Isaac Newton Hoag, a prominent citizen of Redlands, was born in Macedon, Wayne County, New York, March 3, 1822. His paternal ancestors belonged to the Society of Friends for generations back, and had uniformly been farmers. He lived and worked on a farm until he was eighteen years of age and had the advantages of a very primitive common school education. His father died when he was eighteen years of age, and one year later the Macedon Academy was organized, and Isaac was one of the first students at this institution. From this time until 1849 he taught school winters and attended the academy and studied law summers. January 1, 1849, he graduated in law, having previously graduated at the academy, and received a diploma to practice law in all of the courts of New York, and the same day he determined to seek his fortune in the gold fields of California.
He landed in San Francisco on the last day of June, following, having crossed the Isthmus and having been ninety-nine days in the passage from Panama to San Francisco, on the British barque Colony. This barque carried 100 passengers, who paid $100 each for their passage and board. They were becalmed about thirty days and were for that length of time on the short allowance of one small cracker and a pint of water a day. After landing at San Francisco Mr. Hoag and his friends went directly to the mines, and July 4, 1849, he dug his first gold from Horse Shoe Bar on the American river. In about three months he returned from the mines to Sacramento, having accumulated about $2,000 in gold dust. During the winter of 1849-’50 he engaged in the mercantile business in Sacramento. In the spring of 1850 he put a steam ferryboat on the Sacramento River, crossing from the city to Yolo County, and took up his residence in Washington, Yolo County. During the summer of 1850, thousands of cattle and horses were driven across the plains, and as the best pastures to be found were in the country west of the Sacramento River, large numbers crossed the ferry at Sacramento. For the months of August, September and October, of that year the receipts of the ferry were over $27,000. In the spring of 1851 he was offered $40,000 for the ferry property and accepted the proposition, but a hitch occurred and the transfer was never completed.
Mr. Hoag was married in San Francisco, in January 1853, to Georgie J. Jennings, whose mother and brother had preceded them to California. Miss Jennings came to the state in special charge and under the protection of Adams & Company’s Express.
Envious eyes were watching the success of the ferry business, and applications to the board of supervisors for opposition ferries, and suits in court followed one after another, and finally resort was had to the Legislature for amendments to the ferry law, proved successful, an opposition ferry was established, and the property greatly reduced in value. The question assumed a political aspect and ended in a special franchise for a bridge. The bridge was built and there was no longer use for a ferry. The property became comparatively valueless and Mr. Hoag again became a poor man, all his accumulations having been expended in better equipments, boats, etc, and in defense of the franchise.
Not disheartened he gathered up the odds and ends, and seeing that California was rapidly coming to the front as an agricultural country, especially a grain-growing country, he formed a partnership with his brother, B. H. Hoag, to import agricultural machinery. Over $5,000 was invested, mostly in threshing-machines, as a starter. Contrary to instructions the shipper placed them all in one vessel. Off Rio Janeiro the vessel was found to be on fire, put into port, and arrived one year behind time with the machinery badly damaged. Had they arrived on time a splendid profit would have been realized as they would have been ahead of all other importations of that character and were in great demand. These circumstances are mentioned, not so much as personal incidents in the life of an early Californian as to illustrate the ups and downs of an active business man in the early history of the State.
Mr. Hoag always took a lively interest in the politics of the State and nation, though he was never, in the common acceptation of the term, a politician. He was an old-line Whig, but when that party went out of existence he joined the anti-Lecompton Democrats and supported Stephen A. Douglas for the Presidency. Yolo County had always been a stronghold of the fire-eating Southern Democracy. They had held all the offices and represented the county in every Legislature up to 1861. That year the Douglas Democrats and the Republicans put Mr. Hoag forward for the Legislature. He was elected and carried most of the county officers into office with him. The Legislature of 1861-’62 stood by the general Government in pre-paring for and sustaining the war against the Rebellion, and Mr. Hoag was one of the most active members in this relation. The party elected for County Judge for Yolo County having become disqualified, Governor Stanford appointed Mr. Hoag to fill the vacancy. He held that office for one succeeding term, also greatly to the satisfaction of the people of the county.
In the spring of 1862 Mr. Hoag was elected Secretary of the State Agricultural Society, which office he held for ten years. During his incumbency of that office he drew and secured the passage of the law making the society a state institution, the directors being under the law appointed and commissioned by the Governor. He was also the author of the law under which all the district societies are organized and conducted. Perhaps no laws ever passed by the Legislature have had so important a bearing on the industrial interests of the State, both in the development of her resources and in calling the attention of the world to them. While in this office in the year 1870 the Pacific Rural Press, at the suggestion of Mr. Hoag, was established at San Francisco by Dewey & Co., and Mr. Hoag became the leading agricultural editor of it, which position he filled for four years, until the duties of agricultural editor of the Sacramento Record-Union, which position he had in the meantime accepted, became so arduous he had to resign one position or the other. No sooner had he resigned the editorship of the Rural Press, however, than both the Chronicle and the Bulletin of San Francisco sought his services to write the leading agricultural articles for those papers. He accepted the proposition of the Bulletin and wrote for, that paper for about two years, still holding his position on the Record-Union.
