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California Genealogy and History Archives

Biographies
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Sacramento County

 

HENRY DEHN

Significant service to the material upbuilding of Sacramento has been characteristic of Mr. Dehn during the long period of his identification with the city. Dating his arrival here as well as his first permanent location upon American soil from September 2nd of the Centennial year, he came hither direct from Germany, where he was born March 10, 1858, and where preceding generations of the family had lived as far back as the genealogy can be traced. From the first period of his association with the capital city he was prescient of its possibilities for growth and development. While earning a livelihood through an association of ten years with the old Sacramento brewery and during the early '80s also serving as secretary of the Sacramento Brewers' Association until that organization disbanded, he did not fail to keep posted concerning the local property valuations and the development of the building business. When the eastern part of the city was still a marsh he bought the block between J and K streets, extending from Twenty-eighth to Twenty-ninth. The tract appeared entirely worthless and of course was purchased at a low figure. Covered by a slough, its main use had been to furnish a place for the town boys to swim. By putting in over ten thousand yards of dirt he converted the block into one of the finest business and residence localities of the eastern district of Sacramento. Here for a time was located the first electric-car barn of the city, here the first electric car was put together and from here it began its regular rounds of travel. The old building still stands on his premises, but has not been used for street car purposes for many years.

After relinquishing the position in the brewery Mr. Dehn gave his attention to the taking of contracts and he is now one of the oldest contractors of Northern California. Many of his contracts have been for street work and the building of city sewers. As the Sacramento foreman for the San Francisco Street Improvement Company, he had charge of the building of the first macadam road on K street. Many other important improvements were made under his supervision. Perhaps no one is more familiar than he with the condition of Sacramento streets, sewer work and building business, and it may be stated as a fact generally known that all work done under Ms oversight has proved substantial and permanent. When he first became a citizen of the United States he entered into local politics and rendered efficient assistance to the Democratic party in Sacramento, but his ambitions did not lead him into office-seeking and at no time has he sought official honors from his fellow-citizens. Of his original holdings he has sold a portion, but still owns one-fourth of a block of the original purchase, besides which he has one-fourth block facing Sutter's Fort on Twenty-eighth street. On this property stood the first printing- office in Sacramento, also here, facing the alley, once stood the first hospital of the town. The story is told that in the early mining days a miner was brought to this hospital who had $40,000 in gold-dust. While delirious he escaped from attendants, carried his bags of gold outside and buried the treasure, which has never been found to this day, although different parties have dug for the gold and for some time a dredger also was operated in the vain hope of locating the hidden wealth. When mining was still a very prominent industry it was the custom of miners to come from the mines with their sacks of gold and gamble at Sutter's Fort. Some of the dust would be dropped to the ground and often Mr. Dehn secured the sweepings, which amounted to more than at first thought would be supposed. Remembering the conditions of the country at the time of his arrival and noting the remarkable change brought about by slow degrees, he has been a witness to advancing prosperity and has contributed his own quota to the steady advancement of the city. 


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