The Tracy Family History
Commodore Cornelius Kingsland Garrison

San Francisco History Center,
San Francisco Public Library

“...Martha, who married James M. Estill, of Madison Co, Kentucky, a grandson of the noted pioneer, (Capt.) James Estill. (Killed at the Battle of Estill's Defeat [chapter 23]). In 1850, Archibald (Woods) and his son-in-law James M. Estill went to California overland across the plains. Estill’s wife, Martha, and their children, followed him in1851, going by way of the Isthmus of Panama. In this arduous journey they were safely conducted by their faithful slave, Jordan, (Remember, Kentucky slaves were family.) and the party crossed the Isthmus on mules. Estill rose to prominence in California, and was elected to the State Senate. A few years later both Archibald Woods and his son-in-law, Estill died in California. Mr. Estill was a gentleman of brilliant gifts, and took a position in the best ranks of society. James M. Estill and Martha Wood(s): left five daughters and a son, as follows: 1. Elizabeth, who married in California, William R. Garrison (son of Commodore Garrison, a millionaire of New York City)..."

    Like James Gillespie Birney, the abolitionists, Commodore Garrison would be famous in his times, and both are unknown today. Birney’s fame came due to his campaign to free the slaves; whereas, Commodore Garrison’s fame would come through his drive to acquire wealth.
    The Commodore was a tough one to research as all I had to go on was “Commodore Garrison, a millionaire of New York City.” It took the library researchers some time to come up with a full name, then information on the man. He was a biggie! (Research was done before the days of Google.)
    Strangely, for a man of such immense wealth and fame, no book has ever been written on his life.
    Born near West Point, New York, in 1809, he would go to work at the early age of 13 to help support the family. This was not unusual for the times. He starts off in the boating business working on his father’s schooner.
    He studies architecture and civil engineering. He then goes on to Buffalo and builds things, then to Canada where he builds bridges and marine things. By 1839, he is in St. Louis and becomes immensely wealthy. He builds, owns, and commands almost every commercial boat on the Mississippi River.
    In 1852, he opens a bank in Panama. It was not a stupid idea as Panama controlled the transportation to the gold fields in California. In 1856, he is elected San Francisco’s fifth mayor. He served without pay, donating his salary to the orphanage.
    He moves around a lot and in 1859 winds up in his home state of New York where he becomes a “financier and speculator.” As the Civil War approaches he is a staunch Union supporter and provides the government with his fleet.
    His wealth comes not only from shipping interest and banking, but also from railroads. Jay Gould wants to buy his Missouri Pacific Railway. The Commodore offers a price, which Gould refused. The next day the Commodore raises the price, which is again refused by Gould. The third day the Commodore raises the price again. Realizing he had been out- maneuvered, Gould replied, “I’ll take it!” The two men knew each other well as the Commodore had once worked for Gould. (I don’t think Gould was an honest financier, not like the ones we have today.)
    Commodore Garrison had many other financial interests and dealings.
    He died in 1885 and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.

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