Biography of George Zahndner
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





GEORGE ZEHNDNER. - To the biographer there is always interest in tracing the successive steps which have led a pioneer from poverty and obscurity to influence and prosperity. No advantages of education or opportunity came to Mr. Zehndner in his old German home in Bavaria, where he was born June 22, 1824, of humble parentage, and where he became inured to hard labor on a farm. To have a chance to cross the ocean in 1849 seemed the first opportunity to this self sustaining youth and he was eager to avail himself of the advantages which he hoped would await him in the new world. A long voyage of three months on an ocean sailer did not daunt his high hopes, for he was of the sturdy blood of Teutonic warriors and philosophers, and the privations of a steerage passage could cause only a very temporary inconvenience. His father, Nicholas Zehndner, had fought in the Napoleonic war of 1812-14 and had been in the German regular army from 1821 to 1827, the family meantime remaining on a small farm to which he made frequent visits during seasons of furlough.

Arriving in America with a very small sum of money, it was not easy for George Zehndner to reach Indiana, but by dint of considerable patience and prolonged effort he arrived in that state and found work on a farm, where he remained until the spring of 1852. Meanwhile he had become familiar with the English language and was thus better fitted to cope with the difficulties of life in a strange country. Leaving the Indiana farm, he walked to Dayton, Ohio, and thence to Cincinnati, where he took passage on a river steamboat bound for New Orleans, and from the latter city he worked his passage to Havana. Next he sailed for the isthmus. He was obliged to walk across the isthmus, and when he landed at the Pacific coast he found about three thousand persons waiting for boats to take them to San Francisco. After some time he secured passage on an old whaling vessel, which was obliged to put in at Honolulu owing to the scarcity of provisions. There again the young emigrant met with difficulties, for he was without money. Finally he was taken on board the schooner Lena, which brought its one hundred sixty passengers into the harbor of San Francisco in August of 1852.

Memories of the first day in California still linger in the mind of Mr. Zehndner. After wandering about until he was almost exhausted he stepped into a bar room, where he was permitted to spend the night. The next day he earned seventy five cents, one third of which was paid out for a loaf of bread, and it is doubtful if he ever appreciated food in his entire life to a greater degree than on that memorable occasion. By working for his passage he managed to get to Sacramento, where he had employment in a brickyard for a month. Next he went to Marysville, from there walked to the American river and worked in the mines for three weeks, but lack of success caused him to return to Sacramento and secure work as a wood chopper. The spring of 1853 found him at Weaverville, Trinity county, where he met with moderate success and invested his earnings in a pack train. During 1854 he traded his twenty mules for twenty cows and drove the herd across to Humboldt county, where he settled on Angels ranch, twelve miles from Arcata, and embarked in the cattle industry. For a time he was prospered, but a most discouraging incident occurred March 22, 1862, when he was shot in the hand and back by Indians. He succeeded in making his escape to the house of a neighbor, but his ranch house was burned and all of his cattle stolen. For two years he was ill, as a result of wounds received in the attack. At the subsidence of the Indian troubles in 1866 he returned to his ranch from Arcata and resumed dairying and cattle raising, but in 1870 he sold the property and again established a home at Arcata, where he has ever since resided. Near town he formerly owned a ranch of forty acres, but this he sold after conducting it for many years. He still owns another ranch comprising one hundred eighteen acres, which he rents to tenants, and he now lives retired from agricultural cares. Besides his country holdings he owns valuable business property in the heart of Arcata.

Republican in his political faith and an ardent admirer of the late William McKinley, during 1906 Mr. Zehndner erected a bronze life size monument in memory of the martyr president and this memorial, which he presented to the city of Arcata, now stands in the center of the park and, mounted on a granite square, commands the admiring attention of passers by. In matters Masonic he is identified with Arcata Lodge No. 106, F. & A. M., also Eureka Chapter No. 52, R. A. M. Mrs. Zehndner, whom he married December 8, 1874, bore the maiden name of Christene Rossow, and was born and reared in Brandenburg, Germany, whence she came to California during 1873. By a former marriage she became the mother of two children. The son, Frederick, was killed at Korbel while in the employ of the railroad, and the daughter, Mary, now the wife of Capt. C. C. Hansen, is living at Berkeley. Mrs. Zehndner is a member of the Presbyterian Church.

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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