Elisha Oscar Crosby Papers
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175
Title: Elisha Oscar Crosby Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0654
.4 Linear feet
(1 archive box)
Date (inclusive): 1849 - 1895
Abstract: The Elisha Oscar Crosby Papers consist mainly of autobiographical essays, documents, and correspondence regarding an early
(1849-1895) California pioneer, lawyer, politician, diplomat, and civil servant.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Elisha Oscar Crosby Papers document the life of an early (1849-1895) California pioneer, lawyer, politician, diplomat,
and civil servant. Subjects include Crosby's reminiscences of his official life in early California, including his participation
as a delegate at the constitutional convention that created the state; his duties as an election official for the Sacramento
district; his services as a state senator from 1848 until 1852; his term as the United States resident minister to Guatemala;
and his legal work regarding the land claims of Spanish-speaking Californios. Biographical materials include correspondence,
personal family and financial papers, photographic portraits, newspaper clippings, and miscellaenous materials.
The papers are arranged in four series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 2) PHOTOGRAPHS, 3) WRITINGS, and 4) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION
Elisha Oscar (E.O.) Crosby was born on July 18, 1818, the second son of seven children born to a farming family in the upstate
New York Finger Lakes district near what is now Ithaca. He studied law under several lawyers, including his uncle, A.G. Spaulding
of Buffalo, and received his legal diploma on his twenty-fifth birthday. He then moved to New York City to practice with Abner
Benedict doing admiralty (maritime) law at 27 Wall Street.
Crosby joined those responding to the news of gold in California, arriving in San Francisco, via Panama, on February 28,
1849, aboard the "California." Rather than mine gold, Crosby made money by exchanging currency for gold dust and then began
to buy real estate in the Sacramento area, even purchasing land from Captain Sutter of Sutter's Fort fame. He laid out a town
called Vernon, but this venture failed when winter floods made the tiny community an island and all the homeowners left. He
also guided a delegation from the United States government that had come to investigate the stories of California gold.
In August of 1849, Crosby was elected a delegate to the California State Constitutional Convention convened in Monterey on
September 1, 1849, and became the chair of the Finance Committee. He wrote an account of the Convention describing his fellow
delegates and the constitution writing process. He unsuccessfully argued for an appointed state judiciary to achieve judicial
independence. Crosby then became the election officer for the Sacramento District for the constitutional election that was
held on November 13, 1849. The voters ratified the constitution and elected Crosby a state senator.
Crosby, at age 31, took up his position as a California senator in San Jose (Sacramento would become the capital, following
Benicia, in 1854) and was elected chair of the Judiciary Committee. As chair, he championed the adoption of English common
law as the basic legal system of California while retaining what he viewed as some superior elements of Mexican law, including
the concept we now know as "community property." The Committee also organized the first Supreme Court of California, as well
as district courts, and divided California into counties.
He left the Senate in 1852 and went into private legal practice in San Francisco, specializing in defending Spanish-speaking
Californios whose land grant titles were being challenged. He argued over one hundred such cases before the United States
Land Claims Commission during its 1852-1856 tenure. Crosby would write that the United States Supreme Court "perpetrated the
grossest outrages upon equity and common honesty" in its California land decisions in violation of the Treaty of Guadalupe
Hidalgo (1848) which had guaranteed Californios the same rights as other California citizens.
In 1859, Crosby traveled to the East Coast to argue some of his land grant cases before the United States Supreme Court but
stopped in Guatemala for several months. There he met and befriended the ruler and "president for life" of Guatemala, Rafael
Carrera (1814-1865). This would prove auspicious, as in 1861, a newly-elected Abraham Lincoln appointed Crosby as resident
minister to Guatemala. During his tenure (1861-1864), he also served as a presiding judge and umpire on a commission that
successfully attempted to avert war between Great Britain and the Honduran government in a territorial dispute.
