Stories From The Grave
Andrew Jackson Elsbree
Final Resting Place Row 4, Plot 103
The subject of this sketch is a well-known and highly esteemed early settler of Sonora, Tuolumne County, California, who came to this state in 1855. He was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, on September 18, 1828, his ancestry being easily traced to the landing of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. He is a direct descendent of Mayflower passenger, Richard Warren. His father was a nailer by trade, an industrious and temperate man, but his death occurred at the early age of thirty-eight, and our subject is the only survivor of the four children. His mother also died at the early age of twenty-nine years.
It appears that his father’s death precipitated the need for Andrew to seek a new life and, at the young age of 17, he began a life at sea. He cast anchor in forty-two seaports, sailing on commercial vessels and on the warships Albany and Franklin, and following the sea for nine years .He then took passage from New York to San Francisco, by way of the Isthmus, arriving there June 7, 1855, and then made his way to Jamestown, Tuolumne County. Here our subject began placer mining, remembering his stepmother with a gift of the first gold he took out of the river.
Mr. Elsbree worked at various claims in Columbia with the usual amount of success and failure familiar to placer mining, but finally came to the spot in Sonora, known as Greaser Gulch. This became his home. A small ravine runs through the rear portion of the property, and in 1858 he took from this ravine from thirty to forty dollars per day, taking out forty-four ounces of gold in one week, (roughly $2500-$3500 in current gold values) and in ten weeks he had taken out three thousand, four hundred and eighty one dollars, an estimate of over $290,000. It is said that at one point he took out a nugget weighing six and a half pounds!
Our Andrew was married, at the age of 39, to Pamelia Caroline Tucker, a native of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the widow of a Union soldier in the Civil war, who suffered at the infamous Andersonville POW camp. She was at that time the mother of a 1 year old son. 8 children were born to Pamelia and Andrew. Several are buried here at the cemetery, including her first child, Roscoe Tucker. One child, Andrew Eugene, died at the age of 27, in a mining accident. The narrative I found in the archives, states that he was found with a 3-4 ton boulder on top of him. He died a short time later before help could save him.
Being well known as a man of courage, Andrew was made deputy constable, with full power to keep the peace, and for twenty-three years and seven months, was the night watchman for the city of Sonora, being the oldest night watchman in the state. Many thrilling experiences and escapes has he had. At all times he was assisted by his faithful dog, Rover, which on a number of occasions was instrumental in the saving of his life.
At the age of 86, Andrew was given his final rest and was buried in this cemetery. His obituary, which appeared in the Union Democrat on May 2, 1914 read as follows:
“In the 61 years of his life spent here he was ever found to be an honorable and upright citizen, and enjoyed to the fullest extent the confidence and esteem of every member of the community. For years, in the more turbulent times, he was guardian of the town by night, and he was vigilant and faithful in the performance of his duties, and fearless and brave when the situation required the exercise of those qualities. Gentle, genial and generous, the heart of a true pioneer beat beneath his breast, and its beats were ever in sympathy with the affiliated in all walks of life.”
Socially, Mr. Elsbree was an Odd Fellow, joining the order in 1856 and was one of the oldest members in California. He is one of the best representatives of the early settler to be found in Tuolumne County,
According to the 1860 census I read, Andrew was a neighbor to William Sell. If you will notice, they are still neighbors, as William Sell has a plot just a few away from Andrew. His son, Alonzo is buried in Row 5 with wife Jane Carne, and daughter Susan Miller and son Andrew Eugene are also buried in Andrews plot on row 4. Son Charles and his wife Reba are in Row 5 and daughter Fannie Ball is in Row 6.
Written By Pat Dambacher
*Source-“A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of Northern California”, Pages 279-280. Chicago Standard Genealogical Publishing Co. 1901
• Real Life Pioneers: Andrew Jackson Elsbree (1828-1914)