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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


James Austin

Although sixteen years have come and gone since James Austin passed from the scenes of earth, hios life and accomplishments during the long period of his residence in Sonoma county are still fresh in the memory of those who were privileged to know him. As one of the leading agriculturists and viticulturists of Santa Rosa township, he was the owner of one of the finest estates in this part of the county, in fact, throughout the entire Rincon valley no more beautiful or picturesque home dotted the landscape. As early as 1871 Mr. Austin came to the county and laid the foundation of his future prosperity by purchasing from Gen. John B. Frisbie a quarter interest in eleven hundred and seventy-eight acres of land, and as time went on and he was prospered in his ventures, he acquired title to the whole tract. After acquiring his large holdings Mr. Austin inaugurated the plan of selling off much of his land in small ranches, after converting them into orchards or vineyards, and in so doing offered encouragement to many young ranchers eager for an opportunity to get a start. Eight small ranches were thus set off and sold, after which he still had ten hundred and seventy-seven acres in his homestead, one hundred and twenty-five acres in vineyard, while the remainder of the property was devoted to grazing, general farming and stock-raising.

A native of Quebec, James Austin was born December 2, 1824, and he received his early education in the common schools of his birthplace. Greater educational advantages awaited him, for at the age of nineteen he was sent to the Derby Center Academy in Vermont, and at the expiration of his second term he accepted a position as teacher. After one term as instructor he entered the academy at Sheffield, Canada, where he studied for two terms, then entered St. Hyacinth College. After the completion of his college course he became instructor of English in Beloeil College, where in turn he acquired a splendid knowledge of the French language. In 1848 he returned to his father’s home, and the following year settled down as a farmer in Bolton, Canada, making his home there for twenty years. During this time he became one of the influential citizens of the locality, among other important positions which he held in his community serving as mayor of the township for ten years, as such being one of the crown’s magistrates, and for ten years was one of the directors of the Stanstead, Shefford & Chambly Railroad Company, with which he had previously been officially associated. At the expiration of his term as mayor of Bolton township he immigrated to the United States and from the year 1868 until his death, January 19, 1894, was a resident of California. Upon first coming to the state he settled in American Canyon, Green Valley township, Solano county, but three years later he removed from there to Santa Rosa, Sonoma county, and from that time forward until his death this was his home. It was after locating here, in September 1871, that he purchased the large holdings in the Rincon valley previously mentioned and carried on the management of this vast estate up to the time of his death. Not only was he a successful business man, but better still he was a man who was loved and honored alike by old and young, and his death was lamented as a loss common to all. Politically he was stanch Republican, an active politician, and in his church affiliations he held membership in the Episcopal Church.

Mr. Austin’s marriage, May 22, 1849, united him with Miss Anna Peasley, who was born in the province of Quebec January 6, 1828, the daughter of Osgood Peasley. Eight children were born of this union, and of them we make the following mention: Lyman P. was born October 22, 1859, and died July 10, 1876; Howard J., born September 3, 1852, died April 13, 1884; Herbert W. was born August 2, 1854, and is a well-known rancher of this community, an account of whose life will be found in this volume; Osgood E., born March 25, 1856, died January 14, 1861; Florence Ann, born June 7, 1860, died January 24, 1861; Malcolm O., born July 25, 1863, is a physician in San Francisco; Sewell S., was born May 21, 1865; and Ashton E. June 29, 1874. The mother of these children survived the death of the father and husband about six years, her own death occurring on the home ranch in January, 1900. She too was a member and faithful attendant of the Episcopal Church.

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