San Francisco County
HON. JESSE D. CARR
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.