Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


James Harper of Pacific Grove is an efficient and popular federal officer who well deserves the honors bestowed upon him, and the position which he now fills - that of postmaster. A native of the Shetland Islands, he was born at Lerwick, off the coast of Scotland, June 1, 1873, and his parents were Thomas Harper, now deceased, a native of Lerwick, who had married Miss Mary Henry, still living at the age of eighty-three, who also first saw the light where her husband and son were born. Mr. Harper came to Monterey, California, in 1877 and, being a tailor by trade, here conducted a shop, while later he was manager for David Jack, who then owned all the land where Pacific Grove now stands. Mr. Harper died about ten years ago and of his six children three are still living,-James; Mary, who is Mrs. Walker, of Watsonville; and Sinclair O., who is in the United States reclamation service, at Grand Junction, Colorado.

After he had attended, in Monterey, the first school held at Colton Hall, historic as the first capitol in California, James Harper was one of the three boys that made up the original class to graduate from the Pacific Grove grammar school, the other two being J. C. Anthony and C. W. Gretter. He later pursued a commercial course at the U. P. Academy, at Pacific Grove, then affiliated with the University of the Pacific. While yet a youth he took up telegraphy with the Western Union Telegraph Company, in Pacific Grove, and for thirteen years was manager of the telegraph office there. At that time the Post office, Wells Fargo's express office and the Western Union were all in the same building, and during that period James Harper also acted as clerk in the post office and as assistant postmaster under four administrations. Fourteen years ago he was appointed postmaster of Pacific Grove, and after serving for five years, was again appointed, in January, 1924, by President Coolidge, to the office he now so acceptably fills.

For eight years Mr. Harper was a city trustee of Pacific Grove, and for four years of that period was mayor of the city, resigning from the board when he became postmaster. During his administration as mayor, the new street paving was completed, at a cost of two hundred thousand dollars and five hundred thousand square feet of asphalt and concrete were laid. New fire apparatus was also purchased, and twenty acres were secured as a windbreak at the park. Mr. Harper has always been active in republican party councils, attending many state conventions. In business circles, too, he is widely known, having for eight years been a member of the real estate firm of Harper & Leek, which business he sold only recently, after bringing it to a high grade that made it a really desirable acquisition.

Mr. Harper was married to Miss Merle Francis, a native of Victoria, B. C. Three children have blessed this union: James Harrold, seventeen years old; Frances, who is fourteen and a daughter, Althea. Mr. Harper belongs to the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, and he is trustee of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pacific Grove, in which he also has been treasurer for twelve years. His interest centers in those activities which produce the greatest good for the greatest number and his sterling worth is widely acknowledged.

Source: History of Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, California : cradle of California's history and romance : dating from the planting of the cross of Christendom upon the shores of Monterey Bay by Fr. Junipero Serra, and those intrepid adventurers who accompanied him, down to the present day. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1925, 890 pgs.