Chapter 13: The Coburn Mystery [Original Draft]

Another account says Loren Coburn was born in West Brookfield, Vermont. The 1871 edition of the Vermont Historical Gazetteer proudly stated that West Brookfield had “raised” 21 ministers.

Loren’s mom, Clarinda Claflin joined a religious revival in 1816 while still unmarried. She helped organize the Freewill Baptist Church where she met Ira Coburn, Loren’s father.

Loren was the fifth of nine sons born to Clarinda and Ira Coburn (the others were Ira, Allen, Squire, Alonzo, Julian, Lemmuel, Jehiel, Arzo and Jesse.) Some of them would later live in Pescadero.

After Clarinda’s death, her husband married Mrs. John French, a widow. The new Mrs. Coburn, the mother of two children, bore two more, Mary and Nellie.

Loren was 24 in 1851 when the U.S. Mail Steamship Falcon sailed from New York for Chagres¬† ¬† –the Atlantic terminus for the Panama railroad (and a 50-day voyage to San Francisco.)

Two years had elapsed since news of the great Gold Rush reached the East Coast but dreams of striking it rich had not died in Loren Coburn’s heart. Loren rode a mule through the dense, hot jungle and boarded the steamer Panama, arriving in San Francisco on June 1, 1851.

He traveled to the mines and then back to Oakland where he bought a livery stable business. But it was hard to make money and Coburn sold the business four years later, about 1855. Coburn critics says this is when Loren began his unethical business practices.

According to one story in the San Mateo County History archives,¬† Loren announced a “free day” at the Oakland stable, welcoming all to get a free ride or rent a horse for the day. The stable had never been busier and was quickly sold at a good price to an unsuspecting buyer that wasn’t told nobody was paying that day.

With money in hand, Loren bought another stable, the Horse Bazaar at 144 Sansome Street, between Washington & Jackson Streets, across the bay in San Francisco. The Horse Bazaar was a step up from the Oakland stable. It bore “the sign of the lady on horseback” and the place boarded horses and carriages. Coburn also conducted daily auctions.

Years later he told a reporter he purchased the stable “when most of San Francisco was a sandhill and I could have had most of the town for $5000.”

According to Duncan McPherson a reporter for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Loren Coburn set up the first steam laundry of the metropolis and prospered from the start.

McPherson wrote that Coburn learned that Lloyd Tevis of the Hibernia Bank purchased at a sheriff’s sale the property of Captain Graham–land that included the Ano Nuevo and Butano ranches–10,500 acres for $24,000.

Coburn called on Tevis and asked if the ranches were for sale. Tevis quoted $24,000, roughly $2.00 per acre. Because Loren couldn’t afford to buy the property himself he contacted San Francisco attorney Jeremiah Clark and asked him if he’d pay for half. Clark agreed and within two hours the land extending from Pescadero to Pigeon Point belonged to Clark and Coburn.

McPherson made it sound as if Coburn sold a portion of the ranches to the Steele and Brown families.

It was about 1900 when Duncan McPherson wrote about Loren Coburn’s life. At that time, McPherson said, the land was worth $500,000.

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