Biography of Dr. John L. Berry
Big River Township, Mendocino County, CA Biographies





Dr. John Lafayette Berry. Was born in Cooper county, Missouri, December 25, 1850. His father, John Monroe Berry, is a native of the same town and State. His mother, Josephine Debora Jones, was born in Fairfax county, Virginia Her father, Benedict Jones, was an American soldier in the war of 1812. In 1857, the year of the Mountain Meadow massacre, John Monroe Berry crossed the plains with his family, from Missouri to California, and was many times in great danger of losing his family and all his property by the hostile Indians, whole trains being frequently massacred within a mile of his train. On arriving in California, in the fall of 1857, he located in San Joaquin county, near Stockton. From there he moved, in 1860, with his family to Placerville, El Dorado county, and engaged heavily in business, freighting to the Washoe mines, and built and owned the first large quartz mill at Dayton; from which he became very wealthy. Subsequently he met with reverses and lost all his property and was made quite poor. He then moved back to San Joaquin county with his family, in 1863. In 1864 he moved to Stanislaus county and located sonic Government land near where the town of Modesto now stands. At this time the whole country south of the Stanislaus river was a barren desert. In this county the subject of this sketch herded sheep, and time and again drove his flock over the ground where the beautiful town of Modesto was subsequently built. He also labored on the farms of his father and neighbors to assist in supporting his father's family When not at work he was attending the public schools. At the age of fifteen years he secured a possessory title to three hundred and twenty acres of that wild prairie land southwest from Modesto about two miles In less than one year from the time he secured this land it became very valuable on account of the large immigration to that section and the large crops the "sand plains," as the country was called, produced. It was by this speculation that J. L. Berry was enabled to attend Hesperian College at Woodland, Yolo county, which he did from August, 1867, to June, 1871. In this institution he took the classical course, studying the Greek and Latin, always standing among the first in his classes. On the 4th of July, 1871, he was married to Miss Alice Medora Bunds, a daughter of J. C. Bunds, a prominent merchant in Standslaus county. The fruits of this union are two bright and beautiful children, Clarence Lafayette and Lela Pearl. At the time of his marriage the subject of this sketch had no money or property, the droughts and expenses at college having exhausted all his property. But he had numerous friends and an unlimited credit. Many friends offered him assistance, but he refused most of their offers. In the fall of 1871 he bought the possessory title to five hundred acres of land near Modesto on twelve months time for five hundred dollars, giving his note for the same, and, with the assistance of his wife, succeeded in cultivating all of it that fall and winter, a great undertaking for two without a single dollar. From his crop he saved several thousand dollars as profit besides paying for his land. He then leased his farm to a neighbor and moved with his family to San Francisco, to attend medical lectures at the Medical Department of the University of California. Prior to graduating his funds were exhausted, and he was compelled to secure more means before he could complete his medical education. He therefore asked advice of his uncle, the late Jeremiah E. Howard, of Modesto, as to what course he would suggest to pursue, and was advised to commence the practice of medicine, which he did till he had accumulated sufficient funds to complete his medical education and graduate, when he at once proceeded to New York City in order to attend Bellevue Hospital, the largest hospital in America. While in attendance at Bellevue he also attended the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and also took the army and navy course preparatory to entering the United States Army as an army surgeon. Immediately after completing this course Congress reduced the salary of army surgeons. He then concluded not to enter the army and at once proceeded to Philadelphia and attended a course of lectures at the University, and graduated there in 1876. He then returned to the Pacific coast. After ariiving in California, and being armed with an Allopathic diploma, he concluded to secure a Homeopathic parchment, and at once commenced the study of Homeopathy, and in the winter of 1876 he was examined by the State Board of Examiners selected by this popular school of medicine, answering promptly every question propounded by the examiners. He received his license from them after being highly complimented upon the examination he had just. passed. In 1877 he located at Bodie, in Mono county, a flourishing mining town, at the request of many of Bodie's best citizens, and there did one of the largest practices of any physician of the State. The climate being too severe for his family he moved to the coast in April, 1879, and is now located at Cuffey's Cove in this county. Dr. Berry is one of the most successful surgeons in the State, having performed some of the most difficult surgical operations known to the profession with success, and there are numerous parties living in other counties of the State, as well as in this, that owe their lives to. his professional skill. He now enjoys one of the largest practices of any physician in this portion of the State. Reently he has been a prominent candidate for nomination by the Democratic party for the Legislature from this county, a position not sought for by himself, but urged by his numerous friends. Dr. Berry is a "self made man," being less than thirty years old and in less than fifteen years, by his own exertions, has lifted himself from the humble position of a shepherd boy on the "sand plains " of Stanislaus county to the foremost ranks of the medical profession. Dr. Berry is nearly six feet high, and weighs about one hundred and seventy pounds. He has excellent health, and is capable of enduring an immense amount of hardship, which is so common in his profession. He is always ready to go and attend to the wants of the sick whether paid or not. In the sick room the doctor invariably secures the confidence of his patient, and his cheering words to the suffering add greatly to his success in his profession and secure the profoundest regard from his patients.

From:
History of Mendocino County, California
Alley, Bowen & Co., Publishers
San Francisco, California 1880


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