After finishing his Guatemala appointment, Crosby returned to the United States to Philadelphia. Then he went to Europe to
attend the 1867 Exposition in Paris. After a brief residency in Fremont, Nebraska, where he helped to open the Fremont Opera
House, Crosby returned to California in the early 1870s to spend his remaining years. Despite severe eye trouble, Crosby continued
his law practice and served as a justice of the peace, judge of the police court, and as city recorder in Alameda. Crosby
was a member of numerous organizations including the Society of California Pioneers, New York Ethnological Society, Knights
Templar, Veteran Tippiecanoe Club, Free and Accepted Masons, Lincoln Grand Guard of Honor, and the Republican Party.
Crosby died in Alameda on June 25, 1895, following a fall, at the age of seventy-seven. He was one of the last surviving
members of the California constitutional convention. According to his obituary, he was survived by his wife and an only son,
These materials were collected by John B. Goodman, III, and were donated by him to UCSD Libraries in 1995.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Elisha Oscar Crosby Papers, MSS 654. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego Library.
This collection was digitized in 2016 for inclusion in the Adam Matthew subscription database Frontier Life: borderlands,
settlement & colonial encounters. The documents are viewable in that resource when accessed from a UC San Diego IP address,
or via any institution that subscribes to that resource.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
California -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
California -- Politics and government -- 19th century
California -- Gold discoveries
California. Constitutional Convention (1849)
Scope and Content of Series
Series 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS: Original correspondence and documents (both originals and photographic copies) from 1848
to 1891 regarding Crosby's official participation in the formation of a state government in California, as a lawyer representing
land grant claimants, and in his later role as Alameda City Recorder. Included are newspaper clippings of interest to and
about Crosby, including his obituary; handwritten legal documents reflecting his personal life including an 1872 legal separation
document from a long-time female companion, an 1874 bankruptcy, and his membership and participation in numerous organizations
including the Lincoln Grand Guard of Honor and the Masons; miscellaneous materials including a legal business card, his calling
card when he was the minister to Guatemala, Pioneer banquet tickets, and family genealogical data. The files are arranged
alphabetically by subject.
Box 1, Folder 1
Board of Trustees of the City of Alameda
Handwritten report listing the number and determination of cases (June-September) handled by the Recorder's Court, by Crosby
in his official capacity as city recorder.
Box 1, Folder 2
California State Assembly and Senate
Handwritten copies, certified with the seal of California, of the archived pages of 1850 legislative acts authorizing reimbursement
to Crosby for seventeen hundred dollars he spent as prefect (election overseer) of Sacramento county during the constitutional
election of 1849.
Box 1, Folder 3
Certificate of search regarding title of land
Two handwritten certificates of searches of Alameda county land records. The first confirmed Crosby's friend, Henry E. Robinson,
as owner, and the second confirmed Crosby's clear title to his Alameda home. Includes receipt for payment by Stocker & Schramm,
Searchers of Records for Alameda County.
Box 1, Folder 4
Certified Copy of Schedule A - Elisha O. Crosby vs. his Creditors
Handwritten schedule of Crosby's indebtedness in connection with his bankruptcy, signed by the Clerk of the City and County
of San Francisco.
Box 1, Folder 5
Contract of separation from Francis Ann Deer
Handwritten single-page document evidencing the agreement of Crosby and Deer to their separation after living together unmarried
for "many years." Signed by Crosby, Deer, and Deer's sister, Mary J. Field, as a witness. The document lists Crosby's then
residence as Fremont, Nebraska.
Box 1, Folder 6
Free and Accepted Masons of California
Handwritten correspondence to H.T. Graves regarding dues for Lodge No. 10 in San Jose and San Francisco Chapter No. 1. Crosby
noted that in 1883, the Masonic Veterans Association of the Pacific Coast elected Crosby an honorary member "for his eminent
services rendered to his country and to Masonry."
Box 1, Folder 7
Lincoln Grand Guard of Honor
Correspondence from Edwin A. Sherman, chairman of the executive committee of the National Guard Commandery, appointing Crosby
to a committee in celebration of the seventy-fifth birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Includes a letter to Crosby explaining the
organizations' policy of openness to all citizens regardless of race.
