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Home > Search > Site Map > Cemetery Stones & Monuments > From Quarry to Cemetery Monuments > Some California Monument Companies & Individuals (Continued)

From Quarry to Cemetery Monuments

Some California Monument Companies & Individuals (Continued)

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J. W. Combs (1836-1909) - Alameda Marble Works, San Jose

The Life Story of John William Combs, By Ruth Combs Edvalson, Granddaughter*

(* Please note that only portions of John W. Combs’ story will be presented here. For the full story, visit the “John W. Combs story” section our web site. You can also view the chronology and photographs of cemetery stones signed by him or his company names in the in the “Combs.”)

John William was born on the 18th of October 1836, to Lewis Jefferson Combs and Prudence Bogart in Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, New York. (ref. Bible Records)

The following is from Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, Edited by H.S. Foote, the Lewis Publishing Co., 1888).

John W. Combs was born in New York State October 17, 1836. His father, who was noted for his skills as a mechanic, died in Mr. Combs boyhood, and having a blind mother to support, he never attended school but 14 months. He started life as a butcher boy, which led him to study the forms and structure of animals, and having a natural taste for art, he one day asked a marble cutter for a block of marble, and taking it to his room, he procured an old chisel and mallet and while sitting up with his sick mother, cut the figure of a lamb out of it…He started to learn the trade of marble cutter at 17 years of age, and soon became very expert in figure carving.

Although he never took lessons in art, he has made many pieces, busts, and faces in basso-rilievo from photographs, which have been pronounced fine likenesses. One of his pieces was a basso-rilievo of Pope Leo which sold at a Catholic fair for $150. Other pieces have been valued much higher, among them the bust of ex-Senator Henry C. McEwen of Dixon, Solano County…His figure work has taken numerous first prizes at fairs and exhibitions…He came to San Jose in 1870 and has been in the marble business ever since, in the relation of proprietor or joint proprietor.

Mr. Combs married in Ogdensburg, New York. He lost his wife in 1865, who died leaving two sons and a daughter. Mr. Combs married his present wife in the same city on January 19, 1867. His two sons are both superior workmen in marble. John Combs first wife was Catherine McDonald the daughter of Ann and Rory McDonald. He was born in Inverness, Scotland March 15, 1836. John W. and Catherine were married the 3 rd of January 1855 in Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, New York....”

John William Combs’s second wife was Frances M. Rutherford, born 27 Apr 1841 in Edwardsburg, Canada West. They were married 9 Jan 1866 in Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence Co. New York. They had no children...John William Combs’s third wife was Oreta Calhoun, born 11 July 1862 in Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky, born to James Caldwell Calhoun and Mary Elizabeth Bowles. They had five children....)

About 1895 we find the John William Combs Family in Placerville, Ca. He also did some speculating in gold that didn’t “pan” out. Two of their children, Frankie and Calhoun, were born there....”

“The Western Granite and Marble Company is one of the representative industries of San Jose and Santa Clara Valley, organized May 1888 with T. C. Ryland, Pres., John W. Combs, Vice Pres., D. B. Murphy, Treas., T. P. Ryland, Sec., W. W. Blanchard, Mngr. and T O’Neal (O’Neil), Supt…own granite quarries at Yuba Pass, Crystal Lake Quarries, stones no superior in the world. Marble chiefly from Vermont.” Western Granite and Marble Co. (newspaper article).

“J. W. Combs established the marble business in San Jose in 1870. In 1878 W. W. Blanchard and T. O’Neil opened the first permanent granite manufactory in the city. In 1883 the three formed a partnership.”

