Biography of J. H. Moesser

J. H. Moesser, one of the early pioneers of Southern California, who was a wanderer for many years over several States of the Union, began life in the city of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, February 21, 1835. His father, Frederick H. Moesser, was born in Hesse-Darmstadt, town of Altheim, Germany, and was a dry-goods merchant, baker and butcher, at different times.

He moved with his family a wife and two children-to Ohio, where he remained a few years; then he moved to Missouri and subsequently to Nauvoo, Illinois. He died at Warsaw, Illinois, in 1853. His mother, Magdalena (Gundel before marriage) Moesser, was born in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Moesser, the subject of this biographical notice, left Nauvoo in July, 1846, leaving his father there, whom he never saw but once afterward. April 1, 1886, after being in the West forty years less three months, never having been east of the Rocky mountains in all that time, he re-crossed the plains to make his visit in the East. Coming West the first time, he crossed the Mississippi river: in a skiff and the State of Iowa in a wagon, arriving on the west side of Missouri river, the place was known as Winter Quarters, where he remained over winter, suffering many hardships.

In June, 1847, he with others started for the great Salt Lake country, with ox teams. Fort Bridger at that time was the only house in Utah Territory. Bridger offered to give $1,000 for the first bushel of wheat raised in the Territory, where since then it has proved to be one of the best wheat countries in the United States. Mr. Moesser was in the second company that ever entered the Salt Lake valley. At that time buffaloes were so numerous on the North Platte river that the caravan of the party had many times to halt in order to allow the large herds to pass out of the way, and frequently kept two or three men ahead of the train driving the buffaloes out of the way. The and willing to take scalps, left Salt Lake City Indians at that time were peaceable, the whites in the summer of 1852 or ’53 and went south as far as Manti, guarding small settlements.
Fourteen of the men were detailed to take 176 head of cattle and about fourteen head of horses to Salt Lake City for safekeeping. The proceeds of these cattle all went into the church find, never returning to their owners. During the first three or four days they traveled day and night, until they stopped at Seven-mile creek, near a small town named Salt Creek, now Nephi. They camped about 10 o’clock A. M., tired out and sleepy. During the following night they put their stock in a large corral, at a point where a small town had been destroyed by fire by the Indians. About 10 o’clock that night a volley of guns and arrows from about 150 Indians broke upon the camp, mingled with the terrible war-whoop, as of 1,000 devils. Never can one of that party ever forget that night, as the Natives charged within eleven steps of the whites in a half circle, with orders from their chief not to cease until they had tomahawked every man! The whites, mostly armed with the old flint-lock musket and plenty of cartridges, lustily responded, bringing the Indians to a halt; but still the arrows and bullets fell around the campers like hail, and the war-whoop continued as hellish as ever.

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At the end of an hour and a quarter-which seemed a week-the Indians ceased firing, thinking that the whites had been reinforced. The fact was, seven of the whites, including Mr. Moesser, were stationed at the southeastern corner of their corral, while the other seven were at the northwestern corner, so arranged that they could shoot upon all sides of the corral without moving from their places; this indeed was the only safe plan. Several cattle and a few horses were killed and one man wounded. The Indians shot too high. But the next morning revealed the fact that several of the Indians had been killed or wounded, as there were pools of blood here and there.

Mr. Moesser says he has never been since that time so anxious to raise Indian scalps, and that that battle ” took a good allowance of fight out of him.” It was indeed one of the hardest-fought battles ever waged in Utah. The same band of Indians attacked 150 men a short time before that.

In 1859 he started out across the plains to California, with ox teams, arriving in San Bernardino County December 24, that year; and since that time he has crossed between California and Utah eleven times, nine times driving oxen and mules, and twice on the cars, and twice across the continent. While in San Bernardino County he teamed for a period of twelve years, and owned a small farm south of Base Line. He early crossed the plains. The first railroad that he ever saw was the short line running from Los Angeles to San Pedro, twenty-one miles in length. In 1873 he moved into Santa Ana valley and bought land near Newport, known as the Gospel Swamp. For fourteen years he managed this ranch, and three years ago moved to the city of Santa Ana, where he has retired from active business life. Since settling there he has done his share toward upbuilding the new county seat. A brick block on Fourth street, between Main and Sycamore streets, stands as a monument to his enterprise. He also owns other business and residence property in different parts of the city. He is now vice-president of the Santa Ana Val-ley Fruit Company. Mr. Moesser and Dr. R. Cummings were the first to sell a part of a town lot by the foot in the town of Santa Ana on Fourth street. Some people said that they were ” robbing ” the parties; but while they sold at the rate of $1.50 per foot, to-day, ten years after, the same ground is worth $200 per foot and even more!

As a politician Mr. Moesser has been rather prominent. He was one of the Supervisors of Los Angeles County, and served as clerk of the school board at Newport for thirteen years. He is a Republican in his political views. Is a member of the A. 0. U. W., Santa Ana Lodge, No. 82, and also of Santa Ana Lodge, No. 236, I. 0. 0. F., of which he was a charter member.

Mr. Moesser was married in Springville city, Utah County, Utah Territory, August 17, 1856, to Miss Lucy B. Clyde, a native of New York State, the ceremony being performed by Bishop Aaron Johnson, who had ten wives, and four of these were his brother’s daughters! To Mr. and Mrs. Moesser have been born the following named children : Henry A., Lucy E., wife of John Avas; Cynthia L., wife of G. W. Page; George E., Frederick A., Ulysses S., James W., and Clyde Earl, who died at the age of six years, two months and two days.



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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