The San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers

The San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers was organized in the courthouse in the city of San Bernardino, in the county of San Bernardino, State of California, on the 21st day of January 1888, with thirty charter members.

Its objects, as stated in its constitution, are to cultivate the social virtues of its members, and to unite them by the bonds of friendship; to create a fund for benevolent purposes in be-half of its members, and to collect and preserve information and facts connected with the early settlement of California, and especially of the county of San Bernardino, with a history thereof from the time of such settlement to its organization as a county; to form libraries and cabinets, and by all other appropriate means to advance the interests and increase the prosperity of the society; to create a fund for the purchase of a suitable lot and the building thereon of a memorial hall to perpetuate the memory of those whose sagacity, energy and enterprise induced them to settle in this country, and to become the founders of a new county.

The qualifications for the admission of members embrace all persons who were citizens of the United States, or capable of becoming citizens thereof, and who were residents of California prior to the 31st day of December, 1850, and also those who were the residents of the county of San Bernardino at the time of its organization, April 26, 1853; and the male descendants of all such persons also shall be eligible to membership.

Honorary and life members may be admitted who have rendered distinguished and important services to the State, or to this society; also the wives and daughters of members of this society.
The meetings of the society have been regularly held every Saturday, at two o’clock, since its organization.

The first officers of the society, with their age, place of departure, mode of arrival, and place of arrival in the State of California, were as follows:

George Lord, Sr., age eighty nine, left New York, crossed the plains, and arrived at Steep Hollow, California, in 1849; was and is the president of the society, and has been present at every meeting since its organization, with but one exception, when he was attending the funeral of art old friend.

John Brown, Sr., the celebrated Rocky Mountain mountaineer and hunter, born December 22, 1817, at Worcester, Massachusetts, seventy. two years of age, crossed the plains with an ox and mule team, and arrived at Sacramento, California, in 1849; he was elected first vice-president of the society.

James W. Waters, Sr., age seventy-five, left New York, crossed the plains, and arrived at Los Angeles, California, in 1844; was elected second vice-president of the society, and was a life-long companion, hunter and trapper with John Brown, Sr. He died at his home in San Bernardino, on the 20th day of September, 1889.

David Seely, age seventy left Canada, crossed the plains and arrived in what is now San Bernardino, California, in 1850; he and John Brown, Sr., above referred to, are the only survivors of the commission appointed by the Legislature of this State to organize the county of San Bernardino, which they did April 26, 1853. Mr. Seely was elected third vice-president of the society.

H. B. Harris, treasurer, age sixty-three, left Virginia, crossed the plains, and arrived at Mariposa mines in 1849.

Henry M. Willis, corresponding secretary, age fifty-eight, left Maryland, came around Cape Horn, and reached San Francisco June 28, 1849.

John Brown, Jr., secretary of the society, age forty-two, left the Rocky Mountains, crossed the plains with his parents, and arrived at Sacramento, California, in 1849.

William F. Holcomb, vice-president, age fifty-nine, left Iowa, crossed the plains, and arrived at Hangtown in 1850.

Sydney P. Waite, age fifty-one, left Kentucky, crossed the plains, and arrived at San Gabriel, California, in 1849.

Marcus Katz, corresponding secretary, age sixty-six, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, came across the Isthmus, and arrived at San Francisco in August 1850.

R. W. Waterman, now Governor of the State of California, age sixty-three, left New York, crossed the plains, and arrived at Butte, California, in 1850.

Charles G. Hill, age seventy nine, left New Hampshire, came around Cape Horn, and arrived in San Francisco, then known as Yerba Buena, in 1834.

N. G. Gill, marshal, age fifty-nine, left New York, crossed the plains, and reached Feather River in 1849.

D. H. Wixom; marshal, native of Iowa, age forty-two, crossed the plains, and arrived in Los Angeles County in 1851.

At this date (May 10, 1890) the number of members has increased to ninety-seven, and during the existence of the society five of its members (Hardin Yager, James W. Waters, Sr., Peter Forsee, John Garner and B. F. Mathews) have ended their career on earth. Since its organization the Pioneer Society has taken an active part in all public celebrations; the 4th of July, Admission day, and the Centennial Anniversary of Washington’s inauguration as first President of the United States, were celebrated in an appropriate and becoming manner. The arrival of the California Pioneers from New England was made a special occasion for the manifestation of a most fitting welcome, participated in by the citizens generally, including the children of the city public schools. They arrived in San Bernardino on the 17th of April 1890, and were accorded such a welcome as will never be forgotten by those participating therein. A dramatic and imposing feature of this reunion was the sudden death of General Samuel A. Chapin, of Maine, who delivered before the assemblage in the opera house an address pregnant with sentiment and emotion. Immediately after he sat down it was observed that his head had fallen forward, as if he had swooned; investigation showed that he was dead no doubt from excess of emotion. Every honor possible, in word and deed, was shown to his memory by the San Bernardino Pioneers.

Source: An Illustrated History of Southern California: embracing the counties of San Diego, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange, and the peninsula of lower California.

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