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2010 History Makers - The Crocker Family

Every year, the San Mateo County Historical Association hosts a History Makers Dinner that highlights an individual and/or family of San Mateo County who has made significant contributions to California history and beyond.

Charles Crocker, born in 1822, married Mary Deming and had four children who lived to adulthood, Charles Frederick Crocker, George Crocker, Harriet Crocker, and William H. Crocker. Charles Crocker is most recognized for his prominent role in the building of the Central Pacific Railroad, becoming one of the four principal investors along with Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Collis Huntington (also known as the Big Four).
His position with the company was that of construction supervisor. Under his leadership, the Central Pacific built its part of the railroad seven years ahead of schedule. He later helped lay the Southern Pacific’s transcontinental line across the Southwest. In another important effort, Charles Crocker acquired Woolworth National Bank, which would take on many names, finally becoming Crocker Bank.

William H. Crocker, youngest son of Charles Crocker, married Ethel Sperry and had four children, Ethel Mary Crocker, William Willard Crocker, Helen Victoria Crocker, and Charles Crocker. William H. Crocker became president of Crocker Bank in 1893. The bank was headquartered in San Francisco. After the 1906 earthquake, William H. Crocker and his bank were major forces in financing reconstruction. Along with his generous efforts to restore San Francisco, he and his wife Ethel, donated a Nob Hill block to rebuild Grace Cathedral Church. William H. Crocker served on the Burlingame Country Club’s first Board of Directors as treasurer (his New Place mansion is now home to the club), and on the original town council of Hillsborough. In 1896, William H. Crocker commissioned the Sky Farm mansion to be built as a wedding gift for his sister-in-law and her husband. The mansion was later occupied by his son, William Willard Crocker and his family. Today, the Hillsborough mansion serves as home to The Nueva School, a nationally recognized independent school serving gifted children.

Charles Frederick Crocker, eldest son of Charles Crocker, became Vice President of the Southern Pacific Railroad. He married Jennie Easton and had three children, Mary Crocker, Charles Templeton Crocker, and Jennie Crocker. Charles Templeton Crocker was influenced by his family’s philanthropic efforts. During a time of struggle, Charles Templeton Crocker supported the California Historical Society until it collected enough dues to hire its first staff member. He was a Hillsborough town council member who built Uplands II, an Italian-style mansion designed by Willis Polk. Jennie Crocker, sister to Charles Templeton Crocker, was a socialite and considered to be a “free spirit”. According to local newspapers, she was infamous for her adventures in her 1909 Pierce Arrow. The automobile, still in pristine shape, will be on display during the History Makers Dinner. Jennie Crocker assisted Crystal Springs Uplands School in obtaining Uplands, her brother’s former mansion. Today, Crystal Springs Uplands School is recognized as one of the top college preparatory schools in the United States.
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