John Meirs Horner (1821-1907)


15 June 1821 – 14 May 1907

Prepared by

Elaine Justesen A.G.


(Contributed by Clyde Vanderbrouk)


“This manuscript is a copy of his life story written by John M. Horner and published in The Improvement Era during 1903-4. The events described by Mr. Horner were verified in historical documents, including the 1850 census of New Jersey and 1860 census of California. Another article written by Annaleona Davis Patton of the Berkeley Stake published in The Improvement Era April 1951 provided additional information. This work is just as Mr. Horner wrote it in 1903. Additional information has been added in the footnotes.”
Elaine Justesen A.G.

“Book-length accounts of the activities of the Latter-day Saints in early California have been written without a single reference to the name of John M. Horner. Yet here was a faithful member of the Church who built and lost one of the first fortunes from tilling the soil on the west coast and was the first Anglo-Saxon settler of Alameda County.
As a pioneer in agriculture, he furnished fresh vegetables and grain to the gold-crazed miners and the people of the growing city of San Francisco as early as 1849. He fenced and brought under production many hundreds of acres of virgin land, established a commission house in San Francisco for the sale of produce in 1850, imported agricultural implements from the eastern states and iron fencing from England and built a flour mill.
In the course of his operations, he opened sixteen miles of public road, operated a steamer and a stagecoach line, laid out no fewer than eight towns, built a public schoolhouse, and paid for the services of a teacher. In this schoolhouse for many years every Sabbath were held religious services. Missionaries and other brethren traveling through the area always received kind and ready assistance from his hands.
Although he never visited Utah, he sent numerous cuttings of fruit trees, vines, and berries to aid the Saints in establishing themselves in the mountain valleys. All of his life he was an advocate of temperance and the Word of Wisdom, of hard work and frugality, of honesty and honor.
Why his story should be all but forgotten is hard to understand, for it is a tale filled with courage, inspiration, and romance.”
Annaleona Davis Patton, 1951.


Life of John M. Horner

“I was born on a New Jersey farm in Monmouth county, June 15, 1821, the son of Stacy and Sarah (Johnson) Horner.(1) There I continued to live until the end of my twenty-first year, when I was expected to shift for myself. I was without money and had only small business experience. I had good health however and was industrious and ambitious. These qualifications impelled me to strive to be the best workman on the farm to run faster and jump farther than anyone else, to be at the head of my class at school. I did not always succeed but was awarded a premium by my teacher, for “trying harder to learn than any other scholar in school.”
My star of hope arose early promising me many things as well as time to acquire them. My youthful hopes of earthly wealth have been more than realized. I never thought myself a pauper or a dependent upon father or friends. I fully realized that I must rely upon myself and the Great Father for success, that I must take my chances among thirty million others and await my opportunity.
Industry, honesty and perseverance were my guiding stars to success. I found them in demand everywhere I went. I had never thought of success coming to me from other sources; it never did. After becoming my own boss, which all young men were supposed to be in New Jersey at the age of 21, nothing better presenting itself, I hired to a farmer to work during the summer and fall for nine dollars per month, with board and washing. In the winter, I taught a district school.(2) Thus passed my twenty-second year, as happy a year as has ever fallen to my lot to enjoy. I was just as content working for thirty-five cents per day as I was in after years when my time for overseeing my business netted me seventy-five dollars per day or when my net income exceeded sixty thousand dollars per year.
During the previous three or four years I had been wrought up over the subject of religion. The Methodists were the most persistent in my neighborhood and my preference was for them. In these days came ministers of a new sect calling themselves Latter-day Saints, with a new revelation preaching the gospel of the New Testament with its gifts and blessings. It attracted much attention, people listened and some obeyed thereby enjoying the promised blessing. Members of the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian faith as well as non-professors began to join them.(3) Among the latter class were my father, mother and sisters. I was the first of the family to obey being baptized by Erastus Snow in the Layawa Creek on the second day of August 1840. In the spring of 1843, I went up to Nauvoo. Here I was introduced to and shook hands with the Prophet Joseph Smith. I stopped in Nauvoo during the summer and was one of the four men who laid the brick in David Yearsley’s three story house and in the Masonic brick lodge under guidance of Brother George Woodward, who was one of the four.
Mixing mortar, handling the trowel, the square, the saw, the plane, etc, was new work for me, but, as in the case of using farm tools, I found it a great help in after years not only in the days of my poverty when I did all my own work but later thus knowing how to handle tools and do things enabled me to build up and superintend the comparatively large business I afterwards controlled.
In viewing my strenuous eventful and comparatively long and busy life the wise counsel of our present president of the Church and the twelve apostles given to the young men to learn mechanical trades as well as book knowledge and book theories, etc., strikes me with great force and I believe that every young man heeding this counsel will double and perhaps treble his value in the world. Not less wise is the move now being made in some of the Church Schools to instruct their students in manual and domestic as well as brain labors. We are taught that man has at least four natures, mental, moral, spiritual and physical and of course if only one or two of his natures are schooled he is not a fully developed man.
But to proceed. There being no labor to be had in Nauvoo, in the fall I went home to the school which I had left, and in the following spring, I returned to Nauvoo, where, at the suggestion of Brigham Young given at a meeting of the Seventies, my name was placed upon the books as one of their number.(4) Things were exciting in Nauvoo in those days. The Laws, Fosters, Higbees and other apostates and enemies were doing all the injury they could to the Church and apparently were seeking the life of the Prophet.
About this time, a convention was called for the purpose of making a nomination of some one for President of the United States. The Prophet was unanimously chosen and many delegates were appointed to electioneer in a number of states, to endeavor to elect the Prophet president. I was sent back to New Jersey; I ordered a thousand or so of the Prophet’s “Views of the Powers and Policies of the Government of the United States,” printed and took these with me. One night while speaking to a full house of attentive listeners, I invited all to speak who wished to, at the close of my lecture. One gentleman got up and said: “I have one reason to give why Joseph Smith can never be President of the United States: my paper, which I received from Philadelphia this afternoon said that he was murdered in Carthage jail, on June 27th.”(5) Silence reigned: the gathering quietly dispersed; but the grief and sadness of this heart was beyond the power of man to estimate.
The Prophet’s martyrdom ended our political campaign. It was a severe shock to us. But we kept up our branch meeting, myself and other elders taking short missions into the northern part of New Jersey, and into eastern Pennsylvania, holding wood meetings, preaching in school houses, etc. For one year or so thereafter, in the meantime reading the Nauvoo papers eagerly. Finally word came that the Saints were going to leave Nauvoo for California then a province of Mexico, and counsel was given to the eastern Saints to charter a ship and go around the Horn to California.(6)
The following information was added by Elaine Justesen:
Saints in Exile, p. 164 by David R. Crockett, 1996:,

