GEORGE WASHINGTON McNEAR
On December 28, 1909, there passed away in San Francisco a man whose name will go down in history as the "Grain
King of California." In the days when California was the world's granary, when her wheat was being shipped
to all parts of the world, George W. McNear was a power in the land.
He was born in Washington, Maine, March 27, 1837, coming of a family which was prominent in the early history of
this country. He was a direct descendant of the famous Indian fighter of the early days, Captain John McNear.
Young McNear obtained an elementary education in the public schools of his native town, but at the early age of
fifteen he responded to the call of the sea. His progress as a sailor was rapid, for at eighteen he was the master
of a sailing vessel and for six years commanded packets which plied in Mississippi Sound.
After a few years' residence in New Orleans he returned to Maine and then came to California by way of the isthmus,
arriving at San Francisco, August 2, 1860. Shortly afterward he went to Petaluma and became a partner of his brother,
John A. McNear, in the grain business. This was the beginning of a career that is conspicuous in the history of
California's pioneers. In 1870, however, he saw larger opportunities looming on the coast and he withdrew from
partnership with his brother and entered the grain business on his own account in San Francisco, From this comparatively
small beginning he developed the business which, outstripping all competitors, gave its owner his unique and expressive
appellation. His success was immediate, and it was not long before he made use of his knowledge of ships and became
the owner of a number of coast wise and deep sea vessels and began sending his own grain and that which he purchased
all over the world. In due time the sails were supplanted by steam, and his business grew to vast proportions,
until it finally was incorporated under the name of George W. McNear, Inc., with branches in London and Liverpool.
At one time he was the owner of more than one thousand acres of wheat land in various parts of the state, while
his warehouses at Port Costa were capable of holding sixty thousand tons of golden grain. In the natural course
of events, he figured prominently in many spectacular wheat deals, and usually at immense profit to himself.
In addition to the business conducted as George W. McNear, Inc., Mr. McNear had other extensive financial and commercial
associations. He promoted and was the president of the first electric street railroad, operated in the city of
Oakland, and was also president of the First National Bank of that city. He also had extensive interests in Port
Costa, being president of the Port Costa Water Company and Port Costa Milling Company.
In the furtherance of a movement to bring the large business interests of the city under a compact organization
for mutual welfare and for the maintenance of high standards, he was largely instrumental in effecting the consolidation
of the old Produce Exchange with the Merchants Exchange, and it was during his second year as president of the
combined organization and with his aid that a movement for the erection of the present Exchange building was consummated.
In the business world the splendid success of this man commanded the admiration of his fellows, but not simply
because he had succeeded in amassing a fortune. His achievements were due not only to his keen foresight and bargaining
ability, but to those sturdy virtues of honesty and probity which are, after all, the lasting foundation of such
a career. Though never seeking public office, he devoted much of his time to unselfishly promoting movements having
to do with civic betterment. In his personal dealings with his fellowmen he was kind, generous and free hearted,
never spurning the appeals of those who were in need, and with ever a word of comfort and a helping hand for those
who were victims of "outrageous fortune."
He was a member of the Masonic fraternity, and of the Pacific-Union Club. Before coming west, on November 2, 1859,
at Bangor, in his native state, he married Amanda M. Church. To them were born the following children: Mary A.,
who married Phillip E. Bowles; John A.; George W., Jr.; Frederick W.; Elizabeth; and
Seward R. Mr. McNear found solace from the cares of his immense business with his family, who, when he passed away,
suffered the loss of a loving and indulgent husband and father.
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931
San Francisco, CA
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