German immigrant Frederick A. Hihn (born: August 16, 1829 in Altendorf, Duchy of Brunswick; died: August 23, 1913 in Santa Cruz, California) played an important role in the economic growth of northern California in the decades following the 1849 Gold Rush. Hihn arrived in San Francisco as part of the Rush and later amassed vast landholdings in Santa Cruz County. He spent much of his life developing property around existing towns and creating new vacation communities along Monterey Bay. Hihn was instrumental in bringing stage coach and railroad service to the communities along the northern edge of the bay and constantly sought new ways to increase the value of his real estate holdings. His hardnosed business practices and political scheming made enemies throughout the county, but even those who disliked him ultimately recognized his centrality in the commercial and civic life of the region.
Frederick Hihn (born Friedrich August Ludewig Hühn and later anglicized to Frederick Augustus Hihn when he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1855) was born on August 16, 1829, in the small village of Altendorf in the northern-central German duchy of Brunswick. His parents were Johann Friedrich Hühn and Charlotte Melosine (sometimes spelled Melusine) Wölffer. Johann worked as a merchant and also operated a bleaching yard where he prepared cloth for sale in his store. The couple eventually had a total of nine children, seven boys and two girls. Hihn’s personal diary (Tagebuch) reveals a great deal about his childhood. He went to a local grammar school until age nine and then attended gymnasium in the neighboring town of Holzminden. At age fifteen, Hihn left gymnasium to serve a five-year apprenticeship for a grocer and dry goods merchant in the town of Schöningen, approximately 68 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Holzminden. Hihn disliked the apprenticeship and felt ill-treated by Hoffman, the owner of the mercantile house. He began to consider taking up farming and immigrating to the United States to join relatives living in Wisconsin. He informed Hoffman of his intention to quit but the shopkeeper persuaded him to remain at work until the spring of 1848, in exchange for ending the apprenticeship one year early. As soon as Hihn completed the apprenticeship he returned home to Altendorf and went to work in his father’s business. He helped his father settle old accounts and supervised the family cotton and linen bleaching yard. In the winter of 1848, he managed a separate bleachery for cotton and linen yarn and also collected and prepared medicinal herbs for sale. Despite the steady employment, Hihn worried about his family’s economic prospects. As he later noted in his Tagebuch, “Although I was of great help at home I saw clearly that the earnings were not sufficient for such a large family, and that it would be difficult for myself and my brothers and sisters to find a future in Germany.” 
The following year, nineteen-year-old Friedrich Hihn decided to immigrate to the United States to earn money to support his family back home. He hoped to make enough money that he could pay for some of his brothers to join him in America. Together, they would pool their earnings and support their younger siblings and parents back in Altendorf. Political motivations may also have motivated Hihn to immigrate. A historian later noted that Hihn disliked the repressive political system in Brunswick and wished to enjoy political liberty in the United States.
As Hihn prepared to leave his homeland in the spring of 1849, likely for Wisconsin, news reached Europe about the discovery of gold in California. Hihn decided instead to sail for California and join the Gold Rush. He did not have enough money to cover the cost of cabin-passage from Bremen to San Francisco, but worked out a mutually-beneficial arrangement with a childhood friend, Ferdinand von Lengerke. Von Lengerke advanced Hihn 250 gold florins (approximately one hundred U.S. dollars in 1849 or the equivalent of $3000 in 2010$) in exchange for his promise to help von Lengerke sell German merchandise in San Francisco and manage a retail store that he intended to open in the growing West Coast port. Hihn and von Lengerke set sail on the brig Reform and reached San Francisco about five months later, joining tens of thousands of other ‘49ers in the growing city. Though he did not know it at the time, his education and mercantile training would provide him with the skills necessary to capitalize economically on the region’s dramatic growth over the next half century.
Frederick Hihn’s entrepreneurial activities in the United States were closely connected to the settlement and economic development of California during the second half of the nineteenth century. The California Gold Rush of 1849 led to a sizable increase in the overall population of the region. Prior to 1849, the non-native population of California (consisting mainly of Hispanic Californios) numbered no more than 15,000 residents. Over the next decade, the population of American and immigrant settlers expanded to more than 370,000, many of them concentrated in the northern half of the state. By the time of Hihn's death, the population stood at more than 2.3 million residents. Hihn’s many business activities throughout his adult life, which included retail, real estate development, timber harvesting, and building construction, contributed to — and benefitted from — the dramatic growth in the state’s population, particularly in the vicinity of Santa Cruz. As one of the largest landowners in the Santa Cruz region, Hihn exercised great influence over the settlement and economic development of the region through his real estate development and retail activities, and played a critical role in improving regional infrastructure through his investments in roads, railroads, and telegraph and telephone lines. Hihn also owned property and oversaw investments in San Francisco. He benefitted from that city’s growth into a West Coast metropolis. In all, his business ventures played an important role in California’s development into a populous and wealthy state by the early-twentieth century.
Hihn arrived in the United States expecting to manage a retail store owned by his friend Ferdinand von Lengerke, but his employment plans changed abruptly once he and von Lengerke reached San Francisco on October 12, 1849. Von Lengerke decided not to open a retail establishment after he learned the cost of renting retail space in the city. Left without employment, Hihn decided to join some of his fellow passengers from the Reform and mine for gold. Led by the intrepid Friedrich Gerstäcker, who had acquired fame in the German states as an adventurer, novelist, and author of travelogues about the United States, Hihn and his party of would-be miners reached the gold fields along the South Fork of the Feather River in early November of 1849 and began searching for riches.
Hihn’s mining adventure lasted only a few weeks, however. His party purchased a claim along the Feather River and began preparing for the winter season, but torrential rains and flooding washed away the Germans’ tools and supplies. Hungry and weary, Hihn’s party finally admitted defeat and broke camp for nearby Sacramento in December of 1849. In Sacramento, Hihn and another passenger from the Reform, Johann Ernest Kunitz, observed that local residents had a sweet tooth and set up a crude shop to produce candy. Kunitz likely made the candy and Hihn peddled it on the streets of Sacramento. The joint venture was quite successful and for a few weeks Hihn and Kunitz sold all the candy they could make until winter flooding in Sacramento inundated their ramshackle operation.