Tuesday Feb 17, 1846, Sugar Creek encampment, Iowa:
“President Brigham Young read a letter that Samuel Brannan had sent him on January 26. Brother Brannon had entered an agreement with Amos G. Benson who claimed he would use his influence with the government and work to protect the Saints. In return, Benson only wanted one half of all the land that the Saints would claim in the west! Brother Brannan asked Brigham Young to ratify the contract. The Twelve concluded that they should trust God for their protection. They would not sign such an unjust and oppressive agreement. They felt the plan would rob the Saints of millions.”
Saints in Exile, p. 142, Sunday Feb 1, 1846:
Samuel Brannan and his company were getting the ship, Brooklyn. Ready to sail. He wrote a letter to Brother Reuben Hedlock, reporting the “the ship is now loaded, full to the hatchings, about five hundred barrels of which we leave at the Sandwich Islands, and the remainder is ours. There are now in the city, and some on board the vessel, about two hundred and thirty souls that will sail next Wednesday at two o’clock; all happy and cheerful at the prospect of deliverance.” Brother Brannan preached his farewell talk that afternoon to a crowded hall.”
Saints in Exile, p. 145:
The day finally arrive for the Brooklyn to set sail. The wharf was crowded with friends and relatives bidding their good-byes. “The Brooklyn deck was of course the scene of lively excitement and affectionate leave taking. The crown on shore kept up their spirits by giving them repeated parting cheers, which those on board duly acknowledged in kind.”
The Brooklyn set sail and left the New York harbor with 238 passengers including 70 men, 68 women and 100 children. They hired an experienced”colored” cook and steward who could cook for a large group and they purchased a good cooking stove. They took with them agricultural and mechanical tools for “eight hundred men,” a printing press, two milk cows, forty pigs and a number of fowls. Also brought onboard were school books, histories, slates, and other school materials. The ship was provisioned for a voyage of six or seven months. The planned voyage was for five months. The Brooklyn was a “nearly new” first class ship. Captain Richardson had a good reputation as a seaman.
There were many rules and regulations for the passengers. Reveille was sounded at 6 a.m. when everyone was to arise from their beds, dress, and wash. No one was permitted to leave their state rooms, without being completely dressed (with coats). After reveille, the corporal would visit every state room and receive the names of the sick and those who could not work. Every state room was to be swept, cleaned, and beds made by 7 a.m. All state rooms were inspected each day to see that they were neat and clean, and that all dirty clothes were removed and put in bags. The main hall must be dusted and cleaned by 7:30 a.m. each morning. The table in the hall was spread at 8 a.m. and at 8:30 a.m., the children ate breakfast first. When they were done, they went back to their state rooms. No children were allowed in the hall before 8:30 a.m. At 9:15 a.m., the men and women ate breakfast and then retired either to the deck or their state rooms. At 10:00 a.m., the hall was swept clean and all state room doors were thrown open to receive fresh air. From 10-2 p.m., time was devoted to various occupations. At 2:30 p.m., all retired from the hall so that dinner could be prepared. At 3 p.m., the children dined and at 4 p.m., the adults are dinner. By 5 p.m., the hall was swept clean and the doors of the state rooms thrown open. From 5-8 p.m., the time was spent in reading, singing or other amusements. At 8 p.m., a cold lunch was placed on the table. By 9 p.m., the table was cleared and all were ready to retire for the night. Every Sabbath morning, there was to be held a service on ship, starting at 11 a.m. All were at attend, shaved and washed clean.” ( The Brooklyn Mormons’ in California’, in William Mulder & A. Russell Mortensen, Among the Mormons, 187.

Ship Brooklyn was chartered and with two hundred and sixty eight Saints, including their children, I left New York in February 1846 for California by the way of Cape Horn.(7) We stopped at Juan Fernandez Island, and at the Sandwich Islands finally reaching California in about six months.(8)

Saints in Exile,
On the fourth day of sailing, the Brooklyn encountered a terrible storm. The passengers had to stay below as the crew worked feverishly to save the ship. John Eager twenty-two years old at this time, recalled, “Women and children were lashed to their berths at night for in no other way could they keep in. Furniture rolled back ;and forth endangering life and limb. The waves swept the deck and even reached the staterooms. The only light was from two lamps hung outside in the hall and these were dim and wavering from the movements of the vessel.” Another passenger wrote: “The ship rocked, creaked, and seemed about to be torn apart. The hatches had to be kept closed, the light put out; the foul air was almost unbearable. Almost everyone was seasick and panic was near.”
During the storm, the passengers gathered around Captain Richardson to hear his words. He said “My friends, there is a time in every man’s life when it is fitting that he should prepare to die. The time has come to us, and unless God interposes, we shall all go to the bottom; I have done all in my power, but this is the worst gale I have known since I was master of a ship.” One woman, told him: “Captain Richardson, we left for California and we shall get there.” Another said: “Captain, I have no more fear than though we were on the solid land.” The Captain was surprised and went upstairs he said, “These people have a faith that I have not,” and added to a gentlemen, “They are either fools and fear nothing, or they know more than I do.”
The Saints recalled how in ancient days, Christ had stilled the storm. They prayed and sang songs such as “The Spirit of God” and “We are Going to California.” After four days and nights the storm ceased. They were protected and only lost the two cows which they had brought with them. But Sister Laura Goodwin was severely injured, falling down some stairs. She had been with child, and soon lost it by miscarriage. Her sickness would linger on until her death a month later.” Pp. 150-151
Back to John Horner’s story:
War was raging in California, when we arrived there, between Mexico and the United States. The upper part of the territory was already in possession of the United States forces, which we were pleased to know. Some of our brethren volunteered and went down with Colonel Fremont to help finish up the work in the lower part of the territory. Most of our brethren took turns standing guard for about one month in what is now San Francisco. The population of Yerba Buena, (now San Francisco) when we arrived there, was said to be forty; our company of two hundred and sixty-eight made an addition to their number of over six hundred percent. Yerba Buena was no place for an ambitious farmer and as farming was my profession and I had brought some farming tools with me, I was anxious to get to work. So, after about thirty days, Brother James Light and I with our families left to fill a contract made with Dr. John Marsh to put in a field of wheat on shares on his farm which was situated on the lower San Joaquin.(9) We put in forty acres. It grew well the land was good, while the rains were early and abundant that year.
After the wheat was sown, and there being nothing more to be done at the doctor’s in March 1847, I moved over to the Mission de San Jose, where I found farming prospects more favorable.(10)In its vicinity, my large farming operations were afterward prosecuted. At the Mission, in March, I plowed and sowed wheat, barley, peas, and potatoes and made a garden planted with different kinds of truck. All of this sowing and planting were of no avail, as the plants were destroyed by grasshoppers an affliction from which my farm never after suffered, although I followed agriculture pursuits in that neighborhood for thirty odd years. Later I planted a small patch of potatoes on what I though suitable soil, about one and a half miles from where I resided. They grew encouragingly the vines being very thrifty. I had no thought of the potatoes being yet on the vines.
At this time I was in a dream, a young cow, standing in my potato patch munching a hill of potatoes which she had evidently pulled up. The roots with potatoes on were hanging down. I was impressed with my dream and hastened in the morning to visit my patch. When I reached it sure enough in the midst of the patch with her face toward me stood the identical cow that I saw in my dream, munching a hill of potatoes. Her standing position, size, color, shape of horns, the green tips in her mouth and roots hanging with white potatoes on them just as I had seen in my dream. I looked upon this dream as providential, since but for the dream, all the potatoes would have disappeared, and I would not have known whether that land would grow potatoes or not. This might have made me unwilling to try again but now I knew and went ahead.
The wheat at the doctor’s was harvested and stored in the granary, but when our share was called for, the doctor gravely informed us: “You have no wheat here, your share was destroyed by elk, antelope, and other wild animals, my share alone was harvested.” So we got nothing for our labor. Thus ended my first year’s farming in California. Although I got no dollars out of it, I did get experience, which I profited by in after years. I had tested the soil in different places, with several different kinds of farm products and learned the most suitable season for sowing and planting.
Nearby, I bought a piece of land from an Indian, and built a small house upon it, moving into it in the spring of 1848, with a determination of making another farming venture that year. There being no fences nor fence material for miles, I went to the redwoods, twenty-five miles distant for fencing, I made a pen to hold animals fences a small garden plot and sowed it with various kinds of garden seeds, intending to transplant them later on into the open ground. Since human plans are no infallible the plants were never transplanted for the reason that gold was discovered about this time. The gold fever broke out with epidemic violence, and took nearly all the people (ourselves included) off to the mines.(11) We did not get much gold, but got the ague without much exertion and did considerable shaking. The gold fever having left us, we returned home in the fall and in the healthy coast climate the ague soon left us. We were a happy couple when we got back to the farm, although our garden was destroyed and our hogs had gone wild. Our house was only walls the roof and outer and inner doors were made of rough slabs and were hung with raw-hide hinges. Our windows were muslin and we had “ground for the floor” but it was our mansion. We enjoyed and improved it as time rolled on.
There were two rooms and a chimney was built up with the division wall which accommodated a fireplace in each room. One dark, blustery rainy night in December a company of Indians (bucks and squaws) were caught in the storm and knocked at out door for shelter. We welcomed them in and let them occupy the outer room. No we did not fear them anymore than so many children. We knew only one of them but the happy indications of the remainder on being admitted convinced us that all was well. We closed but did not fasten the door between us. Having had our experience in the mines we bade them farewell and this ended our second year in California.
My mind turned to the farm, farming was my profession. I had a good piece of land, and my experience gave me confidence in the soil and as if the fates had decreed it, farm I must and farm I did. My farm had no wood or timber upon it, fencing could only be obtained at the redwoods twenty five miles distant. My 1847 experience taught me that no success could be obtained without fencing the land, as stock were on the plains by the scores. On account of the water and green feed on and around my farm they made it their feeding ground in the fall of the year. So I prepared the seed, with a determination of fencing and farming all the land that I could, during 1849. On the 10th of March I started for the redwoods to make rails and posts for my prospective fence. I took with me three Indians (the best help I could get) four yoke of oxen, tools and one wagon. Night overtook us and we camped about ten miles from our destination. During the night an unusual and unexpected snow fall occurred, completely covering the hills and the plains. The grass was entirely hidden by the snow and the cattle came out of the hills bellowing through the valley, seeking food. Fortunately after two days the grass began to show on the plain and in a few days we were again able to labor in the hills.
We worked three days preparing fence material, when we loaded the wagon and reached home within the week. The Indians suffered considerable, as they were working in the snow with bare feet, but fortunately the sun shone brightly, warming the logs and rails, The Indians would work awhile in the snow and then step quickly upon some stick or log to warm their feet. We continued making trips to the woods at short intervals for fence material until the latter part of the summer when we built the fence. Meanwhile we had plowed, planted and cared for our young crops. In this way we fenced and planted sixteen acres. Potatoes was our principal crop. We had also onions turnips, cabbage, water melons, and musk melons. The crop grew well but one part of the fence was weak. In the fall my farm containing the only green feed in the neighborhood, proved an almost irresistible temptation to the hungry cattle and that fact was a source of many anxious fears on my part, lest my promising crop should be destroyed by them and I have to struggle on another year to make a success of my farming venture. The cattle breaking into my field a few times aroused my combativeness to such a pitch that I abandoned my bed in the house and with blankets and gun spent my nights in the field thus guarding and saving my crop. I did not injure the stock but aimed only to scare them by the report of the gun and sting the worst of them with small shot. I kept up this watchfulness until the late fall rains started green feed, after which the stock scattered and annoyed me no more that year.
The first remuneration from my first three years of farming venture in California was two dollars paid me for water melons in September of this year. Fortunately October and November brought to California a large number of gold hunters coming both by sea and land the appetites of these people seemed to crave nothing so much as vegetables since some of them had and others were rapidly contracting scurvy. They ate raw onions or potatoes with apparently as great relish as if these were nicely flavored apples. As I was the only farmer in the territory who had vegetables for sale, I was much sought after by customers from all sides. Two wagon came several times from the mines two hundred miles distant and bought loads of vegetables at fair prices.
This crop was worth about eight thousand dollars but unfortunately an early rain sent a flood of water over my field and from a brook near by and continued so long that one half of my potatoes were destroyed before I could secure them, help being so scarce. However what I did gather was a partial compensation for my long struggle besides my success was gratifying and I put that also down in my ledger as a further credit. Thus ends my farming venture of 1849.
In the beginning of January 1850, my brother William came to me by the way of Panama, consuming six months time on the journey. By the blessing of heaven he escaped the cholera on the isthmus his shipmates died by the dozens. He escaped starvation and perhaps a violent death by a fair wind springing up and wafting them safely into Acapulco at the critical moment when the ship’s company were about to turn cannibals and cast lots to decide who should be eaten first. He afterwards heard that since he was more fleshy then others of the company they were going to make the lot fall on him.
My brother had also been bred on the farm was young (about twenty-one) ambitious and very industrious. I received him as a partner in my business. We worked and flourished together during the next four years, perhaps as no other farmers ever flourished before in the United States, in so short a time. My experience my location my established business our skill and industry together with the property I had acquired all became capitol in our hands. We worked them to the utmost of our ability, knowing that we were almost the only farmers in the territory that year. We knew too that there would be a good sale for all the produce we could raise.
Fortune is said to knock at least once at every man’s door. We looked upon this time and opportunity as the knocking at out door, she found us home. We opened the door and bade her welcome, thankfully accepting her offer.
We extended our fence inclosing about five hundred acres. Farming what we could we let to two tenants a part of our land to be worked on shares, the teams, seed, and tools being supplied by us.
Our crop this year was comparatively large and the soil being virgin the product was of good quality. We bought out our tenants at harvest time paying them over thirty thousand dollars for their share of the crop.
Our gross sales this year approximated one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Our onions sold for forty dollars per cental,(12) tomatoes, three hundred dollars per ton, potatoes one hundred and fifty dollars per ton and other things in proportion. This crop was not grown and cared for on flowery beds of ease, help was scarce until harvest time the fencing was obtained at great expense and labor as in 1849. As in that so it was this year. Some parts of the fence were weak and had to be guarded my brother and self did the guarding. Help being plentiful in the fall this crop was gathered without loss. We established a commission house in San Francisco under the firm name of J. M. Horner & Co., to sell our own and others’ produce. This movement served us a good purpose in this and other years. Thus ended our farming venture of 1850. This year we purchased one hundred acres of land at the landing on the Alameda River and laid out the town of Union City upon it.(13) We made extensive preparations for increasing our business in 1851. We bought some excellent farming land near Union City, fenced built upon and farmed it in addition to improving our home farm which was ten miles away.
We bought teams (horses, mules, and oxen which had crossed the plains) imported agriculture implements from the eastern states and iron fence and wire from England for fences. By this means miles of fencing was quickly but not cheaply constructed as each mile cost over one thousand dollars.
This year our crops were large and a ready market was found for all we raised, though at reduced prices from former years since farmers had multiplied. We secured by purchase the steamer Union to carry our produce to market. This year our gross sales amounted to two hundred and seventy thousand dollars. During the fall of this year, Professor Shelton. a botanist, held in San Francisco the first agriculture fair ever held in California to which I was the largest contributor. Some months afterwards I received the following letter and a silver goblet (the largest premium) from the professor:
“Jno. M. Horner, Esquire. Although you were recently presented with the accompanying testimonial of the public appreciation of your efforts to develop the agriculture resources of California yet I cannot refrain from adding my individual congratulations to those so universally accorded by our fellow citizens if it be but to assure you that I heartily participate in them and fully recognize your right to the title of pioneer in this branch of public industry. Sir, it is true that the premium was not awarded by me personally nor by those who could be influenced by any preferences I may have indicated but I have the consciousness of knowing that Messrs, Fremont, King, Snyder, and Saunders whose pleasing duty it was to select the most worthy of the candidates for the honor, did nothing more than to echo the public voice in presenting you with this goblet. Take it then sir, no less as the evidence of the public esteem that as proof of my individual regard keep it as a memento of successful enterprise and as a pledge of private friendship. And believe that no member of your family however remote may be his generation from our own but will recognize it as an honorable token of the worth of his ancestor with more pride and pleasure.
Sir, Very Truly,

