Saturday, May 13, 2017

Walter Balfour Harrub (1830-1912): Successful Gold Miner; Entrepreneur

Grave of Walter and Katherine Harrub (photo by Michael Colbruno)

Walter Balfour Harrub was born in Plymouth County, Massachusetts on July 16 1830. He lost his mother as a young boy and was basically on his own from that point. He learned the trade of a shoemaker while living with an uncle, but eventually became a cooper, a person who makes or repairs casks and barrels.

At age 19, he came to California during the Gold Rush aboard the barque* Pleiades. He arrived in San Francisco on September 18, 1849 after a 218 day journey and set out for Marysville, which was known as the "Gateway to The Gold Fields." During a trip back to San Francisco, Harrub fell and ill and required six months to fully recover. He eventually settled in Foster Bar, California and hired some Native Americans to take him to a nearby location where he staked ten claims and was successful in finding gold.

Ruby Hill, California during the Gold Rush days
He took his earnings and opened a hotel near Fremont and managed the food operations at a hotel in Shasta, but eventually returned to the gold fields near Grass Valley. He took his money and invested in a variety of ventures. He opened a large cattle ranch near Sacramento and a butchering operation in Dayton (formerly Grainland), located in Butte County, California. He also operated a freight line from Dayton to both Virginia City and Washoe City, which also carried mail. Perhaps his largest venture was forming the Ruby Hills Water Works, named after the nearby mining camp.  Harrub built two pipe lines covering 10 miles, which supplied water to most of the neighboring mining camps.

In 1874, Harrub moved his family to Oakland, where he bought four homes and other property in the Fruitvale area. His second wife Katherine was a well-known hostess of society events in Oakland.

He died after suffering from an abscess of the throat for six months.

* Barque: a sailing ship, typically with three masts, in which the foremast and mainmast are square-rigged and the mizzenmast is rigged fore-and-aft.

SOURCES: History of the State of California by James Miller Guinn, Wikipedia, The San Francisco call,, Oakland Tribune

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