John Barton was born in 1824. Although nothing is known of his early life, it is known that he emigrated to the gold fields of California in 1849, making him an original "pioneer or 49." He spent a month or two panning for gold in the mines before opening an auction house in Sacto. Barton saw the opportunity for successful business growth, as the population exploded in San Francisco after the discovery of gold.
In 1869, taking into account the climate of the area, he began to manufacture salt, and the following year he merged his outfit with the Union Pacific Salt. Co., of which he became president. In 1870, the company began producing salt, and by 1890 it had produced over 21,000 tons of salt. His salt was heralded as the best in the area, and it was claimed that it rivaled French salt made on the shores of the Mediterranian. Bartons salt was used in curing meats, in acid soaps and glass works, and in pottery and the reduction of ores.
In addition to his highly successful business, Barton also made time for civic ventures. He was a founding member of Firemans Fund and sat on its original board of directors. He sat on the board until his death, and stood by the company in the dark days of the Chicago and Boston conflagrations. He was also the president of the Alameda City Board of Education for a number of years.
John Barton died on April 19, 1900. His obituary reads, "In politics he was a staunch Republican, was prominant in municipal affairs, was an honored and highly respected citizen; and his death is a loss to the community and to the Firemans Fund."
From Firemans Fund Archives [01-003-00-001-0014, 0127]
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