Contra Costa County












BENJAMIN HODGES.  There are few farms in California continuously cultivated by the same man for forty-seven years.  A notable exception is found in the ranch of Benjamin Hodges, one of the venerable and highly honored agriculturists of Contra Costa county, and the owner since 1852 of a ranch of two hundred and ninety-three acres on Walnut creek.  Far from being run down from long usage, this property is a gratifying illustration of what may be accomplished by unceasing vigilance and painstaking farming methods.  Its buildings, crops, horses and cattle present a fine appearance, and though the genial owner is now four score years old, there is but slight indication of his coming and going with less vigor than in the past.  Although born in Greene county, Ill., March 22, 1824, Mr. Hodges was reared in Wisconsin, to which state his father, David Hodges, removed at an early day.  Ere he had arrived at maturity, the family circle was broken by the departure to the west of a younger brother, Samuel, who had accompanied his uncle, Mr. Gorham, to a ranch in Contra Costa county.  The encouraging reports sent back by the young travelers resulted in the rest of the family following their example in 1852, and, arriving at his destination in this county, the elder Hodges purchased the ranch now owned by Mrs. Weston, which he improved and lived upon until his death at the age of seventy-five.  David Hodges was successful as a rancher both in the east and west, owing much to the assistance and economy of a faithful and competent wife, who survived him until her eighty-fifty year.


After spending a few months with his brother Samuel and uncle, Benjamin Hodges bought of Wells & Reed the land comprising his present farm.  There had already been erected a small house and barn on the place, and seventy-five acres had been plowed and placed under grain.  The result of this careful planting was not a conspicuous success, for the soil was still true to its early training and sent forth a luxurious crop of wild oats, native grass and wild mustard.  There were no fences in the country at that time, and what stock the settlers had was allowed to pasture at large.  The crops being slow in coming, owing to the tendency of the soil to send up undesirable and worthless products, a distinct advantage was found in the presence of such game as elk, deer, and grizzly bear, which fell in large numbers before the steady aim of the pioneers.  For a number of years much of the meat used for family purposes was wild game.  In time, Mr. Hodges succeeded in raising an entire crop of wheat, and after that could count on abundant crops each year, the equable climate insuring to him uniformity in both the kind and extent of his products.  Subsequently he built a new house and barn, fenced in his farm, and, finding that the soil yielded readily of fruit and vegetables, added these also to his output.  In the early days he was obliged to draw his grain to Martinez, but now a railroad runs within a mile of his farm.  In 1851 Mr. Hodges married Emily Seeley, who was born in Illinois, and who died in California October 2, 1896, at the age of sixty-seven years.  Of this union the following children were born: Annie, who died in infancy; Ellen, the widow of Henry Clay Jones, and the mother of a son, Dwight David, mother and son now making their home with Mr. Hodges; Julia, who died at the age of sixteen; Minnie, deceased, the wife of Henry T. Jones, assessor of Contra Costa county; and David, who died at the age of ten months.  Mr. Hodges is an interesting narrator of events in the early history of California, for his memory is still keen, and his sense of humor as delightful as before.  He is one of the most highly honored of the very early settlers of Contra Costa county, and his life and industry have reflected vast credit upon its steady and unmistakable growth.





Transcribed by Donna Toole.

ญญญญSource: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 859-860. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

2015  Donna Toole.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library