Contra Costa County











     Scarcely a habitable section of California but has its toilers recruited from the sea, strong, weather-beaten men who have stepped from slippery decks after years before the mast, and have thereafter made homes and established industries in either town or country.  One of the most interesting of this class are the old whalers who still seem to carry around with them a breath of the sea, seasoned mariners who at one time strained their eyes across the great expanse of waters for the sight of a spouting leviathan of the deep, and who dared all manner of danger that their ship might return to port heavily loaded with oil.  Joseph Lucas, owner of a ranch of forty acres near Richmond, has many a tale to relate regarding his extensive whaling experience, and because he had the traits to make a successful sailor and whaler, may perhaps account for the energy and wise management which has secured success on land.

     Mr. Lucas was eighteen years old when he first shipped before the mast of a whaler.  Setting sail from the Azores Islands, where he was born January 18, 1826, he sailed during three or four seasons in the Arctic and Japan seas, and in 1846 put into San Francisco harbor on the whaling ship Magnet, together with other whaling vessels.  This was during the Mexican war and all were afraid to venture beyond the Golden Gate, as a Mexican war vessel was lying in wait for them.  For a time he made his home at New Bedford, Mass., coasting along the Atlantic, and in 1850 came around the Horn to San Francisco and engaged for awhile on the different pilot boats in San Francisco bay.  He then served as quartermaster on the steamers Winfield Scott, Yankee Blade, Sonora, and Golden Gate, of the Panama Line, and later spent a few years in the mines along the American river.  In 1862 and 1863 he worked as a stevedore in San Francisco, and in the fall of 1863 located on his present farm, which he had purchased in the summer of 1860.  His land proved to have a disputed title, being a portion of the San Pablo grant, and for twenty-one years he was engaged in litigation.  His home is now in what is known as Richmond, the greater part of the farm having been set off in town lots.

     In 1862 Mr. Lucas was united in marriage with Mary Prairo, who was born in the Isle of Nantucket, Mass., and whose father, John Prairo, was a native of the Azores Islands.  John Prairo was a sailor by occupation and an early comer to the coast of Massachusetts, taking a trip around the Horn in 1849, and engaging in mining along the American river.  Successful beyond the average, his ambition proved larger than his opportunity, for he lost practically all that he had in the world while promoting a scheme to dam the Sacramento river.  Locating in San Francisco, he engaged as a stevedore and in 1862 came to the San Pablo grant, locating near Mr. Lucas, between whom and himself there arose a firm friendship.  The similarity between the lives of Mr. Lucas and his father-in-law seems quite remarkable especially as both came from the same islands, and chanced upon the same land occupations.  Mr. Prairo died here the possessor of large landed estates, being survived a short time by his wife, Eunice (Colman) Prairo who was a native of Nantucket, Mass.  Five children have been born to Mr. & Mrs. Lucas, of whom Joseph is at home; Mary is the wife of M. J. Keegan, of Oakland, Cal.; John is a resident of San Francisco; Frank lives in Richmond; and Henry is an agent of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company.  Mr. Lucas is a devout member of the Catholic Church, and in politics is a Republican.  The years have dealt kindly with him, and he retains in large measure the vigor which characterized his early seafaring life.  Mr. Lucas is highly respected by a large circle of friends and acquaintances, and with the wife who has shared his land fortunes, is an enthusiastic advocate of California as a residence and business center.





Transcribed 2-8-16  Marilyn R. Pankey.

ญญญญSource: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 976-979. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

2016  Marilyn R. Pankey.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library