Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,225

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,225


This is the grave of Henry Newhall.

Born in Saugus, Massachusetts in 1825, Newhall was an auctioneer by trade. But he came to California during the gold rush. That was hardly uncommon. He was delayed in getting there, getting very sick while crossing in Panama from some tropical disease and not recovering for six months. Probably he was lucky to survive. But he got there. What he and the other smart ones quickly figured out is that all the money was made in everything but mining, as mining was for suckers. That was increasingly clear by the time he actually got there. So instead of taking some chance on marginal diggings, Newhall chose to try his hand at what he knew–auctioneering.

He was good at this, but of course no one is going to be remembered for being good at auctions. He made plenty of money that way, but then invested in the things that do get you remembered–railroads and land. He went big into the smaller railroads that connected up California cities that then he could sell to the Southern Pacific. He was good enough at this, including connecting San Francisco and San Jose, that he not only succeeded by got appointed to the Southern Pacific board. At the same time, this was the time that whites were stealing Mexican land grants from the grandees who held them and selling them off for towns, farms, and to make money for themselves. Newhall was central to this and bought up huge tracts of land in Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. This was total theft from the people who owned it, paying them a pittance and driving off the tribes who lived on this land. He then sold it for towns or to the Southern Pacific. Admittedly, some of this land he bought off other whites who had purchased it first, but still, $2 an acre….Between 1871 and 1875, he acquired 143,000 acres of prime land.

Newhall himself had a huge ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley and a big mansion in San Francisco. However, he did long live long. He had a really bad case of food poisoning in 1880 that nearly killed them. Then, after he had recovered in 1882, he was riding a horse on his ranch when it threw him and he died shortly after. He was 56 years old. After his death, his sons formed The Newhall Land and Farming Company that was a big dominant land owning company in the state for a long time.

Henry Newhall is buried in Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma, California.

If you would like this series to visit other land speculators in American history, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Richard Henderson is in Williamsboro, North Carolina and John Cleves Symmes is in North Bend, Ohio. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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