Thomas McConnell, after whom McConnell Station in Sacramento county was named, where is located his present home, is a pioneer Californian, having carried on an active and successful business and public career in this state since 1850. He has been closely identified with the various departments of activity, both public and industrial, in this part of the state, and in former years was considerably interested in politics.
Mr. McConnell was born in Pittsford, Rutland county, Vermont, January 30, 1827, his parents being Thomas and Clarissa (Curtis) McConnell, both natives of that state. The McConnell family is of highland Scotch stock, the home later being transferred to the north of Ireland, and thence to America in pre-Revolutionary days. Mr. McConnell's paternal grandfather was a soldier in the American Revolution, and the martial spirit pervades the family throughout. Mr. McConnell's father died in Vermont in 1854, and in 1863 the widow came to California, following the settling of several of her sons here, and she died in this state. The Curtis branch of the family was of English origin, being early settlers of Connecticut and later of Vermont.
Mr. McConnell was reared in Rutland, Vermont, where his parents had moved when he was three years old. He was brought up in accordance with strict Vermont principles of economy and industry, which elements of his early training had much to do with his subsequent success. At the age of nineteen he taught a school at a wage of eleven dollars and a half a month, and then for two terms attended a military school at Norwich, after which he taught in the village schools of Rutland and Clarendon, but never receiving more than eighteen dollars a month. These wages seemed especially insignificant ot him after he had been awhile in free and easy California during the golden days.
In the spring of 1850 Mr. McConnell sailed from New York and crossing the isthmus reached San Francisco in August. He went direct to Eldorado county, and joined his borther Thaddeus near Garden Valley, where the latter had engaged in a gardening enterprise, the high prices then commanded by vegetables making this a very profitable venture. The brother Samuel, who had previously located there, soon joined them and they got into the mercantile business, supplying the demand for a large territory. The lumber business was also a successful adjunct, their sawmill producing over a million feet of lumber each year. The store was burned out in 1857, and in the year previous Mr. Thomas McConnell had moved to Sacramento county, where he bought the ranch on which he has ever since lived, and where the village of McConnell Station grew up.
Mr. McConnell has done much for the stock business in this portion of the state. In 1856 he and his brother Thaddeus brought seven Spanish Merino sheep from Vermont, transporting them via the Isthmus of Panama, and these were the first high-class sheep of that breed to be brought to the Pacific coast. This importation and continued breeding and further importations stimulated the sheep industry so that permanent benefit was rendered to the industry. Mr. McConnell has continued to engage in sheep-raising to a greater or less extent ever since. One year he sheared as high as sixteen thousand sheep. His fine ranch of fifteen hundred acres borders the Cosumnes river, and his residence is on the banks of the same. McConnell Station was established and given its name in 1869. Mr. McConnell has owned large tracts of land in various parts of the west, and he and his brothers have played leading parts in the live-stock and agricultural industries on the Coast.
While now a stanch Republican and an upholder of the cardinal principles and policies of the party, Mr. McConnell was at first a Democrat. He was a Douglas Democrat, and as such represented Eldorado county in the famous state convention of 1854 which met in the Baptist church in Sacramento, and in which there was almost a pitched battle between the slavery and anti-slavery factions, each of whom nominated officials. Mr. McConnell states that every man in the church on that eventful day and evening had a weapon of some sort, and scenes both grim and humorous were enacted during the proceedings. This famous political event of California has gone down in history as the "Broderick-McGowan Convention." Mr. McConnell represented Sacramento county in the constitutional convention of 1878-79. He was formerly an active member, a master for some years, as well as a charter member of Elk Grove Lodge No. 173, F. & A. M. He is a member and past master of Elk Grove Grange, P. of H., at Elk Grove. He is president and one of the incorporators of the Elk Grove Park Association.
June 19, 1856, Mr. Connell (sic) was married at Rutland, Vermont, to Miss Louisa Chaplin, who was born at Pittsford, Vermont, April 29, 1827, being a daughter of George W. Chaplin. Mr. and Mrs. McConnell have four children: Anna L., who is at home and a teacher of music; Mary A., at home; George W., a resident of McConnell Station; and Jennie A., at home. Miss Jennie McConnell is the treasurer and a director in the Elk Grove Park Association, and she organized the Ladies' Friday Club, of which she served as president.
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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