Chapter 12: The Coburn Mystery [Original Draft]

(More tidbits on Loren Coburn’s personality & background)

From a variety of sources, including Loren himself, we can weave together a glimpse of what he was like. He had little education; he didn’t read books and showed no interest in politics. He had bad handwriting and wrote very few letters.

Loren sounded whiny when he talked and his speaking style was abrupt. (I’m not sure I know what that means.) He had a short fuse.
He had no vices; didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, thought nobody else should either.

Coburn did excell at mathematics. Some said he could do mathematics in his head.

Crittendon Thornton, whose father, John, was Coburn’s attorney from 1869-80, said that his client “was exceedingly fond of litigation; almost always the defendant.” And Loren Coburn usually prevailed in court.

Coburn met Thornton on another case in which Thornton represented the other side. After that Coburn made sure to retain John Thornton next time.

Loren Coburn gave few interviews. The official story of his life, which was repeated with few changes, went like this:

“…the active years of Mr. Coburn’s life have been spent in the mining regions of California and the growing cities of Oakland and San Francisco. Loren Coburn was born in Berlin, Orange County, Vermont, January 11, 1826, with New England blood, a promise of future success.

“When ten years of age, his home was changed to Massachusetts, where he remained until he started for California in 1851. He shipped from New York on the steamer Falcon, bound for Cuba. After passing over the Isthmus of Panama, he took passage on the ship Panama, arriving in San Francisco on June 1, 1851.

“From there he went to the northern mines, by way of Sacramento, Greenwood valleys, and remained four months at the placers, on the middle fork of the American River. On returning to San Francisco, laden with the fruits of his successful mining experience, he was inducted to enter a business life.

“He engaged in the livery business in Oakland where he remained four years, after which he disposed of his stable and bought another in San Francisco, continuing in active business for twelve years.

“While still in the city, Mr. Coburn purchased the Punta del Ano Nuevo Rancho, a Spanish Grant of four leagues.

“After the sale of his San Francisco business he leased his ranch to the Steele Brothers, and in 1866 took his long deferred trip back to the land of his birth….”

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