John Edward Reynolds, Captain of the National Guards at Redding, California, is a native of Wisconsin. He was born in Dodgeville, August 2, 1849. His father, Edward Reynolds, a native of Scotland, married Margaret Doris, who was born in Wales. They came to the United States in 1840, and settled in Pennsylvania. In 1849 the father came to California, and in 1852 returned for his family, which at that time consisted of wife and five children. They reached Hangtown (now Placerville) in September of the same year. After a short stay there he went to Volcano Bar, on the American River, and engaged in mining and also kept hotel, being very successful in his undertakings. In 1854 the family came to Shasta County and took up their abode at Whiskeytown, five miles above Shasta. The father entered into a speculation in the Golden Gate Mining Tunnel, being successful in a financial way, but losing his life in the mine. In 1864, the tunnel caved in on him and others and suffocated them. Twenty hours later they were taken out dead.
The subject of this sketch was three years old when he came with his parents to California, and five when he came to Shasta County. The first work he did was when, at the age of ten years, he rode bell horse for a pack train from Shasta to Douglas City, Trinity County, a distance of fifty miles. The train consisted of fifty of sixty mules, and usually there were six men with them. Mr. Reynolds did the cooking, and was employed in that way for a year. After that he went to work for Town & Taggart, for whom he collected toll and clerked at the Town House. When Mr. Grant purchased the Weaverville and Shasta stage route, Mr. Reynolds became driver and drove till 1867. Then he drove stage for the Oregon and California Stage Company till 1876.
On the 19th of October, 1875, while driving fourteen miles north of Redding, they were stopped by two men who demanded the express box of Wells, Fargo & Co. Mr. Reynolds replied that it was locked in the bottom of the boat and they could not get at it at this place. Then the robbers shot at them, and the team ran and they got away without being robbed. On the following Christmas the company made him a present of a gold watch, inscribed as follows: "Presented to John Reynolds in recognition of his courage and devotion to Wells, Fargo & Co's interests, when attacked by highwaymen, October 19, 1875. John J. Valentine, General Superintendent."
In 1876 he went to work for Wells, Fargo & Co., as shotgun messenger, between Redding and Yreka and Redding and Weaverville. The gold from both places was sent down by express, from six to seven millions of dollars being sent per year by them. It was Mr. Reynolds' duty to guard it, and he acted in this capacity from 1876 till 1882. On the 6th day of September, 1876, they had $60,000 in gold dust with them and were within a mile of the top of Scott Mountain. At three o'clock a.m. the driver was commanded to halt, and was covered by a revolver in the hands of a masked highwayman. There were three of them, the second armed with a double-barreled shot-gun and the other with a rifle. Mr. Reynolds was in the coach, and, pointing his gun out between the curtains, shot the first man in the neck and he fell dead in his tracks. The horses started on the run. One of the highwaymen shot one horse in the fore leg. It ran 100 yards and fell dead. Mr. Reynolds then jumped from the stage and got in the shade of the trees, expecting a fight. The highwaymen, however, did not come on. One of the lead horses was put in the place of the dead one, and they reached Redding with their treasure in safety. The other men were afterward captured and tried. One pleaded guilty and was sentenced for five years. The other was convicted and sent to San Quentin for ten years. The Express Company showed their appreciation for this service by telegraphing Mr. Reynolds a present of $300.
In 1882 he received the appointment of Under Sheriff of Shasta County, William B. Hopping being Sheriff. This position he now (1890) holds. For the last eight years he has aided in the arrest of many criminals and has taken many to prison. None ever escaped from him after being captured.
December 19, 1889, Company E, Eighth Infantry Battalion, C.,N. G., was organized , with sixty of the best young men of Redding. Mr. Reynolds was chosen Captain. They are well equipped, make a fine appearance and are a credit to themselves as well as the city of Redding.
Mr. Reynolds was married, March 6, 1874, to Miss Eva Smithson, a native of Belvidere, Illinois. They have three children, born in Shasta County, namely: Mary L., Eddie S. and John B.
Mr. Reynolds has taken nine
degrees in the Masonic order, and has passed all the chairs in the I.O.O.F. In 1880 he received the nomination for Sheriff by the Republican party,
but it was decided by the Superior Court that there would be no election
and that the old officer would hold over two years.
Source: Memorial and Biographical History of Northern
California, Lewis Publishing Co., 1891 pages 778-780
Transcribed by: Melody Landon Gregory August 2004