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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



Although death has stilled the voice and terminated the forceful activities of Hon. Hugh McElroy LaRue, it will be long ere his influence will be lost in the county of Yolo and long too ere the power of his personality shall cease to be an effective factor in the local upbuilding. Every line of advancement felt the impetus of his splendid mind and energetic spirit, and, while he was a pioneer of 1849 and very active in the early settlement of the west, he undoubtedly will be less remembered by his accomplishments during that era than by his activities of a later date. The ranch near Davis which is now owned by his heirs and the nucleus of which he acquired as early as 1866, comprises two thousand and sixty acres, of which one thousand are under cultivation to barley, wheat and oats. All the grains produce well in this soil and at times the barley has averaged as high as thirty- five sacks to the acre. Fifty acres are in almonds and two hundred and twenty acres in wine grapes form the largest vineyard in the entire county, producing from six to seven tons per acre. Under a contract for ten years the vineyard products are shipped to the California Wine Association. In grapes of the white variety there are the Burger and the Green Hungarian, while of the reds there are the Alicante Bouschet, Caragnan, Serene, Beclan, Charbono and Mondeuse.

As an illustration of what may be grown on the rich soil of the ranch, and indeed upon any ranch in Yolo county if properly eared for, it may be stated that the LaRue ranch has the following trees in full bearing: almonds, walnuts, oranges, lemons, figs, persimmons, pomegranates, olives, pears, peaches, apples, apricots, plums and prunes. Every acre of the tract is under an irrigation ditch and there is also a private pumping plant operated by an engine of sixty-horse power. Eighty head of horses and mules are required in the sowing of seed, harvesting of crops and ploughing of the ground, and such is the quality of the soil that it can be ploughed one day after a heavy rain. Ever since the original owner of the property brought an importation of jacks from Kentucky there have been fine mules raised on the ranch, about forty having been the number for the past season. A specialty is made of Holstein cattle and about two hundred and fifty head of hogs are raised annually, besides which considerable atten- tion is also given to horses. For eighteen years Jacob Stihl has acted as efficient overseer of the ranch, while the eldest son of the owner, Jacob Eugene LaRue, was retained as manager until his death in January, 1906, since which time another son, Calhoun Lee LaRue, has filled the position of superintendent with intelligence and sagacity.

Tracing the genealogy of the LaRue family it is ascertained that they were so prominent in Kentucky that the county in which they lived was named in their honor and Hodgenville, the county-seat, was named for the maternal grandfather of H. M. LaRue. Near this same town Abraham Lincoln was born on a farm owned by Mr. LaRue's grandmother. In the neighboring county of Hardin, same state, Hugh McElroy LaRue was born August 12, 1830, being a son of Jacob Hodgen and Sarah Cummings (McElroy) LaRue. At the age of nine years he accompanied the family to Missouri and settled in Lewis county near the Mississippi river. It was not long before he began to talk about going west. The mysterious unknown regions beyond the plains seemed to exercise a fascination over his mind. In 1849, before news of the discovery of gold had reached the neighborhood, he joined an expedition of emigrants under the command of V. A. Sublette and Dr. Couduitt. They crossed the Missouri river at Boonville and left Independence on the 29th of April, journeying along the Platte river and through South Pass, thence via Sublette's cut-off and the Oregon trail. In the short distance of thirty miles they crossed the Truckee river twenty-seven times. On the 12th of August they arrived at the Bear river mines near Steep Hollow. For six weeks the young prospector remained in that locality, but later he mined at Grass valley and Deer creek. "With others he built one of the first cabins at Oleta, Amador county, and worked the first mines.

