Old Check from the Bank of Napa issued in 1878 payable in gold coin. This historic document was printed by Printed by Crawford of Napa and has a vignette of grapes on the left side with an underprint saying " U.S. Gold Coin". This item is hand signed by the Banks's President ( Chancellor Hartson ) and is over 136 years old.
Hon. Chancellor Hartson, deceased, was born in Otsego County, New York, in 1824, his parents being Horace and Asenath (Lidell) Hartson. The Lidells were of English descent and had long lived in that State, and the family seat of Exeter, where the mother of our subject was born. The Hartsons were of Scotch ancestry, and the founders of the family in this country settled in New England. His grandparents on this side were John and Sybil (Hitchcock) Hartson. His father early engaged in the tanning business, but later in life established himself in agricultural pursuits. The subject of this sketch graduated from Madison University, New York State, and then at Fowler Law School, at Cherry Valley, in 1848. In 1850 he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of New York. Came to California the same year.
In July of the following year he came to Napa, where he at once entered upon the practice of law, and soon became popular. In September, 1851, he was elected to the office of District Attorney, and at the close of his term the people chose him for the more important position of county judge, which he filled with ability until 1858. In the meantime, in 1856, the Republican party first entered the field as a national organization, and Judge Hartson, who had previously been a Whig, threw the whole force of his strong nature into the service of the new party of progress. Almost alone he stood at that day a champion of the party’s cause in the community, but his strength proved of untold benefit in the cause of Republicanism. He was a regular and interested reader of the New York “Tribune”, and as the tone of that paper was exceedingly radical in favor of the new party and indeed of abolition, the fact of his taking it caused murmuring and even threats among the extremists in the ranks of the opposition. Observing this, Judge Hartson sent for additional copies of the great journal, saying that if one copy of the “Tribune” causes such a commotion, he would like to see the effects of two dozen! which he subscribed for and distributed among the people; but the threats against him were not carried out. He felt that there were troublous times ahead for the country, and bent every energy to the task of building up a strong support for the Government, with the result that when the civil war came on he was conceded the greater part of the credit for the strong organization of the Republican party which then existed. In 1861 he was elected to the Lower House of the State Legislature, and when the Assembly was organized for the important work of that session, the “war Legislature,” he was chosen Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In 1862 he was elected to the State Senate, and in that body was also appointed by its president to the first place on the Judicial Committee. His record in the Legislature of California during these, the Nation’s darkest hours, is a part of the State history; and his unselfish services were duly appreciated by the constituents who sent him there, and who, by their suffrages, kept him in the Senate continuously until 1866, when affairs again began to wear their former peaceful aspect.
He then felt that he deserved a rest from his arduous labors in the public behalf, and returned to the practice of his profession, which had naturally suffered while he was in the Senate. The law claimed almost his entire attention until 1871, when, for the first time, he entered extensively into the fields of finance. In that year he aided in the establishment of the Bank of Napa, and upon its organization was elected president. He conducted the affairs of the bank with unusual executive ability until January 1, 1879, and his management gave it wide prestige. In the meantime he also took a prominent part in the organization of the Bank of Lake, at Lakeport, and of the board of directors of which he was for years a member.
In 1879 W. J. Maclay was elected to the Assembly, but shortly afterward his death occurred. To fill the vacancy thus caused so much pressure was brought to bear upon Mr. Hartson, that, despite his earnest protestations, he was compelled to accept the nomination, which was heartily ratified by the people at the ensuing election. In this session of the Legislature, with the prestige of his former service and the advantages of the ripe judgment and mature mind he then possessed, he stood the peer of any man upon the floor of either House, and his natural ability as a shrewd financier came into splendid play upon the question of revenue and finance. His speech on Assembly Bill No. 404, embodying these subjects, was conceded to be the master effort of the session, and so great was the demand for it that an edition of 75,000, subsequently published, was in a very short time exhausted. An extract from this address, which will not be out of place in this connection, will give the reader an idea of the force and character of the man who uttered these sentiments:
“I rise under deep feelings of embarrassment and regret, inspired principally by the painful recollection that in the advocacy of this great constitutional measure, I am in conflict with the wishes of many highly esteemed friends, in and out of this House, whose good will I crave, and for whose opinions I entertain the highest respect. Nothing but a strong sense of duty and a clear conviction of right has impelled me to take so decided a stand, and maintain it with whatever of vigor and ability I possess. So far as I am concerned, I have no trouble in so construing that language as to tax all credits, all stocks and all property. I am decidedly in favor of rolling back and off the industries and lands of this State, and back up on the bondholders and stockholders, the great burden of taxation that belongs to the latter class to bear. I came here to do a great constitutional duty. I promised the suffering men and women of my home, when elected, that I would stand up for their rights against power and wealth and prerogative. I am here by my voice to fulfill that promise. My judgment approves that measure, and the work done for its accomplishment is the work of my hand and my heart as well as my intellect.”