Your friend and obedient servant

C.A. Shelton.
San Francisco, 30th March 1852″
The above letter is copied here, as a partial confirmation of my own statements.
“John M. Horner of San Jose and George Q. Cannon of San Francisco have conferred a great favor upon Utah by sending cuttings of choice varieties of apple, pear, grape, gooseberry, etc., etc., to Governor Young who will see that they are carefully treated.”
Will Brothers Cannon and Horner and others forward cuttings and young trees of choice varieties by every seasonably mode of conveyance?”
Extracts from Deseret News, March 1856.
We extended our agriculture operations in 1852, by purchasing more farming lands, fencing and placing tenants upon such as we did not wish to use ourselves. Those tenants worked on shares. After planting was over, I sent my brother back to New Jersey on business and he brought back with him my father and mother and all their children and grandchildren, two of my wife’s sisters and a brother and some other young people, some twenty two souls.(14)

He arrived home safely in the fall and in time to take the place he had left in the firm of J. M. Horner & Co., to sell our large crop now ready for market. We continued our energetic and prosperous career buying more lands and farming them ourselves, or letting them to tenants until our potato crop reached the enormous quantity of twenty two million pounds in 1853. We had also in that year fifteen hundred acres of wheat and barley, besides cabbages, tomatoes and onions in quantities. California had not only supplied herself with vegetables this (1853) year, for the first time, but she produced a large surplus which could not be sold, and was never sent to market.

Flouring mills not being sufficient in California at this time, we built one at Union City, with eight run of burrs, at a cost of eighty-five thousand dollars, and ground our grain and that of others.
Another agriculture fair was held in 1853, in which most of the first premiums were awarded to me. A fifty-dollar silver pitcher, for best flour in competition with seven other mills; a twenty-five dollar silver goblet, for largest variety of vegetables; and several small premiums were awarded me for best vegetables of different kinds.

