Biography of Jesse H. Arnold

Jesse H. Arnold, Prominent among those who have been most active in advancing the interests of Orange County, stands the gentleman whose name heads this sketch – the pioneer merchant of Orange. He is a native of Howard County, Missouri, born July 15, 1842, and son of John and Margaret (Heard) Arnold. His father died in Howard County, Missouri, January 30, 1870, aged about seventy-four years; his mother died at his residence in Orange, September 19, 1889, aged eighty-seven years, three months and twenty days. At the time of his mother’s death, Mr. Arnold wrote the following obituary, which not only throws much light upon facts of family history, but also brings out in a strong light his own sense of appreciation of lofty Christian endeavor:

“My mother, Margaret (Heard) Arnold, was born near Lancaster, in Garrard County, Kentucky, May 30, 1802. She was one of eight children of John and Jane Heard, whose maiden name was Stephenson, and who at the time of her marriage to John Heard, was the widow of William Wolfskill, of the same county and State.”
“My mother’s mother, Jane Heard, became a widow the second time, and soon emigrated from Kentucky and settled in Boone County, Missouri, in 1818, bringing with her eight children by John Heard, and an only son by her first husband, William Wolfskill. A few years after her arrival in Missouri–which was then an almost unbroken wilderness, inhabited by wild animals and treacherous Indians, which compelled the settlers to live for the most part in defensive forts for protection-my mother was married to Alfred Head, a surveyor and son of a noted frontiersman, after whom one of the principal Indian forts was named, viz.: Head’s Fort, Howard County, Missouri. By him she had three children, now all living: Ex-Lieutenant-Governor Lafayette Head, of Colorado, now residing at Conejos, in that State; Barthena M. Gray, of Calhoun, Missouri, and Eliza J. Downing, of Virginia, Illinois.”

“Alfred Head having died, after eleven years of widowhood, my mother married my father, John Arnold, July 1, 1841, in Howard County, Missouri, whither he had immigrated from Mercer County, Kentucky, even earlier than she-in 1811. My father was then a widower, having lost his wife by death some years before. Of this marriage I was the sole issue. My father was an expert rifleman, and his skill was often in request as a scout and soldier in repelling incursions of the hordes of surrounding savages. For his services in the Black Hawk war, for many years my mother has drawn a small pension from the Government.”

” My mother was a prudent, plain, practical kind-hearted woman, who recognized the serious obligations of life in all daily matters, and strove to discharge them with unshrinking and conscientious fidelity. She was positive and decided in her character, and when once her opinion was founded, it was seldom changed by argument.”
” Early in life she chose the ‘Pearl of Great Price,’ and for about sixty years, I think, had lived a consistent Christian life. My first recollections of her are associated with her teachings of the divine Savior and an omnipotent God. Her trust in the promises of His revealed Word was always implicit and unquestioned. Her faith was founded upon the Rock of Ages, and in its depth, completeness, simplicity and intensity was absolutely sublime. Whatever is best and most praiseworthy in the character and lives of her four children is imbibed from her, and is the reflection of her teachings and her living example of practicing what she taught. In her long, useful and eventful life, and in every station and relation of it she has occupied, she was ever the ‘perfect woman, nobly planned.’ A dutiful child, a helpful daughter, a faithful wife, a model mother, an earnest Christian, is the honest and truthful tribute of those who have known her. The grateful incense of a useful life has been constantly diffused all along her varied pathway. She bath ‘sown to the spirit, and of the spirit shall she reap everlasting life.’ What an answer to the arguments of those who would destroy our belief in God and our hope of heaven!”

Jesse H. Arnold, with whose name this sketch commences, was reared and educated in his native State. He took the full classical course at the Missouri State University at Columbia, and was graduated in the class of 1861. His diploma, dated July 4, of that year, bears the signature of the faculty as follows: B. B. Minor, President, and Professor of Moral Philosophy and Political Economy; John H. Lathrop, LL. D., Professor of Ancient Literature and History; George H. Mathews, Professor of Ancient Languages and Literature; Edward T. Fristoe, Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy; J. G. Norwood, Professor of Natural Science and Natural Philosophy; R. L. Todd, Secretary of Board of Curators. Those who took the full classical course with Mr. Arnold were: Thomas L. Napton, valedictorian, who became a brilliant and wealthy lawyer, and who was for some time judge in Montana; William S. Woods, who is a bank president of Kansas City: Fred Conway, James J. Hitt and William P. Jackman, of whom Mr. Arnold has lost trace.

