Jean-David Guerraz (1805-1893)
Father unknown
Mother unknown
Vital Dates
Born August 21, 1805 in Geneva, Switzerland (French Occupied)
Married (1) Sophia, c1825, divorced August 1830
Married (2) Elizabeth Bridges (1819-1904), Oct 23, 1835 in Clay County, Missouri
Died December 6, 1893 in San Jose, Santa Clara, California
Children with Elizabeth Bridges
1 Louise Guerraz (1842-1927) m. Socrates Kirk
2 Suzanne Guerraz (1843-1924) m. Henry James Robinson
3 John David Guerraz Jr (1845-1932) m. Sophronia Brakefield, Lucy Alice Benner
4 George Guerraz (1846-1852)
5 Mary Guerraz (1848-1919) m. Louis Chopard
6 Martha Guerraz (1851-1953)
7 Gabriel Guerraz (1852-1864)
8 Henry Guerraz (1855-1941) m. Sarah
9 James William Guerraz (1857-1935) m. Sarah J. Heagney
10 unknown
11 unknown

Very little is known of the origins of John David Guerraz. We know that he was born in French occupied Geneva, Switzerland in 1805 and that his name was originally Jean-David Guerraz (pronounced in French as Gear-ay). It is said that his father was a captain in Napoleon's army but no documentation of this has been found and a number of people with the name of Guerraz have been found in the Vaud area of Geneva. It seems that at some point in his youth, in 1827, he made his way to the Netherlands, or perhaps found the position through his fathers connections, as we know that he was working as a servant to the Chevalier Huygens of the Netherlands, Minister to the United States. In 1828 they were in Washington, D.C. when he and two other servants, named Francois Auguste Michand and Ferdinand Michand, was discovered to have stolen three boxes of jewelry, a trunk of silver plates and $300 in cash. The three fled the city on the York Road ending up at a tavern four miles outside of the city. It was at the tavern that they were found napping and were arrested, with the exception of Ferdinand who managed to escape.

We don't know how long John David was in jail but by 1830 we find that he was absent from his wife, Sophia. She was living in Switzerland County, Indiana - which is interesting considering he was from Switzerland. She filed for divorce and a notice was posted in "The Republican", a local newspaper. The divorce was granted due to failure to appear by Jean-David. A few years later his 2nd marriage was recorded on October 23, 1835 in Clay County, Missouri. This second marriage was to Elizabeth Bridges. According to family lore this marriage was an elopement and that they couple ran off together. This legend was substantiated when the Will of her father, Jesse Bridges, was found last year. In it his daughter "Elizabeth Gary, whereabouts unknown" was listed.

Their first child, Louise, was born in Missouri in 1842 according to several later census records. It could be assumed that she was born in Clay County, where her parents were married, but it would mean that Jean-David and Elizabeth went back to her family after their elopement. Perhaps it was safe with her fathers death, and perhaps it was to collect her portion of the estate. In truth, we do not know exactly where she was born.

By November of 1843 they were in Little Rock, Arkansas for the birth of their second child, Suzanne. No information has ever been passed down on why they were in Little Rock, and they didn't stay for long. By March of 1845 they had move to Louisiana. It was later said that they had lived on a plantation near Baton Rouge were Jean-David worked as the overseer. They continued in Louisiana until at least November of 1848 for the birth of their daughter and fifth child, Mary.

It is believed that they family made their way to California shortly after the birth of Mary and arrived in California in 1849 and settled in the down of "Dry Diggins", a mining village. Shortly after they arrived they witnessed the hanging of two horse thieves, which was recounted by some of the children who saw the execution through the boards of the wooden house they were in after being told not to watch. After this the town was renamed to "Hangtown" and, later, given a final name of Placerville, California. Now going by the English name of "John David", he had opened a store and made a fortune rather than mining for gold. With the money they made in a very short time they bought a ranch in Santa Clara, California in about 1850.

Their daughter Martha was the first to be born in that city in 1851. The following year their son George, died at age 6 around the same time that another son, Gabriel, was born. Martha died at age two in 1853. At least two more children were born in San Jose. George in 1855 and James in 1857. We believe that there were two additional children but we don't know at which point or location they were born or died.

After those tragedies the family was finally blessed with some good news with two weddings - first the marriage of their eldest daughter, Louise, to Socrates Kirk on October 10, 1859 and followed soon after by their second daughter, Suzanne, to Henry James Robinson on November 27, 1859.

In January of 1864 John David made his first Declaration of Intent to become a citizen of the United States and give up his citizenship to the Republic of Switzerland.
Shortly after this major life change their son Gabriel died in 1864 at the age of 12. We don't know the cause. The five remaining children, Louise, Suzanne, John David Jr, Mary and Henry - all lived into old age.

In June of 1867 his declaration was finalized and John David finally became a naturalized citizen of the United States, and he registered to vote the very same day.

They celebrated another marriage in December of 1867 of daughter Mary to Louis Chopard. The sons married a bit later in life, perhaps to establish themselves a bit on their own. John David Jr married at age 28 in 1873 to Sophronia Brakefield and the youngest, James, didn't marry until he was 31 in 1888 to Sadie Heagney.

It was some time in the 1870's that John David and Elizabeth sold their ranch in Santa Clara and bought a very large ranch in San Jose where Alum Rock Park is now located. It was here that the now elderly couple enjoyed their retirement years in this beautiful part of the state. They became involved in civic organizations including the Freemasons, Lodge No 10 where John David is listed in 1882.

They lived happily for another decade until John David began to suffer from some medical condition, or so it seems. He wrote his Will in June of 1893 and he passed away on the following December 6. The cause of death was listed in the registry as an overdose of tincture of opium, or laudanum. This was a highly addictive drug used for a large number of conditions at the time. While it is possible that his death was a suicide, laudanum being a very common method, it is equally as likely that it was an accidental overdose. The registry does not make a distinction.

After an incredible life John David Guerraz was buried at Oak Hill Memorial Park in San Jose. He was joined by his wife in 1904.

- - - - -


Census Records

  1. 1860 Census: Santa Clara, Santa Clara, California
  2. 1870 Census: Santa Clara, Santa Clara, California
  3. 1880 Census: San Jose, Santa Clara, California

Newspaper Articles

  1. Adams Sentinel: July 30, 1828 - arrest for robbery
  2. The Republican: July 15, 1830 - divorce
  3. Sacramento Daily Union: June 20, 1876 - attempted murder by August Gebaily

Voter Registration

  1. 1867: Guerraz, John David of Santa Clara, Santa Clara County, California

Wills & Probate

  1. Jean-David Guerraz: Will, San Jose, 1893