Santa Cruz County History - People

A Walk Through Time: Adna A. Hecox
by Janet Krassow and
by Randy Krassow

On March 17, 1883, the flag at the Santa Cruz lighthouse was lowered to half-mast to signal the death of Adna Hecox, the first light keeper. But this Michigan native was much more than just that, because a history of early Santa Cruz could not be written without including the Hecox name.

Born in 1806, Adna Hecox apprenticed as a carpenter, and as a young man, worked at various locations in the midwest. In 1846, he set his sights on the healthy climates of California, and departed for the coast. Traveling in his party were several other men who would one day pioneer the area around Monterey Bay. At the Great Salt Lake the party divided into two groups, the first of which Hecox was a member, continued due west along the old Oregon trail, while the other turned south toward the Humboldt Sink and Sierra Nevada mountains. This group was led by Captain Donner and would soon meet with a horrible fate in the snow covered ridges.

Photograph of the Memorial for Adna Hecox
The Memorial for Adna Hecox

When Hecox arrived in California he took part in the rebellion against Mexico. Afterwards, he settled next to the Soquel Creek built a sawmill which was prospering when the cry of gold sent him scurrying toward the gold diggings at Hangtown.

After a short stint in the mines, he returned to Santa Cruz and went into partnership with Elihu Anthony in some of the first commercial ventures in Santa Cruz. He was elected Alcalde (Mayor) in 1849, and was the last man to hold that position. He would later serve as associate county judge and treasurer of the newly formed county.

Hecox is most often remembered as the man who brought into existence the first temperance union in the state of California, and in 1870, when the lighthouse was built, he was appointed the first keeper. After his death, his beloved daughter Laura Hecox was selected to replace him. Father and daughter are buried in adjoining plots.

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