Monday, April 11, 2016

Socrates Huff (1827-1907): Gold Rush Pioneer; Banker; Alameda County Treasurer

Socrates Huff (photo of grave by Michael Colbruno)
Plot: Plot 21, Lot 43

Socrates Huff was a Gold Rush Pioneer, successful businessman and the elected Treasurer of Alameda County. 

He was born in Crawford County, Ohio on July 1, 1827 and moved to St. Joseph, Michigan when he was 2 years old. His mother died a year later and stayed in Michigan until 1849, when word reached the community that gold had been discovered in California. Huff organized a party of men to travel west, purchasing mules in Indiana, wagons in Chicago and provisions for the journey in St. Louis. The group arrived in Bear River in the Sierra Nevada on August 12, 1849, where Huff tried his hand at mining. He abandoned his gold mining pan after just two weeks and traveled 33 miles to Sacramento, where he worked for the city.

Due to ill-health (purported to be malaria), he headed to Mission San Jose where he bought a freighting boat that he ran for profit between Stockton and Alvarado (now Union City). In 1853, he returned east where he married Amelia "Mamie" Cassady and returned to California with her.

In the ensuing years, he raised cattle and horses in Green Valley, Contra Costa County and Hayward, ultimately settling on Estudillo Avenue in San Leandro. In 1869, his wife was injured in a famous train wreck that killed a number of notable people, including the Honorable Alexander Baldwin, U.S. District Court Judge of Nevada.

The Huff residence, which was torn down in 1972 to make way for a fire station
In 1863, Huff was elected Treasurer of Alameda County from 1863-67 and from 1886-92,  opting not to run again in 1892. In 1880, he was chosen as a  delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention in Chicago which chose James Garfield as their nominee. During much of this time he also ran a mercantile business in Carson City, Nevada. 

In 1891, while serving as Treasurer, he caught three men stealing oysters from his oyster bed near San Leandro and seized the boat and its load. He refused to give the boat back to its owner, Joseph Peralta, and the county official was arrested on charges of petty larceny. He was eventually acquitted, while the two thieves were apprehended and arrested.

Huff became a successful banker in East Bay, serving as a director of the Union Savings and Union National Bank, and as president of the Bank of San Leandro.

A description of his memorial and funeral took two full columns in the Oakland Tribune. 



Martin Rosson said...

great job

Martin Rosson said...

great job

Chris Pattillo said...

I am surprised I've never heard of this guy. Very interesting.