When the management of the Record-Union was changed and William H. Mills left it to become land agent for the Central Pacific Railroad, Mr. Hoag also severed his connection with the paper. It should be stated here that one of the most important positions held in the State by Mr. Hoag was secretary of the State Anti-debris Association. When this association was organized in 1881 to check the damage being done to the farming countries along the rivers of the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, Mr. Hoag was selected as secretary and actuary of the association, and it was due largely to his efforts and influence that public opinion underwent so great a change upon the rights of the hydraulic miners to empty their debris into these rivers and their tributaries. His field for action in this direction was with the press and the political conventions of the counties and the State; also in accumulating testimony for the cases being conducted against them in the State and Federal courts. The leading attorney for the Anti-debris Association was George Cadwallader, now deceased.
When in May, 1883, Mr. Hoag resigned this secretaryship to accept the office of Commissioner of Immigration of the Southern and Central Pacific Railroad companies, both political parties had by resolutions in their State conventions declared against the continuance of hydraulic mining, and the State and Federal courts had issued restraining orders to protect the valleys against hydraulic mining.
During all these years of active public life Mr. Hoag was the owner and manager of a farm on the Sacramento River, overseeing personally many agricultural experiments of great interest to the farmers of the State. Among other things he had experimented with silk culture and fully demonstrated and published his conclusions to the world, that, while the climate, of many portions of the State is well adapted to the success of this industry, it cannot be made a financial success while labor costs so much, and we have to compete with the cheap labor and low civilization of other parts of the world engaged in it.
As intimated above, in 1883 Mr. Hoag received an important commission as immigration agent for those companies, and in May of that year opened an office in Chicago, and for nearly three years labored actively, and the result shows how effectively to convince the people of the eastern slope that California is the best State in the Union for people to make homes in and in which to engage in the various kinds of business. During a long and very active life Mr. Hoag had never been able to completely throw off a complication of diseases, contracted by too close confinement and too great application while a student. These diseases were an affection or dormant state of the liver, an affection of the throat and neuralgia.
Upon his return from Chicago he determined to locate in Southern California and selected Redlands as his preference. He came here three years ago last June and at once set himself to work to discover the needs of the East San Bernardino valley and to put forces at work to develop her resources. The first need, in his mind, was a railroad, and he never ceased talking and working railroad until he was a member of a meeting of public-spirited citizens and capitalists at which it was determined to build the present railroad, and its name was fixed upon and articles of incorporation inaugurated. The next need was to unlock and distribute the waters of the Bear valley reservoir, and he brought to bear influences that induced certain obstinate water and land owners to close contracts with the Bear valley company, whereby the company secured control of the main distributing ditches through which to convey their water to time lands of the valley.
The next need was people to occupy and improve the uncultivated lands of the valley, and he secured the location here of the Chicago colony, whereby the ownership of 440 acres of land in the center of the valley was transferred from one man to over forty men and families, and water in cement pipes was conducted to the highest point of each separate ownership. In connection with other parties he had obtained an interest in the Grafton tract of about 1,600 acres, east and adjoining Redlands proper. This land had but about half water enough to cover it. He induced the owner, Mr. Crafts, to purchase of the Bear valley company water enough to irrigate the whole tract, and was then instrumental in the organization of a water company to distribute water over this tract and all the higher portions of Redlands, which up to that time had no way to get water up on them. The Sylvan Boulevard, a beautiful drive-through the entire valley, along one of the most beautiful streams in the State, is of his creation. This stream and boulevard is now one of the most attractive features of East San Bernardino valley and in time is destined to become one of the finest drives and promenades in the world.
Mr. Hoag was one of the organizers of the Redlands, Lagonia & Crafton Domestic Water Company, and is a director of the company at the present time. He is also, by appointment of the Governor, a director of the Twenty-eighth District Agricultural Society, embracing San Bernardino County. Of his private enterprises it may not be proper to state particularly, but suffice it to say he is owner of some of the finest properties in the valley and has a residence on Lagonia Heights very seldom excelled for beauty of location and immediate surroundings in any county. Mr. Hoag mentions with emphasis that the one thing he came to Southern California for he has succeeded in obtaining, good health. He is now sixty-seven years of age and says the climate of the East San Bernardino Valley has almost completely restored his health. He is a stronger man now than when forty years old.