Julius Dickey Harper

NOTE: This post previously appeared on this blog on 25 April 2013. I have republished it for “History” month here in Isles, with additional material.

Julius Dickey “Richard” Harper was born on December 2nd, 1864 in Vacaville, Solano County, California.  The third of four sons born to Lucretia Stull Allison and Dr. Eli Akim Harper, Richard was younger brother of Andrew “Amby” Henry Harper, born 1860. Here is an image of the grave stone at Mt. Hope Cemetery in San Diego:


Let me add a few details before I focus on Julius Dickey, my great grandfather. His brother, Amby, outlived him by fifteen months, and was also taken by pneumonia. Amby deserves his own forthcoming chapter. On December 13, 1925, Amby was sixty five when he passed in Ambler, PA at a sanitarium. His remains were shipped to San Diego for interment at Mt. Hope. Julius’ wife, Sarah Martin, hailed from Duncommon, Co. Sligo, born in 1880 and passed away on April 1, 1940. Here is her obituary notice and sympathy letter.

The observation by the editor that “She had resided at Julian 40 years on the widely known Harper ranch, noted for its flower gardens maintained under Mrs. Harper’s direction. In it are many plants developed from seeds she had brought from Ireland 50 years earlier.”

Harry O. Harper, pictured below, died of a stingray bite in 1877. Here is a poem about Harry, written by someone name “K.”

His eldest brother, and the first son of Dr. and Mrs. Harper, Charles N. Harper, contracted “lung fever” in 1880 and was transported to San Francisco for treatment. Charles was born in 1852/3 and passed on 11 February 1880, at the age of 27. This attachment affirms the following unpublished James Jasper history of the Harper’s coming to California, collected by Jacqueline Beck from the San Diego Historical Society Archives. Dr. and Mrs. Harper were in Iowa, where they were married.

“Dr. and Mrs. Harper crossed the plains with two covered wagons drawn by eight yoke of oxen. The arrived at Bear River where they remained a year, moving to Grass Valley ion 1855. In 1856 they went back to Ohio by boat, returning to California in 1857. They purchased a ranch in Yuba County where they remained for six years. They came to San Diego in 1868 and [in] following years the Doctor purchased an interest in the Cuyamaca Grant.”


His mother, Lucretia, rushed to be with Charles, and herself became ill. She returned to San Diego, and passed away one week after her first son.

1880 must have been a difficult year for Dr. Eli Harper, Julius Dickey and Amby. If we are to believe detail in Sarah Martin’s obituary above, then by 1880, Sarah Martin was in the United States with her bundle of seeds (and the chocolate maple furniture that came round the Horn), highly unlikely given that her birth was somewhere between 1875 and 1880. As the following image suggests, Sarah and Julius were married on August 22, 1901, in Fallbrook, CA.

From marriage to death, here is an account of Julius’s untimely death on the ranch

(On the Brewster Hotel stationery, the hotel located at Fourth and C Streets, San Diego, California)

September 29th, 1924
Monday morning

Dick began to complain on Monday September 15th and kept gradually getting worse till he died on Saturday afternoon at 4 PM. In the evening the undertakers sent out for the body and at 1/2 past ten he left the house for the last time. I watchd the body till it went out of sight. Amby, Akim and myself were with him till the last. Mr. Powell and Gus Redman, Dr. Erkenbeek and Mrs. hail his mother-in-law were here at the time he died – words cannot explain how said Amby, Akim and myself feel. He had a cold here on the ranch and got over it. Then he took me to town to the Dr. and took more cold there and after coming home it developed into double pneumonia. That was the cause of his death, on our last trip to town we were away four days, including the day down, and the day back. If we only knew what was going to happen it could be prevented. Where we were in town, there are many sad regrets, we returned home on the afternoon September 27th. Mr. Madham brought us home.

(Transcription of letter to Amby Henry Harper, Sarah Martin Harper [wife] and Eli Akim Harper [son])

Julian Ca. Sept 20th, 1924

Amby, Mrs. Richard and Akim Harper,

Dear Friends,

We write to extend our sympathy to you people in your great loss and affliction. Richard’s death coming so suden(sic) and unexpected makes it doubly hard for you folks. Dick had such kind and pleasent(sic) ways he made every body his friend. We can’t bring him back but live our life out to the end in hopes that when the  end comes to us, we will pass to a better world where we will live a life of love and friendship forever.

Martin J. Jacobs   Horace F. Wilcox
Mary Agnes Jacobs   Emma Koen
George B. Birdsell   Mrs. J. F. Meier
Alfred E. Birdsell Jr.   Chris R. Worthington
Mrs. A.E. Birdsell Jr.   Mrs. A.L. Bailey
John McCain   J.F. Meier
J.E. McGawan(?)   J.T. Marks
Mrs. J.E. McGowan   Jessie M. Potter(?)
F.L. Shears   Chas W. Potter
Mrs. C.R. Wellington

In the San Diego Union, Julius’s obituary read as follows:

Julius D. Harper, Leading Cattle breeder, is dead

Prominent Stock Raiser of County Victim of Pneumonia after Two-Day Illness.

A victim of pneumonia with which he was stricken two days ago, Julius D. Harper, one of the prominent cattlemen of San Diego county, died at his ranch in the Cuyamacas yesterday afternoon. He leaves his widow, Sarah Harper; a son, Eli A. Harper, and a brother, Andy H. Harper, all of whom were at  his bedside, when death came.

Harper, who was 58 years old, had lived in San Diego county for more than 50 years, and was regarded as one of the most successful stockmen in southern California. His activities in recent years in breeding prize stock was a big factor in raising the cattle standards of the county to their present high mark. His work was carried on at his 5000-acre ranch just east of Cuyamaca lake, which was deeded to  him by his father, one of the original partitioners of the old Cuyamaca rancho.

The ranchman had a wide acquaintance in San Diego and his passing will be mourned by those who knew him.

Funeral services will be held at the Johnson-Saum chapel next Tuesday, details of which will be announced later.

Funeral announcement

Hold Funeral Today for county Pioneer

Funeral services will be held today for Julius D. Harper, for 50 years a resident of San Diego county, a well known rancher stock breeder who died Sunday. Harper died at his ranch in the Cuyamacas from an attack of pneumonia. He was 58 years old. Surviving him are his widow, Mrs. Sarah Harper, a son, Eli A. Harper, and a brother, Andrew H. Harper.



One Reply to “Julius Dickey Harper”

  1. Upon our wedding engagement in the mid-1970’s, I was introduced to Rick’s grandmother, Ethel (nee) Blanc Harper at her home in Escondido. She used the visit to acquaint me with numerous family heirlooms, both in the house and in the garden. She had carried slips of Sarah’s famous flowers from Julian and planted them at her home. She made me a bouquet of Roses and “Snowballs,” entrusting me with the family legacy for the next generation of Harpers.

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