We equipped and ran a stage line in connection with out steamer, as far up the valley as San Jose, twenty-five miles. This completing a through passenger line from San Francisco to San Jose. We opened sixteen miles of public roads, mostly through our own land, and fenced the larger part on both sides. These roads have never been changed save to narrow them to sixty-six feet. We had fenced them one hundred feet wide, intending them for shade trees.
Money and other values increased rapidly in our hands and having more confidence in banks of earth than in money banks, we seldom permitted our deposits in the latter to exceed, at any one time, thirty thousand dollars, before we started some enterprise, or invested in real estate. However, the unsettled state of land titles rendered investments in land almost as hazardous as depositing money in commercial banks, as we found to our cost. The United States opposed all land titles, and requested proof of their genuineness to be made before its land commissioners, reserving the right of appeal to its district court, in the event the commissioners decided against the government; and to appeal again to its supreme court, if the district court decided against it. Thus years of costly law suits and in some cases ruin to owners of land titles, intervened before final settlement. We suffered from the law’s delay in settling titles, and from squatters keeping us, by force, a goodly portion of our lands, being encouraged to do so by the government withheld final confirmation, the squatter continued to hold possession, however good the title. We suffered more mentally and financially during these years from the above names causes than from all floods and four-legged animals in former years.

When I arrived at the mission, all the mission land outside of the buildings and a small vineyard was believed to belong to the Government and was placed temporarily in the care of a Catholic priest as agent. To him I applied for and did rent, a small piece of land, but when I commenced work upon it I was met by an Indian who claimed the ownership or the right to use that land. Upon inquiry of those supposed to know, I was satisfied he had a right there, but had no papers. So after that, I dealt with him, instead of with the priest. I finally bought his claim for six hundred dollars, and raised my first paying crop upon this land. Before my second crop was harvested, a merchant living near, brought to me a map of this land and what was claimed to be a provisional grant by Mexico to another civilized Indian. This annoyed me, but as there were no records within reach, and rather than risk a law suit, as I had a valuable crop growing upon the land, I acknowledged his claim, and paid him seven thousand dollars for it. I had to borrow the money to do it. This was the first money I had ever borrowed. I returned it in a few days.
The Indian before selling to the merchant had reserved a lifetime right of occupancy, but as he only wished to use a small piece of the land there was no conflict between us. After a few years he wishing to leave, I bought his life-right for six hundred dollars.

While planting our 1850 crop, one Juan B. Alvarado and one Andrew Pico, both ex-governors of California under Mexico sent an agent who presented to me a title or grant from the Mexican government to these gentlemen of the whole ex-mission tract, containing thirty thousand acres including my farm, which I had bought three times already and wanted to sell me the whole. In submitting these papers to lawyers for their examinations, their opinion was that the grant was good. So there was no alternative for us but to leave, rent or buy. After considerable hesitancy on our part enquiry and negotiation, we in connection with George B. Tingly, a lawyer and E.L. Beard, a farmer on this mission land, bought their claim for forty-nine thousand dollars for which we gave our joint notes to be paid at some future time. When the notes matured, neither Mr. Tingly nor Mr. Beard were able to meet their share of these obligations. I reluctantly paid the money. Mr. Tingly deeded to me his share of the property, Mr. Beard offered to deed me his share, but I permitted him to retain it. He afterwards returned to me the money I had advanced for him. Some time after, this grant was confirmed by the United States Land Commission and an appeal taken to the United States District Court. While this title was being adjudicated, the squatters took possession of much of these lands, particularly those inside of our fences, which were not cultivated. We realized nothing from these lands excepting from such parts as we had under cultivation. We had fenced them at great expense and were paying yearly five thousand dollars taxes. Confirmed grants in the lower courts with good fences, did not constitute either ownership or possession according to the squatter’s creed of justice and law.
Their creed appeared to be “the good old plan, let those take who have the power, and those keep who can.” No squatter would buy, however cheap the land, as long as he could take by force all the well-fenced land he wanted, without cost to him even the taxes on the land he occupied were paid by the owner of the title.

