San Francisco County






HON. J. D. CARR.—The biography of Jesse D. Carr is the record of a busy and eventful life. It is marked with adventure, with vicissitudes which would have hopelessly wrecked the average mortal, and has finally been crowned with that success which is the sure reward of honesty, industry and perseverance.

      Born in Sumner County, Tennessee, June 10, 1814, his early days were spent on a farm. His education was obtained in a country school, and as he left home at the age of sixteen years was not as good as the limited average afforded in those days. His first experience was in a store, kept by Elder Brothers, in Cairo. When eighteen years old he went to Nashville and served six years more as a store boy. He was married when twenty-three years old, and with his earnings, amounting to about $ 1,000, he went to Memphis, and in partnership with Larkin Wood, a former employer, commenced business on his own account. About this time the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians were removed from North Mississippi and West Tennessee and Arkansas, and those section were rapidly filling up with farmers Memphis became an important commercial point. Mr. Carr` s business prospered until his partner lost his mind, and embarrassed the firm to the extent of $20,000. This indebtedness Mr. Carr paid off in two years, when he closed out his business in Memphis, he was worth $ 40,000. It was a fact worth noting, and of some historical importance, that in 1840 he built the first brick house ever constructed in Memphis.

      In 1843 Mr. Carr went to New Orleans, and engaged in the cotton commission business, in which he succeeded in spending the money he had earned in Memphis. The Mexican war breaking out about this time, he made an effort to retrieve his lost fortune as a sutler, still continuing his business, however, in New Orleans. But to use a homely expression, “he jumped out of the frying-pan into the fire.”

      February 24, 1847, 3,000 Mexican troops, under the command of General Urrea, captured the train in which his goods, valued at $ 40,000, and killed or captured 90 of 180 persons with the train. Mr. Carr was summoned before General Taylor to give his testimony, as the officer in command of the train had found it expedient to disobey orders. At the first interview General Taylor was in such a rage that he could not discuss the subject, but in the second interview he was made to realize that what had been done was the best that could have been done under the circumstances. General Taylor afterward told him that the capture of the train possibly prevented his defeat at Buena Vista. General Urrea had orders to join the Mexican forces at Buena Vista, but disobeyed them to capture the train under the misapprehension that it carried half a million dollars Government money to pay off troops. General Taylor expressed the opinion that these 3,000 troops would have turned the tide of battle at Buena Vista. “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good.”

      Mr. Carr stayed in Mexico until after the war and recuperated about $15,000. He returned to New Orleans in January, 1849; had cholera for the second time, having had an attack in 1834. As soon as he could travel he went to Washington to collect some accounts against dead soldiers. He remained there two months, and attended the inauguration of General Taylor, with whom his acquaintance had ripened into a warm friendship. In the meantime Congress had passed a bill authorizing the Secretary of War to furnish, after registration, persons going to California with fire-arms at Government cost. General William M. Gwin was the first, and the subject of this sketch was the second person to register under this law. While in Washington Postmaster General Collamer, through the influence of Mr. Carr` s friend, Colonel Churchill, of the army, tendered him the appointment of Postal Agent of California, but two days later sent for him and told him that Colonel Bliss, General Taylor` s private Secretary, wanted the office for an old school-mate, Captain Allen, whereupon Mr. Carr released Judge Collamer from his promise. Mr. Carr arranged to start for California in June, having been appointed by Colonel James Collier, Deputy Collector of the port of San Francisco. Before his departure he was to go to New Orleans and get acquainted with the duties of his office, and the Postmaster-General, in an endeavor to make amends for the Faux pas of the California Postal Agency appointment, tendered him the position of the special Postal Agent at New Orleans, with instructions not to send in his resignation until the day he started for California.

      Mr. Carr arrived in San Francisco August 18, 1849; Collier did not arrive until November. Immediately after his arrival, Mr. Carr accepted a position as deputy under Military Collector, Mr. Harrison, and after Collier`s arrival assisted in organizing the office. He was in the custom house a little more then a year.

      After retiring he was nominated, against his wish, for the Assembly, and was elected by a majority of 176 over the highest competing candidate. He thus became a member of the second California Legislature, and was made Chairman of the Committee, on Commerce and Navigation, and was second on the ways and means Committee, and virtually did the work of both. He introduced and passed the first funding bill for San Francisco, when warrants were out drawing a monthly interest of three percent. The bill provided for the funding of the debt at ten percent. per annum. Subsequently to this he mined a little, dealt in real estate some, and in 1852 became interested in a portion of the Pulgas ranch and in the fall of 1853 moved to the Pajaro Valley. While living here and during his absence from home he was elected Supervisor of Santa Cruz County. He purchased a part of the Salsipuedes ranch, and engaged in farming and stock-raising, and bought and sold grain and other produce. In 1859 hr moved to Salinas valley, and has made Monterey county his home ever since.

      In 1866 he engaged in staging, and carried the first mail between Virginia city, Nevada, and Boise Idaho. It was a dangerous business, as the Indians were very bad at that time. From 1866 to 1870 he was the largest stage contractor on the Pacific coast, his contracts amounting to as much as $300,000 a year. For four years he carried the mail between Oroville, California, and Portland, Oregon. He has frequently been known to say that that was the hardest work of his life. In a limited way he is still interested in the stage business.

      Mr. Carr owns 20,000 acres of land in Modoc County, and the water controls 100,000 acres. He considers this the best piece of the property he has. It is stocked with 5,000 head of cattle and 500 horses. He has recently sold about two-thirds of his Gabilan ranch, of 48,000 acres, in Monterey County. On the remaining third he has some good coal prospects. Since he quit staging Mr. Carr has remained most of the time at his home in Salinas. He has been prominently identified with nearly every enterprise of the county. He organized the Salinas Bank, and has been its president ever since. He owns 800 of 3,000 shares of stock in the bank.  He has also been president, ever since its organization, of the Agricultural Association. He recently endowed the I.O.O.F. Association of Salinas with $5,000 for a free circulating library. He was raised in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and has always been a liberal patron of this organization. He gave about $5,000 to the Santa Rosa Collage.

      Mr. Carr is not only a conspicuous man in this state, but is well known all over the Pacific coast, and has been more or less intimately acquainted with administration at Washington since the incumbency of President Taylor. He has the reputation a having considerable influence at the national capital. Although nearing his seventy eighth birthday, he is still hale and vigorous. He arises early in the morning, and the amount of work he does would fatigue many young men. He is striking illustration of the fact that “it takes longer to wear out then it does to rust out


Transcribed by Kim Buck.

Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 2, Pages 509-510, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.

© 2006 Kim Buck.


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