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Josiah and Eliza Smith Sturgis

Written by Richard Patchin 2015, Judie Palmer 2021

Josiah Sturgis was born on April 23, 1817 in Nantucket, Massachusetts. His wife, Eliza was born on April 26, 1819 in Virginia. Josiah married Eliza Smith in Nantucket, Massachusetts on September 22, 1839.

In the 1850 U.S. Census, we find Josiah is a stone cutter of Miscellaneous Nonmetallic Mineral and Stone Products in Massachusetts. He and Eliza have two children, Sarah (9) and Thomas (5). Two of Eliza’s relatives are living with them.

The next time we find Josiah, he is a merchant in the 1852 California Census. In the same year, Josiah purchases the Hotel de Steward in Martinez from William Jones (African American ship cook) and renames it the Alhambra Hotel. The hotel stood on Ward Street facing Estudillo Street. However, in his Contra Costa Gazette ad of May 5, 1860, he says it is located “Park Place (West side of bridge)”.

He returns to his family in Massachusetts as shown in the 1855 U.S. Census and is a merchant. Listed along with Josiah and Eliza are their two children Sarah (14) and Thomas (10). along with 3 of Eliza’s relatives.

In the 1860 U.S. Census, we find Josiah and his family now in Martinez. Josiah is still the owner of the Alhambra Hotel and his occupation states “Hotel Keeper”. Sarah is 19 and Thomas is 15. In the same year, the Agriculture Federal Census Schedule shows Josiah had 3 horses, 5 milch cows, 20 other cattle, and 30 pigs with the livestock value of $500.

According to the January 2, 1912 issue of the Oakland Tribune, “Sturgis added to the original building, at various times, until it became the largest hostelry in Contra Costa County. The old hotel was famous throughout the state because of the jolly parties which was quartered there in the old days. Many notable men and women stopped at the Alhambra in the past.”

According to his ad in the Contra Costa Gazette on May 5, 1860, his place served meals at all hours and had the best eatables and lodgings. He states that there was attached a fine stable for horses along with the best hay, grain and water.

In the 1867 Pacific Coast Directory, Josiah is listed as still being the proprietor of the Alhambra Hotel in Martinez. In the same year, he planted one hundred acres of land with locust trees for the benefit of lumber. On November 1, 1867, Josiah along with George Kinlock and Joseph D. Allen received a military warrant of 160 acres of land in the Mount Diablo area through the ScripWarrant Act of 1855.

In the 1870 U.S. Josiah still owns the Alhambra Hotel and is doing quite well. Their daughter, Sarah, has married and became Mrs. Sarah Cutler. She and her daughter, Carrie, is living with them. Josiah’s real estate value has swelled to $10,000 ($192,300 today). The value of his personal estate is $5,000 ($96,150 today).

In 1878, Josiah Sturgis offers to donate 10 acres of tide land to the Sweepstake Plow Company for their new manufacturing facility. The company inspected the site which was below Cemetery Point and fronting along the railroad. This would have suited the company well but for the cost of filling. At the same time, the company was trying to make a deal with another offer of obtaining 10 acres west from the Grangers Business Association. As of February 1879, the agreement had yet to be reached and the Sweepstake Plow Company was still in San Leandro.

In the 1880 U.S. Census we find Josiah listed as “landlord” and his occupation is still “hotel keeper”. Eliza, Sarah and Carrie are still living with him, but Josiah is now sick with rheumatism.

On February 7, 1884, Eliza passes away. On July 23, 1897, Josiah Sturgis, owner of the Alhambra Hotel, dies suddenly in his Martinez home at the age of 80. His funeral was held in his Martinez residence.

Note: The original owner of the Hotel de Steward, William Jones, died in April of 1873 from an unknown illness of several weeks, leaving behind a wife and a large family of little children. He was the first African-American to own a hotel in Martinez. He remained as the cook for the Alhambra Hotel until his death.

The original content of this post was taken from the previous website and updated for republishing in 2021.

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