What was further observed, the closer these squatters could get to San Francisco, the better they liked it; and if the land was surveyed and staked into streets, blocks, and lots, the better, as then they could and did sell lots cheap to innocent parties.
We purchased nineteen hundred and fifty acres of a confirmed grant of excellent land bordering on Alameda River near Union City, and paid for the same fifty-eight thousand five hundred dollars. We raised our heaviest crops on these lands, fenced and farmed them ourselves or by tenants. The above comprises all our purchases of real estate, in what is now Alameda county, California.
The extent of our property in Santa Clara county was valued at nine thousand dollars. This property was received by us to settle a debt.
In San Francisco county, we paid two hundred and eighty-five thousand dollars for five thousand two hundred and fifty acres of land adjoining the city of San Francisco and expended nearly eight thousand dollars upon it in surveys, fences and other improvements. One thousand and fifty acres of these lands we surveyed and staked into streets, blocks, and lots extending the streets of San Francisco over it. It is now and has been for over thirty years a part of that flourishing city. The above includes all our real estate and the price which we paid for it, which was purchased by us in California up to and including 1854. Our personal property consisted of steamer Union costing eighteen thousand dollars, a flouring mill, costing eighty-five thousand dollars, a stage line, warehouses, farm houses, stables, out-houses, thirty miles of fencing, costing nine hundred dollars per mile, farming tools, and livestock of good quality, and sufficient in number to enable us to plant and harvest our large crops in good season.(15)
The above includes all the real estate and personal property owned by us in California, in 1854, save it may be a large crop then upon the land.
From the above showing it may readily be conjectured, that I was a man of note, at that time, or at least a man of liberal means, in so young a state as California then was, and among so few people as it then contained. By the blessing of Heaven we had produced this wealth from the soil of a new and untried country, and no charge was ever made that we had acquired any part of it by speculation, or by overreaching our neighbors in trade. So the credit due us was readily granted by all acquainted with the circumstances. We not only produced the wealth above referred to from the elements, but at least double that amount had been produced, which we paid for labor, material and other expenses. After 1849 good farm laborers commanded seventy dollars per month with board. Mechanics were proportionately high. We employed many of all classes, some employed by us saved their earnings, and thus laid the foundation for the fortunes they afterwards acquired.
The position I held in the community at this time made me much sought after as an endorser of notes, a signer of bonds, and a loaner of money to the impecunious.(16) As I had been raised in purely a rural district of New Jersey and was unacquainted even in theory with the “tricks of trade,” the unwise course of endorsing notes, or loaning money without adequate security had never entered my head. I loaned and endorsed freely, hoping to do good thereby. I have no recollection of refusing any one asking for an accommodation, or requesting his notes endorsed, up to 1854.
Our worldly prospects at this time were bright and our property was ample to gratify every wish and was yearly increasing. As I nor my brother ever drank strong drinks, smoked, gambled or dissipated in any way, no cloud of doubt ever crossed our mental visions, that our property should not always continue to increase as we attended strictly to business.
Our crops were large this year. We viewed them as ample to pay every endorsement and every obligation we had out, as well as to pay the expense of harvesting and marketing them. Our property was unencumbered, large and our farming in full operation.
These were our possessions and prospects when the first wave of money panic struck California, and swept over America with such disastrous results, from 1853 to 1859. It is said that during two months in 1857, in New York, discounts at the banks fell off $24,000,000 and deposits $40,000,000; interest went up 36 per cent per annum and there were six thousand failures, involving an indebtedness of $300,000,000. Yet how small are these sums when compared with the direct and indirect losses suffered by the whole people during those years of panic! The breaking up of business, the depreciation of property, the enforced idleness of labor and machinery, and the check to enterprise, all combined to make up a loss impossible to compute, not counting the heartache and mental anguish arising from loss of business and homes.
Men of families, wealth and enterprise, were driven from their homes and reduced to poverty and in consequence, on the Pacific coast, self destruction was resorted to, to end their misery. Some poisoned themselves some shot themselves, some went crazy, all of which was brought on the people by our private currency system.
This loss cannot be measured by dollars and cents, no power but the Supreme can weigh the sufferings of the human heart. Upon the first appearance of panic on the Pacific cost, business began to shrink, property decreased rapidly in value, money withdrew from circulation, depositors withdrew their money from the banks, business failures were frequent, larger interest was exacted for the use of money, more property was demanded as security for a given sum, laborers were turned adrift by the thousands, some becoming tramps; two or more families of the less fortunate were compelled to occupy one house in the towns, which before was hardly thought ample for one, and to get along with scant clothing and still scantier food. At the same time thousands of tons of farm products were never sent to market, for there was no sale; good potatoes were ten cents per bushel, but there were no ten cents. All this happened in the Golden State of California, in 1854, where millions of gold and silver were dug from its mines every month. Most , or all, of it was sent to San Francisco as soon as produced, and tons of it were hoarded in banks, treasury vaults, napkins, old bonnets, and other places, though swift to keep money, after drawing it from the banks. Gold was gloated over and worshiped. A man with a few hundred dollars in gold coin was independent, while the owner of scores of thousands of property was poverty stricken, and permitted it to be sold for taxes, and in some cases never redeemed it. Some with ready money held it for purchasing properties at the depreciated rates for which it was sold by the sheriff, and money could not be borrowed on real estate, however good the title.
Money was plentiful, and perhaps more plentiful than it had been a short time before, but being private money, no power could circulate it, if its owners refused. These are facts forced upon the country by its unwise currency laws. I am writing from memory, but these things are indelibly engraved upon my mind. I was an active participant, I might say an acute sufferer, in those scenes. The large endorsements before referred to, now came on to be paid by us, and as endorsement creditors are exacting, money must be had. Products of the farm yielded no surplus in these panic times from which we could draw. For the first time we commenced mortgaging our property, and at this time money could not be borrowed on our San Francisco real estate.
We did succeed in mortgaging it to C. K. Garrison for $50,000, interest four per cent per month, compounded monthly and payable in advance. He drew on New York; we received the money there. One month’s interest being $2,000 and payable in advance, we received of him only $48,000. It was about one-sixth of the amount we had paid for the property and the improvements, but it was enough, as it swept away the entire property. Thus slipped from us the property we had paid $290,000 for. Our $18,000 steamer went to pay a $7,000 endorsement.
In parting with our flouring mill, we did a little better; but the panic continued so long, and was so heavy upon property values, that the purchaser sold it for $5,000. This property had been depreciated in value by the panic, $8,000. The Mission lands that had cost us $70,000, including improvements, went from us for an endorsement debt of $10,000. However, the squatters had done as much as the panic to render this property of little value. Our home farm of one thousand acres, which we had purchased four times, went off for an endorsement of $7,000.
Property was seemingly so valueless, that no one wanted it; it was money, money; and nothing but money was wanted by creditors, but money was not to be had. It had ceased to circulate except to a very limited extent.
Although my endorsements did not exceed $40,000, the high rate of interest and other expenses forced from us over $70,000 before they were fully satisfied, and that money raised by the sacrifice of property sold at one-sixth of what it had been worth the previous four years. If the payment of the endorsements had been demanded before the panic, we could have paid them without embarrassment; in fact, had the panic not come, the endorsed notes would have been paid by their makers.
The above briefly shows how the property was produced, and approximately how it was rendered almost valueless by the panic, that curse to enterprise and industry. We had no fears or thoughts that the laws of our country, which force all business to be done with money, all taxes, tariffs, debts and dues to be paid in money, had not provided amply the money necessary for doing all the business of the country, even should private parties hoard theirs; but by bitter experiences we learned that there was no public money, and the private money had been withdrawn from circulation.
How cruel! Oh! how cruel is our Congress to leave the country subject to the curse of money panics, when, in my opinion, a simple law would prevent them. Let us reflect. We have been writing in review lessons of prosperity and adversity which may be of value for future reference.
Although our labors and struggles above referred to related only to temporal matters, yet spiritual things were not altogether neglected. My brother and I had erected a schoolhouse in a central locality, for accommodating our neighborhood, and hired and paid a teacher. To this school all were welcome. In this house we held church every Sabbath during our prosperous years, and for a long time after. Prayer meetings were frequently held evenings in the houses of different members. Some “Mormon” Battalion boys, and some ship Brooklyn families, had settled around us. We baptized some good people of other faiths, who left for Utah upon the first opening. In fact, the Battalion boys had married, and, I may say, all the more faithful Latter-day Saints in our settlement left for Salt Lake at different times.
We were not left altogether, as elders were frequently passing to and from missions. Brothers Amasa Lyman and C.C. Rich from San Bernardino, sometimes visited us; also Brothers Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Addison Pratt, George Q. Cannon, David Cannon, Joseph Bull, and many other worthy brethren whom I can’t name, whose society we enjoyed.(17)
I never was a lover of money in a miserly sense. I did love to make a success of all business in hand. When I had money, it gave me more satisfaction to assist the elders and others requiring help than to use it for my own personal gratification.
I never mourned over the loss of my property, as many losers did, but endeavored to forget, and go ahead again. I have sorrowed and regretted repeatedly that I did not do my duty with it more completely while I had it; but I must attribute it to ignorance or procrastination, not selfishness. I should have paid, and could have paid a tithing on $25,000 as readily as the $1,500 I did pay. I can account for the delinquency only as above.
At that time I was too humble, too happy, and too thankful to my heavenly Father to have refused in my feeling to have paid my debt to him. I fully realized it was my obedience to the counsel of his servant in sending me to California and his continual blessings, that had placed me in the enviable position I then enjoyed.
One other thing I have also regretted. President Brigham Young wrote advising me to be cautious, as reverses frequently visited people doing large business, and suggested that I send up $30,000 to the Trustee-in-trust, as a precautionary measure, that would serve a good purpose as a future help, if misfortune should overtake me. The above may not be the exact language of the President, but it is his meaning, as I understood it. >From ignorance, procrastination, or misfortune coming so quickly, or something else, the wise council was not acted upon, my misfortune came suddenly, and as unexpected as thunder from a clear sky. It was from a deficient supply of money- a cause no one dreamed of, or thought possible as four million dollars of gold was known to come into the city every month from the mines alone; but being private money, it could not be circulated; hence, so far as business was concerned, it was dead money.
“Get out of debt, while times are good, and keep it.” I fear some of our brethren will be as slow in acting upon this wise counsel as I was in obeying the counsel given to me. Those who neglect this counsel will lay themselves liable to suffer some of the pangs of hard times, as I did, probably losing homes and property. Hard times are sure to come, since money panics are some of the fruits of our present money system. Under it, hard times always follow good times. This being true, a worse money panic than the American people have ever suffered may be just ahead, and is feared by some government officials, bankers, and many other business men. It will surely come, if Congress does not administer a timely preventive remedy.
If we are out of debt, and have no bonds or endorsements holding us, hard times may injure our business, but our homes and property will be safe. The loss of my property and business places me financially where I had commenced, eight years before, as nothing of much value was saved from the wreck, except my experience. My prospects were dark, cloudy and discouraging. I gave up my carriage team, my watch from my pocket, and commenced physical labor again to support my family.
At length the panic ceased, and its evil effects wore gradually away from the state. I rented my old homestead, and after a time exchanged it again, this making the fifth time. Part of the purchase money was left as a mortgage, and interest being so high (fifteen per cent) it was never completely paid for.
As afflictions seldom come singly, so it was in my case. Aside from the loss of my property, I was otherwise afflicted. My only daughter (Elizabeth) sickened and died, while my property was being confiscated. I was also personally afflicted. Lock-jaw came upon me with a heavy fever, which lasted a long time. My life was despaired of by my physicians, relatives and friends.
An unexpected favorable change took place. My recovery was slow, and my sickness left me with but little use of my legs; for weeks, I used a crutch when moving around. I stated in the commencement of this narrative that “my star of hope rose early, and had never set beneath the horizon.” At this time it nearly went down. I gradually regained my strength, after months of mental and physical suffering, and slowly with it came back my ambition, for all of which I am humbly thankful to my Heavenly Father. Not for these only am I thankful, but as in the case of Job, I have been blessed again with reasonable wealth, and an influence beyond my most ambitious hopes; and last, though not least, have been blessed with more sons and daughters. I have lived longer since my loss and suffering than before those troublesome times.
I was granted a new lease of life by the Great Ones, and for a purpose unknown to me. However, in the absence of any more worthy, visible object, for me to work at for the good of man, outside of other duties, the currency question impressed me as the most important. Many wise and learned men and professional financiers have been working at it to no effect, as witness the panics of 1873 and 1893. God is the “fountain of all intelligence,” and uses the “weak things of this world to confound the wise,” etc. Since I an one of the weak, I thought he had chosen me for the purpose of showing the weakness of our present money system, and to invent, work out, and make known, a more perfect system for the use of man. My suffering under our present money system, I thought, with the blessing of heaven, would qualify me for the work, considered by many to be impossible. Whether this is a correct surmise, or only a welcome thought, the endeavor to perform it certainly has been a delightful labor. I am happy to say, the work has been done, and my mind rests satisfied with it. If the American people will adopt it, money panics will be impossible. It will effect all that is claimed for it, and no doubt much more not yet seen that practice would reveal.
For many of the evils of our present system, and for the numerous blessings which this new and just system will impart, if adopted, study the book National Finance and Public Money, where the bill of organizing the system, and numerous unanswerable arguments used in support of the system may be found. The difference between our present money system and the new system is, the first is a private money system, and the latter is a public money system.
What is public money? Public money is money created by act of Congress the people’s agent. Public money belongs to all the people, and by their agent their government banking department, they must loan it to the administration, to states, to municipalities, etc., upon demand, and to all industries of the country, farmers, manufacturers, merchants, bankers, and to every citizen, upon securities named by Congress.
The congressional enactment of the bill above referred to, would inaugurate public money, and install the people as a whole rich and poor, to be the money power, and prevent all future money panics. I should not have penned this much here about public money, only for the fact that I am writing a small sketch of my life work, and this is a part of it, and I think the most valuable part. It is now over thirty-six years since it was first considered. This invention has been completed a long time. My extensive writings since have been to introduce it to public notice.
I thank my Heavenly Father for placing the thought in my heart of producing a more perfect money system for the good of man. The satisfaction that came to me in working it out, and trying to show the people its many advantages, has been enjoyable. It was impressed upon my mind with a persistence not to be ignored, and I willingly accepted the charge. The people are slow in accepting it; so are they slow in accepting the Gospel. “The weak things of the world shall come forward and break down the mighty and strong ones.” Amen.
