The Valley of Heart's Delight

Mayor of San Jose
Founder of San Jose Free Library

Surnames: Pfister, Glein, Schemmel, Lomber
contributed by jchavnar

From: Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. Edited by H.S. Foote, Published, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company 1888. Pages 357 – 358

Adolph Pfister. This gentleman, one of the earliest California pioneers, came to this State in 1847, in Colonel Stevenson’s regiment. This regiment was intended for the conquest of California and for its later colonization, the troops taking along not only their muskets and arms, but implements of agriculture. It was brought around Cape Horn in three vessels chartered by the United States for the transportation of this expedition, viz.: the Thomas Perkins, Susan True, and the Loo-choo. The former vessel, on which Mr. Pfister embarked, arrived February, 1847, being the first ship of the expedition to reach San Francisco. This regiment remained in service until the fall of 1848. Part of it went to Lower California, having some engagements with the Mexicans, and part went to fight the Indians in the San Joaquin Valley. Mr. Pfister was with the Regimental Band at this time at Monterey, the State capital. The regiment was mustered out of service in 1848, about the time of the discovery of gold by Marshall, and Mr. Pfister went to the mines in El Dorado County, usually returning with pockets full of gold in the winter to San Jose. But in the spring of 1849, perceiving that the population would be much increased by the discovery of gold, and that other interests would prosper, Mr. Pfister built a hotel, completing it in 1850. He paid $500 per thousand for lumber, brinks, and other materials in proportion. This was called the Washington Hotel, and was conducted by Mr. Pfister for several years, after which he sold it to his partner and engaged in the mercantile business, commencing in 1854, and continuing until about 1885. He did a most extensive business, keeping all kinds of goods and supplying stores to the farmers. There being no banks here at the time, Mr. Pfister accommodated many people by taking care of their money, etc. Many miners and others left money and valuables with him, perhaps not calling for their property for years, always to find their trust secure and their valuables in good order.

Mr. Pfister was born in Strasburg, Alsace, in 1821, attending the schools of that section during his youth. He traveled for several years in France, Germany, Italy, and finally left Paris for New York, arriving in 1844, where he remained two years before joining Colonel Stevenson’s regiment. He had learned the mercantile business in his father’s and other business establishments.

In 1850 he was united in marriage to Miss Louisa Glein, a native of Hesse Cassel, Germany. A brother of Mrs. Pfister had come to California in 1843, returning to Europe in 1848, and taking with him the first gold ever taken from California to Europe. In 1850 he returned to California, bringing with him his sister, who later became the wife of Adolph Pfister. A pleasing coincidence in this connection is worth repeating: Mr. Pfister had known Mr. Glein intimately in Naples, Italy, and expected to meet him in Paris, but happened to miss him, although they lived on the same street for a year, each seeking the other without success. Imagine the surprise and gratification of both, when in the very first house Mr. Pfister entered in San Francisco, in 1847, the first man he met was his old friend Glein ! This house was a long, low adobe, in which was a hotel, saloon, bakery, etc., owned by a man engaged in blacksmithing. When in 1850, Mr. Pfister married the sister of his old friend there was only one church in San Francisco, and in this the ceremony was performed. Six children have blessed this union: Frank M., now the township justice of San Jose Township; Emily, residing with her parents; Henry A., engaged in mercantile business in Santa Clara; Matilda, wife of Henry L. Schemmel, of San Jose; Adele, wife of Ernest Lomber, manager of Gray’s Music Store in San Francisco; Herman C., engaged in the hardware business.

Mr. Pfister retired from business about three years ago, and now enjoys the results of a well-spent life. He was twice elected Mayor of the city of San Jose, and with the salary of that position he founded the San Jose Free Library. He has always supported the Democratic party, voting for Douglas in the campaign of 1860. He is President of the San Jose Free Library, and also of the Paul O. Burns Wine Company.