A. Taylor’s “Mr. F. A. Hihn — A Personal Tribute.” 1913.


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Mr. F.A. Hihn -- A Personal Tribute

[by Arthur Adelbert Taylor, Editor & Publisher, Santa Cruz Surf ]

F. A. HIHN was a tremendous man. He possessed the power of ten ordinary men, apart from the influence of great riches. Crowds of people who count in the census are so meagerly endowed or so indolent in the development of their powers that their traits and characteristics can be easily defined and classified. Their attitude upon any question can be forecasted because they always do the same things. They get under the shelter of a church, of a political party, of societies’ conventions, and they follow. They are good men. Or, they take another course and are easily classified as bad men.

Not so Mr. Hihn. He had his own mind upon every matter that he came in contact with; consequently he was sometimes right and sometimes wrong, but always the power of his personality was great.

He was born well. He gave his youth to energetic adventure — not to idle dissipation. His physical and mental activities were constant and unceasing, and he waxed strong and powerful and became a mighty oak.

Because, perforce, a newspaper deals with public affairs, and because Mr. Hihn was always interested in public affairs, and because his property interests were such that comparatively little could be accomplished of a public nature in this city and county without contact with his property, we were brought into close relations, and I had almost written of constant friction, but that would not be true.

We often co-operated. On the water question we were implacable foes, and often on other and lesser issues bitter opponents, but many a time, and often, we worked in harmony for the promotion of public welfare.

Often during the years in our dealings we were reminded of the ditty in the primer, of the little girl, who, when she was good, was very, very good, and when she was bad, she was horrid.

Petty men, microscopic men let their lives be governed by likes and dislikes, by prejudice, jealousy and hate, but because Mr. Hihn was a many sided man, of broad vision in many directions, we were able to be both enemies and friends, to fight and to fraternize.

He was a constant subscriber and a regular advertiser in the Surf during the long years of the “water war,” and in times of public emergency when it did not seem politic for us to meet publicly lest it should be misunderstood, I was called like Nicodemus by night to his private office and there discussed and conferred upon matters of mutual public concern, and I wish to lay this sprig of laurel upon his grace, that Mr. Hihn was never indifferent toward any matter of public interest. He might be wrong, he might resist when he ought to yield, he might refuse when he ought to consent, but he was never indifferent or unconcerned, whether it was schools or sewers, indigents or criminals to be considered.

There was a sense in which he became endeared to me for this reason, for the apathy of the average man in matters of this nature is one of the most exasperating things in public life. I can illustrate by recalling a never to be forgotten night in his library, after the earthquake and fire in San Francisco.

It looks easy now, but then the cheeks of strong men were blanched. Mr. Hihn had lost heavily. In fact his losses broke his spirit and he was never the same man afterward, but this night his own losses were not discussed, but measures and means for sending aid to distressed and restoring confidence. Mr. Hihn was 77 years of age at that time, but his courageous optimism was that of the typical argonaut, who might be downed, but could not be crushed. Mr. Hihn was a product of the times in which he lived. His like we shall never see again. He had “great possessions,” but for many years those possessions were a pack upon his back, a burden and not a blessing.

The tenacity of purpose which served him well in the acquisition of wealth was a hindrance in its management. He had held on so long and so tight that he could not relax or let go. The will power that had been his servant became his master.

The week before his death I met Mr. Hihn in the alley by the Pacific Ocean House at the noon hour. He said his nurse was away and he had played hookey. He had not been on Park street before for several weeks. I congratulated him upon his healthful appearance and we walked together to his home. He carried a cane, but he did not lean heavily upon it.

Our conversation was not concerning the country toward which he was hastening, but he unfolded a new scheme for money making, regarding which he said he would soon write a letter to the Surf. It proved to be the last time he was outside his private grounds.

Sunday afternoon we found Mr. Hihn encoffined. The will and determination by which he had mastered his world and which gained mastery over him, lay rigid upon the features which nevermore would move.

We walked into the vacant library and through the beautiful grounds, recalling the times we had importuned the owned to lay aside the cares of the world to write the story of his life, which would have been the story of the first fifty years of California, an epic beyond comparison in history; to put himself in a position to accept the honors the people would gladly bestow upon him, and he would not — or could not. A. A. T.

[Source: Santa Cruz Surf Saturday, August 23, [maybe 25th?] 1913 2:1]