One of my first ventures after the loss of my property and recovery from my sickness, was building a bridge over the Alameda river under a contract with the county. I saved three hundred dollars by this labor. I contracted to drain a small lake in the neighborhood, got well paid for my labor, as in both cases I did most of it personally. The owners of a piece of land in San Francisco, not having a clear idea as to their title to it, offered us (my brother and myself) a share of what we could get out of it, if we would work it up; we received over three thousand dollars for this labor. About this time, we had an extra dry year in California not enough rain fell to mature a crop, and believing vegetables would be a paying crop in the fall, we looked around for an opportunity of producing one, and finding Alameda River Mill was idle, we rented the use of the water which went to waste in the bay, and some land near by, made our ditches and in June commenced to wet, plow and plant a crop of vegetables mostly potatoes. From this venture we realized seven thousand dollars. So by little we regained our feet; but meeting with losses in other farming ventures from rust, drought, unsalable crops and other causes, our progress was slow, in fact, rather backward, during the last few years that we remained in California.(18)
At this time my oldest son(19) was cultivating sugar cane in the Hawaiian Islands, and hearing that Mr. Claus Spreckels was about to open the largest sugar plantation known, he advised us to see Mr. Spreckels and get a contract from him to cultivate cane for him. If we could do so he thought, we would do better in the Islands than in California.
We saw Mr. Spreckels and contracted with him to go to the islands and cultivate cane on shares. In fulfillment of this contract we sold our farms, chartered a schooner and placed therein our families, eighteen souls, our household effects horses and farming tools and started for the islands where we arrived on the 25th December 1879.
The schooner quickly discharged and we commenced hauling the lumber for our houses onto the land we were to use, about six miles distant. We had five hundred acres of land allotted to us. My brother and sons worked the western half; I and my sons, the eastern half. We labored under the firm name of J. M. Horner & Sons. My boys did all our plowing and team work, in preparing for and plowing our first crop of two hundred and forty acres. In consequence of our planting a much larger area than we contracted to plant the first year, J. M. Horner & Sons borrowed forty thousand dollars. Our crop did well. It exceeded our expectations, in both yield and the price for which it sold. We returned the borrowed money and had a net profit of twenty-five thousand dollars from our venture. Our crop yielded two thousand pounds of sugar more per acre than the land cultivated by the plantation, which fact fired its manager with jealousy, so they conspired to prevent us raising another crop by withholding the water from us, which they had the power, but not the right to do. The consequence was, that our cane dried up, did not pay for harvesting and we thus lost much of the money we saved from the first crop. We left Mr. Spreckels and contracted with the owners of the Pacific Sugar Mill Co. to do one-half of the cultivation for their mill; one of my boys took charge of the business, the mill company supplying the money to work it. Here we made considerable sugar, increasing the yield on our half of the plantation from five hundred tons per year to two thousand. The year before we parted with this property, we were sure it was worth eighty thousand dollars over and above the debt for advances, but the enactment of the McKinley bill so affected sugar property here that we willingly sold for a small sum more than the debt. The price of sugar had depreciated from one hundred and sixty dollars per ton, which our first crop sold for, to less than sixty dollars.
At the time we made the last contract referred to we rented in the district of Hawaii- Hamakua, twelve hundred and fifty acres since increased to twenty four hundred of good, wild cane land with a view to starting a new plantation.
This was rather discouraging work to undertake as the land, though rich, was covered with a jungle of trees and brush. All had to be grubbed and cleared before it could be used at an expense of thirty-three dollars per acre. Over one hundred acres per year was cleared and brought under cultivation. In addition to rents and clearing the land, houses had to be built for managers, quarters for one hundred and fifty or two hundred laborers; and accommodations for more than half that number of horses had to be provided. The horses had to be purchased as well as plantation tools’ and roads, bridges, a mill (a wagon wheel had never yet turned upon the land) had to be built, fencing had to be erected, besides the raising of the cane. The building of the mill and the providing of all the necessaries for producing the first two hundred acres of cane, would involve an expenditure of near three hundred thousand dollars. To provide this sum was no small concern. However, our unprecedented success in making our first crop gave confidence to people of means that whatever we undertook in the way of cultivation would be a success. So we readily found means to carry on the planting department of the plantation.
Another gentleman contracted to build the mill, he to own one half and we the other half, provided we repaid to him one-half the cost of its construction, with the interest within a specified time. The mill was built at a cost of one hundred and eighty thousands dollars and we returned to him one-half of the money as agreed, and thereby became the owners of one half of the sugar works, and all the planting interests which gave us three-fourths of all the sugar manufactured at the works.
Not wishing to carry all our eggs in one basket, we established a stock ranch where we raised all the horses and mules required on the plantation, and some for sale. We have over four hundred head of horses and mules on the ranch, and one hundred and twenty on the plantation. The ranch has some three thousand four hundred head of beef and dairy stock, the plantation and neighborhood are supplied with butter and beef from the ranch, and the surplus is disposed of elsewhere. We were quite a time bringing up the ranch to a paying point, as we had to pay rent from the start, and more than one hundred miles of fencing was built and kept in repair, with houses for the superintendent and employees. Several thousand dollars were used for impounding water by building dams, purchasing water tanks, building cisterns, etc. Some of the cisterns have a capacity of five hundred thousand gallons. The ranch had returned its borrowed money, paid its running expenses, and for some time has yielded a few thousand dollars of revenue. This year (1903) it has yielded a net revenue of seventeen thousand dollars and the coming year it will be still better, we hope. For some years past we have made a small venture in coffee, production. Laborers’ wages increasing, and the price of coffee declining from twenty cents per pound to seven cents, we have concluded to wind up the business with a loss perhaps of three thousand dollars.
The incomes and the receipts from the sale of sugar, amounting to over two million five hundred thousand dollars, have nearly all been absorbed in enlarging, working and improving the plantation. The increase in cost of labor, the depreciation in sugar prices, interest for money, dry years, fires and some other items, have multiplied our debts to two thousand and fifty thousand dollars, and a mortgage holds down all incomes until the debt is paid. We are encouraged to believe, however, that we will get out of debt, as this year we have paid over fifty thousand dollars of the above debt, and hope to do as well by the blessings of heaven until all is paid.
Looking back,
Every message sent from the Great Father to earth, for the good of man, since the days of Enoch, has at first been rejected, and its bearer persecuted and perhaps slain. It is so with all truth.
The gospel message, sent through Joseph Smith to the children of men in these last days, is no exception. As soon as the Prophet delivered the message, persecution commenced, his life was sought, and they finally closed his mission on earth by murdering him. Many of his followers have shared the same fate, and whole communities of Saints were driven from pillar to post, from Ohio to Missouri and there, from county to county, and from that state into Illinois, from there, to the Mountains. Go they must; hundreds fell by the way, through exposure during inclement seasons, in fact, where indirectly murdered by the mob. Never until they arrived at Salt Lake were they permitted to remain long enough in one place to show what a blessing Heaven intended them to be to man.
When they were forced out upon the plains, their enemies hoped they had bidden them goodby forever, and one wise Congressman was reported to have suggested that the government enlist five hundred or six hundred of their ablest men and send them overland to California. But this would-be-wise man did not know the mind and purposes of the Almighty, who was on the eve of waking up the world in a manner he dreamed not of, and who was about to use the despised “Mormons” as his honored agents to perform the work. He has made and will make the Latter-day Saints great in performing his work, which will attract the wonder, amazement and even admiration of the world. God is rapidly bringing it about. You don’t see it? Listen. He surely awoke the world when he caused the discovery of gold in California and used the “Mormons” as his principal agents in discovering it. How was that? Brigham Young was the leader of the “Mormon” people the mouth piece of God to them. He counseled the eastern Saints to charter a ship and go to California, there make a settlement, and cultivate the soil. They went as directed, this writer one of them. President Young directed the captain of our company Mr. Samuel Brannan to come east in 1847, to meet a company of Saints that would be coming west that year, searching for a place to settle. Mr. Brannan went, and met President Young and company near Salt Lake.
Before this, President Young had directed his people to leave Nauvoo and flee to the mountains. They left. The Prophet Joseph had told them, some time before his martyrdom that they would be driven to the mountains, where they should become a mighty people. When they got out on the plains, a government recruiting officer came to them and requested a company of at least five hundred of their able bodied men to go to California, to assist in the war with Mexico. President Young listened, then said “You shall have them.” The number asked for were gathered and marched to California, and were there discharged.
“Yes,” says the objector, “that was creditable and very patriotic, but what had that to do with the discovery of gold in California?” President Young and Mr. Brannan were on the overland trail. Before Mr. Brannan left on his return to California, President Young said to him, “If you meet the Battalion boys, tell them none must come home, except they bring enough food to last them eight months,” or words to that effect. Mr. Brannan met the boys on the mountains and delivered to them President Young’s message. The boys counseled what best to do and decided that those having families, or important duties urging them forward, should go. This counsel was carried out, and those who returned to California applied to Captain Sutter, then living in his fort, where Sacramento City is now located, for employment, The captain had no money; he had plenty of land, and the American river ran through it. The boys informed the captain that their needs were not money, but flour and other food to carry to their relatives and friends in the mountains for the coming year. Sutter said, “If you sow and harvest a crop of wheat, and build a mill to manufacture the wheat into flour, I will pay you for your labor in flour and ponies, after the wheat is ground next year.”
A bargain was made. Sutter to furnish the land, seed, farming tools, teams, etc., necessary for plowing the land and sowing the wheat; also tools and teams necessary for getting the logs out of the mountains, out of which to saw the lumber for building the mill and digging the mill race. etc. Mr. Sutter was to board the boys while they were doing the work.
The wheat was sown, the mill frame was up, and the mill race dug. I saw them. The wheat was growing. The first water let through the race washed away the loose earth, and left the shining yellow flakes of gold exposed in the bottom of the race, to which the boys directed the superintendent Mr. Marshall’s attention. Thus it may be seen that the “Mormons” performed the physical labor that discovered the gold of California to the world, and there are many living witnesses that can testify to the awakening of the world to its discovery. Not only the continent of America, but the nations of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the islands of the sea. The scramble for the precious metals was not in California nor the United States only, but wherever they have since been discovered. It has made the nations and their people more enterprising, and better acquainted with other nations and their people.
If the Battalion boys had not been sent to California, how long would the discovery of gold in California have been delayed? That is a question difficult to answer, as all the great events and discoveries of the precious metals that followed, in consequence of this first discovery, must likewise have been delayed.
The Battalion boys and ship Brooklyn “Mormons” were sent to California by President Young, and by their labors gold was discovered. A great awakening in the world was the result. California soon grew into a noted state, as a result of the discovery. I was the only one of the Brooklyn passengers who went into the farming business to stay; after my success, others took hold. Had my crop of 1849 failed, California, no doubt, must have been at least one year longer supplying itself with vegetables, particularly potatoes, as I had all the potatoes that were raised in the territory that year. Had my farming venture failed this year, as it had the two previous years, there would have been no seed for planting in 1850; or had I not been in the territory, how long would it have been before some one would have ventured into the business, are problems difficult to answer. I had been at the business four years before any other person; two were failures, and two successes. After our second crop was produced, others began in the business in a small way. Our third crop wrought wonderful changes in the minds of some. Mechanics, sea captains, lawyers, college professors and other classes, went into the farming business. But only few of them succeeded.
Despise not the day of small things. No one depending solely upon himself and the Great Father for success should despise or shun the day of small things, but “struck out unaided, depend on no other. ” “Strike and keep striking till you hit the right spot.” “Perseverance captures the game.” I always endeavored to keep myself employed; when I could not do so, I worked for others. Upon my first visit to Nauvoo, I had a little money, I paid my tithing, and, not finding work elsewhere, I labored at the stone quarry where rock was being quarried for the Temple. I wanted to show I was anxious to be employed. I had some money with me but preferred to work and keep it, than to do nothing and get short. I soon found all the labor I wanted, and in the end, I received four dollars per day.
To show the importance of looking after and husbanding small things, I will relate this fact: In the summer of 1845, I was boarding with my father, and teaching a district school. In his corn field were sharp corners, and crooks in his fence, leaving a few square feet of land, here and there, which he could not cultivate with his teams. He consented that myself and brother might dig it up and plant potatoes in it for ourselves, which work we did mornings and evenings, so as not to interfere with our daily duties. We did not anticipate much of an income from what we were then doing; but it was exercise, and a good lesson for us. It was the first time we had ever attempted to produce wealth from the elements, working under our own dictation. Little did we think that eight years from that time, we would have raised and sold for gold coin over one million dollar’s worth of potatoes, in a strange country, three thousand miles away. Producing wealth from the elements has been our occupation since, and several millions of wealth, besides the one referred to above, has been produced under our superintendence. One hundred and fifty men was about the extreme number employed by us at any one time in California; here in Hawaii, the average has been double that number. The point I wish to make is, we raised some potatoes along our father’s fence, dug and buried them to protect them from the winter’s frost. They were yet under the frozen ground in January, 1846, when I was ready to start for California. I sold my share of them for five dollars. When I got to New York, I added two dollars to the five and bought a Colt’s six-shooter pistol. I was told, “you are going to a country occupied by savage beasts, and still more savage men, so you must go armed to protect yourself.”
When I arrived in California, it was in the throes of a revolution. A war was raging between the United States and Mexico. I carried my rifle and pistol wherever I went prospecting but seeing no one whom I wanted to shoot and no one who wished to shoot me, I concluded my pistol was useless and traded it to a Spaniard for a yoke of oxen, the first animals I ever owned; with them I plowed for my first crop of vegetables in California. From this small beginning grew the large business referred to. Five dollars worth of potatoes in New Jersey was a small capitol for starting a large farming business in California, but it had its effect; it helped me to a yoke of oxen. If I had idled away my mornings and evenings, I would have had no potatoes: no potatoes, no five dollars; no five dollars, no pistol; no pistol, no oxen; no oxen, no plowing and experimenting in 1847 and ’48, and perhaps the foundation would never have been laid for the large business I afterwards built up.
A young man starting out to hew for himself a character and his way in the world without assistance from friend, or ready money, must not despise the day of small things. Small remuneration he must be willing to accept, or even no remuneration at all, until better opportunities present themselves; he should be humble enough to pick up, earn and save the pennies. These are his school days; the doing things in a small way may be the means of qualifying him for handling a large business, if it ever presents itself.

