Hiram Clay Kellogg
Hiram (H. Clay) Kellogg was a native Californian, an uncommon attribute for one of Orange County’s pioneers. He was born in St. Helena, Napa County, on September 9, 1855, just six years after California became a state.
Hiram’s father Benjamin made the migration to California with his older brother Florentine and Florentine’s family in 1846. The group traveled in a wagon train that included the ill-fated Donner party. Like the Donners and a few others, they followed the as-yet untried “Hastings Cutoff” shortcut to California. The Kellogg wagons and most of the others made it safely over the Sierras before the heavy snowstorm that trapped the Donners, who had fallen badly behind on the trail.
The family settled near St. Helena, California. The war against Mexico, which would secure California for the United States, was still in progress. Benjamin enlisted in John C. Fremont’s California Battalion. His company made a long hazardous march to the battle front near Los Angeles, only to discover that the Mexican Army had surrendered the day before they arrived.
Benjamin served out his enlistment and returned to the Napa Valley, where he later married Mary Orilla Lillie. They had nine children, of whom H. Clay was the oldest.
When H. Clay was 13, the family moved to a farm in Anaheim where they raised crops and cattle and engaged in the dairy business. As an adult, H. Clay declined to enter his father’s business. Instead he opened a sundries shop in Santa Ana with one of his brothers. From this successful business he earned enough money to attend the short-lived Wilson College in Wilmington. He graduated as a civil engineer in 1879 at the age of 24. Until 1883, he laid out vineyards in Anaheim, Placentia, and Pasadena during the heyday of southern California wineries.
H. Clay’s first important engineering job was laying out the town of Elsinore in 1883. For the next ten years he served in several overlapping positions. He was Chief Engineer of the Anaheim Union Water Company and of the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Company. He was also the Deputy County Surveyor for the County of Los Angeles, which at the time included the area that is now Orange County. He planned the streets of downtown Corona, with its circular main street, Grand Boulevard. This unusual street was the site of a road race in 1913 that featured the legendary Barney Oldfield and other star race drivers of the time.
During the same period, Kellogg became Engineer of the Corona Water System and supervised construction of the Pacific Electric railway between San Bernardino, Riverside and Colton. At some point he added Engineer of the Anaheim Irrigation District to his resume. On top of all this, he found time to become Chief Construction Engineer for a dam being built near Gila Bend, Arizona.
From 1894 to 1899, he was the Orange County Surveyor responsible for many of our major roads and bridges. Joan-Marie Michelsen, H. Clay’s great granddaughter, remembers a story told to her about one of these bridges. H. Clay, without humility, bragged the bridge would last forever. When it was later scheduled to be demolished and replaced by a larger bridge, the first demolition attempt failed. The dynamite produced only a “whomp.”
Another family anecdote tells of Kellogg’s being chastised for driving on the wrong side of the street. His response was that he “built the (expletive) street and will drive on it any way I please.”
In 1903 he went to the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where he served as head construction engineer for an irrigation dam and its associated ditches that was being built by the Waialua Sugar Company. This dam, named Wahiawa, impounds the waters of Lake Wilson and is still the highest earthen dam in Hawaii.
In 1906, he was appointed Engineer of the Newbert Protection District, making him responsible for flood control of the Santa Ana River from Santa Ana to the ocean. The following year he returned briefly to Oahu to consult on the structural integrity of the Nu’uanu dam, which was then under construction.
He married twice, the first time to Victoria Schultz who died shortly after the birth of their only child, Victoria Sibyl. His second wife was Helen Vianna Kellogg*. This marriage produced four children: Helen, Hiram Clay, Jr., Leonard Franklin and Oahu Rose. Grandson Ralph Michelsen remembered him as a loving man who gave Ralph a big hug every day during the year Ralph lived in the Kellogg house.
He died in 1921 at the age of 66.
*H. Clay and Helen Vianna were distantly related, both descending from Lt. Joseph Kellogg, born 1624 in Hadley, Massachusetts. Helen Kellogg descended through Joseph’s first wife Joanna Foote. Hiram Clay Kellogg descended through Joseph’s second wife Abigail Terry.