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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


GRANT HOLCOMB. In the history of San Bernardino County published herewith several references are made to that California pioneer William F. Holcomb, discoverer of Holcomb Valley, a spot in the San Bernardino Mountains now known for its picturesque character and setting. A grandson of that pioneer gold miner is Grant Holcomb, a prominent young attorney and citizen of San Bernardino.

William F. Holcomb crossed the plains to California in 1849. He was a fine type of the frontiersman, one accustomed to the hardships of a lonely mountain in the lonely desert and pursuing fortune for the sake of the adventure rather than the money itself. When he uncovered the placer gold deposits in the valley that now bears his name he did more than anything else to attract people to San Bernardino County. Within six months after his discovery there were 2,000 men in the valley. This valley lies in the adjacent mountains, just north of Bear Valley, now the great summer resort of Southern California. William F. Holcomb in his adventures as a hunter and miner prospected over nearly all the country from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Arizona. He was one of the discoverers of the famous Vulture Mine in Arizona, from which more than $8,000,000 were taken. He sold a third interest in this property for $1,000, and afterward, in telling the experience, he referred with a quiet humor rather than any bitterness to the fact that he was cheated out of half the amount of the sale. His partner at the time was Dick Gird, discoverer of the mines at Tombstone, Arizona. William F. Holcomb after the discovery of gold in Holcomb Valley worked successfully at mining for several years. He was then elected county clerk, treasurer and assessor. This office he filled for several terms. He was a type of official who was not hampered by traditions or precedents, and he was guided first of all by the necessity of getting the thing done required by his official duty. Among other duties he had to levy and collect the personal tax. He levied a tax on the Santa Fe personal property. When the railroad refused to pay, this man of action secured some logging chains and, accompanied by a number of deputy sheriffs, went to the Santa Fe depot and proceeded to make an attachment. The most available property was a locomotive standing on the main track in front of the depot. The wheels were secured with the chains and he placed padlocks on them and then left the deputies in charge until the law should be complied with. This summary action naturally caused great excitement among railroad officials, and there was a tremendous buzzing of telegraph wires until the necessary orders could be complied with for paying off the tax. This incident was in a manner characteristic of the West, and especially of the upright and straightforward character of William F. Holcomb.

This splendid old pioneer died about 1909. He married Nancy Stewart at San Bernardino. She had come across the plains with her father from Utah.

Their son William Winfield Holcomb is also a native of California, born in San Bernardino, where he was educated in the public schools. He served as a deputy clerk under his father, later engaged in the lumber business, and following that for many years was a feed and fuel merchant. He then resumed an official routine as deputy sheriff.

William W. Holcomb married at Santa Maria Miss Isabella Grant, a native of San Bernardino and daughter of John and Margaret (Nish) Grant, farmers and cattle raisers of that section.

Grant Holcomb, only child of his parents, was born at San Bernardino and was carefully educated in the grammar and high schools of that city, graduating from high school in 1907. He soon afterward entered Stanford University, from which he received his A. B. degree in 1911, and in 1913 graduated with the degree J. D. He was admitted to the bar the same year, and for nearly ten years has been active in the legal profession at San Bernardino. He does a general practice, though with special call for his abilities in Probate work. He is attorney for the San Bernardino Auto Trades Association, and has his offices in the Garner Building at E and Court streets. Mr. Holcomb is a director of the California State Bank and of the Gill Storage Battery Company. He is a charter member of the Rotary Club and has served that club as a director, is a director of the Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Young Men's Christian Association, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Delta Chi college fraternity. For three years while in high school he was a member of the San Bernardino National Guard. He is treasurer of the Baptist Church, and has been deeply interested in politics, though not as an office seeker. For two terms he was a member of the Republican County Central Committee.

On June 15, 1916, at San Francisco, Mr. Grant Holcomb married Miss Eleanor Frances Burkham, a native of California and daughter of S. B. and M. L. Burkham, of Bodie, California. S. B. Burkham was a prominent participant in the rich and varied historical scenes that made Bodie one of the most famous towns of the great West. In the early days he owned the stage line and the general store at Bodie, and operated a stage between Bodie and Carson City, Nevada, when the transportation of passengers and mails was constantly beset by dangers of highwaymen. Mrs. Holcomb is also a graduate of Stanford University, receiving her A. B. degree in 1914. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Woman's Club of San Bernardino and is also a member of the Young Women's Christian Association. Mr. and Mrs. Holcomb have two children, Grant, Jr., and Kathryn Lee.


History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011