The Valley of Heart's Delight

EUGENE T. SAWYER -Author - History of Santa Clara County


   California has been especially fortunate in her men and women of literary talent, some of whom are native sons and daughters, and many of whom have come from other parts of the great Union, bringing with them talent which was to be developed in the Golden State; among whom will always be remembered, in both widespread esteem and affection, Eugene T. Sawyer, whose "Nick Carter" stories gave a pleasurable thrill to thousands of fiction readers, and whose latest work is the History of Santa Clara County in this volume.  Pages of exceptional interest might be written about this successful author; but it is doubtful if, after all, anyone can tell the story of his many-sided life half so well as himself.

   "I was born in Bangor, Maine," he says, "November 11, 1846.  On the 11th of November, 1918, the great European War came to an end, so it will be seen that when the world celebrates the event, it also celebrates my birthday.  Thus quite a load is taken from my shoulders, for instead of financing the event, I hold my horses, and permit Europe and America to do the honors and pay the bills.  As a youngster, I evinced a strong liking for hunting, fishing and theater-going.  The liking stays with me, though I seldom indulge it, for game is scarce, the auto-fiends have skinned the streams, and the good actors are all dead.  I am also greatly interested in politics and national affairs. Acquired the taste in the late '50s and early '60s, when I was so fortunate as to be a listener to the oratory of Stephen A. Douglas, William H. Seward, James G. Blaine, Hannibal Hamlin, Bob Ingersoll, Henry Edgerton, Henry Winter Davis, Wendell Phillips, Tom Fitch, Henry Ward Beecher, Marshall of Kentucky, and Rhett of Arkansas.

   "At the age of twelve, I embarked in the show business by acting as promoter and manager of barn entertainments to which the price of admission was one copper cent or its equivalent in pins, nails, old iron and old newspapers.  The proceeds of an entertainment went, as a rule, to buy a cocoanut, a lobster, a bag of candy or a seat in the pit of a theater.  As I grew older my mind turned to newspaper work and at fourteen I became a morning newspaper carrier.  Once I had the extreme honor (so I thought at the time) of selling a paper to Charles F. Browne (Atremus Ward) who had lectured in Bangor the night before.  In 1864 I came to California, via the Isthmus of Panama.  Stayed in San Francisco a short time, then traveled to San Jose.  For a year I attended the San Jose Institute, as a supplement to a high school education, my classical work being done under the supervision of D. M. Delmas, now a resident of Los Angeles.

   "Since that time I have been a miner (in Nevada), druggist and book-keeper in San Francisco, rancher and newspaper publisher in San Benito County and newspaper man in San Jose.  This work in San Jose was sometimes varied by incursions into the field of sensational story writing.  In the Nick Carter and Log Cabin series my heroes were always fearless and manly, my heroines brave and beautiful, and virtue always triumphed.  As an exploiter of the alleged adventures of Buffalo Bill, my imaginative hands became steeped in gore and I might be writing of the dead scout yet were it not for the sorrowful fact that my material gave out, as I had made Bill kill or cause to be killed every Indian in the far West.

   "For thirty-five years I did newspaper work in San Jose, starting as reporter and winding up as managing editor.  I have written plays, acted in them and in other fellows' plays, and might have adopted the stage as a profession if my hard, common sense had not told me that I would never mount to the height where stars shine.  But I have had a sort of compensation in the knowledge that I have helped to shape the careers of those ornaments to the American stage--Eleanor Calhoun (Princess Lazarovich), John T. Malone, Samuel W. Piercey, John W. Dunne and Frank Bacon; and that I have guided my friends, Hugh A. DeLacy, A. P. Murgotten and Louis Lieber, into experiences that have furnished stories, mostly amusing, they will never be weary of telling.

   "I have published one book, 'The Life of Tiburcio Vasquez.'  It saw the light in 1875, shortly after the execution, in San Jose, of the notorious bandit and murderer.  I was the correspondent of the San Francisco Chronicle immediately after the raid on Tres Pinos which resulted in the killing of three men; and I had gathered material from interviews with old acquaintances of the bandit in Monterey and San Benito counties and from frequent talks with Vasquez himself.

   "I have held but one public office--member of the board of education, 1877-79.  It is only fair to say, in this connection, that I have often aspired to the Presidency of this mighty and badly governed nation.  I am aspiring yet, for I would like to be in a position to lower the high cost of living and give a poor man opportunity to eat bacon without having to place a plaster on his home to obtain the wherewithal for the purchase."

   Mr. Sawyer was married on September 27, 1871, to Belle Moody, daughter of Charles Moody, whose father, R. G. Moody, was the pioneer mill man in San Jose.  The mill was first erected in 1854 on the bank of Coyote Creek at about the spot where Empire Street strikes the stream. The business was transferred to Third Street, northeast corner of Santa Clara Street, in 1858, and R. G. Moody's sons, Charles, Volney (see his obit below) and David, conducted the mill until it was sold to the Sperry Milling Company.  After a few years Volney Moody retired to become an Oakland banker.  Mrs. Sawyer, who died on January 28, 1921, spent her childhood days in the old family home on the northeast corner of Second and Santa Clara Streets, the site of the present five-story Porter building.  She received her early education in the public schools of San Jose, following which she entered the San Jose Institute, conducted by Freeman  Gates.  After her marriage she found both pleasure and profit in the art of painting, in which she was unusually gifted.  She was also of great assistance to her husband in his literary work.  She was the mother of two children, Elva B., now a teacher in the Grant School, San Jose, and Louis E., a fruit grower in San Benito County.  Lovable, sympathetic and unselfish, the memory of her life and character will always be cherished with pride and affection by her surviving husband and by her relatives and friends.

Transcribed by Joseph Kral, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 372

Obit for Volney Moody:


Death of a Widely Known Pioneer Formerly of San Jose
Volney D. Moody, for many years a resident of this city, died at his home
in Berkeley Wednesday night, after a paralytic prostration of three years.
He was a native of Rodman, Jefferson county, New York, where he was born,
August 15, 1829. He was educated in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and crossed the
plains with his parents in 1849. He engaged in lumbering and milling in
Santa Clara county, and with his brothers, Charles and David B. Moody,
conducted Moody's mill on Third street near Santa Clara street, in this
city, for nearly twenty years. Some years before the sale of their property
to the Central Milling Company, now the Sperry Company, he disposed of
his interest to his brothers and removed to Oakland, where he became largely
interested in realty and numerous business enterprises. He has at various
times been President of the First National Gold Bank, Home Savings Bank,
and Vice-President of the State Bank, all of Oakland, also of the Oakland
Home Insurance Company. He was at one time a part owner in the Moody gulch
property, where the Santa Clara county oil wells are located. He leaves
a son and two daughters. His estate is worth a half million dollars.
San Jose Daily Mercury, Friday Morning, March 29, 1901-
transcribed by jch

Mansion of Volney Moody - Berkeley


update 11/6/2005