Bio- Pen Pictures


H. H. Kooser, one of the men who came to California in its pioneer days, dates his birth in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, September 9, 1827.  His father, Jacob S. Kooser, was born in Pennsylvania, of German parentage on the paternal side.  His mother, Ellen (Park) Kooser, was a daughter of Benjamin Park, one of the heroes of the Revolution.  She died when the subject of our sketch was but three years old.  He was early inured to hard labor on his father’s farm, and when fifteen years of age concluded that he could do better for himself by learning a trade.  Accordingly he left the old home, and bound himself as an apprentice to a wagon-maker.  At twenty-one years of age he had become master of his trade, and left Pennsylvania with the intention of coming to California; but at St. Louis, learning of the prevalence of cholera on the Missouri River that season (1849), he decided to defer for the time further travel westward.  He went from there to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he was engaged on the construction of the first permanent loch and dam ever erected on the Cedar River at that point.  At the close of the season he returned East, and the following year came to California by way of the Isthmus.  The journey was a slow and vexatious one, but was accomplished in a shorter time, and perhaps with less danger, than an overland trip.

     Landing at San Francisco, Mr. Kooser took an early opportunity to visit, at Monterey, his brother, Mr. Benjamin P. Kooser, who came to the State as a member of Company F. of Colonel Stevenson’s Regiment, in 1846, and served throughout the Mexican War, and was still in the service, being stationed at that place.  After a visit with him, the subject of our sketch spent a short time at Chinese Camp and Indian Gulch mines, but soon commenced work at his trade in Monterey.  In 1851 he again engaged in mining for a short time, after which he entered, as a mechanic, the United States service accompanying an expedition against hostile Indians at the head of the San Joaquin Valley, where he helped to build a fort.  Later in that year (1851), Mr. Kooser entered the employ, as a mechanic, of the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Company, where he remained fifteen years, receiving large wages, and always retaining he confidence of his employers.  His earnings for the first few years were, as he supposed, carefully invested, but he lost $4,000 in loans which were never repaid.

     During the two or three years in which the quicksilver mines were closed on account of litigation growing out of a contest for the possession of the property, Mr. Kooser invested a portion of his money in stock-raising in San Luis Obispo County.  The undertaking proved a disastrous one, for the drought of 1864 brought a total loss of his stock, and the enterprise which had looked so promising when projected in 1857 cam to naught.  In 1866 he commenced the improvement of 200 acres of land on the Almaden road, three miles north of New Almaden, and there made his home for several years.  The real estate he yet owns, but for a long time it has been occupied by renters.

     His present fine residence on the Almaden road, six miles from San Jose, was taken possession of in 1877.  The buildings are of the best class, comfort and convenience being consulted in their construction, with little or no regard for the cost.  The home, surrounded by beautiful grounds, is approached by an avenue, 250 yards in length, shaded by evergreens.  The estate contains 120 acres of the choicest valley land.  Mr. Kooser also owns a fine dairy farm of 150 acres in Monterey County, and, beside some business property in San Jose, about twenty-five houses and lots in that city.  His active life, in connection with his splendid business qualifications, has enabled him, in spite of losses sufficiently large to have broken down any man not possessed of his indomitable will, to acquire large wealth.  He has been entirely the architect of his own fortune, and in his case industry and frugality have been well rewarded.

     On the eighth of April, 1871, Mr. Kooser wedded Miss Lena McAbee, who was born in Franklin County, New York, September 24, 1850.  She is the mother of five children, viz.: Emma, Newton (deceased), Herman B., Lulu May, and Norman B.

     Mr. Kooser’s father, after spending the best part of his life on the sterile hills of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, came as far west as Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where his life closed January 25, 1872.

     In the early days, our subject was a Whig and a devoted admirer of Henry Clay, and, since the organization of the Republican party, has been an active member of it.  He has illustrated by his life-work what can be done in this gracious land, by a man possessed of energy and thrift, combined with good common sense in management.

Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H.S. Foote.- Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.     Transcribed by: Letisha Oddo  Pg. 405/406