The “Father” of Newhall Ranch
Henry Mayo Newhall
1825 – 1882
Henry Mayo Newhall was a California Gold Rush pioneer born in 1825 in Saugus, Massachusetts. Newhall was working as an auctioneer on the East Coast in 1849 when news of the discovery of gold in California reached him. He immediately packed his belongings, boarded a ship, and headed toward San Francisco through Panama.
Unfortunately, he became sick during his trip across Panama. The illness delayed his arrival in California by six months. When the 25-year-old Newhall finally reached San Francisco in July of 1850, he headed directly for the Sierra foothills with the intent of making his fortune in gold. He soon realized that all the promising mining sites had already been claimed, and that he was too late to strike it rich in the mining fields.
Dejectedly, he returned to San Francisco to begin his eastward trip home. While waiting for his ship, he watched as other ships arrived in port, unloaded their goods, and sold their valuable cargoes right on the docks. Newhall recognized an opportunity. He opened his trunk and used his auctioneering skills to sell off most of his personal belongings, some at a hefty profit. The last item he auctioned off was his ticket home.
The rest, as they say, is history. Newhall stayed in San Francisco and built an auctioneering and import/export business. By 1853, the firm of H. M. Newhall & Company was thriving.
As Newhall prospered, another up-and-coming enterprise captured his imagination — railroads. In the 1860s, he began investing in fledgling new business ventures dedicated to building railroads to connect San Francisco with other cities in the West. By his fortieth birthday, Newhall had become president of the San Francisco-San Jose Railroad Company, and was completing California’s first railroad track system, a line between San Francisco and San Jose to the south.
His company commissioned the building of the locomotive “California,” and he joined other civic leaders and dignitaries on its first run to San Jose. According to newspaper accounts published at the time, the “California” achieved the record speed of 67 miles per hour during that trip. Newhall and his partners eventually sold their railroad interests to the new Southern Pacific Railroad Company, and he became a director of that company.
In the 1870s, real estate and ranching became Newhall’s next great enterprise. He invested the profits of his auction and railroad businesses in San Francisco real estate and in the purchase of Spanish land-grant ranchos in central and southern California. Between 1872 and 1875, Newhall acquired 143,000 acres of ranch land from Monterey County to Los Angeles County.
His most important acquisition was Rancho San Francisco, a parcel of more than 40,000 acres covering much of the Santa Clarita Valley in northern Los Angeles County. He granted a right-of-way to the Southern Pacific Company, and the first tracks connecting San Francisco with Los Angeles were laid across his ranch. Southern Pacific named the station site Newhall. A few years later a nearby station was named Saugus, after Henry’s birthplace in Massachusetts.
After Newhall’s death in 1882, his widow and five sons incorporated his ranch properties into The Newhall Land & Farming Company. Over the next 86 years, the company was controlled exclusively by the Newhall family. In the 1960s it became a public corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange, active in real estate, and developed the planned community of Valencia in the Santa Clarita Valley.
In 2004, the company was purchased by Lennar Corporation, a national real estate development company. As a subsidiary, Newhall Land is currently finalizing the planning of a new community, to be called “Newhall Ranch,” on 19 square miles of land that borders Valencia to the north and west.
(Source – © Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation Website)
Newhall Family Tree
Beginning with Henry Mayo Newhall, the Newhall family is now in its eighth generation. The descendants of Henry Newhall are scattered all over the world. I have taken the first two generations and given you the opportunity to learn a little more about them.
Henry Mayo Newhall
Sarah Ann White Newhall
Margaret Jane White Newhall
Henry’s First Wife
Sarah Ann White Newhall
When Henry moved his company Newhall and Baker, Auctioneers to Nashville, TN from Pulaski, GA he met and shortly thereafter, married Sarah Ann White. Within just a few weeks of being married, Henry left Sarah Ann at home with her family and went off to find his fortune in the gold rush of 1950.
Two years later, in 1952 missing her husband, the brave Sarah Ann decided on her own, unbeknownst to Henry to embark upon the same journey via Panama to get to San Francisco where Henry was living.
At the exact same time, which I find to be amazing, Henry, missing his wife, left Henry Gregory, his right-hand man, in charge of all his business enterprises and decided to return to TN to get her and bring her to the new magnificent home he built at 334 Beale St in San Francisco.
While they were in Panama, just by happenstance, the ran into each other not having any idea the other was there. I really found that to be incredible for a lot of reasons, especially how brave Sarah Ann had to be to venture out, on her own, in that day and age! Wow… is all I can say!
So then, instead of going back to San Francisco, Henry wanted to take Sarah Jane to meet his family in Saugus, MA. From there they went to New York. Henry made connections with vendors to supply goods to his Auction business in San Francisco. Then the two of them traveled together to San Francisco to their new home.
In 1953 Sarah’s family, including her mother, father and 2 sisters, Margery and Margaret left their home in TN and went to live permanently with the Newhalls in their new home. They arrived just in time to be there when Henry and Sarah’s first son, Henry Gregory Newhall was born.
Two years after that, in 1955 their second son, William Mayo Newhall was born. One year later, in 1956, their third son, Edwin White Newhall was born. With the family getting larger, Henry built a new home to accommodate them all at 1299 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.
Tragically, in 1858 at the age of 29, Sarah Ann, pregnant with her fourth child, died along with her newborn son in childbirth. They were buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco.
Sarah, along with the rest of the family were moved to Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma when Laurel Hill Cemetery was closed.
Henry’s Second Wife
Margaret Jane White Newhall
Margaret was the Sarah Ann White Newhall’s older sister. Sarah invited her family to come live with them when she moved to San Francisco with Henry in 1952. Margaret helped Sarah with the children until Sarah’s untimely death at the age of 29. Margaret then took over complete care of her sister’s 3 boys. A year later, in 1959 Henry and Margaret were married.
