Purdy, John H.


Little is known about John H. Purdy. In 1849 he left from Columbus, Ohio to try his fortunes in California. Beyond letters that John wrote to an older brother, James L. Purdy, of Mansfield, Ohio, there is no other extant record of John’s journey to California.

A biographical sketch of James provides some information about John. Their father, Patrick Purdy, owned a farm in York County, Pennsylvania on which he had a flouring mill. An embargo in 1808 against shipping affected the family fortunes, and in 1811 the Purdys moved to Canandaigua, New York. Here Patrick made solid improvements on a new farm, which enabled James, born in 1793, to begin study as a lawyer.

James settled in Mansfield, Ohio in 1823 where he began a prominent career as a lawyer, publisher, banker, and railroad entrepreneur. In 1849, at the age of fifty-six, James helped furnish his younger brother, John, on his trip to California. John was most likely in his forties or early fifties when he crossed the plains. After some time in California, John wrote to James on 14 December 1850 that “[California] shall be my home” (57). James, too, had interests in California, where he established a banking house at Sacramento in partnership with J.M. Rhodes and S.B. Sturges.

John worked in a print shop in Ohio and appears to have followed that line of work after immigrating to California. If he did indeed settle in California, John does not appear in the 1850, 1860, or 1870 California Censuses. As an older emigrant, it is possible he did not live long in his newly adopted state. James, however, was still living in Ohio in 1880 at the age of eighty-seven.


Graham, A.A., ed. History of Richland County, Ohio: Its Past and Present. Mansfield, OH: A.A. Graham & Co. Publishers, 1880.