Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Folger Family: Coffee barons who were victims of Manson Family

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James Folger and Folger's Coffee advertisement
Plot 31, Lot 12

James A. Folger (1835 - 1889) was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Brown Folger and Nancy Hill. His father was a master blacksmith who had invested in tryworks* and bought two ships. They had nine children of which James was the second youngest. The Folger family roots can be traced back to England. On July 13, 1846 a 33-acre fire broke out in Nantucket's business section and burned the works and ship. 11 year old James helped in the reconstruction.  

After the discovery of gold in California, 14-year-old James, along with his older brothers Henry and Edward set out in the autumn of 1849 on a ship bound for the Isthmus of Panama. After a raft and hiking journey across the Isthmus, the brothers waited at Panama City for quite a while before catching the Pacific mail steamer Isthmus on April 10, 1850. They entered the Golden Gate on May 5, 1850. 

J.A. Folger Coffee in San Francisco and gravemarker
As an enterprising teenager he started selling coffee to the gold seekers and by 1855 he had become confidential clerk and bookkeeper in the Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mill founded in 1850 by fellow Mountain View Cemetery denizen William H. Bovee.  Bovee, then just a 27-year-old entrepreneur, was looking for a carpenter to build his first mill at Pioneer Steam Coffee in San Francisco. Because Folger was skilled in carpentry, Bovee hired him to erect the mill.

After working at Bovee's mill for nearly a year, Folger had saved enough money to stake a claim and headed out to mine for gold. He agreed to carry along samples of coffee and spices, taking orders from grocery stores in the mining country until he arrived in a town called Yankee Jim's in 1851.
Upon his return to San Francisco in 1865, Folger became a full partner of The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills. There were other partners including August Schilling, but by 1872,  Folger had bought them out. He renamed the company J.A. Folger & Co. and controlled most of the market on the West Coast.

Although commercially roasted coffee was available in New York shortly before the beginning of the 19th century, it was still a luxury for big-city dwellers and was entirely unknown to the population at large. As for ground coffee, it was unheard of at the wholesale level.

His son, James II., succeeded him, and by 1890 Folgers was the largest coffee and spice maker west of Chicago.   

He and his wife, Eleanor Laughran of Vermont, moved to Oakland in 1866 and lived in a fashionable area near Lake Merritt. Folger was also active in the organization and development of Oakland’s schools.  

* A trywork, located aft of the fore-mast, is the most distinguishing feature of a whaling ship.  In two cast-iron trypots set into a furnace of brick, iron and wood, whale oil was rendered from the blubber of whales, much as lard is rendered from frying fatty pork. The use of tryworks on whaling ships allowed them to stay at sea longer since they did not have to carry unprocessed blubber home.

The Folger Family plot and Peter Folger
Peter Folger (December 26, 1905 – August 27, 1980) was an American coffee heir, socialite, and member of the prominent Folger family. He was also the longtime Chairman of the board and President at the Folgers Coffee Company. He is the grandson of founder James A. Folger, and the father of Charles Manson murder victim Abigail Folger. 

Born and raised in California, Folger studied business and graduated from Yale University where he was an athlete on their football, track and field, and polo teams. Peter Folger later served in World War II as a Marine Major.  

In 1963, after having helped to build the family firm into the third largest coffee wholesaler in the United States, Folger sold the company to Procter & Gamble for 1,650,000 shares of common stock. However, he and the Folger family continued to operate Folgers as a Procter & Gamble subsidiary. Since 2008, the company has been owned by the J.M. Smucker Company.

Folger married twice in his life. The first being to Ines Mejia, the daughter of the consul general for El Salvador and member of a prestigious California land grant family. They went on to have two children, Abigail, born in 1943 and Peter, Jr, born in 1945. Ines filed for divorce which was granted in 1952. They shared joint custody of their two children.

On June 30, 1960, Peter married his then 24-year-old secretary Beverly Mater. They had one daughter together, Elizabeth, in January 1961. Peter and Beverly lived with their daughter at the Folger mansion located in Woodside, California until 1974 when they moved to a newly built home on Roberta Drive. The murder of his eldest daughter, Abigail, in 1969, was said to have dimmed Peter's desire to continue living at the Woodside estate, where she grew up.

Daughter Abigail was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery
After Abigail died, Peter conducted his own investigation into her death and spent the rest of his life protecting her from being the subject of salacious gossip, threatening legal action against anyone who tried to use her name in damning articles or books about the Tate-LaBianca murders. As a result, very little information is available about her.

Folger died from Prostate Cancer at his home in Woodside, California, at the age of 74 on August 27, 1980. He was survived by his wife, Beverly. She never remarried following his death and died in 2001 at age 65.


2 comments:

Anne said...

Enjoyed your most recent write-ups. Thanks, as usual, for the interesting information you present about Mt. View Cemetery and its inhabitants.

Anne

lucinda rainford said...

I REMEMBER THE NEWS ABOUT MANSON, BUT I WAS A CHILD. I AM 60 YEARS OLD, I AM SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS. i LOVE YOUR COFFEE, FROM THE FIRSTS TASTE AND I ALWAYS RECOMMEND IT. i LOVE BLACK SILK, I HAVE TO TRY THE GOURMET ONE. THERE IS SO MUCH IN-JUSTICE IN THE WORLD. THANK YOU FOR THE GREAT TASTE OF A PRODUCT I TRULY LOVE! PEACE BE UNTO YOU!