In 1860, Margaret presented Henry with his 4th son, Walter Scott Newhall and then in 1863 his 5th son, George Almer Newhall.
Margaret enjoyed a very comfortable life in “high society” with Henry until his death in 1882. He left her a very rich widow. Margaret never remarried. She lived in the palatial estate Henry built at 1299 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco until the time of her death in 1900 at the age of 75.
The Estates of Henry Mayo Newhall
(Source: “A California Legend” by Ruth Waldo Newhall)
334 Beale Street San Francisco, CA
Built in 1852
Henry Mayo Newhall’s first San Francisco home was at 334 Beale Street, a fashionable part of town. The western edge of the Bay Bridge now rests on that location.
1299 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, CA
Built in 1862
With prosperity came a larger home for the Newhall family, on the southwest corner of Van Ness Avenue and Sutter Street, which today is a commercial area.
(Source: “A California Legend” by Ruth Waldo Newhall)
May They Rest in Peace
Henry Mayo Newhall Obituary
California Spirit of the Times and Underwriters’ Journal (newspaper)
San Francisco, CA | Saturday, March 18, 1882
H.M. NEWHALL, one of San Francisco’s oldest and most respected citizens, died in this city on Monday last, and was buried on Wednesday. He was in the 57th year of his age, was born in Saugus, Mass., May 23, 1825.
When thirteen years of age he left Saugus to seek his fortune. He first went to sea; and in the capacity of a ship’s boy, he sailed to the East Indies. Upon arriving in Philadelphia, he found work in one of the largest auction houses of that city, Myers, Claghorn & Co. From there he removed to Nashville, Tennessee, where he was engaged in the auction business until 1849, when he came to California July 6th, 1850.
After his arrival, he went to the mines, but subsequently returned to this city and entered into the auction business, locating his place on Jackson Street, with A. J. Hall, under the name of Newhall & Hall. The firm subsequently changed to Newhall, Gregory & Co., then Newhall, Gregory & Claghorn, and then H. M. Newhall & Co.
Mr. Newhall was prominently brought before the public in 1865, when he became interested in the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad Company, which at that time was in a state of financial confusion. He threw all his energy into the work, and brought the work to a successful conclusion. He was elected President of the Board of Directors, which position he filled for four years, when the road was sold to its present owners. While President of the Board, he caused the extension of the road to Gilroy.
After retiring from the railroad business, Mr. Newhall turned his attention to ranches, and raising stock, and became one of largest land-owners in the State, owning the Piejo and San Magualito ranches in Monterey County, the Suey ranch in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and the San Francisco ranch in Los Angeles County. The town of Newhall, which is twenty-six miles from Los Angeles, was laid out on the latter ranch. Mr. Newhall left three sons by his first wife and two sons by his second wife.
On the first of January, 1881, Mr. Newhall retired from the firm in favor of his sons, H.G. Newhall and Edward W. Newhall, who associated with P. Van Pelt under the firm of Newhall’s Sons & Co.
The deceased was a member of the California Commandery, Knights Templar, and Oriental Lodge, No. 144, F. A. M.; also a member of the Territorial Pioneers, the Academy of Sciences and the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. Mr. Newhall, during his life, was esteemed for his many kind qualities of hand and heart. There was none so ready to relieve distress nor more seriously generously open to the deserving needy. His character commanded respect equally as a useful citizen or a good man.
This article is provided courtesy of SCV Historical Society.
1. H.M. Newhall’s birth date is commonly listed as May 13, 1825.
A Bit of Hidden History
The Story of Laurel Hill Cemetery
Upon the death of Henry’s first wife, Sarah Ann, he chose the Laurel Hill Cemetery to bury her. He also set up burial sites for his entire family which included Sarah Ann’s mother, father and two sisters.
Laurel Hill Cemetery was established in 1854. It was originally called Lone Mountain Cemetery because of its beautiful rolling hills, rambling pathways, grassy knolls and spectacular gardens. Before the creation of Golden Gate Park, Laurel Hill was a favorite spot for picnics, and family get-togethers. In 1867 the name was changed to Laurel Hill, after the famous first “garden” cemetery in Philadelphia “Laurel Hill”.
Laurel Hill was known for its prestigious burials including civic and military leaders, inventors, artists and eleven United States Senators. In 1900, because of overcrowding and vandalism, Mayor James D. Phelan, the 25th Mayor of San Francisco, signed an order prohibiting the burial of the dead within city limits. Also, as development expanded in the city, the Inner Richmond area where the cemetery was located, was seen as prime real estate for housing.
In 1913 the Board of Supervisors ordered all cemeteries closed and the bodies removed, but the city voters overturned the orders. Eventually, the Supervisors successfully passed the ordinance in 1937.
Upon its closing, the relocation site for the cemetery was Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, CA. Inside Cypress Lawn, there was a special section called Laurel Hill Mound. Anyone who wanted to preserve their loved ones could re-create their sites on Laurel Hill Mound.
The vast majority of the bodies that went unclaimed were moved into mass gravesites. The monuments and tombstones left behind after 90 days were used for sea wall construction at Aquatic Park, creating a breakwater at the Marina and erosion control at Ocean Beach.
Today, the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company building, built in 1953 sits upon the Cemetary site. It is used as the Laurel Hill campus for the University of California at San Francisco. Kaiser Permanente Hospital also shares the site.
The Newhall family recreated their family plot in a lovely setting at Cypress Lawn’s Laurel Hill Mound. The entire first and second-generation Newhall family are buried on the site.