Talbot H. Green had two valuable assets that he brought to California in 1841. One was his lump of “lead.” Whatever it was, however much it was worth, and however he managed to turn it into spendable currency, it helped to set him up in business.
His other asset was his experience as a storekeeper. He had no trouble finding work with Thomas O. Larkin, the foremost American merchant in Monterey. Men who knew how to handle merchandise, how to buy and sell and negotiate, who knew how to keep accounts and keep up friendly business relationships were in very short supply in Alta California. The only handicap that Green discovered in himself was that he couldn’t speak Spanish.
That was a drawback that was remedied over time, as Green learned the language and customs of California. Larkin soon grew to trust and rely on his new clerk. He sent him on business trips to Los Angeles and Mazatlan. By January 1846, when Green had been in California four years, he was able to contract with Larkin to run his mercantile business for a period of three years for one-third of the profits.
Green’s popularity increased along with his experience. Walter Colton, the alcalde at Monterey, said that Green “enjoys a wide reputation for business habits and sterling integrity of character.” No one had anything detrimental to say about him.
Green was a busy man in the 1840s. As Larkin’s agent, he sold goods to Capt. John C. Fremont and the rest of the U.S. military and naval forces. He voyaged to Mazatlan for supplies from Mexico, he sold goods and bought lots in San Francisco, and when the gold discovery took off, he visited the gold mines. He could see opportunities everywhere, and he moved his base of operations from Monterey to San Francisco.
In January 1849 he joined the prominent trading firm of Mellus, Howard, & Co. Now he had truly arrived. The Mellus brothers soon sold their interest and it became the firm of Howard & Green, buying, selling, trading, and providing office space in San Francisco. He was also active in political life, serving on the San Francisco city council.
In August 1850 the following advertisement appeared in the Daily Alta California.
It was the beginning of the Society of California Pioneers. Six men, including Talbot Green, Sam Brannan, and W.D.M. Howard, met to form a social club for emigrants who had arrived in California before the rush. The three-year requirement barred any forty-niners, and made it a very exclusive club indeed, although eventually they settled on January 1, 1850 as the cut-off arrival date for membership. Five men from the Bidwell-Bartleson Party of 1841 were among the first members: Green, John Bidwell, Grove Cook, Josiah Belden and Francis Henry Huber. Talbot Green was the society’s first treasurer.
Green was not only active in business, civic, and social life of San Francisco, but in the fall of 1849 he became a married man. A twice-married man, but nobody knew about his wife in Pennsylvania.
Stay tuned for the tale of Talbot Green and the redoubtable widow, Mrs. Montgomery.