The valuable superintendent is the one who understands and works up the details of the business, for if the details are neglected success is uncertain. Had I not saved my small earnings, and endeavored to earn more, it is doubtful that I ever would have been able to prospect in the West, or to pay my way to California. After I got to California, had I been unwilling, or from lack of the necessary qualifications unable, to handle the plow and guide the team myself and work on alone under disadvantages and discouragements, I might then have been away from home when fortune knocked; but I was there, ready when she knocked, took hold at her bidding, and went my way rejoicing. After my first success, others followed my plows, worked my teams, planted, harvested, and marketed my crops, made my irrigation and draining ditches built my buildings, fences, etc., as I directed.

My business was large, but I never employed a superintendent. I kept hold of my business, bossed it, and in fact was absolute monarch. During my first year’s struggles, I worked with my head and hands against great odds; but it was this struggle that made possible my after achievements which as elsewhere stated, proved perhaps the most prosperous farming venture from so small a beginning in so short a time ever known in the United States up to that time.
It must be remembered that the wealth referred to above was all produced from the elements by subduing the earth and making it yield up its treasures to us. This may encourage some young men who are compelled to work their own way in the world, not to wilt down and think themselves paupers. If you have health strength youth and intellect at command you are in possession of the most valuable earthly blessing possessed by man. They are blessings that scores of people would willingly pay you a million dollars for if you could deliver the goods. Fortunately this kind of wealth cannot be delivered, if sold; and if you properly use it every earthly comfort is within your reach. Don’t be afraid of working yourself to death. “Rust consumes faster than labor wears.” If hard work of head and hands were killing, I should have been dead twenty five or thirty years ago instead of now being quite a man in my eighty-third year.
Young man, husband your present wealth of physical, mental, and moral strength; don’t destroy nor waste them by smoking, chewing, drinking, gambling, idleness or other dissipations. To gratify these evil habits will consume your time, health, strength of body and of mind, and your acquired wealth. When you gratify them long enough, you will then in truth be a self-made pauper, of no value to yourself or to the world.”


