Biography of William Emil Gerber of Sacramento

William E. Gerber
William E. Gerber

William Emil Gerber, actively identified with industrial and manufacturing interests in central California, makes his home in Sacramento. He is deeply interested in community affairs and his efforts have also been a potent element in the business progress of this section of the state. He has, with ready recognition of opportunity, directed his labors into various fields wherein he has achieved success, and at the same time has promoted a business enterprise that has proved of more than local value, largely promoting the commercial activity of the state.

Mr. Gerber is a native of Buffalo, New York, born September 8, 1852. The family is of German descent, and his parents, Pantalion and Sybilla (Gerber) Gerber, were both natives of Germany, whence they came to America in 1844. The year 1860 witnessed their arrival in California and the establishment of their home in Sacramento. The father was a butcher by trade and in this city conducted a wholesale butchering business until his life’s labors were ended in death in 1878. He was then succeeded in business by his three sons, John, Henry, and Louis, and at the present writing the business is conducted by John and Louis Gerber.

William Emil Gerber was a pupil in the public schools of Sacramento in his early boyhood days, having been brought to California when in his eighth year. In 1866, however, he returned to Buffalo and attended the St. Louis Academy, devoting a year and a half to the study of German. He afterward pursued a course of study in Bryant and Stratton’s Business College in Buffalo, New York, and in 1869 returned to California. The following year and a half he devoted to the work of a clerkship in a grocery store, and in 1870 he purchased a half interest in a mercantile enterprise in Sacramento, the funds for this business venture being advanced to him by C. W. Clarke, to whom he has ever expressed deepest gratitude for his friendship and timely assistance. Mr. Gerber continued in the grocery business for seven years with excellent success, putting forth every effort in his power to build up a good trade and make the enterprise profitable. On the expiration of that period, he sold out, and in the same year, 1877, was elected county auditor and recorder of the county. He filled the position so acceptably that in 1879 he was re-elected and again in 1881 and 1883, so that he was the incumbent in the office for four consecutive terms and continued to discharge its duties until January 1885.

At that time Mr. Gerber was appointed assistant cashier of the California State Bank and filled the position for nine years or until 1894. He was then elected cashier and served in the latter capacity until 1901, when he resigned that position in order to devote his time and energies to the development of various business concerns with which he had become connected. He was, however, elected a director and vice president of the bank, which is his present connection with the institution. In the meantime, Mr. Gerber has become connected with various industrial and commercial interests of the state, and his sound business judgment and enterprise have proved important factors in the successful control of many important interests. He is the president of the Earl Fruit Company and has been the secretary and a director of the Buffalo Brewing Company since its organization in 1889. He is president of the Folsom Development Company, engaged in mining with dredging processes near Folsom. This is one of the largest companies of the kind in the state. Mr. Gerber is a director and vice president of the Sacramento Natural Gas Company, is a director of the California Winery and president of the California Manufacturing Company, which is engaged in the manufacture of fruit boxes and baskets and other supplies used by fruit shippers. He owns and operates cattle and sheep ranches in Tehama County, his landed possessions there comprising eleven thousand acres.

On the 21st of December 1881, Mr. Gerber was united in marriage to Miss Hattie A. Lyon, a daughter of Edward Lyon, who came from Vermont to the Pacific Coast in 1860 and was for many years a prominent and leading merchant of Sacramento. They now have five children: Edward H., Anna, Irma, Harriett, and William E., Jr. Mr. Gerber belongs to the Masonic fraternity and to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He is a believer in Republican principles, is an active worker in the ranks of the party and has frequently been a delegate to county and state conventions. In 1901 he was appointed state fish commissioner by Governor Gage and in 1903 was re-appointed by Governor Pardee. For many years he has been connected with the upbuilding of Sacramento and central California and has just reason to be proud of the fact that to his efforts can be traced many a substantial enterprise or advancement contributing greatly to the growth and prosperity of this section of the state. In every sense of the word, he is a representative citizen and a businessman of marked capacity. He always attributes his success to his friend, Mr. Clarke, who loaned him the money to engage in business before he had attained his majority, but while this certainly is a matter of gratitude it was to the inherent force of character and commendable ambition and the unremitting diligence of Mr. Gerber himself that he steadily advanced in the business world until he now occupies a leading place among the active and representative men of central California.

Source: Leigh H. Irvine; A History of the New California Its Resources and People, 2 Volumes; New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.

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