Checkered Life: In the Old and New World

by Rev. J. L. Ver Mehr

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When J. L Ver Mehr, also known as Jean Leonhard Henri Corneille Ver Mehr, passed away in 1886. The following served as his obituary:

A Brief Sketch of the Life of a Pioneer Clergyman
Rev. Dr. J. L. Ver Mehr, of whose death brief mention was made in yesterday’s papers, was one of the first clergymen of the Protestant Episcopal Church to arrive here. He came by way of Cape Horn, reaching San Francisco in September, 1849. He preached his first sermon in California in the house of a Mr. Merrill, in this city, on the 10th of that month. A chapel was next built before the close of that year at the corner of Powell and John streets and was opened for divine service on December 30th. This was the first Grace Church, the building being 20×60 feet, and costing $8,000. In April, 1850, Dr. Ver Mehr organized Grace Parish, he being the first rector, with David 8. Tamer and E. Bryant as wardens. He preached the first sermon in a new edifice on Powell street in the Summer of 1851. He resigned the rectorship on February 25, 1854, where it was assumed by Bishop Kip, who had arrived one month before that date. Dr. Ver Mehr then took charge of a private school in Sonoma. A few years later he returned to San Francisco and, with his wife, established a seminary. In connection with this institution was the “Chapel of the Holy Innocents,” of which the doctor Was pastor. This building was located at the site of the Denman Grammar School. It was owned by the doctor and was destroyed by fire on the 10th day of October, 1860. For a year or so thereafter Dr. Ver Mehr was editor of the Pacific Churchman. He was one of the Vice-Presidents of the California Bible Society, organized in this city on October 30, 1849. His daughter is the wife of J. M. Seawell, the lawyer, and he leaves grown grandchildren. (Daily Alta California, Volume 40, Number 13095, January 20, 1886)

While the obituary highlights the physical changes Ver Mehr brought to the landscape of Northern California, it does not bring to life the many colorful experiences he had. In Checkered Life, readers are treated to an interesting account of a very full career.