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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


THOMAS SHAY In his long and interesting career Thomas Shay, of Highland, has experienced the wild free life of the early miners and the settled dignity of the modern ranch; the thrill of the newly-made strikes and the methodical sureness of twentieth-century business methods; the good fellowship of the out-of-the-way desert places and the substantial connections of the populous communities. Through it all he has preserved a buoyant spirit that has lent color to his career and has made of it something more than a matter of the achievement of success. The hardships and exposure of his early years gave him endurance and physical strength, and today, at the age of sixty-five years, he is still the best man on his ranch, in full possession of his every faculty, and performing his every-day routine of duties with the same ability and gusto that marked the days when hard work was not only a habit but a necessity.

Mr. Shay was born March 10, 1857, at El Monte, California, a son of Walter A. and Elisa (Goshen) Shay. His father, a native of Nova Scotia and a cooper by trade, went to Boston, Massachusetts, during the early '40s and was living in that city when he heard the news of the discovery of gold in California, in 1848. Seized at once with the fever that swept across the country, he made some few hurried preparations and boarded a steamer for a voyage around Cape Horn, but when the vessel put in at Aspinwall he left her and crossed the isthmus. On the Pacific side he took the old steamer, "Golden Gate," and arrived at San Francisco in the early spring of 1849. From that city he made his way by stage to Los Angeles, and, having found that the securing of gold was not as easy as had been represented, sought work at his trade there, and later took to ranching. It was at the ranch of Rowling & Workman that he met the cook of the ranch, Mrs. Elisa Goshen, and they were married in 1853. She had crossed the plains by immigrant train, in an ox-team drawn prairie schooner early in 1851, coming via Santa Fe, New Mexico, crossing the Colorado River at Fort Yuma, then crossing the desert and passing through the Carisa Creek country, through the mountains to Chino and on to Los Angeles. Her first husband had died on the way, at Tucson, Arizona, and she came on alone and secured the position before noted. She and her second husband, Mr. Shay, had five sons and one daughter : John Henry, who died as a child ; Thomas, of this notice ; William ; Walter ; and Mary, who became the wife of Thomas B. Hutchiners. In 1857, when the Mormons were recalled from this section of California by President Young, the ''faithful" sacrificed their San Bernardino lands and all possessions, and Walter A. Shay was able to secure 160 acres of land on Base Line for $900, in addition to which he bought 100 acres of Government land adjoining, at $2.50 oer acre. There he spent the remainder of his life in agricultural operations, and made a success of his vocation.

Thomas Shay secured his education in the public schools of San Bernardino and for a time was associated with his father in the work of the home farm. The prosaic life of the homestead did not hold him long, however, for the spirit of the frontier entered his blood and he went into the mountains and took his chances with the other adventurous men of his day. For the next few years he lived a rough, strenuous life, working in the sawmills and mines and passing through many of the periods of excitement that characterized the "seventies and early eighties." After his marriage, in 1887, he settled down to ranching on his present holdings, a part of the old Shay homestead on Base Line, Highland. Mr. Shay is now one of the substantial men of his community, and has a number of business, civic and fraternal connections. His reputation is unquestioned and he has many friends in the community in which his home has been made for so many years.

On January 15, 1887, Mr. Shay was united in marriage with Miss Mary T. Gamm, who was born at Stockton, California, August 15, 1861, a daughter of John and Elizabeth Gamm, the former a native of near Nashville, Tennessee, and the latter of Missouri. John Gamm crossed the plains to California in 1851, and his wife was a child when brought by her parents to this state. Her party traveled via the Platte River, Salt Lake, Truckee Pass, by ox-trains with the Indians a constant menace in North Dakota and on the North Platte River. In Carson valley, Nevada, the party packed hay for sixty miles to feed the stock, which had run out of forage on the desert trip. John and Elizabeth Gamm were the parents of ten children. To Mr. and Mrs. Shay there have been born seven children who are living: Arthur, born October 8, 1887, fs employed as a United States Government forest ranger in the San Bernardino Mountains. He married Florence Sawyer and has three children, Lawrence, Winifred and Elaine. Marion, single, born April 10, 1889, is associated in partnership with his younger brother, Ora, in the live stock business in Green Valley, where they run large herds. Clarence, born March 18, 1890, single, has been engaged in the lumber business in Mariposa County, Califomia, during the last twelve years, with the exception of his term of enlistment during the World war, in which he trained in various home camps, the armistice being signed just about as he was ready to be sent overseas and he was honorably discharged. Ora, born February 14, 1901, as noted above, is associated with his brother Marion in the live stock business in Green Valley. Lola, born January 12, 1893, married Stuart Lytle and has one son, Stuart, Jr. Mabel, born September 16, 1896, married Raymond Nish and has one child, Virginia ; and Barbara, born January 4, 1899, is single and acting as bookkeeper in the Chaffey department store at Redlands. this state. The children have all been given good, practical educational advantages, fitting them for various positions which they have been called upon to fill in life, and all have been a credit to their upbringing and to the communities in which they reside.


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