Tuesday, May 3, 2016

George W. Locke & His Family Legacy

Young photo of George W. Locke
George Washington Locke, Sr., was born in New Hampshire on June 13, 1830. Raised and educated in his home state, by the age of fifteen George moved to Boston, Massachusetts, in order to secure his future as a businessman in the mercantile industry. After moving to Boston, he started working at a wall-paper manufacturer, staying there for six years and absorbing all he could about the business.

When George decided to try his luck in California, he then moved to Sacramento in 1852.  Three years later, he formed a lucrative and lasting partnership with Samuel Lavenson, creating the firm 'Locke & Lavenson' which was located on J street between Third and Fourth.  By 1856, George Locke married Louisa Harmon, daughter of Captain Daniel Harmon of Boston. This union would bear three children; Ella, George Granville and Carrie Locke.

Over time 'Locke & Lavenson' became one of the top mercantile businesses in all of Sacramento, offering only the best in products: fine carpets, draperies, window shades, awnings, oil-cloths, etc. In 1900, nearly 45 years after the start of their business, Samuel Lavenson passed away, leaving the business now solely in the hands of the last surviving partner, George Locke, Sr.  Now was the time for George to begin slowing down and allowing his son, George Jr., to run the show.

George W. Locke, Sr., was not just a mercantile pioneer and one of the oldest merchants in Sacramento, he was also a very wealthy landowner. He had ranches all over Sacramento County and beyond. Some land was used for cattle, horses and sheep, while others were used as a dairy ranches or for agricultural purposes such as orchards and farming, known as George W. Locke & Son. Their pears and asparagus were grown, packed and shipped from their property (where Locke is today) and sent out at the wharf on the riverboat, "The Pride of the River."

George Sr.'s namesake, George Granville Locke was the one who took over his father’s properties when his father decided to retire in his later years. George and Louisa never lived in the town of Locke, their residence was at 1601 L Street in Sacramento, where they remained until their deaths.
On August 21, 1909, at the age of 79, George W. Locke, Sr., passed away at his home. He had been battling illness for some time. He was buried at the Masonic Cemetery in Sacramento, that is adjacent to the historic Sacramento City Cemetery.

In his later years, George G. Locke moved to Southern California, leaving his son, George R. Locke (3rd) to run his father's business mercantile store G.W. Locke & Son, in Sacramento. George R. may have allowed his brothers Clay & Lloyd to take over the area near the Delta, and run the agricultural aspects of the family business, but he would remain a co-owner of the land and very much involved with all the goings on in Locke as you can read in my other posts regarding the "houses of ill repute" in Locke.

Although neither George W. Locke or his son, George G. Locke lived in Locke, both grandchildren, Lloyd and Clay chose to reside on the family ranch nearby. George R. Locke remained in Sacramento.  Eventually Lloyd would leave Locke, and it would be Clay and his wife Alice that remained.
Clay's home is still standing just northeast of where Locke's historic downtown is today. It isn't easy to spot, as the road that takes you there is private property up River Road a bit. 
Clay was born on December 20, 1890 in Sacramento, California. The son of George Granville Locke and Alice Smith, and grandson to George Washington Locke.
Clay was one of four siblings: George Robert, Alice, and Lloyd Harmon Locke. When Clay was only three years old, his older sister Alice died from diphtheria. According to newspaper reports, she was only seven years old at the time of her death. She is buried at the Masonic Cemetery in Sacramento.

Clay lived at 1701 K Street in Sacramento, until around 1915-1916, when he permanently moved to Locke, around the same time that many Chinese from Walnut Grove came to set up residence on the Locke property.  
Clay would remain there until his death on July 31, 1963, at the age of 72. Clay ran the family business and farmed his land his entire life though sadly he has been all but forgotten as well.

(2015- J'aime Rubio, www.jaimerubiowriter.com)

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