San Joaquin County

Biographies


 

 

 

LOUIS GERLACH

 

 

††††††††††† How unremitting, intelligent industry inevitably brings its own reward is well illustrated in the career of the late Louis Gerlach, pioneer cattleman of Stockton, who passed away at his home at 231 East Flora Street on June 6, 1921.He was one of Stocktonís best known citizens and known throughout the west as one of the richest and most extensive operators in cattle and grazing lands in the country, his death bringing great sorrow to a large circle of friends in San Joaquin County and in Nevada, where his land holdings were very large.He was born in Prussia, Germany, April 25, 1836, and when only a young lad was apprenticed to learn the butcherís trade.Early in life he formed a determination to seek a land of greater opportunities and when seventeen years old left for America.He first settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and worked at his trade for two years; then removed to Stockton, arriving in 1855, and for five years worked in the pioneer butcher shop of Henry Hodgkin; then for six years he ran his own shop at the corner of Hunter and Weber avenues; then sold out and engaged in stock trading.He then entered into partnership with Jacob Wagner, the founder of the Wagner Meat Company, and was thus occupied for about twenty years.He retired from the retail business in 1898, selling out to his partner, and devoted himself exclusively to stockraising in Nevada.Mr. Gerlach owned thousands of acres of land in Nevada when the Western Pacific Railroad was built and as the road traversed his lands their value was enhanced greatly.Previous to the coming of the railroad his cattle were driven 100 miles to Reno for shipment.With the completion of the railroad a station named Gerlach in his honor was established on his property and this shipping point became a prominent one.Mr. Gerlach employed a small army of men and to provide them with all the necessities and comforts he established a trading store there.Later the station became a division point from which railroad operations have since been directed.Until his health became impaired Mr. Gerlach directed his vast estate and its affairs personally, making frequent trips to Nevada for this purpose.He knew every foot of his holdings, arranged all details for the management of his business and was an executive of rare ability.He was held in affection by all the men employed by him and the suggestion of the humblest was given an attentive ear by the great operator, who had the faculty of winning the confidence and respect of his men.Mr. Gerlach was intensely loyal to a friend or faithful worker.Generous, big-hearted, loyal and true, much of his business was transacted without written contracts.His word was accepted and his gesture concluded deals as finally as written documents.At one time he owned 5,000 acres of grain and grazing land on the San Joaquin River; this he later sold.His largest holdings are 30,000 acres of grazing land in Washoe County, Nevada, and northern Modoc and Lassen counties, California.He has run as high as 12,000 head of cattle on this range.At the present time there are 15,000 head of sheep and 5,000 head of cattle on this large range, which he has owned since 1884.The present holdings in San Joaquin County are 1,500 acres on the Lower Sacramento Road, which is fine grazing land partly under irrigation.In partnership with a son-in-law, A. B. Lang, he owned 700 acres of grazing land on Cherokee Lane near Stockton.Showing the low price of land in Stockton in pioneer days, he purchased from Captain Weber 400 acres of land at $4 per acre, now a part of the residence portion of Stockton.Some four years ago, with his daughter, Mrs. Baldwin, his son-in-law A. B. Lang, and Mrs. Smith, he bought the Hale Block at the corner of Main and San Joaquin streets; they later purchased the old Presbyterian Church adjoining the building on the south and an addition has been built to the block.He helped to organize two banks in Stockton, one being the First National, serving on the board of directors until his death, and was its vice-president.For nearly a half century Mr. Gerlach was one of the heaviest stockholders and a director of the Stockton Savings Bank, now the City Bank.

††††††††††† Political life did not appeal to him, but he was once persuaded to run for office of supervisor, serving from 1880 to 1884; then was elected county treasurer of San Joaquin County by an immense majority on the Democratic ticket in a strong Republican county, serving from 1884 to 1888.

††††††††††† Mr. Gerlach was married in Stockton, September 18, 1862, to Miss Amelia P. Mersfelder, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, who survives him.She is the daughter of Louis and Amelia (Haupt) Mersfelder, who were born in Germany and came to Baltimore where they met and married.In 1853 they came to California via Panama, landing in San Francisco from the steamer John L. Stevens.They located in Stockton, where he opened the Eureka Bakery on Weber Avenue between El Dorado and Hunter.Later he bought property on Channel Street between Hunter and San Joaquin and moved his bakery there, continuing there until he sold out and retired.The bakery is still being operated under the same name, the Eureka Bakery.

††††††††††† The father died here at eighty-two years and his wife died five months before him, aged seventy-two years.Three of their children are living; besides Mrs. Gerlach there are Mrs. Louise Liegenger of San Francisco, and Mrs. Laura Hahn of Stockton.Amelia Mersfelder as a child came with her parents via Panama and she attended the public schools in Stockton.The young couple first resided on Channel and Hunter streets for nine years; then moved into the present home at 231 East Flora Street.Their union was blessed with eight children:Emma is the wife of Herbert Baldwin of Stockton; Clara, Mrs. John Kearns of Oakland; Rose, the wife of L. E. Doan, died in Los Angeles; Nellie is the wife of T. V. Morris of San Francisco; Louis F. died at two years of age; Fred C., manager of the Gerlach Livestock Company in Nevada; Laura F. passed away in 1908; Ethel is the wife of A. B. Lang of Stockton.Mr. Gerlach had four grandchildren:Harold Kearns, L. E. Doan, Jr., Louis G. Baldwin and Dorothy B. Lang.Mr. Gerlach was eight-five years old when he passed away.He was an expert fireman and was always a Democrat in national politics but independent in local matters.As early as 1895 he incorporated his holdings in Nevada as the Gerlach Livestock Company of which he was president until he died.This corporation is still held by the family and the business being managed by his son, Fred C.His widow is now the president and since this death she continues to occupy the old home surrounded by her children, who assist her in every way to manage the offices left by her husband.

 

 

Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: Tinkham, George H., History of San Joaquin County, California , Page 633.Los Angeles, Calif.: Historic Record Co., 1923.


© 2011Gerald Iaquinta.

 

 

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