When a history of central California and her public men shall have been written its pages will bear the name of Judge Lawrence Archer as that of one whose distinguished career well entitles him to representation. If "biography is the home aspect of history," as Wilmott has expressed it, it is entirely within the province of this history to commemorate and perpetuate the lives and characters, the achievements and honors of the illustrious sons of the state. The name of Judge Lawrence Archer has been closely associated with the records of jurisprudence in California, also with the law-making interests of the state, and no man has more highly deserved the honors that have been bestowed upon him.

A native of South Carolina, he was born in Pickensville on the 11th of November, 1820, a son of John and Ann (Mosley) Archer, both of whom were natives of Virginia and were representatives of an old American family. They became the parents of five sons and two daughters. The father was a merchant, carrying on commercial pursuits in connection with farming.

Judge Archer in his boyhood days was a student in a private grammar school and in a private academy of his native state, and continued his education in the University of Virginia. After putting aside his text-books he returned to his home and was engaged in teaching in Anderson county, South Carolina, for a year. When twenty years of age he took up the study of law in Abbeville county, and at the age of twenty-one went west to Yazoo county, Mississippi, where he established his home in the latter part of the year 1841. Opening an office for the practice of law, he continued an active member of the bar there for two years, when on account of failing health he removed up the Missouri river and settled at St. Joseph, Missouri, where he remained in practice for about nine years. In August, 1852, he came to California, having crossed the plains with an ox team and wagon in the primitive manner of the times. He was accompanied by his wife, and they traveled on day after day until they had covered the weary miles necessary to the crossing of the deserts and the traversing of the mountains that separated them from their old home and their destination. They located first in Sacramento, where Judge Archer opened his law office and engaged in the prosecution of his profession until the time of the great fire in November, 1852. Then after a few months spent in San Francisco he removed to San Jose, becoming a leading member of the bar in this city and retaining a foremost place as a representative of legal interests until 1900, when he retired to private life. From 1868 until 1871 he was judge of the county court. Few men have made a more lasting impression upon the bar of central California, both for legal ability of a high order and for the individuality of a personal character which impresses itself upon a community. Devotedly attached to his profession, systematic and methodical in habit, sober and discreet in judgment, calm in temper, diligent in research, conscientious in the discharge of every duty, courteous and kind in demeanor and inflexibly just on all occasions, these qualities enabled Judge Archer to take rank among the leading lawyers of his section of the state. he resigned his position on the bench when he accepted a nomination for Congress, but he was defeated in the race for a place in the national halls of legislation.

Judge Archer has been prominent in Democratic circles, and his influence has been a potent factor in promoting the growth and success of the party in his county and in California. He has been a delegate to two national conventions and also to the Nicarague convention in St. Louis in 1888. He had the honor of presenting to the Democratic national convention the claims of the Nicaragua canal route. He served for one term as a member of the California legislature and for two terms as mayor of San Jose.

Judge Archer has been twice married. In St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1848, he wedded Miss Louise Martin, a native of Ohio and a daughter of Dr. Robert Martin, who was born in Virginia. They became the parents of three children, one of whom died in infancy, while the second died at the age of six years. The surviving daughter is Mrs. Louise F. Kelley, of Chicago. The wife and mother passed away in 1869, and in 1870 the Judge was again married, his second union being with Miss Alice Bethell, a native of Indiana and a daughter of Thomas and Maria (Gifford) Bethel. They became the parents of two sons: Lawrence, who is now connected with manufacturing interests in Chicago; and Leo B., who is practicing law in San Jose as his father's successor in business. Honorable and upright has been the career of Judge Archer, and his friends recognizing his merit have rejoiced in the advancement and in the honors to which he attained. He endeared himself to his professional brethren and to those with whom he has come in contact in every walk of life, through the discharge of public duties or through social relations.

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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