In November, 1880, Judge Hartson was re-elected to succeed himself in the Legislature, and took an active part in the sessions of that and the following year. In 1881 he received, at the hands of President Garfield, the appointment as Collector of Internal Revenue for San Francisco district, and filled out his term of office in a masterly manner. This was his last public position. His death, which occurred suddenly, September 25, 1889, was a shock to the community, and drew forth expressions of profound regret throughout the entire State. From the Napa “Daily Register” is taken the following account of the circumstances of his death: “About one o’clock, to-day, as Hon. Chancellor Hartson was passing from the library of his home into the sitting room, he fell to the floor as if in a faint, when a gentleman, who happened to be present, placed him upon a lounge and ran for a doctor. Meanwhile Mrs. Hartson worked incessantly over the loved and lifeless form of her husband with the restoratives she had at hand, but in vain. Drs. Wrightman and Hostetter soon arrived, and one glance at the ashen face of the prostrate man was enough to tell them that the vital spark had fled.
“Mr. Hartson had been complaining of not feeling well for a week or more, but he was up and about all the time, engaged in the temperance work he had so cordially espoused, and no one had any idea that his end was so near – that the rest he had so royally earned was at hand. Death was probably occasioned by paralysis of the heart.”
The eulogies recited after his death show forth a character of greatness and nobility and true integrity, such as falls to the lot of but few men. That those who knew and respected him in life may tell further of his history and characteristics, the following extracts are here given. In the course of the funeral address delivered by A. J. Nelson, D. D., pastor of the Epworth Church, San Francisco, that eloquent divine took occasion to say:
“His life was an unceasing benediction to the community, the church and the State. In the history of the State, I find him in her legislative halls again and again, both in the Assembly and the Senate; the choice of the best people of the State more than once for Governor and for Congress. But he was no politician. Too honest to be a demagogue, too wise to be deceived by political tricksters, he preferred integrity to office, and manhood to money. But he left his impress on the political history of the State and party he loved so well.
“He was a friend of the common people. He stood like a wall of granite against political power, the influence of money, and the prerogatives of office and party. He was a financier of no ordinary ability, and had he loved money as he loved integrity, he would have been a millionaire. In every position he has occupied, he has shown himself the peer of any man in the management of the affairs of State.
“He was a beneficent man as well as benevolent: his purse and heart were open alike to all good works. In the early history of your city he is found on the board of trustees of the Presbyterian Church. He was president of the board of directors for the Insane Asylum, and president of Napa County Bank. His name is but a synonym for Napa College. On every board he was the chief brain and inspiration of all forward movements. He represented his own church at the last general conference held in New York city, in May, 1888. He took a part in the great debate – the right of women to a seat in the general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He voted for and maintained with his usual enthusiasm the right of his sisters to a seat in the highest councils of his church. General conference elected him a member of the National Committee of the American Sabbath Union.
“We admire a man that stands for something; some though; some great principle; some party; some church. When such a man dies, the world loses something; his friends have something to bury, and posterity something to honor and to copy, - some incarnation of some living issue.
“The evening work of his life was an original and well-planned assault on the saloons, that have blasted the hopes of thousands of families, and are the chief blight upon all the prospects of the State. He fell in the midst of his plans, a martyr to the cause; an overworked brain and a burdened heart which gave way under this great pressure.
“He was my friend and brother; a truer heart never beat in the mortal bosom.”
