When the history of the Marsh family in its identification with California is traced out, the earliest dates must be placed nearly fifteen years before almost any other active connection of Americans with this coast. In the pages of this history the year 1849 will be found in by far the greater number of instances to record the earliest time at which the prominent families of the present made permanent settlement along the Pacific coast. But in the case of Mr. James Marsh, the prominent and well known citizen of Stockton, while he himself does not date his coming before the turning of the half century, he was perhaps mainly influenced in making this country the choice of a home by his uncle Dr. John Marsh, who was in his time a leading physician and surgeon of California and one of its most influential and progressive pioneers. Dr. Marsh came across the plains in 1835, being one of the very first who treaded the unknown wilds, and he had to blaze how own way across the deserts and mountains where some fifteen years later the eager gold-seekers would rush in almost continuous procession. In 1840 he settled in Contra Costa county, and was well known there for his ability and skill in the medical profession. He was a well read man, broad-minded and of strict integrity, and for many years wielded much power in the county. He also owned a large ranch and was a successful and enterprising business man. As he was one of the first physicians of California, so he was among the first to interest themselves in the cattle industry. He had great faith in the resources and possibility of this country, and in 1841 he wrote, for the New Orleans Picayune, a descriptive letter setting forth the wonders of the climate and the soil and forecasting the future of the region which has since become the state of California. His picture was most just and accurate and his prophecy has since come true in all its details, justifying his faith in the wonderful Golden state. He was a college-bred man, and very versatile in his pursuits and accomplishments. His worth to the state was prematurely ended by his assissination in 1856.

In the year 1851 James Marsh was living in the eastern states and was a young and amitious man of twenty odd years. He had been born in what is now the town of Peabody, Massachusetts, October 26, 1827, being a descendant of old New England families and a son of James and Mary (Felton) Marsh, both natives of Massachusetts. He had received a good education in his native state, but when he was ready to start out in life on his own account he was not highly advantaged in the way of capital, and he is largely a self-made man. In 1851 he set out for the distant west, going around by the Isthmus of Panama. From San Francisco he went to Contra Costa county and became manager of his uncle's ranch, which position he held for three years and a half. Then for a short time he was engaged in the mercantile business in San Francisco, and subsequently conducted a hotel at Georgetown in Eldorado county. He later returned to Contra Costa county, and at his uncle's death was appointed administrator of the large estate. After this was settled satisfactorily to all concerned he located, in 1858, in San Joaquin county, and in this rich portion of the state has since centered his interest and activity. He first settled on the Copperopolis road near Stockton, and lived there until the fall of 1892, when he moved into the city of Stockton, and now resides pleasantly situated on Vine street. He owns a fine ranch of some five hundred acres in the county, and after a life of more than three quarters of a century he can look back upon much achievement in the world of affairs and he enjoys all the comforts and amenities of life that his age could desire.

For several years Mr. Marsh served as president of the Grangers' Union in Stockton, and gave especial attention to the department of hardware and agricultural tools. He was married in July, 1852, to Miss Mary A. Ranney, who was born in Vermont, came out to California via the Panama route and her death occurred in 1891. Mr. Marsh has an adopted daughter, Orpha a., who resides with him. He is a Republican in politics, and attends the First Presbyterian church in Stockton. He is very public-spirited, and has in many ways given his efforts and influence for the upbuilding and advancement of the county where he has made his home for so many years.

Source: History of the New California Its Resources and People, Volume I

The Lewis Publishing Company - 1905
Edited by Leigh H. Irvine

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