Butte County









JUDGE JOHN C.GRAY.--One of the most eminent jurists of Butte County, Judge John Carleton Gray, who passed away on May 23, 1913, was held in high esteem in legal, civic and social circles of the county, where for nearly twenty-four years he was judge of

the superior court. Born in Dresden, Lincoln County, Maine, February 2, 1837, Judge Gray was a descendant of an old New England family, both paternal and maternal ancestors having emigrated from England to America prior to the Revolutionary War,

in which historic struggle both families were represented. His parents were the Hon. John L. and Lydia (Carleton) Gray, who were natives of Maine, as were his grandparents. The mother died in 1874, when sixty-seven years old; the father survived until 1897, when he passed away at the age of ninety. They were the parents of nine children.

When John C. Gray was only three years of age, he was taken by his parents to China, Maine, where he was reared to young manhood on the parental farm, attending school during the winter months, and assisting through the summer with the home duties. He

remained at home until he was eighteen years old, when he became a teacher in the schools of his native state, thereby earning enough money to complete his education. In 1859 he entered Colby University (then known as Waterville). There he remained two years, after which he received instruction in the law office of the Hon. A. Libbey, of Augusta, Maine, until he was admitted to practice in the highest court of the state, on June 16, 1863. The next day he started for the Golden State. Upon his arrival in California, he secured a position as night clerk in the What Cheer Hotel, Sacramento, where he remained eighteen months.
On January 1, 1865, Mr. Gray arrived in Butte County. Here he began his career as a teacher in California, and for five of the seven years during which he was engaged as an educator, he was principal of the Oroville grammar schools. He was eminently successful in the work, and only put it aside to take up the profession for which he had equipped himself in his Eastern home. In June, 1872, he opened an office in Oroville, for the practice of law; and it required but a short time to demonstrate his ability in matters of jurisprudence and to bring him prominently before the public. His ability soon won recognition beyond the borders of this home community. As early as 1873, he was elected on the Republican ticket to the state assembly, where he served one term, during which time he was chairman of the Committee on Public Lands, and a member of the Judiciary Election and Apportionment Committees, the Judiciary Committee being presided over by Judge Williams, of Eldorado County, and numbering among its members many men of note. Upon returning to Oroville, Judge Gray resumed his law practice, and at the same time became editor and part owner of the Oroville Mercury. In 1878, however, his constantly increasing practice demanded his entire attention, compelling him to dispose of his interest in the paper. During his private practice he was very successful in obtaining for many of his clients government titles to agricultural and mineral lands. Many of the arguments used by him before the commissioner of the General Land Office, as also before the Secretary of the Interior, were among the best presented before those officers, and have been used by others in cases considered at a later date.
A man of fine personality and marked ability, he became very popular in public affairs. He was the Republican nominee for the office of district attorney in 1885. After a warm contest, he was elected for a term of two years, after which he was reelected

and served a second term, but refused a third. During his term of office a band of seven noted criminals was broken up, all of whom were convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment varying from one to sixty years. In 1890, he received the nomination for

superior judge, a position held then by Judge P. O. Hundley, and was elected against a very popular man by a large majority. In 1896 he was reelected by the largest majority ever given to a candidate in Butte County, and he was again reelected in 1902. His

last election to the bench took place in the fall of 1908, when he was chosen to serve for a term of six years, the term to expire in January, 1915. One morning in the month of May, 1913, Judge Gray went to his office apparently in good health; but a short time after his arrival the librarian of the law library found him stricken with paralysis, and the third day following, after two subsequent strokes of the malady, he passed away. His long career

on the bench, which extended for nearly twenty-four years, was dominated by a spirit of justice and honesty of purpose which won for him the esteem and respect of all who came to know him officially or otherwise.
Always deeply interested in the schools of the county, Judge Gray held the position of deputy superintendent for a period of six years, besides which he was connected for several years with the board of trustees. He was always greatly interested in and actively identified with the upbuilding of the best interests of Butte County, not the least among these being enterprises of an agricultural nature. In 1886 he turned his attention to fruit-

raising, being the first one to make the venture in olives and figs in Butte County, and in fact in Northern California. The result of his enterprise is seen in the development of the

splendid ranch known as the Mt. Ida Olive Grove. The crop of olives gathered there is shipped from the ranch in the form of the pickled fruit and olive oil, as the place is equipped with an olive-oil mill.
On October 6, 1869, Judge Gray was united in marriage with Miss Belle R. Clark. This union was blessed three children, namely; Helen, who died in infancy; Carleton, the prominent attorney of Oroville; and Ida B., who became the wife of Dr. J. W. Wilson, of Oroville. Mrs. Gray passed away on November 14, 1897, in San Francisco, where she had gone to attend the wedding of her son.
On July 3, 1902, the second marriage of Judge Gray occurred, when he was united with Mrs. Katherine (Jacoby) Hecker, who survives him.
In the passing of this eminent jurist, Butte County sustained a great loss, not only the loss of an able and fearless dispenser of justice, but also of an upright man, who, through his long period of residence in the county, received many political honors and gained a high degree of esteem from his associates and the citizens of the community.



Transcribed by Sande Beach.

Source: "History of Butte County, Cal.," by George C. Mansfield, Pages 471-472, Historic Record Co, Los Angeles, CA, 1918.

2007 Sande Beach.


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