Among the pioneers of Merced County none had a more eventful career than Henry F. F. Salau, who made his home five miles southwest of Los Banos. He was a prominent rancher and stockman in California, and few had touched at as many ports of the world as had Mr. Salau while he was sailing the seas. He was born June 3, 1835, at Kiel, Germany, the son of John and Catherine (Kremhoff) Salau, also natives of that same place. The mother died in 1854 while the father lived to reach the age of sixty. He was a weaver by trade and he and his wife were members of the Lutheran Church and strict in the discipline of their children.
The oldest son in the family, Henry Salau remained at home until he was fourteen; then, feeling the touch of poverty and lack of opportunity, he became a sailor aboard the brig “Betsy of London,” which was the vessel used by John Paul Jones fifty years before, sailing to London, then to Quebec, Canada, but before reaching the latter port experienced his first shipwreck, in which eleven of the crew were rescued by the Humboldt of Hamburg and taken to New York. Three months later he shipped on the Humboldt for Hamburg, then on the same ship made two trips to New York. The last time he came around the Horn to California, reaching San Francisco in August, 1852. Thereafter he was engaged in the coasting trade between San Francisco and Puget Sound. In 1861 he shipped on the Challenger for Liverpool, a voyage of 103 days. His next ship was the Nicholas Biddle for New York, after which he took a trip to the West Indies on the Warwick. His next trip was around the Horn on the clipper ship, Magnet, 140 days. He continued as a sailor on various ships and had reached the rank of second officer. During the years that had passed he had become well informed on conditions in nearly every part of the world, and when he had spent about a year in Germany, where he worked in a moulding factory, he decided he would come to the United States and California. Like the majority of men who follow the sea, he had not accumulated any money, so he had to begin at the bottom and work his way to the top. His arrival in San Francisco was in April, 1867, on the Moses Taylor. Going to Santa Clara he farmed in that vicinity until 1869, then went to the West Side in Merced County and ‘entered 160 acres near Volta. He did not prove up on this land but soon settled near Los Banos and engaged in the sheep business. In 1871 he located on 160 acres and improved it and made that his home for many years, adding to his property until he had 700 acres which he devoted to grain and stock.
Mr. Salau entered into every movement that had for its end the betterment of general conditions, was a strong Republican and served on the County Central Committee and as a delegate to county and state conventions. Fraternally he held membership in the Workmen. He was reared in the Lutheran faith and belonged to that church in Los Banos. He married at Kiel, Germany, Miss Marie Dorathea (Weber) Salau, born in Holstein, and they had five children: Augusta C, the wife of M. Becker of Berkeley; Adolph of Fruitvale; Mary; Louis, who died in 1918 ; and Doretta C, of Los Banos. Mr. Salau died on April 12, 1910, aged seventy-five, and Mrs. Salau passed away on November 23, 1919.
Source: Outcalt, John. A history of Merced County, California : with a biographical review of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; Los Angeles, Calif. : Historic Record Company, 1925.