Erskin Greer is at present best known to the citizenry of Sacramento county as a prominent fruit grower and as proprietor of the famous Fruit Ridge Farm one mile south of Oak Park. But during the past half century he has figured more or less prominently in the affairs of this portion of the state, where he is held in esteem on account of his excellent business qualifications, his interest and service in behalf of the public welfare, and his own personal attractions of worth and character.
No better sample of the self-made man can be found than Mr. Greer. His inherent character, industry and perseverance long since made up for the lack of early advantages of a pecuniary and educational sort, and he has put himself among the foremost men of his community in influence and attainments. He is a native of old Ireland, born in county Tyrone, June 12, 1832, a son of Robert and Catherine (Lendrum) Greer, both of whom were born in North Ireland but were of Scotch extraction. Erskin was only three or four years old when his father died, and in 1836 the worthy mother got her family together and sailed for Philadelphia. Erskin began earning his daily bread when he was only six years old, and from that time for a number of years his increasing strength contributed to the family livelihood. When he was twelve years old his mother brought the family to Illinois, settling in what was known as the "military tract," in Schuyler county. He grew to manhood in that county, and what education he obtained was self-acquired.
His life history becomes connected with California in 1850, in which year he joined his brother-in-law William Burnsides, and as a member of a very large emigrant train crossed the plains, being six months on the way before Hangtown (now Placerville) was reached. After a short experience at mining gold and later in handling mining supplies and provisions at Centerville, he came to Sacramento, which was then a small village. He was first employed as bookkeeper for Mr. Prewitt, proprietor of the Old pioneer hotel, the Pre-emption Hotel, one of the best known of the early Sacramento hostelries, and then began running a freighting outfit from Sacramento to Shasta City, using ox teams. At the same time he did considerable trading on the side. After that his next enterprise was conducting a fast freight with horses, carrying supplies to the interior mines. Ranching, both general farming and the raising of fine stock, in the neighborhood of Sacramento, engaged his attention until the disastrous flood from the Sacramento river in 1862 nearly ruined his prospects. He filled for awhile the position of assistant paymaster for what was then known as the Sacramento Valley Railroad, and then embarked once more in farming and stock-raising, on a large ranch of eleven hundred acres which he had purchased near Freeport. Later, returning to Sacramento city, he bought property at 812 K street and for a number of years carried on a wholesale and retail grocery business at this location, thence removing to the corner of Eighth and K streets, where the well known Hale's dry goods store is now located.
In 1882 Mr. Greer retired from mercantile business and came out to the beautiful little estate near Oak Park known as the Fruit Ridge Farm, where he has resided ever since. He owns a hundred acres of land here, sixty-five acres of which is devoted to fruit culture. He has a vineyard of thirty acres, where he raises fancy table grapes, and on the remainder of the estate are cultivated all kinds of California fruits, such as apples, apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, figs, oranges, lemons, almonds. Mr. Greer is a very practical as well as a most successful fruit grower, and has found it a most absorbing and profitable occupation.
Public life and civic affairs have interested Mr. Greer wherever he has made his home, and each community has profited by his presence. For four years he was on the board of supervisors of Sacramento county, and while he is strongly Democratic and the majority of the members Republican, he served for two years as chairman of the honorable body. While a resident of Sacramento he was on the school board for four years, and for many years has been a director of the Goldberg school district. He served as deputy county assessor under County Assessor E. Black Ryan, who is now assessor of the Central Pacific Railroad. Mr. Greer affiliates with the Washington Lodge, F. & A. M., at Sacramento; with Sacramento lodge of the A. O. U. W.; is a member of Capital Grange, P. of H., at Oak Park. He has been very active in grange matters, having organized the society at Oak Park, and for three terms was master of the Sacramento Grange, and served as master for a time of Pomona Grange of Sacramento county.
Mr. Greer married Miss Harriet P. Ellis, whose father, the late Judge William Ellis, was formerly county judge of Schuyler county, Illinois, and later a well known resident of Sacramento county, where he served as deputy county assessor. Mr. and Mrs. Greer lost two children, Arthur B. and Nellie E., and they have two sons living. William B. is a prominent man in the public life of this portion of the state, being at present state assemblyman from the nineteenth district. He resides at Oak Park. Robert E., the other son, resides on the Fruit Ridge Farm.
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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