Hihn returned to the gold fields in the summer of 1850. He obtained enough money through gold mining that he was later able to purchase co-ownership of the Uncle Sam House and the Mechanics’ Exchange, two small, one-story hotels located in the heart of busy Sacramento. When the hotel business slowed during the winter of 1850, Hihn decided to turn his attention to other business ventures.
Early in 1851, Hihn sold his stake in the two hotels and relocated to San Francisco. He used the proceeds from the hotel sales to open a drug store near Portsmouth Square, a few blocks from the city’s busy waterfront. Hihn’s experience preparing medicinal herbs in Brunswick may have influenced his decision to open a drug store. A few months after he opened the shop, disaster struck his establishment when a fire wiped out much of San Francisco. The May 4 fire — the fifth major conflagration in the history of the city — destroyed Hihn’s store along with much of his stock. Barely a month later, a sixth fire destroyed what remained of his retail venture on June 22, 1851.
Thoroughly discouraged by the loss of his business, Hihn considered returning to his homeland. As he later recalled, “I was on my way to ship as a sailor, to work [for] my passage. I passed by where my drug store was on Washington Street, found my old neighbor… clearing the coals from his place….” Hihn’s chance encounter with his determined neighbor convinced him to reevaluate his decision to leave San Francisco. “I pulled my hat down over my eyes, saying, ‘What a coward I am.’ I did not look any further for a vessel to go home on.” Instead, Hihn and his old partner Johann Ernest Kunitz accepted positions as sales agents for the Sacramento Soap Factory in July of 1851.
Barely a month passed before Hihn concluded that the soap business was not to his liking. Sales were slow in San Francisco that summer and Hihn decided to take a risk and relocate to a less dangerous part of the state with more agreeable business prospects. In August, he pooled his remaining financial resources (approximately $300 at the time or about $8,800 in 2010$) with Swiss immigrant Henry Hentsch, who had lost his cigar business in the May and June fires, and purchased a team of mules, two horses, and some merchandise. The men (along with Hentsch’s wife) decided to travel approximately 170 miles south to the remote Mission San Antonio de Padua in Monterey County and open a dry goods store. Hihn celebrated his twenty-second birthday while on route to the mission and reflected in his Tagebuch about the difficulties he had faced since he had left Altendorf three years earlier. “I have had to rough it ever since I left home…I was a boy then and am a strong man now, and I won’t give up. My father and mother are getting old and they need my assistance.”
The difficult trip south from San Francisco to Mission San Antonio proved to be too much for the two partners. After a series of life-threatening misadventures, Hihn and Hentsch began to feud and Hihn declared that he would not travel any further with Hentsch. The two men unpacked the goods and began to divide up their merchandise on the spot. Hentsch claimed the horses in compensation for his expenses, which left Hihn without a means of transportation. Hentsch asked Hihn what he intended to do with his possessions. Hihn declared that he planned to “take them to Santa Cruz and sell them there, and go back by schooner to [San Francisco].” Hihn later recalled that he had no idea why he had named the coastal community seventy-five miles southwest of San Francisco as his final destination, as he had only heard of it once and had never visited it before. Hihn’s partner liked the idea and asked to join him. Recognizing that Hentsch possessed the only means to transport his share of the merchandise to Santa Cruz, Hihn finally consented and the partners resumed their journey. On September 20, 1851, Hihn arrived in the small port community where he would reside for the next six decades.
When Hihn reached Santa Cruz in 1851, the population of Santa Cruz County numbered fewer than seven hundred residents. Most inhabitants were engaged in wheat and potato farming on the coastal plain, or timber harvesting in the nearby mountains. Using the goods they had brought with them from San Francisco, Hihn and Hentsch founded a small general merchandise business in a vacant structure located at the major intersection in the center of town. Hentsch and his wife soon returned to San Francisco, but Hihn stayed in Santa Cruz and began to expand his mercantile establishment.
Hihn’s store prospered in Santa Cruz. His years of experience as a merchant and his fluency in German, French, English, and Spanish facilitated his business dealings with American and European settlers in the region, as well as native Californios. Two years after he arrived in the community, Hihn built a two-story structure near his original store to house his mercantile operations and serve as a personal residence.
Strong demand for agricultural products (potatoes in particular) and timber in booming San Francisco and the gold fields during the early 1850s encouraged the expansion of commercial agriculture and logging in the nearby Santa Cruz region. With potatoes selling for the exorbitant price of sixteen cents per pound (approximately $4.71 in 2010$), farmers began to cultivate more and more land. Wheat farming also grew in popularity. Soon overproduction of agricultural commodities and timber led to a severe decline in prices. Farmers and loggers could not find local buyers for their crops and timber. Hihn’s business was affected by the crisis, since local farmers and loggers were his primary sources of revenue. Hihn could not afford to simply extend credit to his customers for purchases. Instead, he accepted their agricultural products and timber in exchange for items in his store, often sweetening the deal with cash. Hihn had the wheat ground into flour and the timer cut into boards and shingles locally and then shipped the products by schooner to San Francisco and Los Angeles for sale. His diversification strategy helped him overcome the difficult economic circumstances of the mid-1850s, and by 1857 his net worth had grown to $30,000 (approximately $773,000 in 2010$).
During this same period, two of Frederick Hihn’s younger brothers, twins Hugo (born Frederich Hugo Hermann Hühn) and Lewis (born Frederich Emil Ludwig Hühn and occasionally referred to as Emil) joined Hihn in Santa Cruz. Frederick employed both of them initially in his mercantile establishment and later they established independent businesses of their own. Hugo resided in the United States for twelve years and operated his own mercantile business in Santa Cruz before eventually returning to Europe and settling in Switzerland. Lewis remained in the Santa Cruz region until his death in 1881, first working as a dairyman and later a teamster.