Box 1, Folder 8
1862 - 1891
Includes Crosby's calling card as United States resident minister to Guatemala, a professional business card, an American
Legion membership card, tickets to Pioneer banquets, and a handwritten note regarding his siblings' and parents' birth information.
Box 1, Folder 9
1869 - 1895
Includes articles of interest to and about Crosby including his obituary from the ALAMEDA ENCINAL, dated June 21, 1895. Other
articles are from the ALAMEDA ARGUS, the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, and a Fremont, Nebraska newspaper article crediting Crosby
as being instrumental in the opening of the Opera House there.
Box 1, Folder 10
Photographs of documents
1849 - 1851
Includes appointment of Crosby as prefect of the Sacramento district (1849), an election notice signed by Crosby (1850), correspondence
to Crosby to fill a vacant state assembly seat (1850), certificate of Crosby's participation in the Committee of Vigilance
of San Francisco (1850), Crosby's admission to practice before the California Supreme Court (1851), and other official early
California government proclamations.
Box 1, Folder 11
Handwritten correspondence detailing how Crosby became involved in the establishment of California government. Includes a
glued-in newspaper clipping list of the California constitutional convention attendees and a biography of Crosby.
Scope and Content of Series
Series 2) PHOTOGRAPHS: Numerous formal portraits (1850-1890) in the carte-de-visite form (a 2 1/2" X 4" photograph on cardboard
popular in the second half of the nineteenth century), as well as cabinet cards. One photograph shows Crosby as he appeared
in 1863 while serving as resident minister in Guatemala. Included are photographs of a young man, most likely Crosby's son,
Edward, and other unidentified women and boys. The Series contains two tintype photographs of Crosby (ca. 1870-1880s) and
a printed portrait that appeared as part of an unknown published work. Early California photographers represented include:
E. Graybiel, I.M. Taber, Charles Lainer, G. Ball, Nash of San Francisco, Dames of Oakland, and Saunders of Ukiah City. The
files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Box 1, Folder 12
Photographic portraits, Part 1
1850 - 1863
Includes a 2 1/2" x 4" carte-de-visite formal portrait of Crosby with an annotation that it was taken approximately 1850.
Includes a carte-de-visite portrait taken in Guatemala in 1863, as well as multiple copies of the original Guatemala photograph.
Box 1, Folder 13
Photographic portraits, Part 2
1864 - 1866
Includes a 2 1/2" x 4" carte-de-visite portrait of Crosby in formal attire with a revenue stamp on the back. Also includes
four copies of the same portrait dated 1872, and one copy dated 1892.
Box 1, Folder 14
Photographic portraits, Part 3
ca. 1880-1890s. Includes two 4 1/4" x 6" cabinet card portraits of a mature Crosby in formal attire. One portrait is of Crosby
at age 68 in July, 1886. The other portrait was part of a special series entitled, "Taber's State Collection of Portraits
of Representative Californians" that was presented to the State Library by photographer I.W. Taber. Included is Crosby's autograph
as "Judge Elisha O. Crosby" below the portrait.
Box 1, Folder 15
Photographic portraits - Crosby's son
Undated. Includes a 4 1/4" x 6" cabinet card of a young boy with tie and horseshoe-shaped pin, a cabinet card of a young unidentified
boy in formal attire, a carte-de-visite portrait of two young men in suits, ties, and hankerchiefs in breast pockets, and
a 4 1/4" x 6" cabinet card of a young man in a Zouave-style marching uniform with a bugle, tasseled helmet and sword. These
may be portraits of Crosby's son, Edward, and of a nephew.
Box 1, Folder 16
Photographic portraits - Miscellaneous
Includes two 4 1/4" x 6" cabinet cards. One is a studio portrait of four women and one boy, possibly Crosby's son, Edward,
and wife. Also is a portrait of a young man in a formal suit, identified as "Richard F. Dean," relationship unascertained.
