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Subject: [MACK] William Howard Mack, bio, b.1812
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 08:03:03 -0000
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WILLIAM HOWARD MACK
The youngest son of Elisha Mack, Jr., who at the time was engaged in the mercantile business in West Troy, New York. William H. was born August 23, 1812. When about two years old his parents moved to Albany, New York, where his mother died March 4, 1819. He was then sent to Plainfield, Massachusetts, to his mother's parents to be educated. When he was ten years old his father remarried, and the two sons returned to him at Albany. His father at this time was very extensively engaged in the wholesale produce and pork-packing business. William, when about sixteen years old, was offered a fine situation by Wm. Gay, a wholesale and retail drygoods merchant; this offer was made with the understanding that he should be taken as a partner when he became familiar with the business; but the father objected to the business, a great disappointment to the son, who was of a very active business turn of mind. When he was just coming of age, he one day asked his father wha!
t time of day he was born; upon receiving the answer, "About two o'clock in the morning," he replied, "Then I will not sleep another night in your house." He soon got a situation on a steamboat plying between Albany and New York. When navigation closed for the season he got a situation in Stamoix Hall, where there was a large dining-room adjoining the ball-room. When there was a ball, he had the entire management of the dining-room, setting and decorating the tables sometimes for three hundred at a sitting. Upon the reopening of navigation, he resumed the steamboat business. He was married October 13, 1836, to Miss Anna Shonts, a farmer's daughter, born near Saratoga Springs, New York. February 11, 1838, he bought out his brother, who was a grocer. This business he conducted until the close of 1848. In 1845 and 1846 he draughted and superintended the erection of a block of buildings for Mrs. Dudley, who donated the Dudley Observatory to the city of Albany. During t!
his time he made a mold for running cornice, of an entirely new plan,
by the use of which over two-thirds of the material was saved, as used by the old style of mold. This new mold was in time adopted all over the United States. Had he taken out a patent on it, he would probably have made a large fortune. At the same time that he was engaged in this work, he had three large stores in different parts of the city, employing six clerks during the busy season, yet doing all the buying himself. When he concluded to come to California, he spent an entire year settling his large business. He sailed on the steamer Ohio, February 15, 1850, taking a steerage passage, as he said, to harden him for the expected rough experience of California. The passage was very severe, making the passengers extremely sick. Fortunately he had taken the wise precaution to put his system in good condition before embarking, so that he experienced little suffering. He therefore offered his services to the physician in taking care of the steerage passengers. His offer!
was gladly accepted, and he did good service, which was so well appreciated that the second day out he got a state-room, and took his meals at the captain's table. Being of a social disposition he soon won the good-will of the cabin passengers, and was treated by the officers as one of their number. At Havana he was invited to go ashore with them. At Chagres they engaged small boats to convey them to Gorgona, and pack-mules from there to Panama. Detained there a month they reached San Francisco April 29, 1850. He had shipped goods on the ship Solon, which ran afoul of a rock in the Magellan Straits, and much of her cargo was thrown overboard, and the remainder taken from the sinking vessel to a French bark and brought to San Francisco. He tried mining for two months, but was not successful. After this he engaged on a steamboat plying between San Francisco and Sacramento. This seemed his favorite and proper business. He received the income of the table and berths, !
making a profit the first four months of one thousand dollars per mont
h. This run of good-fortune ceasing, he engaged in the same work at a salary. October 10, 1851, he took passage for Albany, to bring his family to California. Six out of seven of his children were dead, the surviving child, a daughter, was brought to California, May 27, 1852. He again followed steamboating for a time, and then bought the Rhode Island House, succeeding very well until the Corporation ordered a sewer to be run through the street, requiring the building to be raised fifteen feet, when he sold out January 3, 1857, he started with his family for a ranch near Mowry's Landing, Alameda County. He had bought this ranch of a squatter, but it was inside a large inclosure where wild cattle were pastured, and he soon grew tired of the place. He then opened a store at the Landing, and soon established a fine business. As it was very difficult to get out to the stage road and to church in the rainy season, he built a store and dwelling at Washington Corners, where h!
e now resides (June 1, 1883). The second year after the San Jose Branch Railroad was completed, he took the agency at Washington Corners, and also the Wells, Fargo & Co's Express, doing the work for two years with entire satisfaction, relinquishing it to enable his only son to become a machinist. March 17, 1873, he was appointed Postmaster, an office he yet holds, administering its duties with the most scrupulous fidelity. Of his thirteen sons and daughters, only three survive at this writing, children who are a pleasure to their parents. His kind-hearted wife, a worthy partner, is still apparently in the best of health, her motherly face, a familiar feature in the village post-office. Mr. Mack in person is of medium height, slender, and still active as a boy. Age does not seem to dim his eye or make his step less elastic, and at the age of seventy-one his cheery voice and quick movements are the remark of his friends, and the best of arguments in favor of a busy life!
with temperate habits. He is a kind father and husband, and his hous
e is a happy home. In all public affairs he is among the readiest to take up his share of the burden. On public holidays he is the first to fling the banner of his country to the breeze. He is a village social and business factor, thoroughly identified with all the local interests. Just and exact in his dealings; genial and kindly in his feelings; he is a good representative American, one of the thousands of whom our country may be proud, and to whom we may look in confidence that her institutions will be sustained. A portrait of this gentleman will be found in the following pages.
History of Alameda County, California., Oakland, M.W. Wood Publ., 1883
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler
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