In the mid-1850s, Frederick Hihn began investing the profits from his retail and wholesale businesses into real estate in and around Santa Cruz County. Over the next sixty years he acquired vast tracts of timber land in the Santa Cruz Mountains and thousands of acres of coastal property in the vicinity of Monterey Bay, much of it former ranch land that had belonged to Californios at the time of California statehood in 1850. Hihn made use of this land for a variety of purposes. He organized logging operations and built sawmills to harvest the coastal redwood and pine found throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. The timber was milled into finished products such as boards, fruit boxes, and shingles. Some of the wood was sold in regional lumber yards owned by Hihn. He also shipped timber to West Coast ports from wharfs along Monterey Bay and in later years built a number of short, narrow-gauge railroads to transport timber from his mills to regional rail lines.
Hihn began developing his coastal property during the same time period. He subdivided his land into individual plots and made improvements such as adding roads, shade trees, and other amenities. Hihn conceived of a unique way to attract buyers for his land. He sold land on the installment plan for ten percent of the cost upfront and offered land purchasers protection in the form of a contract clause, which stated that in the event of the purchaser’s death before the land had been paid in full, the property would be transferred to the next of kin with no additional payments due. Hihn’s sales approach proved successful. He later claimed that “the losses by death were well covered by increased sales and the enhancement of values of unsold land.” Hihn also sold new landowners lumber and other supplies from his mills and retail stores on favorable terms to encourage home construction.
Hihn sought to increase the value of his property and businesses throughout Santa Cruz County by improving transportation options in the region. The rugged Santa Cruz Mountains made travel difficult between the coast and San Jose, the nearest major community. Residents of the region depended on coastal schooners to transport cargo and passengers between Santa Cruz and other communities along the West Coast. In 1857, Hihn paid for the construction of a commercial wharf near Capitola, a busy agricultural center and shipping point about seven miles down the coast from Santa Cruz. The new wharf made it easier for schooners to load and unload cargo, and allowed deeper draft ships access to the port. The following year, Hihn began promoting the construction of a wagon road over the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Santa Cruz Turnpike Joint Stock Company, which Hihn organized, built the first wagon road across the rugged mountains between 1858 and 1862. In 1858, Hihn also joined with other local businessmen and organized a joint stock stage coach company to provide daily stage service between Santa Cruz and San Jose.
Hihn’s most significant contribution to the transportation infrastructure of the region involved the construction of a short-line railroad in the 1870s to connect Santa Cruz and the other communities of northern Monterey Bay with rail lines leading to San Jose and San Francisco. In 1865, investors in Northern California had organized the Southern Pacific Railroad Company (SP) to connect San Francisco Bay with Southern California and form an extension of the transcontinental Union Pacific-Central Pacific Railroad line that would eventually terminate in Oakland. Southern Pacific officials proposed the construction of a rail line that would run southwest from Oakland along the perimeter of San Francisco Bay, then south along the Pacific Coast to Santa Cruz before exiting Monterey Bay through the Salinas Valley. By 1868, ownership of the Southern Pacific Railroad had changed hand and the new investors had decided to bypass Santa Cruz and route the new line directly south from Oakland to Bakersfield via San Jose. The route realignment left Santa Cruz isolated from the proposed Southern Pacific mainline and at great risk of losing out on the economic benefits of a railroad connection to San Francisco and Southern California.
In 1869, Hihn and a number of other Santa Cruz residents formed a committee to push for the construction of a twenty-one mile railroad linking Santa Cruz with Watsonville, California. In Watsonville, the new rail line would connect with the track of the California Southern Railroad, a Southern Pacific affiliate that was in the process of building a forty-five-mile feeder line from Salinas, California, to the SP mainline at Gilroy, California. While indirect, the Santa Cruz Railroad would provide a connection between Santa Cruz and San Francisco and open the entire region to economic development. Over the next two years, Hihn and the committee gradually formulated a plan to construct the Santa Cruz-Watsonville line. In 1871, the committee proposed that Santa Cruz County subsidize the construction of the railroad line through a public bond issue. Once complete, they expected the Southern Pacific to acquire and operate the line. Residents in the southern part of the county near Watsonville largely opposed the plan as a waste of taxpayer money. As a result of Hihn’s intense lobbying in favor of the railroad, the editor of a local newspaper near Watsonville nicknamed him the “Great Santa Cruz Railroad ‘bloviator.’” County residents narrowly approved the ballot measure when it was put to a vote in December of 1871. Hihn attempted to secure financing to begin construction of the rail line, but could not do so and the project stalled.
Undeterred, Hihn once again attempted to proceed with the railroad project in 1872. He sought financial backing from Claus Spreckels, a German immigrant who had sizable investments in sugar beet growing and refining operations in the Watsonville area. Hihn and Spreckels struck an agreement that the railroad would receive sugar traffic from Spreckels’ mill in exchange for discounted shipping rates. Both men invested approximately $20,000 (approximately $368,000 in 2010$) each in the railroad project and became the major shareholders. Hihn determined that the line could be constructed as a narrow-gauge railroad (3 feet between rails), which would provide a significant cost savings over a standard-gauge line (4 feet, 8.5 inches between rails), since tracks, wooden bridges, and rolling stock could be made lighter and less robust. With Spreckels’ backing, Hihn again lobbied for county support of the railroad project. In November, county voters narrowly approved a public bond issue worth $6,000 per mile for the railroad project. Hihn incorporated the new Santa Cruz Railroad on June 18, 1873 and prepared to begin construction of the line.
The financial panic of late 1873, and the international economic depression that followed, hindered work on the Santa Cruz line. The Southern Pacific halted construction of its line to Southern California and put other expansion plans on hold, including possible acquisition of the nascent Santa Cruz Railroad. Despite the setback, Hihn and the other railroad directors continued to push forward with the project. To minimize costs, Hihn had as many railroad components as possible produced locally rather than shipped from the East Coast. Iron wheels for train cars were cast in a small foundry in Santa Cruz and the company purchased its first locomotive from the Pacific Iron Works in San Francisco. Local timber was used to build bridges and rolling stock. Some of the rail was sourced in San Francisco, while other shipments arrived by ship via Panama. Hihn also made an effort to steer work to local contractors whenever possible. By December of 1874, the first five miles of the rail line had been completed. On May 16, 1875, the first revenue generating train ran the roughly nine miles between Santa Cruz and nearby Aptos, California.
