The Pioneers: Thomas Oliver Larkin

A successful North Carolina shopkeeper by age 20 but broke by 28 when he returned to his native Boston, Thomas O. Larkin sailed to California laden with trading goods after learning that his half-brother John Rogers Cooper needed help in his California trading business. On shipboard with him was Rachel Hobson Holmes, a married woman traveling west to join her seafaring husband. Following the trade winds, their ship reached Honolulu where Larkin sold his trade goods, then continued on to Monterey, California, where Larkin immediately went to work for Cooper. By the end of January 1833—after Rachel gave birth to Larkin’s daughter—she learned that her husband had died at sea the year before. They were married in June, aboard a trading vessel, but the baby died a month after the wedding. Larkin built a fine house for his bride, the first two-story building in Monterey; a house that today is a California State Historical Landmark.  Thomas Larkin became a prominent merchant and although he never became a Mexican citizen he obtained annual visas, allowing him to purchase land, and later convinced Governor Pio Pico to confer title of 45,000 acres in Colusa County to his and Rachel’s five native-born California children. He was appointed U.S. Consul to Mexico in 1843. Larkin firmly supported American acquisition of California and was involved in peaceful negotiations to accomplish this when he learned that the United States had declared war on Mexico. According to some historians Thomas Oliver Larkin, not Sam Brannan, was California’s first millionaire.

 

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