Charles Veeder in California

By Jessica Gorman

The story of Charles H. Veeder, as it relates to Minden, basically goes like this. In 1835, he purchased the site of Minden from Adam L. Stewart. The following year, he laid out the town of Minden, built the Rock Hotel, and worked to attract settlers to his new town. He aimed to have Minden named the seat of Claiborne Parish, but despite Minden receiving that designation, it was stripped away and Veeder picked up and moved on to California during the Gold Rush. 

 In California, he faced even more frustration. He settled in Vallejo, recently named the state capital, where he invested in a hotel intended to provide lodging for state officials. From the beginning, legislators were dissatisfied with conditions in Vallejo. In 1852, the legislative session began there but was moved to Sacramento. This resulted in a huge loss of income for Veeder and others for which they asked to be compensated. In 1853, the legislative session began with much the same dissatisfaction, and when provided the opportunity to move the capitol from Vallejo to Benicio, legislators acted immediately. 

In a letter to the Petaluma Argus-Courier, Veeder said this decision left him penniless. He felt that the bill moving the state capitol was unconstitutional and accused the state government of victimizing all who had invested in Vallejo. His words seem to reveal frustration over his general experience with decisions regarding seats of government. “I have said that taking the entire history of legislation and speculation connected with the different removals of the seat of government, that it presents a series of chicanery and corruption unparalleled in the annals of American legislation…”

Veeder moved his hotel, the claim being that he quite literally moved the hotel building, from Vallejo to Petaluma. It was, as Minden had been, a head of navigation for steamboats. While it would seem that this would be a lucrative place for a hotel and a place where he could find success, Veeder didn’t stay long. 

Instead, he moved north again. This time, he founded the town of Calpella which he had named after the chief of a local American Indian tribe. In 1857, rumors circulated that Veeder and his family had been massacred in the Ukiah Valley, but those rumors turned out to be false. In Calpella, Veeder worked as an attorney and notary public while also being active in politics. He ran for public office and, in 1862, was named a delegate to represent Mendocino County at the Democratic State Convention. He also made news for growing a squash that reportedly weighed in at 107 pounds. 

Veeder didn’t stay in his new town, but moved yet again. This time, south to Bakersfield where he served as an attorney. Again, there was a fight for the seat of government. This time, the matter had to be taken up by the court and Bakersfield became the seat of Kern County in 1874. 

Charles Veeder died the next year. On 14 September 1875, the Sacramento Bee reported his death. “Col. Veeder, a ’49 pioneer, died in Kern county last week, at the age of 79.”

(Jessica Gorman is the Executive Director for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum, Webster Parish Historian, and an avid genealogist.)