In researching this story about the retirement of San Joaquin County Auditor-Controller Adrian Van Houten, I ended up going down a bit of a research rabbit hole and stumbling across a piece of the county’s colorful history.
Van Houten had started putting a list together of everybody who had served as county auditor in the history of San Joaquin County. With help from the reference desk at the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library, he had put together a list starting with A.A. Mix, who became county recorder and “ex-officio auditor” in 1850. But the list wasn’t complete. There was a gap, from the time Charles Grunsky became the county’s recorder and auditor the second time in 1877 and when Otto Von Detten became auditor in 1898.
It looked like Van Houten might be leaving office as the longest-serving auditor the county had ever had. If that was the case, it was a detail I wanted to include in the story about Van Houten leaving office.
But that gap was big enough that there was room in there for either Grunsky or Von Detten to hold the office long enough to have the record. Leigh Johnsen, the archivist and librarian at the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum helped me fill in the gaps by looking through minutes from old meetings of the Board of Supervisors, but not before I had started poking around myself.
I looked into a tome of historical biographies we have in The Record library, but Grunsky wasn’t in there. I looked for other histories of the county that might have made it online. Somebody had transcribed something from a history of the county published in 1890 that said a Joseph F. Moseley had been elected to the office in 1886. That could be a clincher, breaking up the gap and showing that Van Houten was the longest-serving auditor in the county’s history.
But I didn’t want to trust something purporting to be a transcription of a history of the county posted on a website that was unfamiliar to me. So I looked for some primary documents online that proved Moseley was in office during the gap. I found that, in a copy of a roster of public officials put together by the California Secretary of State in 1889 and later scanned by Google as an e-book. There was Moseley.
On the way there, I found this interesting story in the San Francisco Morning Call from 1892 about our mysterious Mister Moseley. He apparently spent a lot of his time in San Francisco. And it turns out the recorder-auditor was — at least as of June 1892 — missing. He was accused of forging documents and skipping town leaving lenders holding the bag for about $100,000, which I imagine was a tidy sum back then.
The Morning Call describes the missing Moseley as “a man about 35 years of age, with a clean, intelligent face, and genial, unassuming manners. He is said to be what is known as ‘a nice fellow.’”