Biography of John Wasson

John Wasson, of Chino, is most widely known as an editor, but this accomplishment has been rather an incident than a design in his career. He was born in Wayne County, Ohio, August 20, 1833, on a farm. He received such education as the very common country schools afforded. Attendance on school was secondary to farm work in summer, and to some extent in winter. He was dissatisfied with farm life, but was notably a good worker with all farming implements. At the age of nineteen he went to California; spent 1852-’53 in the mines of El Dorado County. Sickness induced him to return to Ohio in November 1853, where he remained till late in 1854, when he went to Henry County, Illinois, and remained there till May 1862. These eight years were mostly employed in all sorts of farming and unskilled labor in summer, and teaching school in winter, with several months of clerkships in the county clerk’s and treasurer’s offices.

He at an early age took active part in political discussions, and ardently supported Douglas for the presidency in 1860, and in all of his many addresses in that campaign warned the Buchanan and Southern Democracy that if Lincoln were elected and war ensued, the Douglas men would vigorously support Lincoln’s administration. He always determined to get back to California, and, although possessed of too much of a roaming spirit, wherever he was and however well doing, his heart was always set on California for a home. In May 1862, he crossed the plains, intending to go into the Solomon River mines, in Idaho, but because of the loss of part of the team by Indians, he brought up in the Powder and Burnt River mines in Oregon, and put in a hard winter (1862-’63) prospecting in the deep snows. The latter part of 1863 was spent in a prospecting tour through the Idaho mines, until the heavy snows drove him out of the mountains, when he turned his steps to Nevada, which he reached overland through Utah. To show the incidents of such a life, he found himself about out of money when he reached Schell creek, an overland home stage station in western Utah. The proprietor was a young Mormon who wanted to go to Salt Lake City to get married. Wasson was offered one dollar a day to take charge of this station for one month, and this meant preparing meals at all hours, day and night, making beds, sweeping the house, washing table and some bed “linen.” But the job was taken, done well, and double wages offered to remain another month; but by correspondence he had secured the office of chief clerk in the office of the assessor of internal revenue for Nevada, at six dollars per day. To this place was soon added an assessor ship of Ormsby County. He served in both capacities and charged for each service on the days devoted to each.

For over ten years he has written for various papers east and west of the Rocky Mountains, and his brother Joseph being a writer and printer, they, with a Mr. Harding, established the Owyhee Avalanche, in Idaho, in August, 1865, and continued it till November, 1867. During this “episode” he cooked for the firm, procured the supplies, cut the wood, carried the water, washed the dishes, mostly edited the paper, rolled the forms, kept the books, carried the papers on Saturday, made the collections, paid the bills, etc. The enormous snows of winter were too severe for his invalid brother, and so the paper was disposed of, and six months were spent in visiting the old States and looking around.

In June 1868, he and his brother established and published the Argent, at Winnemucca, Nevada. Although immediately designed as a campaign paper, it was in the plan to make it permanent, but he was chosen secretary of the State Senate, which led to its abandonment. Governor Blaisdel appointed him one of the County Commissioners to organize Elko County, and after this work was fairly done, in 1869, he, with his brother, drifted to Oakland, California, where they bought a half-interest in the Daily News, and he became chief editor and financial manager of it; but it was soon seen to be a financial failure, and was given up early in 1870, when he went to Arizona and spent seven months in company with Governor A. P. K. Safford (who was afforded military escorts), in prospecting the various settled and many unsettled portions of that Apache-afflicted land.

His friends in Congress (Senator Stewart, Congressmen McCormick and Fitch) pushed a bill through establishing Arizona as a United States surveying district, and secured his appointment in July, 1870, as Surveyor General, which office he held three full terms, and would have rounded out sixteen years in that position but for the assassination of President Garfield. His record in this office was not surpassed for efficiency and uprightness by any similar official in the service, especially in examining and reporting upon land claims originating under the laws and customs of Spain and Mexico. Not one of his decisions has been set aside by superior tribunals. In October 1870, he established the Arizona Citizen, and published it for seven years and one month. A great many unfaithful civil and military officials will testify to the fairness of the paper under his editorship. In 1872 he was appointed alternate commissioner on the Centennial Commission, and participated in nearly every meeting of that body up to its closing one in 1879. July 2, 1874, he and Miss Harriet N. Bolton, a native of Augusta, Maine, were married; she was a teacher having taught four years in Stockton, this State. She became much attached to California, and so a return here in 1882 was agreeable to both, still retaining interests in Arizona real estate, cattle and mines.

Owing to a lameness that became unendurable on hard sidewalks, he reluctantly left Oakland after a residence there of four years; spent a year in closing up his Arizona business, and leaving there in August, 1887, he became a general agent of Richard Gird, which place he still occupies. As incidental to this agency he edits and manages the Chino Valley Champion, which is recognized as a good model of newspaper work. Against his will he was appointed first Postmaster here by the Cleveland administration, which removed him for his expressed opinions. A change in the incumbency being necessary he was reappointed in November 1889, and still holds the office. Also against his will he was elected one of the two Justices of the Peace for Chino Township in 1888. It is due him to say that excepting the office of County Commissioner of Elko County, Nevada, and Centennial Commissioner, he did not seek any office until after his friends induced him to do so. He is altogether too independent to be a successful politician, but has a decided tendency to public affairs.



The Lewis Publishing Company. An Illustrated History of Southern California embracing the counties of San Diego San Bernardino Los Angeles and Orange and the peninsula of lower California. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. 1890.

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