Judge J. H. Wright, of Arizona, and Hon. John T. Heard (Mr. Arnold’s cousin), a prominent member of Congress from Missouri, were also in the same class, but did not take the full classical course.

Mr. Arnold had planned in early life to become a lawyer, but the war coming on before he had completed his literary education, he went, after graduation, to California, where he remained until 1866. While in this State he clerked for John Arnold & Co. (whose principal was his half-brother) for one year at Sacramento. After this he went to Virginia City, and took a position in the Empire Mill & Mining Co., as book-keeper, under Mr. Lathrop Dunn, superintendent.

In 1866 he went back to Missouri and married the lady of his choice, Miss Elizabeth Cochran, a native of Boone County, Missouri. After their marriage they lived in Boone and Howard counties, and farmed until 1875, when Mr. Arnold removed to Colorado and went into business with Field & Hill, commission and shipping merchants at Pueblo, and remained with them as their business moved to temporary terminal points along the line of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, till it was built to Fort Garland, when he left them and went into business by himself at Conejos, an old town and the county seat, and which soon afterwards became a temporary terminus of said railroad, and a lively business town. There he remained until 1880, when he again returned to California.

At Orange Mr. Arnold has been eminently successful in the mercantile business. He has taken an active part in all enterprises affecting the interests of that beautiful place. He is vice-president of the Bank of Orange, and has a large interest in the Orange, Santa Ana & Tustin, and the Orange, McPherson & El Modena street car lines. He has all along recognized the necessity of a good water supply to protect the city in case of fire, and has strongly agitated in favor of taking measures looking to that end. It was with this idea that he took stock in the Santiago Land and Water Company. These are only cited as instances of his activity, though many might be mentioned. But above all, to Mr. Arnold the town of Orange and its vicinity owe a debt of gratitude for the establishment of the Orange County College. This was effected by purchasing by subscription the Rochester Hotel and converting it into a college building; and it is but just to say that had it not been for Mr. Arnold’s influence, energy and enterprise, Orange would not today have had a college in her midst.

He it was who first publicly suggested and advocated the idea, in an elaborate and eloquent article published in the Orange Tribune of June 16, 1888, addressed to “The People of Orange and the Santa Ana valley,” of which editorial mention was made as follows: “The paper of Mr. Jesse H. Arnold, which appears elsewhere in this issue of the Tribune, presents to the public of the Santa Ana Valley the suggestion of a college of a high order of instruction to be known as Orange College, appropriating the beautiful building and grounds of the ‘ Rochester Hotel’ at Orange for the purpose. Read Mr. Arnold’s article: he states the matter fully and eloquently.” The article was extensively read and copied by other news-papers, and laid the foundation of a hope which has already been largely realized.

Among the beautiful sentiments which pervade the article alluded to above, is one embodied in these words: ” Such an enterprise cannot be paralleled for future good to our race, and I would rather be a founder of such or a promoter or instrument in establishing such, than to be the hero Napoleon or a soldier of the Old Guard which died but never surrendered.”

Mr. Arnold is president of the Orange Public Library Association and is a gentleman of decided literary taste. A novel feature in his business advertisements for years past has been that he has written them in poetry.

Politically Mr. Arnold is a conservative Democrat. He is a member of the Christian Church, and takes an active part in the affairs of his congregation. His daily walk, conversation and honorable business habits show him to be a true Christian gentleman at heart. He is a charter member of Orange Lodge, No. 293, F. &. A. M.. having joined the order in Escurial Lodge, No. 7, at Virginia City, Nevada, in 1863.

Mr. and Mrs. Arnold have reared a family of five children, whose names are as follows: Paul and David Lafayette, their two sons, are attending the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, where Paul will graduate with honors on June 26 of this year (1890). Martha Margaret, having finished her education, is at home with her parents, while Mary Elizabeth and Alice Eugenia are attending the public school in Orange.They are all intelligent, bright children, healthy and strong in body and give promise of being useful men and women, and such is the earnest prayer of their parents.



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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