|A.J. Elsbree and his faithful "Rover"|
Andrew was born in 1828 in Fall River, Massachusetts, the son of John Elsbree and Susan (Sanford) Elsbree. Andrew's parents both died young—his mother dying aged 28-29, when Andrew was only 7 years old, and his father aged 38, when Andrew was 16-17. Both of Andrew's parents descended from old New England families, with his father being a direct descendant of Mayflower passenger, Richard Warren (via the Warren, Church, Boomer, and Luther families).
It appears that his father's death precipitated the need for Andrew to seek a new life and, at the young age of 17, he began a life at sea, traveling all over the world on both commercial ships and warships. He finally arrived in San Francisco June 7, 1855 and it was from San Francisco that he made his way to Tuolumne County, California, where he initially resided in Jamestown.
|Sketch of Sonora c. 1852|
When in Sonora, at the age of 39, he married the widowed Pamelia Caroline Smith Tucker and had 8 (or possibly 9!) children with her and the Elsbrees became a prominent family in Sonora. However, it was for his role as the night watchman of Sonora that he is best known:
He has often been placed in positions where he was obliged to exert great shrewdness to avoid personal violence. Being well known as a man of courage, he was made deputy constable, with full power to keep the peace, and for twenty-three years and seven months was the night watchman for the city of Sonora, being the oldest night watchman in the state. Many thrilling experiences and hairbreadth escapes has he had in the prosecution of his duty, and ever has he been loyal to those whom he served. At all times he was assisted by his faithful dog “Rover,” which on a number of occasions was instrumental in the saving of his life. Night Watchman Elsbree and his dog “Rover,” are widely known in their section of the state to both desperado and the law-abiding citizen.(Source: A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of Northern California, 1901, Standard Genealogical Publishing Company.)
In the 61 years of his life spent here he was ever found to be an honorable and upright citizen, and enjoyed to the fullest extent the confidence and esteem of every member of the community. For years, in the more turbulent times, he was guardian of the town by night, and he was vigilant and faithful in the performance of his duties, and fearless and brave when the situation required the exercise of those qualities. Gentle, genial and generous, the heart of a true pioneer beat beneath his breast, and its beats were ever in sympathy with the afflicted in all walks of life.I feel so honored to be even remotely connected to this amazing pioneering man, who served his community so faithfully for so many years and who, as his obituary stated, was a true pioneer.