JOHN JACOB ZEHNDNER. - A native of Germany, coming to the United States in 1854, to California in 1859, and
having lived on his present home place near Arcata since 1868, John Jacob Zehndner is today one of the most honored
and respected citizens of his community, as well as one of the most influential. During his more than half century
of residence in Humboldt county he has proven himself to be a man of sterling qualities of heart and mind and has
been a constant influence for good in the community where he has made his home, and a power in the development
and upbuilding of this section. He has seen the changing of the county from a wilderness, terrorized by marauding
bands of Indians, to a land of peace and plenty and beautiful homes, and in all this he has been a part, contributing
his full share in labor, encouragement and faith. His home place is today one of the best kept and most attractive
in the community, and is a credit both to its owner and to the town.
Mr. Zehndner was born near Baireuth, Bavaria, Germany, January 15, 1833, the son of Nicholas and Margaret (Beilein)
Zehndner, his father being a wealthy farmer of that section. He was given the best schooling that Germany afforded
at that time, and remained at home with his parents until he was twenty one. He then came to the United States
to visit a brother who lived at Fort Wayne, Ind., and has since that time (1854) made his home in this country.
At Fort Wayne he took up the cooper's trade, becoming a proficient workman in this line, also worked at contracting
and clearing land, and for a short time engaged in farming.
It was in 1859 that Mr. Zehndner came to California to make his home. Another brother, George
Zehndner, was at that time residing in Humboldt county, and the reports sent back by him made the younger brother
anxious to visit the new acquisition on the coast. Accordingly he made the long journey, leaving New York and sailing
down the coast to Aspinwall; whence he crossed the Isthmus of Panama, and there set sail for San Francisco on the
John L. Stevens, arriving there March 17, 1859. Going at once to Eureka by the water route, he was soon located
on Angels ranch, the property of his brother, the ranch consisting of stock and hill ranges and being located some
distance back in the mountains. Mr. Zehndner remained here for several years in the employ of his brother, but
the isolated location of the ranch invited the attacks of the savages, and in the spring of 1862, while there was
much trouble with the Indians generally, they swept down upon Angels ranch and destroyed and carried off everything
on the place. The only hope for safety for the dwellers thereon lay in flight and the abandonment of the property,
and on March 22 they left their home and went down to the coast near Arcata, where they remained for a year. During
these troubles Mr. Zehndner himself was never actually engaged in any of the skirmishes with the Indians, but his
brother George received the baptism of their fire on several occasions.
The trouble with the Indians continued along the coast, and in 1863 Mr. Zehndner determined to seek a locality
where such trouble could be avoided. Accordingly, with two other young men, he decided to go to the Washoe Territory,
now Nevada, making the journey across the mountains on horseback. The way was rough and dangerous, but the trip
was full of interest. The first night they camped at Lyscum Hill, the next evening they reached Hoopa, and the
following night they spent at a ranch near Trinity river. From there they proceeded to Weaverville, then on to
Red Bluff, and from Red Bluff to Oroville, from which point they crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains to Washoe
City. Arrived at their destination, Mr. Zehndner found work in the woods, remaining in this occupation for two
years, and for the two following years worked on a farm near Washoe City. While living here he took out naturalization
papers and became a citizen of the United States.
In 1867 Mr. Zehndner received word from his brother to return to Humboldt county and take charge of Angels ranch,
in order that the latter might go to the old home in Germany for a visit, and accordingly Mr. Zehndner returned
to California, and has since that time made his home continuously in Humboldt county. The brother was in the Fatherland
for a year (18671868), and shortly after his return Mr. Zehndner purchased his present home place of sixty eight
acres a short distance from Arcata. This is all improved land, situated in Arcata bottom and is especially well
adapted for dairy farming, which line is the one followed at the present time. During his long residence on this
property Mr. Zehndner has taken the greatest pride in keeping up his home, which is one of the most carefully kept
places in the valley. He has spared neither effort nor expense in keeping it so, and is justly proud of the result
of his labors. For many years after purchasing this property he engaged in clearing and improving the land, and
it was in 1892 that he became especially interested in dairying, and since the organization of the creamery, toward
which he was one of the first subscribers, he has been interested in that enterprise. He was the treasurer of the
creamery at the time that A. N. Hunt was interested in the same, and in fact held this position until the consolidation
of the several creameries under one head. The interests of Mr. Zehndner in agriculture and his ability in this
line were recognized many years ago as was evidenced by his appointment in 1889 as United States horticultural
commissioner for this section, being the first appointee to that position. Mr. Zehndner is deeply interested in
the subject of forestry, his interest finding expression in the raising of eucalyptus trees on two hundred acres
of land at McKinleyville. There he is endeavoring to demonstrate to the people of Humboldt county the practicability
of raising the blue gum trees for all purposes, hardwood piling and for building wharves. Without doubt Mr. Zehndner
is engaged in a work that will ultimately mean much toward furthering the future prosperity of the county and will
be of inestimable value to future generations.
In fraternal circles Mr. Zehndner is one of the most prominent and influential men in this section of the state.
He has been a member of the Odd Fellows since October, 1867, having joined that order in Arcata as a member of
Anniversary Lodge No. 85, I. O. O. F. When the lodge was first organized he was one of the most faithful members,
never failing in his attendance at all meetings, either for wind or weather, and has since then always been an
active and a faithful member of the lodge. In 1870 he had advanced in the chairs of the lodge, and was at that
time noble grand, and in 1889 was appointed deputy grand master of district No. 29. He has truly been prominent
in Odd Fellowship, having at eight different times been representative to the grand lodge, and he also holds membership
in the Rebekahs and the Veteran Odd Fellows Association in San Francisco. Mr. Zehndner has always been musically
inclined, and for years he has filled positions as tenor singer in choirs in Arcata.
In politics Mr. Zehndner is a progressive Republican. He is well informed and an independent thinker, and is always
to be found on the side of progress and general upbuilding of the community and of the municipality, regardless
of party lines and affiliations.
The marriage of Mr. Zehndner took place in Arcata December 2, 1875, uniting him with Miss Louisa May Rossow, who
was born in Prussia, Germany, January 13, 1849, and who died at Arcata June 7, 1904. Her parents were farmers in
the old country, and she lived at home with them until she was twenty one, at which time she came to California.
After remaining a few years in New York she came to California, where she was shortly afterwards married. Mrs.
Zehndner bore her husband four children, three sturdy sons and a daughter. They are: George N., who is running
the home dairy ranch; Theodore H., an electrician at Niles; Edward A., who is at Chowchilla; and Louise Mary, Mrs.
McClasky. All of the children are well and favorably known in Arcata, where they were born, reared and educated,
and where they have many warm friends.
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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