The Valley of Heart's Delight


 Bio- Pen Pictures


            Judge Lawrence Archer, attorney-at-law, rooms 1, 2, and 3 Archer Building, corner of First and Santa Clara Streets, San Jose, has been prominently identified with the legal profession and the material and political interests of San Jose since 1853, and a resident of California since 1852, in which year he crossed the plains from St. Joseph, Missouri, not much for the golden attractions presented then by California as the promise held out of a restored health, the latter having been undermined by the malaria of Yazoo County, Mississippi, and not much improved by a residence on the banks of the Missouri.  A native of South Carolina, where he was born, in the Anderson district (now Anderson County) in 1820, he there received his primary education, after which he attended the University of Virginia, and later studied law in the office of Armisted Burt, a prominent attorney of Abbeville, South Carolina.  These educational advantages were largely paid for by his own earnings, his father, who had been a merchant and planter of South Carolina, having met with financial reverses while the subject of this sketch was yet a lad, throwing the latter on his own resources at an early age.  His parents were John and Ann (Mosely) Archer, both natives of Virginia.  Removing to Yazoo County, Mississippi, in 1841 he was admitted by the Supreme Court of the State of Mississippi to the practice of law, which he followed in Yazoo County two years.  The malarial fevers of that region making a change of climate necessary, he removed to St. Joseph, Missouri, making the trip by steamboat the greater part of the way, then by stage, and finally, owing to an accident, the latter part of the way on foot.  He practiced law in that city with success, remaining there for eight years, and finally resigned the office of district attorney, to which he had been elected three years previously, to come to California in search of health, which seemed impossible to regain elsewhere.

            He settled in Sacramento, where he remained until after the great fire of 1852, then removed to San Francisco, where he remained a short time, finally settling, in January, 1853, in San Jose, where he has remained permanently since that time, and where he has since devoted himself to the practice of his profession.

            In 1867 he was elected county judge, holding that position until August, 1871, when he resigned that for the session of 1875-76.  He was made chairman of the Committee on Corporations, which, on account of the part taken by the railroads in the politics of the State, was the most important committee in the House.  As chairman of that committee he prepared a bill to regulate fares and freights, which became famous as the “Archer Bill.”  Up to this time the people had been industriously educated to the impression that no one who had not served for years in the transportation business could intelligently act in this matter.  Judge Archer demonstrated that there was one man at least who could grasp and solve the problem.

            The bill was defeated in the Senate, but the agitation arising from it resulted later in the passage of the “Railroad Commission Bill.”  In 1864 he removed with his family to New York, remaining there for eighteen months, during which time he did not enter into the practice of his profession or any business engagements.  He returned to his California office to enter the campaign as a nominee for Congress from this district, which at that time included San Francisco and the entire southern portion of the State.  Judge Archer has twice been elected mayor of San Jose, the first time in 1857 and again in 1877, in neither case elected as a representative of either of the great political parties, but as a candidate of the better elements of both parties, the last time opposing the nominee of the so-called Workingmen’s party.  He also served one term in the State Legislature in 1866.

            He was married in Missouri, in 1848, to Miss Louise Martin of St. Joseph.  This lady died in 1869, leaving one child, Louise, now the wife of M. J. Flavin, a merchant of San Francisco.  He was married in 1870 to Miss Alice B. Bethell, a native of Indiana, at that time on a visit to relatives in California.  There have been born to them two children:  Lawrence, born in 1871, and Leo, born in 1874.  Lawrence is now attending the Santa Clara College, and Leo attending the public schools of San Jose.

            Judge Archer has 160 acres, in the southeast corner of San Jose, where he resides, and on which he has an orchard of thirty acres, planted in cherries, apricots and prunes.  This place he has owned since 1861, and has devoted it to farming and fruit raising.           

            The Judge took great pride in his cherry orchard, which consisted for four acres, for which the income averaged about $3,000 per year.  He was the first fruit-grower in Santa Clara County to utilize the labor of women and children in his orchard, thus giving desirable employment to a large number of deserving people.  Judge Archer foresaw the future prosperity of San Jose when he first settled here, and has done much to develop the resources of the county.  He purchased largely of real estate, and the fact that he could always procure what money he wanted with no other security than his word, indicates the estimation in which he was held by the community.  He was always foremost in improvements; he built the first prominent brick building on First Street, and always kept in advance of the first rank of progress.  During all the heated political campaigns in which he has taken a prominent part, not one word has ever been spoken reflecting on his ability or integrity.

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. p. 90-91

Transcribed by Kathy Sedler


SANTA CLARA COUNTY HISTORY- The Valley of Heart's Delight
July 22, 2005