John W. Combs

John W. Combs

John W. Combs (in 1888)

John W. Combs (in 1888)

John William Combs

John William Combs, Sculptor Gravestone in Walla Walla, Wash. (1836-1909) (Photographs submitted by Ruth Combs Edvalson, granddaughter)

John W. Combs Quarrying Stone - Photograph 1

John W. Combs Quarrying Stone. (left to right: Albert Combs, Angus Combs, and John W. Combs.) Photograph by Goldwin Brown, San Jose, Cal

John W. Combs Quarrying Stone - Photograph 2

John W. Combs Quarrying Stone

Cemetery Stone in the Woodland Cemetery by John W. Combs, Alameda Marble Works

The Lambert Cemetery Stone - Photograph 1
The Lambert Cemetery Stone - Photograph 2

The Lambert Cemetery Stone. (Transcription: Maranda Bell Lambert, daughter of W. J. & L. Campbell and wife of Wm. Lambert, Born Aug. 2, 1859, Died Nov. 6, 1879) Signed: J. W. Combs, Alameda Marble Works, San Jose


Israel W. Luce – I. Luce & Co., Sacramento

(* Please note that only portions of Israel Luce’s story will be presented here. For the full story, visit the “Luce” section our web site.)

The following information is taken from Leeanna Rossi’s notes on the Gold Rush Carvers. She is the author of Headstones of the Gold Rush Era: Sculpting Masterpieces in Marble. Golden Notes, vol. 43, number 3, Fall 1997, Sacramento Co. Historical Society, Sacramento, CA, 1997, available at the Old Sacramento City Cemetery.

According to Leeanna Rossi’s book, Israel W. Luce was born in 1824 in Newfield, New York. Luce arrived in San Francisco in May 1849 whereupon he went to the mountains to mine for gold in the Coloma mining camps until the winter of 1850 when he placed an shipment of marble from Charles Minturn of San Francisco. According to the Thompson and West History of Biography and the State of California and Biographical Record of Sacramento Co., 1880, “...marble was recovered from a ship wrecked off the coast of Chile, purchased by Minturn and sold to Luce in 1850. It was shipped to Sacramento on the ferry boat Beta in February 1851.” Luce opened the first marble works in Sacramento, and he advertised his company as the “Luce and Loveland’s Marble Works.”

In addition to being involved in the Sacramento marble business, Luce traveled throughout the mountains seeking marble to quarry. According to Rossi, “Luce ultimately discovered at least 4 quarries between Placer and Inyo counties.”1 His efforts provided California with a native source of marble so dealers did not have to rely on marble to be shipped from Vermont or Italy via the 13,328 miles around Cape Horn to San Francisco. In her book, Rossi notes that the “...Wells, Fargo & Co. price list for June 1, 1879 placed the cost of merchandise shipped from either New York of Boston at $17.00 per 100 pounds! Marble slabs even for cemetery items weighed in the many hundreds if not thousands of pounds.”2

( 1“Transactions of the Calif. State Agricultural Society During the Year 1864-65)

( 2 San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists, Louis J. Rasmussen, vol. I - IV, 1966, pp. 48)

Andrew Aitken and Israel Luce became partners under the company name of “Aitken & Luce, Premium Pioneer Marble Works” enabling them to use marble from the quarries discovered by Luce. According to Rossi, they were “able to market in neighboring states and chisel numerous monuments throughout CA.” Over the years, they won many awards at the State Agricultural Fair. They ended their business relationship in 1879 when Aitken formed a partnership with Frank N. Fish. Luce went into business with his son, John Coachman Luce with the company name of “Israel Luce & Co.”

Israel Luce remained active in the Sacramento stone industry until his death in October 1898 in Sacramento of heart disease. He was buried in the Sacramento Old City Cemetery.

The following cemetery stones include the signed name “Luce”

The Oliver Batese Westcott stone

The Oliver Batese Westcott stone. (Transcription: Oliver Batese Westcott, Born in N. Y. Nov. 22, 1814, Died Mar. 16, 1875) Signed: I. Luce & Co. Sac.

The Hunt cemetery stone - Photograph 1
The Hunt cemetery stone - Photograph 2

The Hunt cemetery stone. (Transcription: Alvis B. Hunt, Died Jan. 1, 1852, Age 28 yrs. 3 mo. 29 dys.) Signed: I.. Luce & Co., Sac.

The Fowler cemetery stone - Photograph 1
The Fowler cemetery stone - Photograph 2
The Fowler cemetery stone - Photograph 3

The Fowler cemetery stone. (Transcription: Almira, Wife of Dr. Fowler, Died Jan. 2, 1897, Aged 87 Ys. 4 Ms.)

Signed: I. Luce & Co. Sac.

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