Search billions of records on


 Biographies Index  



California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Edwin Harrison Barnes

In a country so replete with interesting historical characters as is the region west of the Rocky mountains, it is oft-times a most difficult matter for the historian to choose wisely from the material offered: but it is not an every-day matter to gather data regarding the life and the character of one of the first settlers in California, who came thither when the country was wild, unsettled and uncultivated. During his sojourn in California Edwin Harrison Barnes has been one of the most interesting spectators of the transformation of Sonoma county from a wilderness to a region embracing thriving towns and splendidly productive farms.

Mr. Barnes came to California in November, 1849; there are only two people in the vicinity of Healdsburg, in which town Mr. Barnes resides, that were here when he came: George Story, who lives six miles below Healdsburg, and Mrs. George Porter, of Windsor. For many years the Barnes' family pursued their various occupations in North Carolina, where it is thought John Barnes. the father of Edwin Harrison, was born. John Barnes married Diana Y. Harrison, a native of the vicinity of Cadiz. Ky., and a representative of a distinguished family of the Bourbon state; they lived on a farm in Livingston county, not far from Smithland, where was born Edwin Harrison Barnes December 26. 1827. A few years later the family removed to Scott County, Mo., and there the parents died. Mr. Barnes was brought up on the farm, receiving his education in the common schools of that day and at Ford's Seminary, Cape Girardeau. He became interested in California in talking with Isaac Williams, who had returned from the western state with tales of natural resources and gold which aroused the interest of the ambitious youth. Thus incited, he determined to make the journey and crossed the plains in 1849 with an ox-team train, the party with which he traveled experiencing no especial difficulties on the way. Choosing to accompany that section of the party traveling to California by the Lawson route, Mr. Barnes journeyed with them and after several experiences that tested his courage, he arrived in Sonoma county and located about seven miles below Healdsburg. With a partner Mr. Barnes purchased two hundred and fifty acres of land from Captain Cooper, paying $5 an acre for the same. This property was not purchased direct, owing to the possibility of Captain Cooper's right being contested in the courts, and so it was agreed that Mr. Barnes should pay half cash and the balance when the title was perfected from the United States government. Mr. Barnes still owns half of this ranch, having sold the other half to T. Boon Miller for $22,000, the sale taking place five years ago. After engaging in various enterprises, Mr. Barnes decided to return east in January, 1854, and he proceeded thither by the way of Nicaragua and in the spring of 1855, having purchased a herd of cattle, he drove them overland and succeeded in getting them through in fairly good condition. Placing these animals on a ranch, he engaged in the cattle business uninterruptedly until taking up his residence in Healdsburg in 1882. Before this, however, he had started a store on the ranch with Lindsay Carson, brother of the noted scout. Kit Carson, conducting this business from 1852 to 1855, when he sold the store. From 1854 to 1867 Mr. Barnes engaged in the general merchandise business at Windsor in partnership with R. A. Petray. He was one of the principal organizers of the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank at Healdsburg, being elected its president and occupying that position for twenty-five years and also was one of the largest share holders. His duties in this large responsibility were discharged to the entire satisfaction of "all concerned and upon his recent retirement from active business he was accompanied by the unbounded goodwill of the entire community. Mr. Barnes later organized the Sotoyome Bank, in which he is a very active member of the board of trustees. At present he is engaged in the culture of hops and at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition he exhibited hops raised on his ranch and secured the first prize and medal. Always a progressive man, he has aided in every public enterprise and has materially assisted in the advancement of the county.

On September 20. 1855. Mr. Barnes married, in Sonoma county, Mary M. Thompson, who came across the plains with her parents from Johnson county, Mo., in 1853, she being a daughter of John D. and Eliza M. (Steele) Thompson, who spent the remainder of their days in Sonoma county. Mr. Bames was made a Mason, Santa Rosa Lodge No. 57, F. & A. M., in 1855. Politically he is a Republican, but with the exception of the office of justice of the peace he has never held a public position. He liked California from the start and has made a success of all his undertakings, rounding out a useful and well-spent career.

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