Isaac J. Harvey was a man of many occupations: Indiana farmer, businessman, and banker, owner of stores, hotels, toll roads, pack mules, and flat bottom boats on the Missouri River. He was a man of letters, a scout for his own wagon trains, a ranch owner in Plumas County, a miner who was a primary backer of the Lost Black Rock Silver Mine, a county judge in Missouri and California, and a mayor of Salinas City. But foremost, he was a man devoted to his wife, family and home.
Isaac Julian Harvey and his family took part in the West’s development. They participated in the transition from waterways to railways, from villages to towns interconnected by railways. Isaac came to California in 1850, looking for opportunities. After seeing those opportunities, he returned to his family, making the long trip to California again in 1852. Later, near the end of his life, I. J. sat down and recounted his trip, providing insight into an incredible journey. Writing that journal, Isaac was encouraged by his grandsons and his daughters. It is now in the Bancroft Library (F865,H33 B3 1987), but is also in digital form.
His journal reveals a man typical of his generation of merchants and businessmen, who arrived in California seeking gold and excitement but stayed to build new homes for their families. The Harvey family arrived in Salinas in 1868; at the time, “only twelve to fourteen buildings stood.” Isaac opened a store on Main Street and the whole family took part in the organization of the new town, oldest daughter Sophronia becoming the first teacher with youngest daughter Mabel her first student.
Isaac. J. Harvey built his home for his wife, Sarah. She knew what she wanted, “double parlors so that young people could dance between them a palm tree for a touch of elegance, and a Berkshire rose at the end of the porch”. It was one of the first homes to be built in Salinas.