J. A. Juller, the honorable mayor of Napa, California, is a man of mark among the pioneers of the Pacific coast. After a life of adventure and varied experiences in other parts of the world, he came to California in the middle year of the last century, and was concerned in many of the affairs of the young state, with a full share in the adventures and hardships of the miner. His center of activity was afterward transferred to the territory of Alaska, where he was influential and able in various enterprises connected with the commerce and the industrial development of that region. Since his return to California he has had a more tranquil but not less useful career, and has been prominent in public affairs for many years. Although now well past the age of threescore and ten, his Nestorian counsel and sage ability are still prominent factors in the city of Napa, where he is held in the highest esteem by all classes of citizens, and where his place as the executive head of the city seems but the well deserved compliment to a fulness of years marked with integrity of character and whole-hearted and upright action.
Mayor Fuller was born on the east coast of England, in the town of Louth, Lincolnshire, September 12, 1828. He went to sea at an early age, being a bound apprentice in the old East India Company's service, running between London, Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. After serving his time he made voyages to Australia and to many ports of the globe. He was in Sydney, Australia, when the last attempt to locate a penal colony in Botany Bay was made. The convicts were Smith, O'Brien, Mahers and three others, transported for leading tiotous assemblies against the government in Hyde Park, London in 1846.
After voyaging around the world Mr. Fuller arrived in San Francisco in 1850, previous to the admission of the territory to the Union. He went directly to the mines of Calaveras county, and while there witnessed some of Joaquin Muriatta's escapades, the then much dreaded bandit of those regions. He met with indifferent success, and returning to San Francisco in March, 1851, took passage on board the steamer Sea Gull for the then famed Gold Bluff mines off Trinidad. Through stress of weather the ship was obliged to put into Eureka, and escaped destruction by crossing Humboldt bar. During the March storms Mr. Fulle was one of the party that blazed the trails over the Trinity mountains into the Trinity river valleys. He mined at the Big bar and the Big bottom, where General Denver, of Denver city fame, was keeping a canvas store for miners' merchandise. He engaged in fluming the river in 1851, and, with many others, lost his last nickel in that precarious occupation. In the fall he left with his worldly possessions on his back (consisting of a pair of blankets and a frying pan), and crossed the Sacramento valley to Foster's bar, at a point about thirty miles north of Marysville, where he once more tried his luck in the search for the precious metal.
In the fall of 1852 he cast his first vote in the United States, giving it to Franklin Pierce. He was in the mines of Nevada county until 1866, working in many of the deepest mines, and while there located one of the most valuable water rights in that region, comprising the waters of the north fork of the Middle Yuba river. He was one of the original discoverers of Camptonville, in Yuba county, and mined there with varied success. On his return to San Francisco in the fall of 1866 he entered the employ of the United States government as clerk in their clothing depot on Market street.
At the time of the purchase of Alaska from Russia by the United States, he went to Sitka on the steamer John L. Stephens, in company with the officers and soldiers under the command of Jefferson C. Davis, arriving October 8, 1867. There they awaited the arrival of the United States steamer Ossipee, bringing General L. H. Rousseau, of the United States army, who had been sent as commissioner to receive from Captain Pesterschoff the Alaska territory. Mr. Fuller remained in Alaska seven years, and became interested in the earliest exploitations of the commercial and industrial resources of the territory, being connected with the Russian American Commercial Company, of San Francisco, whose president was J. Mora Moss. He also received from the pastmaster general the appointment as postmaster of Sitka, thus having the honor of being the pioneer postmaster of the territory. He was also appointed government coal agent by Admiral Winslow, who visited the territory in 1870 in command of the Saranac. He established the first drug store and the first circulating library in Sitka. He aided in the issuing of the first newspaper ever written and the first one ever printed in Alaska, the Sitka Times being the first written sheet and the Alaska Times being the first printed. He contributed a poem for the first column of each paper, and he still has the two pioneer papers in his possession.
He had the honor of entertaining Lady Jane Franklin, the wife of the Arctic explorer, and her niece, Miss Sophie Craycroft. He was a witness of the total eclipse of the sun in August, 1869, from the observatory erected by Professor George H. Davison, of San Francisco; the observatory was at the head of Lynn canal, along the line of the recently disputed possessions of Canada and the United States.
Mr. Fuller was elected surveyor of the town of Sitka in November, 1867, and for several years following was a city councilman. During his seven years' stay he was agent for the Commercial Company, and directed all their operations in the fishing and lumber industries. He shipped into San Francisco the first invoice of salt salmon after the cession. He also erected the first circular sawmill which lessened the price of manufactured lumber so that the poorer classes were enabled to exchange the wretched, crowded huts for comfortable cottages; during the Russian regime the lumber mill had an old sash saw, cutting but two hundred feet per day. All the logs were purchased from the Indians, who managed to keep the mill running. He dealt with the Alaskan Indians in such a manner as to win their entire confidence, and, in fact, during a strike of the Russian fishermen one season, he had no other assistance than that of the red men in completing his invoice of salmon. During the visit of Governor W. H. Seward, and at the latter's desire, Mr. Fuller sawed nineteen thousand feet of the yellow cedar as a present to the governor, who wished to use it to wainscot his library in Auburn, New York.
Mr. Fuller had the ability to master all the details of a situation and to win out just as matters evolved themselves around him, so that his service was always efficient and timely, and he left a good record as an administrator and commercial factor during his work in the territory. However, he gave up his duties there in 1874, and returned to California, buying himself a home in Napa, Napa county, where he was content to begin the routine of a quiet life.
Mr. Fuller was present during the exciting times in San Francisco, and was at the notable flag-raising in that city, on October 18, 1850. Although California was admitted to the Union on September 9 of that year, the news did not become known in the state until the old steamer Oregon brought the tidings, via Panama. And by a curious coincidence, just seventeen years from that date, October 18, 1867, he was at the raising of the stars and stripes in Sitka, in commemoration of the purchase of Alaska. Furthermore, on a return trip from the Fraser river country in British Columbia, he witnessed the ascending of the glorious old banner which waved Oregon into a state, February 14, 1859.
In 1884, after he had become permanently settled in Napa, he was elected a member of the city council for one year, and in the following year was defeated by two votes; but in 1886 was re-elected, and held the honorable position as president of the board until 1897, when a new city charter was voted upon. In 1899 he was elected to the office of mayor, which position he still holds, having yet a four years' tenure before him.
Mr. Fuller celebrated his marriage to Miss Emma Waite, of Shoreham, Vermont, in 1890. She was of an old New England family.
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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