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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Cyrus Alexander

Very early in the history of our country the Alexander family became identified with the settlement of Pennsylvania and aided in the development of that now prosperous commonwealth, and there the birth of Cyrus Alexander was seized with the western fever, and the year 1811 found him settling with his family in St. Clair county, IUll. There in the wild frontier country the son grew to a sturdy manhood, in the meantime helping his father with the felling of trees and preparing the soil for crops for the maintenance of the family.

By the time he had reached his twenty-second year, however, Cyrus Alexander had become restless and craved adventure, and it was then that he determined to seek his fortune in the west. With all the means at his command he purchased ox-teams and mining implements and with these he started on the journey of four hundred miles to the lead mines of Galena, Ill. The venture proved unsuccessful, but still undaunted, he pushed his way on to the far west and there invested in an outfit for trapping and fur trading. Altogether he passed four years in the Rocky Mountain region, from the Yellowstone river to the Gulf of California, and during all this time he had not seen nor heard from any of his relatives. It was therefore with considerable joy, many years afterward, when he had given up all expectation of again hearing from his people, that he met two nephews who had come from Illinois in company with General Fremont and were defending the fort of Sonoma in California, during the Mexican war. The year 1837 found Mr. Alexander at San Diego, Lower California, with little indeed to keep him from starvation. Finally he found employment that brought him $12 per month, and later he engaged in killing sea-lions on the Guadaloupe Islands. All of these various occupations were but stepping stones to the larger duties which were in store for him, and in performing the lesser duties faithfully he was unconsciously preparing himself for the larger opening for which his qualifications fitted him. Circumstances threw him with Capt. H. D. Fitch, who owned a ship and carried on trade between Lower California and Boston, Mass., in hides and tallow. Subsequently he became a partner with Captain Fitch in the cattle business, in the interests of which he traveled hundreds of miles, and after crossing San Francisco Bay, finally reached Sonoma county, where, on the Russian river, near where Healdsburg now stands, he surveyed eleven leagues of land, known as the Sotoyome grant. This Captain Fitch stocked with cattle and Mr. Alexander took charge of the undertaking, subsequently receiving a part of the land and one-half of the stock as his share of the business. Before the division of the land, however, he erected an adobe house on the property, the nearest settlement being Sonoma thirty-five miles distant. After the division of the land and the dissolution of the partnership, Mr. Alexander built the first house in the country round about, both brick and adobe entering into its construction. It was into this home that Mr. Alexander brought his wife, formerly Miss Ruphena Lucero, in 1844, the marriage ceremony being performed by Captain Sutter, who was then justice of the peace for the Mexican government.

Here Mr. Alexander engaged in fruit-growing and also built the first gristmill in northern California. Thus far he had been under Mexican rule, but the coming of the revolution in 1848 placed him under the Stars and Stripes. Close upon the heels of the revolution came the discovery of gold at Sutter’s mill, an event which was destined to have a marked effect upon the life and affairs of Mr. Alexander no less than it did upon others of that time and place. Instead of being attracted to the mines as were the majority, he wisely saw that a fortune could be made in raising and selling produce to supply the demand that must of necessity result from the sudden influx of settlers from all parts of the country. For produce of all kinds which he sold at the mining camps he received exorbitant prices, two tons of onions netting him $1,200, while lambs brought $16 a head and hogs $50 each.

No one in this part of Sonoma county was more deeply loved and venerated by all classes of citizens than was Mr. Alexander, and it was fitting that the locality in which he had lived so long and for which he had done so much should bear the name of its benefactor and Alexander valley was thus named in his honor. His hospitality was proverbial, and until a house of worship was constructed his home was used as a meeting place. Later he himself furnished the means to erect a church edifice and also a school house, besides which he paid the salary of the teacher. He believed firmly in giving the young every opportunity for acquiring an education, and not satisfied with what he had already done in furthering the cause of education, he founded Alexander Academy at Healdsburg. In the community in which he had lived and labored for so many years his earth life came to a close on December 27, 1872, and here also his wife died March 16, 1908, at the age of seventy-eight years, she having been born in May, 1830. Nine children were born of the marriage of this pioneer couple, as follows: William, who was born September 1, 1845, and died at sea August 6, 1867; Margaret, born February 8, 1847; Ellen, who was born August 12, 1848, and died June 28, 1856; Jane, who was born July 2, 1850, and died May 10, 1852; Joseph, born August 12, 1854; Albert, who was born August 15, 1856, died March 12, 1858; Caroline, born March 17, 1860; Thomas, March 3, 1864; and George C., January 4, 1869.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011