Early Odd Fellow Marsh

An Early Nevada City Odd Fellow

As Discovered by Odd Fellow: Richard Gorman

Reading the brochure that was printed in 1973 for the Centenary of the Broad Street IOOF building, I discovered that the Lodge furniture was purchased by one Charles B. Marsh.

Some of us newer Odd Fellows have heard the legend that he went to San Francisco, bought all of the furniture, had it shipped on a barge to Sacramento, and loaded onto wagons for the trip to Nevada City. All in time for the grand opening of the new building in 1873.

He could afford it.
A true ’49er prospecting Deer Creek, in 1850, Marsh,
a civil engineer, and a couple of his friends cooked up a scheme to build a ditch, seven (nine?) miles long, from Rock Creek to Coyote Diggins. It cost $10,000 to build, a huge sum in 1850. It took the partnership six weeks to recoup their investment. This was the original ditch that evolved into the South Yuba Canal Company, a network of 250 miles of ditches, and twenty reservoirs.

Marsh was also one of the original partners, along with Theodore Judah, who recruited the “Big Four” (Huntington, Hopkins, Crocker, Stanford) into what was to become the Central Pacific Railroad Company.
He is pictured in that famous photo of the Driving of the Golden Spike in Promontory, Utah in 1869.

Excerpted from:

Bob Wyckoff Special to The Union

May 24, 2003

The roots of America’s first transcontinental railroad reach back to Nevada City in the fall of 1860. Here Charles Marsh, a water company owner, met with railroad visionary Theodore Dehone Judah, a civil engineer who had recently completed building California’s first railroad, the Sacramento Valley RR from the capital city to Folsom.

The two men, both surveyors, discussed the possibility of a transcontinental railroad and its route.
They were convinced it could be done. The route would be across the Sierra Nevada via Placer and Nevada counties. Some 14 years later Marsh would also serve on the committee charged with getting the Nevada County Narrow Gauge on the road.

Let’s backtrack to 1861, to Daniel (Doc) Strong’s drug store in the Placer County hydraulic mining town of Dutch Flat.
Here Marsh, Judah and Strong met to discuss the project they called the Central Pacific Railroad of California. The route previously laid out from Auburn to Dutch Flat then across the summit over Donner Pass was agreed upon. The only remaining obstacle was financing.

In Sacramento, Judah had made a most advantageous meeting with four merchants who would join the Dutch Flat three as original incorporators of the railroad. The four were grocer Leland Stanford, hardware store owners Collis P. Huntington and Mark Hopkins and dry goods merchant Charles Crocker who were to become the “Big Four” of Western railroad fame.

Funds were raised and in April 1861, articles of incorporation for the Central Pacific Railroad of California were filed and all seven men became members of the first board of directors; Stanford was elected president. In 1862, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act and the race to cross the country with rails was on.

The CPRR began building east from Sacramento in January, 1863, while the Union Pacific Railroad started its construction in Omaha. On May 10, 1869, the two railroads met at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory.

Here a spike fashioned of pure California gold was ceremoniously placed into an auger drilled home in a highly polished railroad tie of California laurel to which was fastened to steel rail. The Golden Spike was too soft to be struck with a maul, so one of iron was placed on the tie.
Stanford took the first swing and missed; so did Union Pacific’s Thomas C. Durant! Both did better on their second try. Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins and Charles Marsh were the only original incorporators to attend the ceremony.

{Bob Wyckoff is a retired newspaper editor, an author of local history, a lifetime student of California history and a longtime resident of Nevada County.

You can write him at The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.}

Prior to his involvement with the CPRR, Marsh and his partners surveyed a route that would have brought the transcontinental railroad from Sacramento through Folsom. Auburn, Nevada City, and across the Sierras at Henness Pass. They were unable to raise the money for the project.

The Charles Marsh House, 123 Nevada Street, Nevada City

Considering his wealth, the residence is modest. Today, it looks like it has been added onto over the years. The NC Historical Society came close to moving in here at one point.

In 1876, his health failing, Marsh moved to San Francisco. Not long after, he was involved in a carriage accident. Both he and his wife were injured. Charles injuries proved fatal, and he died in late April, 1876, in San Francisco.

In addition to attaining all of the degrees, and serving in all of the Odd Fellow offices, Marsh was also deeply involved with the Masons. His full-on Masonic funeral was attended by many Masons and Odd Fellows from Nevada City.

Marsh Pond

One of Marsh’s first reservoirs is preserved in a park just behind the Library at the Nevada County Government Center (Rood Center).

I am not sure who placed the commemorative sign at the pond, but it contain serious factual errors.

October, 2017



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