In those days Oleta was known as Fiddletown, the name originating in the fact that some violin-players from Arkansas passed the long and wet winter season at their favorite recreation and the first sound heard by the approaching travelers was that of the fiddle. From that camp Mr. LaRue went to Willow Springs, four miles west of Drytown, where he carried on a small restaurant until early in March. During the spring of 1850 he made a trading expedition to Shasta and sold groceries from his wagon to merchants and miners. Flour brought forty cents per pound, pork, ham, sugar, coffee, potatoes and rice from $1 to $1.25 per pound and whisky and brandy about $8 a gallon. After a second trip to Shasta in June, same year, he came to Sacramento and began to work as a blacksmith and wagon-maker. The cholera epidemic of that year made it necessary for him to seek other employment. Renting a part of rancho del Paso on the Norris grant, he engaged in raising vegetables and later embarked in grain-farming. As early as 1857 he planted an orchard of seventy-five acres, the first large one in the valley and one of the first that was irrigated. The floods of 1861-62 damaged the orchard and the failure of Mr. Norris following shortly afterward, he bought the orchards, but the floods of 1868 entirely destroyed the work of the previous decade.

As early as 1866 Mr. LaRue had purchased nine hundred acres in Yolo county and to this he added until the ranch contained more than two thousand acres. After the floods of 1868 he sold his interest in the rancho del Paso and gave his time to the Yolo county property, but made his home in Sacramento in order that his children might have the advantages offered by the city schools. When the wine industry was still in its infancy he became interested in vineyards and planted one hundred acres to grapes. Other improvements were made, some of which already have been mentioned, while others, equally important, are beyond the limits of this space to present in detail. When advancing years rendered active work less desirable, he turned over to his sons the care of the large property, and retired to private life, with a record of having raised crops for more than fifty consecutive years in California. His agricultural experiences centered in the counties of Colusa, Yolo, Napa and Sacramento.

During 1858 Mr. LaRue married Miss Elizabeth Marion, daughter of Thomas Lizenby, a pioneer of Lewis county. Mo., and also of Colusa county, Cal. Mrs. LaRue was a half-sister of Rev. William M. Rush, D.D., of the Missouri conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, also of Hon. John A. Rush, at one time state senator from Colusa county and later attorney general of Arizona. Mr. and Mrs. LaRue were the parents of four sons and one daughter, Jacob Eugene (who died in January of 1906), Calhoun Lee, Hugh McElroy, Jr., John Rush and Marie Virginia (who died in 1888). During 1856 Mr. LaRue became a member of the Sacramento Society of California Pioneers, of which he served as president several times. As master of the Sacramento Grange he was prominent in another organization prominent in its day. For years he was a member of Sacramento Lodge No. 49, F. & A. M., and also affiliated with the chapter.

For years one of the leading Democrats of his locality, Mr. LaRue never lost his interest in public affairs and when he passed from earth, December 12, 1906, not only his party, but the state as well, lost a patriotic supporter and loyal promoter. During 1857 the Democrats elected him sheriff of Sacramento county by a majority of eight votes, but when the election was contested he lost the office. When again he became a candidate in 1873 he was elected by a large majority. During the sessions of 1883 and 1884 he was a member of the lower house of the state legislature and served as speaker. As representative from the second congressional district, in 1879, he served as a member of the state constitutional convention. While in the legislature he supported the bill providing for the erection of an exposition building for the State Agricultural Association, also supported the revision of the general railroad laws, the county government act, the bill reorganizing the senatorial and assembly districts and the laws relating to taxes. During 1888 he was the Democratic candidate for senator and ran ahead of his ticket, but was not elected.

From 1867 until his death in 1906 Mr. LaRue was identified with the State Agricultural Association. Three times (1879-1880 and 1882) he was chosen president of the organization. After 1882 he was a member of its board of directors. During the expositions he acted as superintendent of the pavilion. While president of the board, also while speaker of the assembly, he was an ex-officio member of the board of regents of the California State University at Berkeley. He was National Chief of Viticulture at the Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in lb\)o. Elected railroad commissioner from Northern California in 1894, he served as president of the board for four years, besides holding other official positions. With his demise another pioneer passed from the scenes of his successful industry. Another link joining the present with the past was burst asunder and another name was added to those of the illustrious immortals recorded in the annals of the state. 

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