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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



The district attorney of Sacramento county is a native son of Sacramento and a member of a pioneer family whose identification with the west began during the memorable mining era. The first representative of the name in the west and indeed in the new world was Herman Wachhorst, a native of Hanover, Germany, born in May of 1827. For three successive generations the heads of the family had been expert dealers in precious stones and renowned watch- makers. When he crossed the ocean in 1843 he already had acquired a thorough knowledge of the manufacture of watches and the value of jewels. In the new world his first task was the acquisition of fluency in the use of the English language. For five years he remained in the employ of Hyde & Goodrich, one of the most famous jewelry firms in the United States. While with them he became an expert in judging precious stones and devoted much attention to that branch of the trade.

The discovery of gold in California attracted the young jeweler from congenial surroundings which he had expected to make permanent. With the quickness of decision that was one of his characteristics he resigned from his business connections, proceeded to New York City and took passage on the ship, Mary Waterman, under Capt. James Higgins. The voyage proved to be one of the roughest known in history and the one hundred and seventy-five passengers endured every hardship and danger ere the final destination was reached. The heaviest storms fell upon them as they were rounding the Horn. The ship cast anchor at Rio Janeiro on the eastern coast and Valparaiso on the western coast, these stops being necessary for repairs and supplies. After the final stop at San Francisco the young gold-seeker proceeded to Sacramento and thence to the mines at Mormon Island. Not finding the occupation of mining congenial or profitable he returned to Sacramento in December of 1850 and rented, at $500 per month payable in advance, a shop about eight feet wide on J street between Front and Second. During the next three years he made money with startling rapidity and when he sold out in 1854 he had accumulated a capital sufficient to give him an income of $800 per month. A life of cultured leisure in San Francisco thus became possible to him and enabled him to devote considerable attention to the study of vocal and instrumental music, also rendered possible extensive continental travels for a period of two years.

Upon his return to California in 1859 Mr. Wachhorst purchased the business of Heller & Andrews in San Francisco and after the disastrous floods of 1861 he opened a jewelry establishment at Sacramento, where he gained an enviable reputation as an expert in diamonds and precious stones. His stock of jewelry was said to be one of the finest in the entire country and until his retirement from business he held a high position among the leading men of his chosen occupation. When he passed away in the year 1899 it was recognized that the state had lost one of its most interesting pioneers and Sacramento one of its most famous business men of early days. The honors of Masonry were bestowed upon him in his interment and over the body were sung some of the songs which he himself had often rendered to delighted audiences with rare sweetness and beauty of technique.

In the family of Herman and Frances Wachhorst there was a son, Eugene, whose birth occurred at the family homestead in Sacramento May 11, 1866, and whose education was begun in the schools of the capital city. Later he attended the California Military Academy for two years and afterward he was a student at Berkeley, where he was graduated in 1884. Upon starting out for himself he went to Solano county, where for two years he assisted with the work on a large cattle and grain ranch. Upon returning to Sacramento he became porter in the wholesale grocery of the Adams, McNeil Company. Two years later he was promoted to be buyer and shipping clerk. When he retired from the employ of the grocery house he became connected with his father in the jewelry business, but at the expiration of two years he began to work as a deputy in Judge Catlin's court. Two years afterward he was chosen chief deputy under William B. Hamilton. In 1899 he was appointed assistant district attorney and while serving as such he gave his leisure hours to the study of law under Judge Catlin. When he had completed his course of reading he was admitted to the bar by the supreme court at San Francisco and October 27, 1907, he was admitted to the United States supreme court at Washington. Meanwhile in 1906 he had been chosen district attorney of Sacramento county and in 1910 he was again elected to the office, which position he has filled with characteristic intelligence and energy.

The Republican party has had in Mr. Wachhorst a faithful and sagacious exponent of its principles. Among the organizations to which he belongs may be mentioned the Sutter Club, Eagles, Elks and the Masonic order in Washington Lodge No. 20, F. & A. M. ; Sacramento Chapter No. 3, R. A. M. ; Sacramento Council No. 1, and Sacramento Commandery No. 2, K. T. Upon removing to Solano county he there formed the acquaintance of Miss Mollie B. Johnson and they were united in marriage May 2, 1887. They are the parents of three children. The eldest son, Donald Eugene, is a well-educated young man, having had excellent advantages in the University of California. The younger sons. Jack B. and Thomas H., are students in the Sacramento public schools. 

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