Sunday, May 24, 2009
David Douty Colton (1831 - 1878)
[Photo of Colton Mausoleum by Michael Colbruno; Bio by Barbara Smith and Michael Colbruno]
David Douty Colton was born to Isaac Colton and the former Abigail Douty on July 17, 1831 in Monson, Maine. When he was five years old, the family moved to Galesburg, Illinois, which consisted of only a dozen cabins at the time. By the time he was ready for college, Knox College had been formed and the young man attended the school. Bored with college, he moved to Berlin, Illinois and taught in a country school.
While teaching, he met Ellen White, the daughter of a Chicago doctor, and married her despite her family's objections over his lack of wealth. Colton convinced the father he would find wealth in California where gold had been discovered. He left for Sacramento in 1850 where he found work in the mines for $10 a day. Colton soon came down with a malignant form of typhoid fever and ended up in a state of delirium for six weeks. After his recovery, he spent time in San Francisco and Portland where he taught school and unsuccessfully practiced law.
Colton ended up in what would later become Siskiyou County where he engaged in a brutal battle with Native Americans that ended up in the hanging of the Chief. Colton became a folk hero and was elected Sheriff only to have it discovered that he was not yet twenty-one, making him ineligible for office. He eventually did become Sheriff, but returned to Galesburg to get his bride.
Colton ended up in San Francisco and became vice-president of the Southern Pacific Railroad and financial director of the Occidental & Oriental Steamship Company.
Colton eventually became involved with the "Big Four" (Crocker, Huntington, Hopkins and Stanford) of the Central Pacific Railroad so closely that they were sometimes called “the Big Four and a Half."
He built a mansion on Nob Hill where Collis P. Huntington later lived, which is now the site of Huntington Park. For the last four years of his life, Colton was the confidential manager of the railroad’s considerable political interests in California, a parallel function to that handled in Washington by Huntington. The two carried on a detailed correspondence regarding the Southern Pacific’s practice of buying legislators’ votes, and in general influencing legislative measures which would benefit the railroad -- often through questionable methods.
Colton's death was the subject of much speculation after he arrived home terribly injured. The official cause of death was listed as a fall from a horse on his ranch, but persistant rumors existed that Colton had been stabbed to death.
After Colton's death, the railroad gave Mrs. Colton a very low evaluation on her husband’s stock -- far lower than the value put on the shares owned by Mark Hopkins when the details of his estate were made public a short time later. Mrs. Colton requested an equitable evaluation of the Colton shares, but was coldly refused, resulting in her filing a lawsuit against the railroad. During the course of the trial, Mrs. Colton’s attorney entered into evidence copies of the “Colton Letters” which publicly revealed how the Big Four operated. Although Mrs. Colton did not prevail in her lawsuit, the reputations of the Big Four, as well as that of the Southern Pacific, were damaged for many years.
The town of Colton in Southern California was named for him at the time the railroad first went through the area.
Colton and Mt. Diablo: In 1877 Colton bought the Central Pacific’s interest in the large Mt. Diablo acreage originally owned by William Camron (see Marsh) who had been one of the builders of the first toll road on Mt. Diablo. The estate, known as Oakwood Stock Farms, was enlarged by Colton’s heirs to eventually include Dan Cook Canyon, Rock City, Devil’s Slide and the central portions of the park along what is now South Gate Road. In 1912 Colton’s niece, Louise Boyd, sold to developers who subdivided the lower portions of the property to create Diablo Country Club and its surrounding residential enclave.
Subscribe to Michael Colbruno's Mountain View Cemetery Bio Tour by Email
Posted by Michael at 8:37 PM