Hihn’s relationship with Spreckels became strained during the course of the three-year railroad development project. Both men attempted to dominate the affairs of the company by controlling a majority of the railroad stock. In January of 1875 Hihn purchased 200 additional shares in the company and Spreckels responded by purchasing 211. Later that year, Hihn was forced to swallow his pride and seek a loan from Spreckels for $125,000 to cover construction expenses when a California court enjoined Santa Cruz County from issuing public construction bonds to the railroad. Hihn’s battle with Spreckels for control of the company continued. Hihn eventually acquired an additional 1,522 shares and transferred them to his sister Emma, who was living in Switzerland. This gave him a narrow majority over Spreckels. Work on the Santa Cruz Railroad finally ended in 1876. A state court eventually lifted the injunction on the county’s issuance of the construction bonds, which enabled Hihn to repay Spreckels’ loan. In May, the first train traveled the full length of the line, and daily passenger and freight service began soon thereafter.
The line proved far less successful than Hihn, Spreckels, and the other railroad supporters had hoped. Initially, it turned a profit, primarily due to lumber shipments, but within two years was losing money as a result of competition with the Pacific Coast Steamship Company. Hihn and the Santa Cruz Railroad’s board of directors decided to assess stockholders $10 per share to cover the operating shortfall. Spreckels refused to pay the $32,000 assessment on his 1605 shares of railroad stock on the grounds that the assessment was illegal. The directors sued Spreckels and the case slowly made its way through the court system. A local court ruled initially in Spreckels’ favor, but ultimately the California Supreme Court sided with Hihn and the Santa Cruz Railroad interests in 1884. Near the end of 1880, a separate decision by the California Supreme Court blocked Santa Cruz County from handing over additional public construction bonds to the railroad on the grounds that the bond issue violated state law. New competition also appeared in 1880 in the form of the South Pacific Coast Railroad, a narrow-gauge line running directly from Oakland to Santa Cruz along the route proposed originally by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1865. As a net result of the operating losses, growing competition, and adverse court decisions, the Santa Cruz Railroad could not afford to maintain service on its line. After a severe storm damaged portions of the track in 1881, the company ceased operations.
Following the financial failure of the Santa Cruz Railroad, Hihn resigned his post as president. The company’s property and debts were auctioned by county officials in October of 1881. Spreckels and A.E. Davis of the South Pacific Coast Railroad faced off against Hihn and Charles Crocker of the Southern Pacific. Shortly before the sale, railroad mortgage bonds held by Spreckels were paid with interest. When the auction began, Hihn was the only bidder and acquired the railroad and its debts for approximately $198,000. He, in turn, sold it to the Southern Pacific interests for $225,000. Hihn later claimed that he lost approximately $104,000 on his investment. The SP pumped capital into the Santa Cruz line and changed the gauge of the line to standard gauge to integrate it into the SP’s larger California system. The SP and the South Pacific Coast Railroad provided Santa Cruz with reliable transportation links to the surrounding region. Competition between the railroads and the Pacific Coast Steamship Company kept shipping prices low for timber and agricultural commodities, and promoted a dramatic economic expansion throughout Santa Cruz County.
Despite the failure of the Santa Cruz Railroad, Hihn profited from the new transportation connections and continued to develop his land holdings and expand his business empire in the Santa Cruz region during the 1880s and 1890s. The county’s population had grown steadily since his arrival in 1851 and numbered approximately 12,800 by the 1880 federal census. Ten years later, it topped 19,000. Hihn took advantage of this growth through his real estate development and town planning activities. In 1869, Hihn leased some of the coastal land that he had acquired a few miles east of Santa Cruz to Samuel A. Hall, a local settler. Hall began building a small vacation camp on the site. In 1874, Hall’s daughter christened the site “Camp Capitola.” The completion of the Santa Cruz Railroad two years later provided a convenient means for tourists to reach Capitola and the camp gradually expanded over the next decade. Hihn took over direct management of Capitola in 1882 and began subdividing the property for sale. He also added resort amenities such as the three-story Capitola Hotel that could accommodate 400 guests, souvenir shops, restaurants and food stands, and a bath house. Hihn profited by leasing the concessions to venders during the tourist season.
Hihn’s various other business activities during the 1880s and 1890s included serving as the vice president and major investor in Santa Cruz’s City Bank, which was founded in 1887. He also invested in private waterworks for Santa Cruz, Capitola, and other communities in which he had real estate interests. Hihn invested the profits from his numerous businesses in other businesses throughout the region, including private water and gas works, banks, and construction material suppliers.
In 1889, Hihn created the F.A. Hihn Corporation to consolidate his land development businesses, timber and sawmill operations, and investment activities. Management of the firm was placed in the hands of his three sons (August Charles, Frederick Otto, and Louis William) and a son-in-law (William Thomas Cope). At the time the corporation was formed, Hihn controlled approximately five percent of all the land in Santa Cruz County making him by far the largest single private landowner. As a writer for the Santa Cruz Surf noted, “His business interests far exceed those of any other individual, firm, or corporation.” While Hihn intended to disengage from day-to-day management of his business ventures following the creation of the F.A. Hihn Corporation, he remained an important part of the business community in Santa Cruz County and the broader San Francisco Bay area until his death in 1913.
Santa Cruz provided the setting for Frederick Hihn’s family and professional life for sixty-seven years. Hihn arrived in Santa Cruz in 1851 at age twenty-two. Two years later he married seventeen-year-old Therese Paggen of San Francisco (1836-1919). Paggen had been born in Alsace-Lorraine in 1836 and had spent time in Paris with her German parents before the family had immigrated to Mexico in the 1840s. In 1849, she traveled to San Francisco, presumably with her family, and lived in the city for four years before marrying Hihn. The couple had a total of eight children born between 1856 and 1874. The oldest, Katharine "Katie" Charlotte, lived for almost sixty-five years (1856-1921). Two died in infancy: Elizabeth (eleven months, 1861--1862) and Hugo (nineteen months, 1869-1871). Two children, Louis William (forty-three years, 1858-1901) and Theresa "Tessie" (thirty-five years, 1872-1907), predeceased their parents. Two died of natural causes soon after their father: August Charles (fifty-four years, 1864-1918) and Frederick Otto (forty-nine years, 1886-1916). Agnes, the youngest, survived the longest. She lived eighty-one years (1874-1956).
