REV. ORRIN CRITTENDEN
SURNAMES: SMITH, WILLIAMS
The subject of this sketch, an honored citizen of Santa Clara County, well known in religious circles throughout the State, was born in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, February 3, 1814. In the schools of the old “Bay State” he received such an education as was common to the New England boy of not wealthy parentage in those years. Studious and earnest, he made the best of his limited opportunities, and all his life has been quite a student. Possessed of an inquiring mind, vigorous intellect, and retentive memory, he has been enabled to overcome the disadvantages arising from a lack of a liberal education in his youthful days.
When twenty-two years of age, like so many of the best New England stock, the subject of our sketch went westward, and in the State of Illinois lived from the autumn of 1836 until 1852,--the larger part of the time being spent in Calhoun County. In early manhood he was converted to the cause of Christ, and in 1847 was ordained in the ministry of the Missionary Baptist Church. Entering zealously into the work of winning souls, he labored faithfully in the Master’s vineyard, until, in 1852, he closed his labors in Illinois, and crossed the plains and mountains to this sunny land. In February, 1853, he made a claim of the land in Fremont Township, upon which he has ever since resided. His homestead, which contains 160 acres, is one and a half miles from New Mountain View, near the road leading to the bay. When he located his land, Mr. Crittenden intended to improve a homestead, upon which his family could live, and by the income of which they could be maintained. As for himself, he looked forward joyously to a life devoted to preaching the gospel without price,--a life of missionary work. Those plans have never fully “materialized,” on account of circumstances entirely beyond his control. During his early residence in the county, Mr. Crittenden devoted two years to missionary work, entirely at his own expense. A part of this work was the organization of a church of forty members at San Juan. Two more years he acted as colporteur for the Philadelphia Baptist Publication Society, in connection with his missionary work, and for this labor he received some pecuniary aid.
As his land became valuable, claimants under Mexican grants appeared, and endeavored to gain possession of his homestead, as well as of those of other settlers in his neighborhood. This contest, passing through the local courts, was decided at the end of eight years in the Supreme Court at Washington, in his favor. Naturally, this litigation absorbed all his time and income for years. Notwithstanding these obstacles, Mr. Crittenden has devoted much of his time to the spreading of the “glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.” When not regularly established over any church, he has ever been ready to respond to all calls, which could, consistently with his duty to his family, be heeded. At the camp-meeting north of Healdsburg, on Russian River, he assisted in the conversion of forty souls. In connection with the Cumberland Presbyterian ministry in the San Ramon Valley, he participated in a series of revival meetings, where grand results were achieved. This is, perhaps, not the place for a detailed history of his ministerial work, neither can space be given to detail; but suffice it to say that what he could do has been well and cheerfully done. As a helper to all, without regard to creed, no man has been found more ready, even at the sacrifice of personal interests, to respond to all calls, than he. He is a man of strong religious feeling, and one who counts nothing as gain, unless it tends to God’s glory. Though well past the three-score years and ten allotted to man, and not possessed of robust health, he is filled with an ambition for the carrying on of the Master’s work that many a young man might envy, and will devote the few years left to him to preaching the gospel, and to that auxiliary work,--temperance. He is an ardent advocate not only of temperance, but also of prohibition. Cleared from financial trouble, he is now free to give his attention to his chosen work.
Mr. Crittenden has experienced more than the usual trials of the pioneer, for he had hardly recovered from the effect of the litigation for the possession of his home, when an overflow of Stevens Creek swept over his farm, and did damage that years of toil, with his diminished income, no more than repaired. This happened in January, 1880, and in July of the same year his fine family residence, with its furniture, and a library which he had spent forty years in collecting, was destroyed by fire! These losses created an indebtedness of $7,000, which it took years of industry and economy to liquidate. The original entry of 160 acres is still retained by the family, and perhaps no better land can be found in the county. A fine orchard for home use furnishes almost every variety of deciduous fruit. At the present writing the farm is devoted almost entirely to the production of hay, which it yields bountifully. A large expenditure has been made to prevent the recurrence of the disastrous flooding of 1880.
Of Mr. Crittenden’s family we record that he married Virginia Caroline Smith, a native of St. Clair County, Illinois, October 4, 1870. She was a widow, and the mother of two children, Albert and Olive, who took the name of their stepfather. Olive died April 22, 1873. By the second marriage there have been three children: Elmer Orrin, who died April 10, 1888, in his eighteenth year; a daughter, that died in infancy; and George, a promising lad, now fourteen years of age. He is his father’s assistant in the management of the farm, and has been carefully reared and educated, with the expectation of taking a collegiate course, should his health permit. The death of Elmer was a specially severe loss to his parents. He had been trained and educated with great care, and was a bright, studious youth, a loving son, and the pride of his parents. He was beloved by all who knew him, and his death was felt to be a common bereavement. He had the faith of the Christian, and was a devoted member of the Missionary Baptist Church. His loss was a very hard blow for the family, but was borne with the Christian fortitude which had sustained them through many trials less severe.
married Miss Alice Williams. They are well settled in life, having their home
not far from Mayfield.
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 Kathy Sedler
Proofread by Betty Vickroy
SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIOGRAPHY PROJECT