Box 1, Folder 17
Undated. Includes two copies of a printed formal portrait of Crosby and his signature, on pages torn from an unknown work.
The portrait is signed by an artist named Gray.
Box 1, Folder 18
Tintype photographic portraits
ca. 1870-1880s. Includes two small tintype portraits of a mature Crosby: one in a plain suit and one in an elegant suit and
pin. Includes the original paper envelopes the tintypes were kept in.
Scope and Content of Series
Series 3) WRITINGS: Predominately handwritten autobiographical essays by Crosby regarding a variety of subjects, including
his voyage to California via Panama; his early participation in the affairs of the forty-niner gold prospectors; the formation
of state government and the constitutional convention; his legal work representing Spanish-speaking Californio landowners
before the federal commission created to deal with those claims; his longtime friend and fellow California pioneer and politician,
Henry E. Robinson; his experiences in 1860 Washington and his appointment and subsequent mission to Guatemala (1861-1864);
other California-related subjects, and an engraved case used to hold his writings. The files are arranged in alphabetical
order by title.
Box 1, Folder 19
1849 Election Returns
Undated, handwritten list of votes from the Sacramento district where Crosby was the election official. Includes returns from
Sacramento, Green Valley, Weaverville, Mormon Island, and various ranches.
Box 1, Folder 20
Capital Removal: Some Early Day Reminiscences by One of the Actors at the Time the State Capital was . .
Located at San Jose," 1893. Crosby's comments in a letter to the editor of the ALAMEDA EVENING TELEGRAM, March 15.
Box 1, Folder 21
Death in the Air: Fatal Effects of the Climate of Guatemala - Americans Resting in Unmarked Graves
Article by Crosby printed in the ALAMEDA DAILY NEWS, February 16.
Box 1, Folder 22
First Discovery of Gold
Handwritten draft of a letter dated October 27, to the president of the Society of California Pioneers, describing the first
gold found at Sutter's Mill. Includes fifteen six by nine inch pages.
Box 1, Folder 23
Great Seal of the State of California
Undated, handwritten manuscript describing why Minerva is a symbol on the seal. Handwritten in pencil on ten sheets of writing
Box 1, Folder 24
Letters Which Portray the Life and Experiences of H.E. Robinson
1880 - 1881
Handwritten letters to the sister of Crosby's deceased, longtime friend, Henry E. Robinson. Robinson was a fellow California
pioneer, a representative to the constitutional convention, and a member of the first three legislatures. Included are two
letters to Mr. Roberts and a handwritten draft of Crosby's account of Robinson's parentage and early life.
Box 1, Folder 25
Organizing a State Government in 1849
Undated, handwritten draft of Crosby's memories of the California constitutional convention. Fourteen pages written in pencil
on yellow legal-size paper.
Box 1, Folder 26
Reminiscences of E.O. Crosby
Includes three draft manuscripts of autobiographical essays. One copy is handwritten in pencil on twenty-nine legal-size sheets
and describes Crosby's involvement in the birth of the California state government. The second is a typescript in two sections,
one describing Crosby's early life and passage to California via Panama. The other, annotated "taken by dictation August 12,
1887," describes Crosby's trip back to the east coast in 1859 via Guatemala, the election of and his meeting President Abraham
Lincoln, and the circumstances surrounding his appointment as minister to Guatemala in 1861. These essays, along with other
material, were posthumously published in 1945 as MEMOIRS OF ELISHA OSCAR CROSBY: REMINISCENCES OF CALIFORNIA AND GUATEMALA
FROM 1849 TO 1864, edited by Charles Albro Barker in association with the Huntington Library.
Box 1, Folder 27
Writings case titled, "Original Manuscripts of Elisha Oscar Crosby"
Undated. Includes a hardbound case with an internal folder. Case has gold engraved titles of some of Crosby's writings identified
on the front and a tipped-in photograph of Crosby and another man, possibly his friend Henry E. Robinson, mounted on mules,
on the inner notebook.
ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES
Box 1, Folder 28
Originals of preservation photocopying