Within a few years of his arrival in Santa Cruz, Hihn began to participate in local and county governmental affairs. In 1857, he served as secretary of a committee tasked with organizing a new government for the community of Santa Cruz. A few years later, he won election to the county’s board of supervisors by a wide margin over his opponent William Blackburn, one of the earliest settlers in the region. In the county’s 1863 election, Hihn secured the chairmanship of the board of supervisors. Hihn preferred to run as an independent, but he won endorsements from both the local Unionists (Republicans) and Democrats. Hihn’s political success came, in no small part, from his growing role as a land developer and business owner within Santa Cruz County. In 1864, Santa Cruz newspaper editor Duncan McPherson wrote that Hihn “always commanded the respect and friendship of his conferees, because of his inexhaustible fund of information concerning every portion of the County and every branch of business in it.”
In 1869, just as he began planning the Santa Cruz Railroad, county Democrats nominated Hihn as a candidate for the California State Assembly. Though he chose to run as an independent, he secured the support of prominent Democratic businessmen throughout the county by promising to look out for his and their economic interests at the state level. “I would like to represent this county as a business man. To lighten the burdens of taxation, to give to the citizen, as near as possible, an equivalent for his taxes, to look after and take care of the material interests of this county and State—that is my platform. It may be Democratic or Republican, but I am an Independent.” He won the election with fifty-eight percent of the vote and became one of only three independent assemblyman in the Democrat-controlled assembly during the 1869-1870 legislative term. Hihn’s one term as an assemblymen was the only state-level political position he held during his timeline, but he continued to serve as an elected local official during the first half of the 1870s, partly to ensure the success of his business ventures. Following the political battles surrounding the construction of the Santa Cruz Railroad in the mid-1870s and the company’s subsequent failure in 1881, Hihn left political life and focused his energies on business and civic development in Santa Cruz.
Hihn played an active role in promoting the growth and improvement of Santa Cruz and the surrounding region through his personal and financial involvement in the affairs of both city and county. In 1879, a local writer noted that Hihn “has always been active in all efforts to promote the welfare of his town and county, giving aid to all projects he considers for the best interest of Santa Cruz." A few years later, a different writer highlighted Hihn’s power and influence in the community by pointing out that “the favor or disfavor of Mr. Hihn has been powerful in deciding whether public schemes and enterprises proved a success or not.” Hihn’s civic engagement and philanthropy contributed to Santa Cruz, but at the same time his boosterism and financial generosity benefitted his bottom line since it promoted the economic development of the region which helped him sell property.
Hihn’s manipulation of local politics to further his business activities alienated him from county residents at times. He used a variety of strategies to promote economic development in and around his private landholdings at public expense. As chairman of the county board of supervisors, Hihn drafted an 1864 bill incorporating the community of Santa Cruz. He proposed a local tax to fund city services and promote the improvement of the community. A newspaper editor in southern Santa Cruz County viewed the incorporation plan as simply a means for Hihn to channel private wealth into his coffers and asserted that “about every resident in Santa Cruz except Hihn” had signed a petition opposing the measure. The same editor characterized Hihn as “the great tycoon” for “voting himself extra money in the board [of supervisors]… voting money to improve his property… [and] securing himself as a defaulting bondsman.” Two years later, the editor drew attention to Hihn’s tax assessments. He noted that Hihn’s prime timber land had been assessed by the state at 47.5 cents per acre, but the assessment had been lowered to 27.5 cents per acre by the county board of supervisors, on which Hihn served. Such double-dealing infuriated the editor and drew the wrath of some county residents.
Hihn’s efforts to construct and operate the Santa Cruz Railroad during the 1870s made him a polarizing figure within Santa Cruz County, particularly in the southern part of the county where citizens paid taxes to support the project but benefitted the least from the new line. Southern residents resented his efforts to subsidize the project through county construction bonds paid for with their tax dollars. The City of Watsonville even refused to allow the railroad to pass through its streets due to local resentment of the project. City officials eventually relented and allowed the railroad to pass through the community after it began operations in May 1876. About one-and-a-half miles of track were relocated to facilitate the realignment. Hihn demanded an additional financial subsidy from the county for relocating the rail line and filed suit when his demands were not met. Charles Cummings, the editor of a Watsonville newspaper, reprimanded Hihn for his demand of $14,178 in bond payments, noting that the county had already compensated him $6,000 for the cost of moving the line and characterized Hihn as a “small railroad king” with his “hands in the pockets of the tax payers.”
Hihn’s desire to develop Santa Cruz with his private resources and reap the financial benefits led to conflicts in that community as well. Between 1890 and 1916, Hihn and his family fought efforts by the City of Santa Cruz to build a municipal waterworks and argued that a new public system would infringe on the existing private system acquired by the F.A. Hihn Corporation in 1890. Hihn battled the city for more than two decades, though Santa Cruz eventually did build a parallel water distribution system. The fight finally ended in 1916 when the city purchased the private Hihn system and consolidated it with the municipal system.
Perhaps as a means of countering the alienation caused by his business activities, Hihn contributed to a variety of charitable causes throughout his adult life and volunteered his time for the benefit of the community and its residents. He held a particular interest in education and served for four years as a trustee for the first public school built in Santa Cruz. In 1869, he also served as a trustee for the Santa Cruz Academy, a private boys’ school. In 1902, Hihn was instrumental in securing 100,000 acres of land for the development of the California Polytechnic School at San Luis Obispo (now California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo). He also served for two terms as a school trustee from 1902-1909.
