California Genealogy and History Archives
W. Hotchkiss, the subject of this sketch, was born in New Haven, Conn.,
October 16, 1831. He came to California in the ship Susan G. Owens,
arriving in San Francisco October 8, 1849.
came to Sacramento as a clerk for Scranton & Smith, who had brought
from the east a house frame and stock of goods for a general store. They
erected the second permanent building in the city near Third and J
streets. They paid $500 a thousand feet for lumber to complete their
store, and young Hotchkiss acted as both clerk and cook. In speaking of
his experiences he says: "I think it was the last ])art of
December, 1849, that I went one morning to the slough four or five
hundred feet back of the store to get a pail of water, and found the
water just cutting through the bank, and, yelling for help, I tried to
scrape enough mud with my foot to hold the water back, but had to run
for the store, where all floor goods were at once placed on the counter,
and within an hour or two the water washed the under side of the floor.
This was the big flood of '49 and '50, when the water stood eight feet
deep a couple of blocks to the south of us. For a month or more all our
travel was by whale boat. As the waters receded teams tried to enter the
streets, until in March there were at least a dozen teams of oxen and
many horses, which it was impossible to save after they mired, that died
and dried up in their tracks."
In July, 1850, Mr. Hotchkiss went to the mines and set up a tent store, doing well in it, but his father's letters telling of failing health made him homesick, and there was also "the girl I left behind me" writing letters saying she would be glad to see him. He took passage for Panama in the bark St. Mary's, walked across the Isth- mus and caught tlie steamer Folsom for Havana, assisting during the trip in burying twenty-eight of his fellow passengers who died of cholera. For twenty years he was a member of the Western Association of California Pioneers, which disbanded in 1911, when only fifteen members were left, with an average age of eighty-seven years. He is now secretary-treasurer of the Illinois Lumber Dealers' Association, at Chicago.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011