Rev. John Coyle, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Napa city, and Rev. Richard Wylie, of the Napa Presbyterian Church, each delivered an eloquent address, in which they paid tribute to his many noble qualities of head and heart. The newspapers of the State expressed the general sorrow felt upon the death of Judge Hartson, and the following extracts are but expressive of the general tone:
“Thus suddenly one of the most kingly of men has been summoned from earth. It is as if some grand temple had fallen – some mighty oak had been twisted from its well-rooted foundation – and so sudden we are dazed by the unlooked-for blow. The eulogies that shall be spoken over his casket need no artificial force. They will partake of the sincere sorrow that dwells in every true heart that knew and appreciated Judge Hartson – the loyal head of a beloved home, the sympathizing friend of suffering humanity, the one out of the few who ever said by his acts, ‘I dare do all that many become a man.’
“Napa is in mourning, for she is in the shadow of a great affliction: her truest and best citizen is no more.” – Napa “Daily Register”.
“Judge Hartson was the most prominent figure in the social, political, and business history of Napa County. Without detracting in the least from the reputation of any pioneer or other resident of this community, we can truthfully say that Judge Hartson did more to advance Napa and her best interests than any man that ever lived among us. He was always at the front in any movement that was inaugurated to help this town or county; and although his eloquent tongue has done much for us, he was more a man of deeds than of words, and his hands were ever ready, and his purse ever open to help Napa’s progress. And these acts were always done unostentatiously. In all his political life his aim was to do something for the whole people – not the classes in our country. Judge Hartson was a friend of the poor man, and spoke more kind words and did more charitable acts among the struggling poor than any other man in the county. He was a public benefactor, and Napa County has, by his death, suffered the greatest loss that ever befell her.” – Napa “Daily Reporter”.
“In the death of Hon. Chancellor Hartson the State loses one of its most honored citizens. As a citizen, his integrity of purpose was unimpeachable, and as a politician he stood on the highest plane. He was honest in all his dealings, whether with men, the interests of the State, or her relations to political matters. He was a man of great force of character, and during many years of public life made a marked impression on the affairs of the State, always for the best interests of the commonwealth. His death causes sincere regret in all parties; and hundreds of intimate friends, familiar with his sterling traits of character, will regard his sudden death as a personal bereavement.” – Oakland “Times”.
“The State of California has met with an irreparable loss in the death of Chancellor Hartson, which occurred at Napa yesterday. He was one of our ablest and purest men, and as a citizen, and a man of business, his equal is seldom found. As a lawyer Mr. Hartson was able, and as a public speaker he had few equals. His political record had no stain. As a business man he was a model. But those admired and loved him most who knew him as a true and unselfish friend.” – Oakland “Inquirer”.
These references to Judge Hartson show him to have been one of the strongest and truest of characters – a mighty power in whatever he participated. In his home life he was exceedingly happy, and a brief reference to his immediate family will be fitting in this connection.
Mrs. Hartson was, previous to her marriage, which occurred January 26, 1854, Miss Electa Burnell. She is a native of Sinclairville, Chautauqua County, New York, and a daughter of Rev. Joel and Electa (King) Burnell, both of whom were natives of Massachusetts. After their marriage in that State, they removed to western New York, where they took up a large farm. While living there, Mr. Burnell studied law, was admitted to the bar, and afterward became Judge, in which capacity he served many years, being one of the leading men of western New York, and one of the most active figures in public affairs though in no sense an office seeker. He afterward became a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, serving the churches throughout Chautauqua County, where he was loved and honored to a high degree. He and his wife both died in New York. Of their sons five grew to maturity, viz.: Madison, who became distinguished as one of the ablest jury lawyers of the nation; he died in 1865, in New York; Lorenzo, who followed the ship-building industry, and afterward was navigator, died in California, in 1857; Joel, who became a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, now resides at Eureka, where he supplies the local congregations; Ransom, a lawyer, came to California in 1850, practiced in the courts of this State served in its Legislature, and died in February, 1879; and Philo, a physician, died in 1857.
Judge and Mrs. Hartson reared four children, viz.: Burnell C., Ernest, Channing and Daisy Asenath. Ernest died August 22, 1884, being thus cut off at an untimely age from what would have undoubtedly been a brilliant career. He was a lad of great promise, of an unusually manly demeanor, and gave evidence of signal musical ability in addition to other qualities, which made him a general favorite. He was the pride and almost constant companion of his father, who was grief-stricken beyond expression by the loss of his boy. He never recovered from the shock, and indeed his own death is thought by many to have been hastened by this cause.
SOURCE: Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1891. pg. 337-341.
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