Hihn had been christened a Lutheran during his childhood in Brunswick, but he did not belong to any particular religious denomination during his adult life. Nevertheless, he donated both land and money to local Congregational (1857), Catholic (1891), and Episcopal (1897) churches in Santa Cruz. He also supported a number of religious causes including the Catholic Church's Orphans' Home in Watsonville and a late-nineteenth-century project by the Salvation Army to build an agricultural colony near Soledad, California, in neighboring Monterey County (a project in which Claus Spreckels also invested). Hihn contributed money and lumber to the project and designed a water reservoir for the site in 1902. Hihn’s altruism extended to less fortunate residents of the local community. In 1910, he wrote his youngest daughter, Agnes, about a Christmas visit to the Santa Cruz County Hospital, during which he distributed a variety of gifts to patients, and to the county jail, where he handed out gifts and advice to prisoners. He also invited local children to his mansion in Santa Cruz on Christmas numerous times during the 1890s and provided them with entertainment and gifts.
Hihn’s family in Europe remained important to him even though he returned to Germany only once after immigrating to the United States. In 1893, he and Agnes visited his birthplace in Altendorf and met with family in Zurich, Switzerland. It is not clear whether Hihn sent money home to support his family (his father passed away in 1863 and his mother died prior to 1893) during his first few decades in the United States, as he wrote about in his Tagebuch in 1851, but in the 1880s he did provide financial support for two of his sisters, Emma and Charlotte, living in Zurich. In 1884, Hihn established two funds in Switzerland in the amount of $7,000 dollars and $5,000 dollars respectively (approximately $161,000 and $115,000 in 2010$). The sisters were to receive monthly payments out of these accounts for the remainder of their lives. At the same time, Hihn established a $5,000 fund for his mother-in-law, Alois Paggen, in San Francisco. These actions show that Hihn was willing to share his considerable personal wealth with other members of his family.
Throughout his life, Hihn followed European affairs from afar, particularly matters relating to the German states. In August of 1870, shortly after the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War, Hihn and other members of the large German immigrant community in the Santa Cruz region organized the German Sanitary Committee to raise funds for Germans affected by the conflict. The group ultimately raised a total of $550 (approximately $8,600 in 2010$). In September, German residents celebrated the capture of French leader Napoleon III and the defeat of the French Army at the Battle of Sedan with a bonfire, cannonades, speeches, and a procession down Santa Cruz’s main street. By popular acclaim, Hihn gave the first speech of the evening in which he praised his fellow countrymen and thanked the American supporters who had donated funds to the Sanitary Committee. He concluded the speech with the rousing words: “Let us have a united Germany. Ein einiges Deutschland.” Thirty years after he had immigrated to the United States, Hihn’s German heritage remained an important part of his identity and character.
Frederick August Hihn’s determined, and at times ruthless, pursuit of personal financial success enabled him to amass a personal business empire worth millions of dollars by the early twentieth century. At the time of his death in 1913, Hihn owned lumber mills, hotels, mercantile establishments, corporate investments, and more than 13,000 acres of land. A.A. Taylor, editor of the Santa Cruz Surf, noted in an obituary that Hihn’s “property interests were such that comparatively little could be accomplished of a public nature in this city and county without contact with his property.” While Hihn’s business activities and financial power drew the ire of county residents at various times during his lengthy career, his efforts to improve the region’s infrastructure and promote economic development made a lasting impact on the landscape and the built environment of the Santa Cruz region.
 Paul Kretschmer, Die Weser-Solling-Stadt Holzminden- wie sie wurde, was sie ist. [The Weser-Solling-City Holzminden-how it became what it is.] (Täglicher Anzeiger, Holzminden, GR, 1981.) Today Altendorf is an older district in the town of Holzminden. Altendorf-Holzminden lies in the German federal state of Lower Saxony.
 Evangelical Lutheran Kirchenbuchamt, Holzminden. Ausgezogen aus den Kirchenbüchern von Holzminden und Altendorf. Holzminden, May 26, 1988. J. Meise Kirchenbuchführerin, 291 (10) 23.
 Edward S. Harrison, History of Santa Cruz County, California (San Francisco, CA., Printed for the author by Pacific Press, 1892), 266.
 Harrison, 266. Hedwig Sievers, a resident of Holzminden, very kindly noted in a letter (August 25, 1989), that the bleaching of linen in Germany had been revolutionized by modern manufacturing developments. This probably had an impact on Johann Friedrich Hühn and the commercial nature of the family: "I remember that my mother, born 1881, died in 1959, told me once, that across from Haarmann and Reimer [had been] the Hühnebleiche." This was the bleaching field that Hihn wrote about in his Tagebuch. Hedwig Sievers, in a second letter (August 28, 1989), wrote, “that the [Hühn] residence with the tall windows, burned down.” Her responses were among several received after an appeal for information about the Hühn family was published in the Täglicher Anzeiger on July 29, 1989.
 Hihn’s Tagebuch provides a great source of information about his early life and motivations. He wrote the diary in his native German. The original manuscript diary is part of the Hihn-Younger Archive at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Jane Younger McKenzie, who had the Tagebuch translated, was a granddaughter of F. A. Hihn. She donated the Tagebuch, with the kind assistance of her son, Donald McKenzie. Mrs. McKenzie's mother was Agnes Hihn Younger, youngest daughter of F. A. Hihn.
 Harrison, 266.
 Harrison, 266; “Legal Value of Foreign Coin," in San Francisco City Directory, 1854, 229. An approximate value of two hundred fifty florins would have been, $100, based on forty cents per florin in the southern states of Germany. Unless otherwise noted, all 2010 monetary conversions based on Samuel H. Williamson, "Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present," MeasuringWorth, 2011, using the Consumer Price Index. Hihn refers to von Lengerke as "Ferdinand" and "H. F. von Lengerke" in his writings, but the ship Reform, on which they sailed, sent a message back on April 25, 1849, and von Lengerke signed the message as "J. H. von Lengerke." No person or place has been identified for Hihn’s use of “von Lengerke from Dohnsen.” The brief message was, "Upon the occasion of our departure from Germany for California we extend to all our relatives and friends our fondest farewell. We wish also to thank Heydorn & Company for their friendship and helpfulness." Hihn's name is recorded as: F. A. HUEHN. Clifford Neal Smith's Passenger lists (and fragments thereof) from Hamburg and Bremen to Australia and the United States, 1846-1849 (McNeal, AZ., Westland Publications, 1988).