1. 1860 U.S. Census Alameda Co., Ca p. 203, Dwelling 1430, Family 1424, Family History Library Microfilm 803,055. Stacy age 64, Sarah age 64.

2. Franklin Ellis. History of Monmouth County, New Jersey. Reprint, Cottonport: 1974, Shrewsbury Historical Society. p. 639. “Marl Ridge District No. 22. It is stated that John M. Horner, now or recently a millionaire of San Francisco, but a native of this place, made the desk and seat in the old house in which he was both pupil and teacher.” Teachers in 1840, John M. Horner, Elizabeth Moore.

. N. 2 Supra. p. 766 “A Mormon obtained consent to preach in the school-house in the village, the first services of the kind ever held in Long Branch.” Taken from the diary of William R. Maps. January 7, 1842. “Considerable difficulty with the Mormon, and anti-Mormon preachers. Sunday March 13, Mormon preaches against the Methodists; Betsy Tallman baptized by the preacher, on e of his first converts, but beyond this fact nothing appears in reference to the matter.” p. 633 Hornerstone. After 1830 some families living here embraced the doctrines of the Mormons. A church was erected which later was sold to the Catholics.

4. A Seventy is an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood.

5. The Prophet Joseph Smith was killed while in Carthage Jail, 27 June 1844.

6. Kate B. Carter. Daughters of Utah Pioneers Lesson for April 1960. p. 473. “The year was 1845, the Mormons had been warned to leave Nauvoo. By the end of the year, maps were being studied, places explored, for the Latter-day Saints knew that the exterminating order once more leveled at them must be obeyed if they were to save themselves from further persecution. Orson Pratt, who was in charge of the Eastern Saints, with unerring judgment gave permission to Samuel Brannon to charter a ship to carry them around the Horn and find a place which they could call home until such time as a decision would be made by Brigham Young and his associates as to where the new Zion was to be located.”

7. Annaleona Davis Patton. John M. Horner California’s First Farmer. The Improvement Era, Salt Lake City: 1951. “Among the company of Saints who lined the rails of the ship Brooklyn as she sailed from New York harbor in February 1846 was the young farmer, John M. Horner. His sweetheart Elizabeth Imlay, had become his bride the day before he left New Jersey for New York. The ship Brooklyn, which had been converted into a passenger carrier from “an old hull,” was not exactly the type of vessel a young couple would have chosen for a wedding cruise, but to John and his bride of the Brooklyn the ship became a honeymoon yacht. For six months is was their home.”

8. N. 6 Supra. p. 473. “According to the plan, the ship was to carry enough machinery, tools and other necessities so that wherever they landed they could become a self-supporting community. From the time the Saints on the ship “Brooklyn” sailed from New York harbor until their arrival in California, these people were of one mind, to meet Brigham Young and his pioneers. California gave friendly refuge to them when the 445-ton vessel sailed into the bay of Yerba Buena. The contingent of approximately 238 souls was exceedingly happy to reach the place where they could begin a new life while awaiting final word from their great leader.”

9. N. 6 Supra. p. 509. “He loved the soil. Therefore, he and his wife rode horseback around San Francisco bay to March Landing (now Antioch, Contra Costa county), so that he might begin share cropping for Dr. John Marsh of early California fame.”

10. N. 6 Supra. p. 509. “The vivid memory of the smooth valley, the melons and vegetables grown near the Mission San Jose haunted Horner so much that he and his young wife soon saddled their horses and rode back to what would some day become Irvington, Alameda county. They leased and bought some land from an Indian where Horner built a little house, planted grain, potatoes and vegetables.”

11. N. 6 Supra. p. 510. “Becoming discouraged, in the early summer of 1848, they went to Mormon Island on the American River above Sacramento. There each Mormon received an equal-sized plot of ground on which to dig gold. Again misfortune overwhelmed them. They struck no gold but both contracted fever. In the midst of these afflictions John longed to get back to the land that would produce food. He now loved the soil more than ever and he knew the gold diggers would need and pay for food.”

12. A cental is a short hundredweight.

13. N. 6 Supra. p. 510. “Mr. Horner was an industrious, honest, God-fearing man. He was a community builder and gave to Alameda county its first American home, opened miles of public roads, built miles of fences, erected the first wheelwright shop, first blacksmith shop, equipped and operated the first stage line and owned the first steamboat to ply the southern end of the bay to the city of San Francisco.”

14. Louis J. Rasmussen. San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists Volume IV June 17, 1852 to January 6, 1853. Colma, Ca: 1970. San Francisco Historic Records. Family History Library Book 979.461/S1 W3r. “Passengers aboard the steamer Pacific, arrived in San Francisco August 2, 1852. Departed San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua at 6:00 PM on July 21, 1852. Arrived Acapulco, Mexico at 3:30 PM (no date listed). Departed Acapulco at 5:00 AM on July 26, 1852. Arrived at San Francisco at 2:00 PM, August 2, 1852. Running time for voyage was 11 days, 5 1/2 hours. This vessel brings to San Francisco the news of the death of Henry Clay, the American patriot and statesman. Among the passengers; S. Horner, wife and three children, Isaac Horner, wife and four children, Lucretia Horner, Miss Ann Imlay, Miss M. Imlay, William Imlay, and William Y. Horner.”

15. N. 6 Supra. p. 511. “Horner was a religious man, an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this little school house he preached on Sunday afternoon to a congregation of thirty or forty people, mostly Latter-day Saints. He also held Mormon services at different ranches. The first wedding service at Niles in 1852 was performed by Elder Horner uniting Edna Stuart and Ray Stanley in marriage.”

16. N. 6 Supra. p. 511. “John M. Horner was not only wealthy but kind and generous. On alternate Sunday mornings he gave the Methodists and Presbyterians the use of his building for their respective services.”

17. Journal History of The Church 22 January 1853. Family History Library Microfilm 1,259,739. Missionaries were sent out from Salt Lake to labor in British Guiana, The Sandwich Islands, Australia, Hindustan, Siam, and China. Arriving in San Franciso they had no funds with which to purchase passage to their various destinations. They met with John M. Horner and told them to call upon the inhabitants of the area and ask for funds. They were not able to raise enough cash for even one passage, so called again on Brother Horner. Brother Horner realizing that the money was not available gave the missionaries $6,000.00 to pay their passage.

18. Oakland Tribune September 3, 1950. Article by F. Howe Higgins. “The pages of the California Farmer were dramatized twice by Horner and his harvesters in 1868 and 1869. Notice. There will be a public exhibition of the traveling harvester Monitor Number Two upon the farm of Richard Threlmall in Livermore Valley, Murray Township, Alameda County, on Thursday, August 28, 1868 commencing at 1 o’clock p.m. On Thursday, the third of September 1868 commencing at 1 o’clock p.m., Monitor Number One or Three will be exhibited to the public upon the farm of William Y. Horner through the Mission San Jose, Alameda County. We claim that one-half the expense of harvesting would be saved to the farmer by using the harvester: in fact, the entire expense of threashing is saved. Three men and twelve horses have cut, threashed, cleaned, and sacked in good workman-like manner fifteen acres of grain per day, making five acres per man, a fete, we believe, never performed in America before. Farmers, come and see if our claims are well founded John M. Horner. William Y. Horner.

19. His oldest son was William born 26 December 1847, in California.