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California Genealogy and History Archives

Biographies
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Sacramento County

 

HON. PHILIP CHARLES COHN

That mind possesses a mastery over environment and that a determination of will often wrests victory from the most adverse circumstances are proved by a recital of the experiences of Mr. Cohn, who from a boy without means or backing has risen to success and influence. Born in the city of New York July 6, 1851, he was the son of Charles and Dora (Cosminnski) Cohn.

Philip C. Cohn was taken in his infancy by his parents to Mobile, Ala., where he had relatives, and where his father took his wife be- cause of ill health, but the mother passed away in 1858, having been taken with yellow fever there. Leaving the son with these relatives, Charles Cohn with his daughter Fa.nnie returned to New York City, in- tending to return for his son as soon as suitable arrangements could be made. About this time he became interested in California, and leaving his little daughter witli relatives in Springfield, Mass., in 1860 he came to California via the Isthmus of Panama and arrived at San Francisco. Remaining there but a short time he then went to Shasta county, and at the time of the Frazer river excitement went to the Caribou mines. Subsequently he engaged in business in Victoria, B. C, for a short time, then returning to California, and in Sacramento embarked in the mercantile business in 1863. In 1872 his daughter Fannie joined him and was later married to Max Marcuse of Sacramento, her death occurring in San Francisco in 1883. Charles Cohn spent the last years of his life under the care of his son and passed away in 1898 in San Francisco, at the age of seventy-four years and eight months.

The early life of P. C. Cohn was a hard one for a child. His ad- vantages for education were meager owing to the Civil war troubles, and at a very tender age he was obliged to go to work as a messenger in order to aid the family with whom he lived. In 1869 he removed to West Point, Miss., where he learned the mercantile business. This being the era of "Carpet-bag Government" he underwent the hardest experiences of his life at that time, which led him to lose his faith in mankind, and here his love for Democracy was born and broadened. In all this time he had had only two years' schooling, but notwithstanding this hardship he learned the common-school branches and be- came qualified to carry on business of any kind. This was due to his remarkable aptitude in learning from observation and from reading. Pew men surpass him in quickness of comprehension. His keen mentality grasps facts with astonishing readiness and retains them with accurate precision; to this quality and to his force of will is due his present substantial degree of success.

During all these years he had lost all trace of his father because of the war, but in 1873, through a Mrs. Kaiser, formerly of Mobile, Ala., who had moved to California, he learned that his father and sister were in Sacramento, and getting into correspondence with them he made his way to that city, landing in May of 1874 with $1.15 as his total capital in the world. However, though poor in purse, he was rich in hope and energy. Securing employment at once with Acker- man, Block & Co., of Sacramento, he remained with them for six years, during which time he formed close ties with social and business circles which he continued to hold ever afterward. Removing then to San Francisco, he traveled from there as salesman for a wholesale crockery company. Locating in Folsom in 1884, he bought an interest in the business owned by Simon Cohn, his father-in-law, who in 1883 had introduced him to his future wife. At the death of Simon Cohn in 1895 Mr. Cohn bought the widow's interest, and since then has conducted the store with intelligence, sagacity and discrimination. On October 29, 1885, he married Miss Alice Martha Cohn, a native daughter of Folsom, who was educated at Perry's Seminary, Sacramento, and their union was blessed with seven children. Dora F. is the wife of Julius Jacobs, who is associated with Mr. Cohn in business, and they have two children, Alice and Dorothy ; the other children are William M., of San Francisco ; Mabel J., Selma, Charles P., Simon A. and Henrietta, the last five being at home.

The Democratic party has received the staunch support of Mr. Cohn ever since he attained his majority and began to make a study of public questions. Concerning national problems he keeps well posted and in local matters he also maintains an intelligent interest, favoring measures for the common welfare and contributing to enter- prises of undoubted value to civic development. He has been a member of the Democratic State Central Committee for about ten years, and for a longer period a member of the Democratic County Central Committee. In 1904 he served as delegate from the Third Congressional district of California to the National Democratic convention in St. Louis, Mo., at the nomination of Alton B. Parker, and on his return was nominated by acclamation as senator for Sacramento. Though running sixteen hundred votes ahead of his ticket, he met with defeat, owing to the large Republican majority that year. In 1912 he was nominated in the primary election for state senator on the Democratic ticket, receiving a vote of five to one, and was elected by a majority of two thousand one hundred and seventy for the session of 1913. This majority in such a strong Republican county indicates the implicit confidence placed in Mr. Cohn by the people, and he well merits this honor.

Various fraternities have enjoyed the benefit of his genuine help- ful spirit. Included among these are the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, B'nai B'rith, and in Masonry he is a member of Natoma Lodge No. 64, of which he is past master, and the Scottish Rite, having risen to the Thirty-second degree; he is also a member of Islam Temple, N. M. S., of San Francisco. He is past patron of Natoma Chapter No. 233, 0. E. S.

As he has prospered through his mercantile and other interests Mr. Cohn has proved his devotion to California by investing in property here. His holdings are varied and important. Some time since he purchased sixty acres of bare land in the Orangevale district, and this is now under cultivation to oranges, olives, grapes and prunes. In addition he owns a farm of two hundred and forty acres in Eldorado county, also seven acres on the shores of Lake Tahoe, which in the near future will be improved with a fine modern hotel. His city properties are no less important than those in the country and include San Francisco real estate, a business block in Sacramento, residence and business property at Folsom, and other holdings in various localities. As a director in the Consumers' Ice and Cold Storage Company he directs an important corporation, in which he holds a large interest and which is proving to be a well-conducted and important concern. He was one of the organizers of the Capital Fire Insurance Co. of Sacramento, of which he is a member of the board of directors, also serving as its treasurer, this company being one of large proportions and on a successful financial basis. A life member of the Good Roads Association, he was a member of the commission that built the road from Folsom to Sacramento. He was appointed by the Ijoard of supervisors as one of five commissioners to attend the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915 from Sacramento county, being treasurer of the commission. He is a member of the board of directors of the Bank of Folsom, and is also one of the directors in the Orangevale Water Company.

With all these varied interests, in the midst of his triumphs Mr. Cohn never forgets the days of uphill work and the difficulties that beset people who meet with misfortune and failure, and he has always been found helpful to those who have been less fortunate, being ever ready to devote his time and means to their assistance. In this he has a ready helpmeet in his estimable wife. She is a member of the Natoma Chapter, 0. E. S., and was made the first president of Fern Parlor, Native Daughters of the Golden West. She is a refined, cultured lady, whose excellent musical ability and many personal charms are much appreciated by their many friends in the county. 


Source:
History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011