Madera County Historical Society
Capt. Russel Perry Mace, shown here, was a leader in creating Madera County from Fresno County in 1893. In less than a year, he was dead. His 350 pounds were just too much for his heart. The three-term assemblyman died with his wife and children at his side.
Excitement ran through Madera in May 1893. Through the efforts of a coterie of determined pioneers, all of Fresno County north of the San Joaquin River had been transformed into Madera County. A bright future rose on the horizon for everyone who had taken part in the rebellion except two of its leaders — Henry Clay Daulton and Capt. Russel Perry Mace. In less than a year after their momentous political victory, both men were dead.
The fateful irony began with Daulton. He had presided over the new Board of Supervisors as its Chairman for just five months, then on October 28, 1893, he was killed in a tragic and inexplicable buggy accident.
The town was still officially in mourning when the second blow struck the hierarchy of the Madera County mutiny. Six months after Daulton’s death, Captain Mace, Madera’s first resident, died in his hotel, the same one in which the final plans of the rebellion had been laid.
Unlike Daulton’s demise, however, there was no mystery about his death. At the age of 73 years, 11 months, and 10 days, his 350-pound body gave up the ghost. His passing is recorded in a rare copy of the Madera Mercury, which his family vouchsafed among his papers. It is dated April 26, 1894.
What follows are the highlights of Mace’s obituary taken verbatim from the Mercury.
“At 3:15 A.M. Tuesday, the Grim Messenger came and called from our midst that noble and grand, good old man, Captain Russel P. Mace.
“Mr. Mace had been in comparatively good health most of the winter, and up until recently no immediate danger was apprehended. At 3:15 o’clock this morning his family was awakened by a noise in his room. They went to his assistance at once.
“They summoned a physician, but to no avail. He was conscious to the end. The cause of his death was heart failure.”
“There is much of historical interest connected with the lives of pioneers but few have passed through more thrilling adventures than the subject of this sketch, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, May 14, 1820.
“Anticipating the delights of a sea life, though still but a lad, he went to Boston, and as a cabin boy shipped on board a coaster bound for New Orleans. But this life was not all his youthful dreams had pictured, and he found one trip quite sufficient. At New Orleans he left the ship and went to Independence, Missouri, and joined the trading train of the American Fur Company en route for Bent’s Fort on the Arkansas River.
“At Bent’s Fort his adventurous life began and continued until 1844, when he returned to New Orleans. At the opening of the Mexican War, he was among the first to volunteer and for three months served under General Gaines, being very severely wounded. During this time the Secretary of War had made a requisition upon Louisiana for a regiment, and by leave Mr. Mace returned to New Orleans and recruited the first company under the requisition — Company A, of which he was appointed captain, and in which he served until the treaty was made with Mexico.
“About this time the gold excitement broke out in California to which place he started at once via Panama. Arriving in San Francisco in August 1849, he went to ‘Happy Valley’ for a few weeks and then to the San Joaquin above Millerton. He joined a company and spent three years in building a race to turn the river, after which he struck it rich for a short time, making the first day from a few buckets of dirt, $900, and for several days $1,000 per day, but the bed soon played out.
“Captain Mace also discovered a rich quartz mine at Fine Gold, but during his absence, it was mismanaged and destroyed. He then turned to the ranch and stock interest, and as a heavy loser by the “No Fence” law, had to kill his stock to dispose of them.
“He managed the hotel at Borden from ‘74 to ‘76 when he came to Madera, being the first to buy town lots, and in 1877 erected a two-story frame hotel which was afterwards burned, the present brick structure being erected over its ashes.
“Captain Mace was a member of Madera Lodge No. 280 F.&A.M., Trigo Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. He was also a member of the California Pioneers and of the Veterans of the Mexican War. He served three terms in the State Legislature of this state under Governors Law, Haight, and Irwin, in the years 1865, 1868, and 1877, with distinction, having held the chairmanship of some of the most important committees during his terms of office.
“Captain Mace was twice married, and leaves a wife and four children — William J., Mamie, Russell, and Inez — to mourn the loss that has deprived the bereaved family of a kind husband and father and the community of a man whose sterling integrity and mental endowments have won for him a high place in the regard of all who knew him.
“The funeral took place Wednesday at 2 o’clock from the Methodist Church.”