Biography of J. M. Hamilton
Lake County, CA Biographies





HAMILTON, J. M. Was born in Philadelphia, December, 1820. His parents died when he was quite young, and most of his early years were spent at school. After finishing a collegiate course preparatory to applying himself to the study of medicine, he visited a brother in law in Delaware, who was farming near New Castle, where he became so much pleased with the life of a farmer, he determined to adopt that as his own vocation. He lived with this gentleman, D. W. Gemmill, until his marriage in 1841, when he began farming on his own account. In June, 1846, he left Delaware for the purpose of visiting Texas, and spent the remainder of that year until December in traveling through the western part of the State, from Galveston to the Rio Grande, and returned to New York by sea. After his return to Delaware he decided upon reading law, and for a time was a student with Hon. J. M. Clayton. In 1850 he was appointed Assistant United States Marshal for Delaware. The succeeding winter he accepted a proposition from another brother in law, the late Captain A. A. Ritchie, to come to California and engage in farming on the Suisun Rancho in Solano County, then just purchased by Ritchie and Waterman. In Aprils, 1851, he left Philadelphia with his wife and two children for California; and after a pleasant voyage of one hundred and thirty five days around Cape Horn in the ship "Tartar," Captain Webber, arrived in San Francisco August 22d. On his arrival, learning that settlers had taken possession of most of the land in Suisun, and not wishing to be drawn into any controversy with them, he bought a farm in Napa Valley, a short distance from Napa City, settled there, and engaged in farming until the fall of 1860, when he became interested in quicksilver mining in Pope Valley In the fall of 1865 he moved with his family over to the stone house in Coyote Valley, and engaged in farming and general stock raising. At the organization of the State Grange Patrons of Husbandry, in Napa City, July, 1873, he was elected to the office of Overseer. At the meeting of the State Grange in San Jose, in October of the same year, he was elected by an almost unanimous vote to the position of Worthy Master for two years. As representative of the Patrons of this State, he attended the meetings of the National Grange in St. Louis, in 1874, and Charleston, South Carolina, in 1875. In March, 1854, he assisted in the formation in Napa City of the first agricultural society in California, and was elected as its president. He came into what is now Lake County (then a part of Napa) for the first time, October, 1851. At that time there was not a white person making this his home. The old Kelsey adobe, and a log house near where the present stone house in Coyote Valley now stands, were the only buildings that had been reared by white men. Until the time he came into the county to make it his permanent home, business or pleasure called him here frequently, and he has not been absent from it for more than a few months at any one time since his first visit. He claims to be the oldest living resident of Lake County. In the fall of 1858 he was appointed County Superintendent of Schools for Napa County, which then included the whole of this territory. This position he held for several years. He divided this portion of the county into school districts, examined applicants, and gave certificates of qualification for teachers, and set the machinery of the public school system into operation. For more than twenty five years he has been in some office of trust and responsibility, frequently holding several at the same time, in Napa and Lake Counties; and the satisfaction he has given in the discharge of his duties is evidence of his ability and integrity. He now lives near Guenoc, and is engaged in the practice of law.

From:
History of Napa and Lake Counties, California
Slocum, Bowen & Co., Publishers
San Francisco, California 1881


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