Anton Menke, at the age of eighty-three and one of the oldest residents of Sacramento county, is living practically retired from the strenuous activity which characterized his earlier years. He is still remembered throughout this portion of the state as having been, only a few years ago, one of the most extensive hop-raisers in the world, whose acreage in that crop went as high as two hundred, with annual yields of thousands of bales and worth thousands of dollars. Fruit and hops were the great staples to the production of which he gave his principal attention and labors, and the success he won was only short of the extraordinary. Many other grounds might be presented why he should receive extended mention in this history, for not only has he been a man of affairs and most successful in the material activities, but he is a man of mark in California by reason of the fact that he came here in pioneer days and at this riting has spent over half a century in the Golden state, helping to develop its resources and build up some of its chief industries. A man of mark in general life, a man of breadth and integrity of character, a solidity of fortune, and one whose broad range of personal usefulness and influence has been directed to the betterment of the world.
Born in Dalhausen, Westphalia, Germany, May 22, 1822, he was the only son of honest and industrious German parents by name of Carl and Mary Menke, who died in the old country at the respective ages of seventy-two and sixty-four and whose only daughter, Christine, also died in her native land. Reared in the manner of a German farmer lad, with the educational advantages which his locality afforded in that day, at the age of nineteen young Menke decided to learn a trade. With the consent of his father a place was secured for him to learn the trade of basket-making. Then he followed other lines of employment, and in the latter part of the year 1843 embarked for America, leaving Bremen on the ship Agnes, which fifty-two days later, on January 12, 1844, landed him in New Orleans. There, finding work at his trade, he remained till his enlistment, in May, 1846, for service in the Mexican war, in the Fourth Louisiana Regiment, made up of men enlisted for six months. For a time he was under the command of Colonel Jeff Davis, afterward the famous president of the Southern Confederacy. He was stationed most of the time on the Mexican border, and at the expiration of his term was ordered back to New Orleans and received his honorable discharge from the service of his adopted country.
Continuing his basket-making in New Orleans, he remained there until 1851, then moved to St. Louis and went into the furniture business. April 6, 1854, with his wife and their one daughter, he joined a train of eighty-two persons, and on the 2d day of October, after a six months' journey across the great plains, they arrived in Sacramento. Here the willows growing on the banks of the American river supplied him with copious material out of which to manufacture his baskets, and he continued his trade, with the assistance of his ever faithful wife, for some years. In connection therewith, in 1855, he opened a fruit and confectionary store. Selling out a year later, he went to farming and stock-raising on the Marysville road about five miles north of Sacramento. Returning to Sacramento in 1860, he erected a good building and for a time sold fancy goods and musical instruments, this occupation being interrupted for a time by another period of farming.
The year 1875 was the date of his entrance into the hop-raising industry. He began on a rented farm, in 1880 purchased the place, continued to add other tracts to his possessions, and during his connection with the industry he raised many "bumper" crops, both as to yeild per acre and as to extent of acreage planted. The year 1903 marked his practical retirement from the business, after nearly thirty years of most successful enterprise. He was several times awarded premiums and diplomas at the big expositions for his fine hop exhibits, and his product was known to all the principal hop buyers of the world. Fruit was also a large product of his ranch, sometimes having eighty acres planted to trees. He still owns a ranch of two hundred and fifteen acres near Perkins, and this is given up almost entirely to hop and fruit growing.
May 18, 1848, in New Orleans, Mr. Menke married Miss Mary Wolker, who was born in Germany and who for over forty years remained the truest and most helpful of wives, until called away by death on February 25, 1890. Eight children were born of their union, but only three are living: Josephine, the wife of J. J. Glocken, of Sacramento; and George H. and Frederick W., the former of whom is mentioned on other pages of the work. In 1892 Mr. Menke was united in marriage with Isabella White, a native of Scotland, and she is his present wife.
A Republican in politics, Mr. Menke has always manifested much interest in the affairs of his county and state and in all respects has been a good citizen. Fraternally he is affiliated with the Knight Templar Masons at Sacramento.
Source: History of the New California Its Resources and People, Volume II
The Lewis Publishing Company - 1905
Edited by Leigh H. Irvine
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