during that period having supervision of the mechanical and operative departments of the two sawmills belonging to the estate, at Eureka and on Mad river. Other branches of the management of the large property demanded his attention from time to time, but he proved competent to meet their requirements, showing astonishing executive ability in the performance of his work. He enlarged and remodeled the plants as needed, and in every respect showed himself worthy of the trust reposed in him.

Prior to his uncle's death Mr. Vance received from him, by deed of gift, the controlling stock in the Eel River & Eureka Railroad Company, and at the election following he was chosen a member of its board of directors and elected to the presidency to succeed his uncle. He continued to perform the duties of that office, managing the road with his customary talent for such responsibility, until he sold it in the spring of 1903 to the Santa Fe Railway Company, receiving a price satisfactory to his fellow stockholders. A number of years before his death Mr. Vance became a stockholder and director of the Humboldt County Bank, and on January 1, 1904, succeeded J. W. Henderson as president of that financial institution, continuing to serve in that office until his resignation in 1906. His demise occurred at his home May 31, 1907.

Although he may have had an exceptional start because of his uncle's interest and appreciation of his substantial qualities, Mr. Vance could neither have gained nor held the high position he held without rare ability and strength of intellect, as well as exceptional capacity for continued exertion. He could see and comprehend a situation far in advance of the average man, and was not afraid to act on his judgment when it appeared he had nothing else to justify his conduct. He had a keen sense of the true meaning of progress, as he showed in his support of local enterprises. Though he made considerable because of the rise of real estate values throughout the county, as well as by judicious investments, he never regarded his large means from a purely selfish standpoint, but used them to further various movements which would confer benefits on his fellows as well as himself, and he was justly looked upon as a man of public spirit and generous disposition. Churches and religious enterprises generally profited by his interest and sympathy. He was an Odd Fellow in fraternal connection, belonging to Humboldt Lodge No. 77, of Eureka, in which he passed all the chairs. Politically he was a Republican. It is to such men as Mr. Vance that Humboldt county owes much of its development and present prosperity, for by his optimism he always endeavored to build up its industries and by his public spirit and liberality gave of time and means to enhance the condition of the community, not only commercially, but socially, religiously and morally. He was a truly good man, and his death was a distinct loss not only to his family and friends, but to the people of the whole county.

Mr. Vance was married in San Francisco, March 11, 1871, to Miss Sarah Jeannie Babbitt, who like himself was a native of Chipman, New Brunswick, daughter of Harry and Louisa (Chase) Babbitt, both natives of New Brunswick, but of English descent. Mr. Babbitt was a merchant and postmaster at Chipman. Mrs. Vance was educated in private schools at Gagetown, New Brunswick. In 1866 she came to San Francisco with an uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob White, with whom she resided until her marriage to Mr. Vance. Of this union were born four children, as follows : Ida L., who became the wife of Fred C. Hauck and died in Eureka ; Etta L.; Harry P., manager of the Vance estate ; and Carlotta, Mrs. Lester W. Hink, of Berkeley. Since the death of her husband Mrs. Vance has continued to make her home at the family residence, continuing also to look after his interests.

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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