Activity in business affairs, when directed by sound judgment, always results in obtaining a due measure of success, and the enterprise and energy of James A. Colburn have been such as to win for him a leading place in the industrial circles of Sacramento county. Almost the width of the continent separates him from his birthplace, for he was born in Hollis, New Hampshire, December 14, 1818, a son of Nathan and Lydia (Jewett) Colburn, also natives of that commonwealth. Both his paternal and maternal grandparents, Nathan Colburn and Enoch Jewett, were soldiers in the Revolutionary war, and the latter, who was only a youth at the time of his enlistment, served throughout the entire struggle and took part in the battle of Bunker Hill and suffered the untold hardships at Valley Forge.

James A. Colburn left his native state of New Hampshire in 1840 and made his way to Miami county, Ohio, from which state in 1852 he continued his westward journey to California. Leaving New York city on a steamer for Central America, he crossed Lake Nicarague and took passage on the steamer North America, which was wrecked about ninety miles below Acapulco, and from there Mr. Colburn continued the journey on a small schooner called the Thomas to San Francisco, where they arrived after a journey of sixty-three days and after suffering many hardships and privations. For a time thereafter Mr. Colburn followed his trade of coopering, which he had learned before leaving New Hampshire, and after the memorable fire in Sacramento, in 1852, he became a member of the firm of Hardy, Colburn & White and engaged in the hay business. This partnership existed but a short time, however, and Mr. Colburn then engaged in freighting from Sacramento to the mines. His next business venture was a proprietor of the well known Fifteen Mile House on the Nevada road in Placer county, which he conducted for several years in connection with a general teaming business. For a time in the '60s he conducted the pioneer hotel of St. Charles in Sacramento, at the present site of the new William Tell Hotel, next built and operated for a short time a hotel at Shingle Springs, Eldorado county, and thence removed to Alta, Placer county, and continued in the same occupation. In 1869 Mr. Colburn turned his attention to the sheep industry, which he still carries on in connection with his general agricultural pursuits. After a residence in Placer county for many years he came to northern Sacramento county, this being in the year 1870, and his large and valuable ranch of twenty-two hundred acres is located in both Sacramento and Placer counties. He is a man of progressive ideas, and the methods he employs in the cultivation of his land places him in the front rank of the state's agriculturists. In an early day he was engaged in the cattle industry, and also in raising horses.

While living in Miami county, Ohio, Mr. Colburn married Miss Charlotte French, and they had three children, the two now living being Jewetta, the wife of Timothy D. Scriver, a well known citizen of Sacramento county, and Hattie, who resides in Seattle, Oregon. He subsequently married Mrs. Violetta Thomas, and they have become the parents of two children: Belle and Ethel. By her first husband, Albert Thomas, of San Francisco, Mrs. Colburn has one son, Clarence Thomas, of Sacramento. Mr. Colburn is an adherent of Republican principles, and for a number of years has served as trustee of the Lincoln school district. He is a member of Sacramento Lodge, F. & A. M.

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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