 D. Blethen Adams Levy, “100,000 people in California by November 1849,” The Maritime Heritage Project (accessed August 18, 2011); U.S. Census Bureau, “Resident Population and Apportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives,” U.S. Census Bureau (accessed August 18, 2011).
 Harrison, 267.
 Harrison, 267; Titus Hale,Autobiography, BIO Files, Hale family (Israel F., Titus, Crescent Porter) 1913-1925, 1974-2003, Records, 1:171-77, The Society of California Pioneers, San Francisco. Titus Hale was President of the Society of California Pioneers at F. A. Hihn’s death, and was Chairman of the Committee to write the Memorial. In his autobiography he remembered that, “This is the same Hihn that peddled candy in Sacramento in the winter of 1849 and is one of the wisest and most honorable men it has ever been my good fortune to meet.” Titus Hale was a resident of Santa Cruz and was associated with Hihn in the building of the Santa Cruz Railroad.
 Though termed “hotels,” these businesses primarily served as temporary boardinghouses for the itinerant population of Sacramento. Harrison, 267.
 Hihn, Tagebuch; Harrison, 267.
 "Soap Manufactory," Pacific Sentinel, December 19, 1861. Johann Ernest H. Kunitz was born on October 13, 1827, in Cammin, Pomerania, and apprenticed in an apothecary’s shop in 1844. After he and Hihn sold soap in San Francisco, Kunitz worked as a tobacconist until 1853 when he joined Hihn in Santa Cruz. He clerked in Hihn’s store but later built a soap and glue factory on land owned by Hihn.
 California Information File [microform], California State Library, California Section. [Sacramento], The Library, Bellevue, WA., Commercial Microfilm Service, . The CIF records several citations of which three sufficiently reveal his identity after he left Santa Cruz:
1. Hentsch, Henry (banker) Hentsch's building, corner Montgomery and Jackson. (1855)
2. Hentsch (Henry) & Berton (Francis) bankers and assayers, Consul for Switzerland, 432 Montgomery. (1863-65)
3. Hentsch, Henry (Hentsch & Francis Berton), residence, Geneva, Switzerland. (1872)
 Hihn, Tagebuch.
 Frederick Augustus Hihn, "How I Came to Santa Cruz," in Santa Cruz County History Journal, Number One (Santa Cruz, CA., History Museum of Santa Cruz County, 1994), 1:73-81. Hihn described the feud with Hentsch as follows: “On our way for San Antonio. Got into deep sand, horses could not pull the load. My partner wanted me to whip them. I refused. Got off the wagon and said I would not go any further. He drew his pistol and said he would kill me. ‘No, you won’t,’ said I, walking towards him. ‘Put down that pistol or I’ll knock you down,’ showing him the butt end of the whip. He put the pistol down, and I took it away from him. ‘Now,’ said I, ‘it is time for us to divide.’ He said he had the most money and wanted the team. ‘All right,’ said I, ‘You take the team and enough more to make us even, and then let us make two piles out of the balance, and throw up for choice.’”
 Hentsch returned to San Francisco and entered the banking and assay business. He later served as Swiss Consul in San Francisco during the 1860s and return to Switzerland in 1873. James M. Guinn, History of the State of California and Biographical Record of Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties. An Historical Story of the State’s Marvelous Growth from its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, (Chicago: The Chapman Publishing Co., 1903), n.p.; Santa Cruz Public Libraries, “Population Statistic for Santa Cruz County and Cities, 1850-2000,” Santa Cruz Public Libraries (accessed August 17, 2011).
 Harrison, 267-268.
 Frederich Emil Ludwig Hühn Obituary, Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 19, 1881 (3): 4
 Hihn employed workers from a variety of ethnicities in his mills and timber harvesting operations including Japanese and Chinese laborers. F. A. Hihn Company’s Agreements, Deeds, & Leases: Volumes 1-21, 24 (Final Edition). Transcribed & Indexed by Jennifer Fosgate. Hihn-Younger Archive, University of California at Santa Cruz; Ron Powell quoted in MacGregor, 635, en. 29; Rick Hamman, “140 Years of Railroading in Santa Cruz County, Part 2” Santa Cruz Public Libraries (accessed August 24, 2011).
 Harrison, 218-219.
 Sandy Lydon and Carolyn Swift, Soquel Landing to Capitola-By-The-Sea. (Cupertino, CA., California History Center, DeAnza College, 1978), 8 and Stephen Michael Payne, “Stagecoach Days in the Mountains,” Santa Cruz Public Libraries (accessed August 17, 2011).
 Rick Hamman, “140 Years of Railroading in Santa Cruz County, Part 1” Santa Cruz Public Libraries (accessed August 23, 2011).
 Bruce MacGregor, “Santa Cruz Supply Chain,” in The Birth of California Narrow Gauge (Stanford, CA., Stanford University Press, 2003), 257; George Woodman Hilton, American Narrow Gauge Railroads (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 334.
 Hilton, 334. The official tally for the 1872 ballot vote was Watsonville voters, 395 against, 13 in favor of the bonds, and City of Santa Cruz voters, 587 in favor to 36 against. "Official Returns, Santa Cruz County, Nov. 5, 1872," Watsonville Pajaronian, November 14, 1872. Bruce MacGregor, The Birth of California Narrow Gauge (Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 2003), 257-259.
 MacGregor, 247, 285; Donald B. Robertson, Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History, Volume IV, California (Caldwell: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1998), 181; “The Railroad,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 31, 1874 (3): 4. The Jupiter locomotive is currently on display in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History’s “America on the Move” Exhibit.
 MacGregor, 248; 634-635, en. 14. The final cost for line construction and equipment was approximately $544,936 and $51,076 respectively, approximately $143 million and $10.8 million respectively in 2010$ based on Samuel H. Williamson, "Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present,"MeasuringWorth, 2011, using the nominal GDP per share.
 Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 15, 1878 (3): 2; “Railroad History By F.A. Hihn,” Santa Cruz Daily Sentinel, January 30, 1895 (1): 2-4. Pro rata stockholder liability remained legal under California’s state constitution until the 1930s. William J. Carney, “Limited Liability,” in Encyclopedia of Law and Economics (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2010), 664. According to historian George Woodman Hilton, Spreckels also defended his refusal to pay the assessment by asserting that the railroad company had been mismanaged by his fellow directors. The local Santa Cruz County Court may have considered this claim in its ruling, but the California Supreme Court justices refused to address it as part of their decision. George Woodman Hilton, American Narrow Gauge Railroads (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 334-335; Santa Cruz Railroad Company v. Claus Spreckels, 65 Cal.Rptr 193 (Cal.1884).
 Rick Hamman, “140 Years of Railroading in Santa Cruz County, Part I” Santa Cruz Public Libraries, (accessed August 23, 2011) and George Woodman Hilton, American Narrow Gauge Railroads (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 334-335.
 Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 8, 1881 (3): 4; “Railroad History By F.A. Hihn,” Santa Cruz Daily Sentinel, January 30, 1895 (1): 2-4.
 Rick Hamman, “140 Years of Railroading in Santa Cruz County, Part I” Santa Cruz Public Libraries, (accessed August 23, 2011); George Woodman Hilton, American Narrow Gauge Railroads (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 335.
 Santa Cruz Public Libraries, “Population Statistic for Santa Cruz County and Cities, 1850-2000,” Santa Cruz Public Libraries (accessed August 17, 2011); Carolyn Swift, “About Capitola,” City of Capitola (accessed August 24, 2011); "The Phoenix Year," Santa Cruz Surf, April 20, 1895.
 Frederick Douglas Baldwin, "History of the Banks," an undated and unpublished paper in the Archives of the Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center, Santa Cruz, CA; Harrison, 269.
 "The Hihn Company," Santa Cruz Surf, January 22, 1889.
 Therese Paggan Hihn Obituary, Santa Cruz Morning Sentinel, April 22 1919 (1): 2.
 “The Supervisor and the Board of Supervisors,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, November 5, 1864.
 "A Call — Endorsement, etc.," Watsonville Pajaronian, August 12, 1869.
 California Blue Book or State Roster, 1903. (Sacramento, State Printing Office, 1903), 403.
 William Wallace Elliott. Santa Cruz County, California: illustrations descriptive of its scenery, fine residences, public buildings, manufactories, hotels, farm scenes, business houses, schools, churches, mines, mills, etc. ... with historical sketch of the county / guide to illustrations by Jill Miller Perry ; alphabetical list of "officers of Santa Cruz County from 1850 to 1879" arranged by Stanley D. Stevens. (Santa Cruz, Calif.: [Indexed Edition by Leonard A. Greenberg and Stanley D. Stevens] Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center, 1997), 81.
 "The Hihn Company," Santa Cruz Surf, January 22, 1889.
 "Santa Cruz Incorporation," Pajaro Valley Times, March 12, 1864; "What is the use of being a Supervisor?" Pajaro Times, September 1, 1866.
 Charles O. Cummings, editor, “Hihn Still Reaching for the People’s Pockets,” Watsonville Pajaronian, December 7, 1876; Hilton, 334. Approximately $298,000 and $126,000 respectively in 2010$.
 “Loftier Than Loma Prieta,” Santa Cruz Surf, August 4, 1898; Santa Cruz City Water Department, “History of the Santa Cruz City Water Department,” Santa Cruz Public Libraries (accessed August 25, 2011).
 Letter from F. A. Hihn to Governor H. T. Gage, Letters of F. A. Hihn, 46:2058. A copy is also in the University Archives, Special Collections, Robert E. Kennedy Library, Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo. In Letters of F. A. Hihn, 46:2057, on March 13, 1902, F. A. Hihn to Prof. Edward J. Wickson, Chairman of the Trustees, Hihn relates his experience in negotiating the purchase: "I wrestled with Mr. Lowe as best I could. He may be uneducated, but he has very decided views on what he wants. It was past midnight before the papers were signed and the $10 paid." Hihn paid the ten dollars out of his own pocket to secure a sixty-day option.
 Clark, Donald T., Monterey County Place Names (Kestrel Press, Carmel Valley, 1991), 172-73; Letters of F. A. Hihn & The F. A. Hihn Co., 46:1892; Letter from F. A. Hihn to Agnes Hihn Younger, Christmas 1910, transcribed by Donald McKenzie and transmitted in an electronic letter to the author, ca. November 17, 1999, and Santa Cruz Surf, December 27, 1893; Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 27, 1896; Santa Cruz Surf, December 20, 1901; Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 25 & 27, 1901.
 Hihn Record Books, Vol. 3, 357
 "Extract from a letter of H. F. Hihn to his brother," Santa Cruz Sentinel, August 27, 1870. Approximately $11,500 in 2010$. "How Santa Cruz Celebrated Germany's Victory over France by a Mass Meeting - F. A. Hihn's Crowning Speech," Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 10, 1870.
 F. A. Hihn & Co., An Important Incorporation in Immediate Prospect," Santa Cruz Surf, January 21, 1889.
 Ron Powell quoted in MacGregor, 635, en. 29
 Arthur A. Taylor, editor, "Mr. F. A. Hihn, A Personal Tribute," Santa Cruz Surf, August 23, 1913. Taylor recounted: "The week before his death I met Mr. Hihn in the alley by the Pacific Ocean House at the noon hour. He said his nurse was away and he had played hookey. He had not been on Park Street before for several weeks. I congratulated him upon his healthful appearance and we walked together to his home. He carried a cane, but he did not lean heavily upon it. Our conversation was not concerning the country toward which he was hastening, but he unfolded a new scheme for money making, regarding which he said he would soon write a letter to the Surf. It proved to be the last time he was outside his private grounds."
Cite this Entry
"Frederick Augustus Hihn." (2020) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved January 22, 2020, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship: http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=23
Stevens, Stanley D and Benjamin Schwantes. "Frederick Augustus Hihn." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 2, edited by William J. Hausman. German Historical Institute. Last modified October 21, 2015. http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=23
"Frederick Augustus Hihn," Immigrant Entrepreneurship, 2020, Immigrant Entrepreneurship. 22 Jan 2020 <http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=23>
Portrait of Frederick A. Hihn, ca. 1890