San Joaquin County
JOHN C. DROGE
A pioneer of more than ordinary interest is found in John C. Droge, who has been a leader in the development and prosperity of Tracy for the past twenty years, and he is counted among the leading citizens of that prosperous city. He was born near Holm, Schleswig-Holstein, on November 23, 1840, where he was reared and educated. When he reached the age of sixteen he left home to come to America in a sailing vessel and arriving in New York City he set out for Aspinwall on an old tub called the “George Law,” which barely crept along, and which, on her next voyage while well out at sea, went down in calm weather with Captain Herndon and all on board. After crossing the Isthmus of Panama, he took passage on the side-wheeler “Golden Gate.” Captain James Whiting became a staunch friend of Mr. Droge during the thirty days occupied by the trip to San Francisco, arriving in that city on June 15, 1857. He had been preceded to America by his brother Peter some four years before, who had been lured to the mines by the tales of the finding of marvelous wealth. John C. soon found his way to Placer County where he located his brother, who had spent several years in the mines, which had not proven very remunerative. The two brothers then returned to San Francisco where Peter Droge followed contracting, married and reared a large family, and passed away in 1918 at the age of eighty-four years.
John C. became a clerk in a grocery store on Geary Street, San Francisco, but not feeling satisfied; he went to San Mateo County and rented a tract of land which he farmed to hay and grain. By 1867, he had saved a sufficient sum of money to buy some government land in San Joaquin County, located near Ellis (now the city of Tracy); this tract of land he leased on shares to grain farmers for thirty years. From time to time he occupied more land, some railroad and some government land, and at times owned as much as 2,500 acres. In 1868 Mr. Droge became a citizen of the United States and in 1869 returned to San Francisco and opened up a small store which he successfully conducted for four years, selling out to good advantage in 1873. He then concluded to make an extensive trip to the homeland, which occupied two years, the greater part of the time spent as a student in the Technical School of Hamburg, Germany, a private, high class institution. Returning to California via New York in 1875, Mr. Droge settled in Monterey County where he opened a general merchandise store at Chuyalar, in the Salinas Valley, and in connection conducted the post office and Wells Fargo business and eleven years was occupied in this way. Being of a thrifty and economic turn of mind, he invested his money in land and became one of the most extensive land owners in Monterey County; he also did a good deal of surveying of land for others. In 1882 he made a trip to see his father, spending a year, and covering considerable portion of Europe. Returning to California, he disposed of his store and lands in Monterey County and in 1884 returned to Germany to remain with his father until his death in 1889. From 1889 to 1891 he attended the University of Berlin, taking a course in the development of surveying and civil engineering and also traveling extensively throughout Europe, including Norway, Sweden, Italy, etc. Returning to America and California in 1891, he was occupied in Monterey County and San Francisco for four years, settling in Tracy in 1895, where he became an active builder of the municipality. In partnership with Joshua Brown the remaining holdings of the Pacific Improvement Company were purchased, which consisted of valuable town lots and some ranch land just outside of Tracy. In 1909, he founded the Bank of Tracy and served as its president for ten years; in 1910 built the bank building, the American and Central houses; in 1911 built the Central Garage and its annex; and in 1922 erected a Class A theater building with a seating capacity of 1,000 persons. He has just completed the erection of six store buildings on Central Avenue. Besides his extensive land holdings in San Joaquin County, he owns land in Riverside, Imperial, Stanislaus, Kern, besides ranches near Las Vegas, Nevada. Although retired from active business cares, he still keeps in close touch with his large holdings in a most capable and efficient manner. He is a Republican in politics.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: Tinkham, George H., History of San Joaquin County, California , Page 811. Los Angeles, Calif.: Historic Record Co., 1923.
© 2011 Gerald Iaquinta.