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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


W. P. Barnes

As one of those who has seen this part of California changed from a wild, rugged, uncultivated region to a fair garden spot dotted over by beautiful homes and productive ranches, mention should be made of W. P. Barnes. At the time of his birth his parents were living in Mercer county, Missouri, but when he was a child of three years, in 1850, the parents loaded their household effects in a prairie schooner and started on the overland journey for California behind slow-plodding oxen. The father, Aaron Barnes, had been attracted hither by the extravagant stories of wealth in the mines, and consequently as soon as the long journey came to an end and he had settled his family in as comfortable quarters as the times and circumstances would permit, he turned his attention to mining in Oregon gulch, in Butte county. It is reasonable to suppose that he met with more than average success, as he continued mining for about six years in that locality. In 1857 he came to Sonoma county and settled in Green valley, where as a rancher he rounded out a long and successful career, his death occurring in 1900.

As he was only three years old when he came to California W. P. Barnes has never known any other home than this. He followed the fortunes of the family until attaining his majority, working with his father on the home ranch after his school days were over, but at the age of twenty-one he started out independently. On a ranch of one hundred and sixty acres near Fulton which he purchased about that time, 1868, and which is still in his possession, he made his first attempt at ranching independently. This is now a rich, productive piece of property, devoted to the raising of hay and grapes, and also to maintaining a large stock and dairy business. This initial purchase of land has been followed by many others in the course of his long residence in Sonoma county, and at different times he has owned large herds of cattle and raised many fine blooded horses. These have since been disposed of, however, as has also the hotel of which he was at one time the proprietor in Cloverdale. At another time he was the proprietor of a grocery and wine store in Fulton, but this has also been sold. Besides the ranch which he owns near Fulton he also owns a forty-acre vineyard in Russian river township, and with these exceptions his holdings are in town property, comprising four brick blocks in Sebastopol and twelve houses in Santa Rosa, all of which are rented and yield the owner a good annual income.

Mr. Barnes was first married in 1866 to Miss Elizabeth Ann Radar, a native of Iowa, and ten children were born to them, as follows: Carrie E., deceased; Lydia, Mrs. William A. Russell; Mary, Mrs. Ed Crone; Cora, Mrs. A. Landers; William A., of Santa Rosa; Perry, a farmer near this city; Charles, also a resident of Santa Rosa; Benjamin, deceased; Jesse, deceased; and Gussy, a rancher near Santa Rosa. Mr. Barnes’ second marriage occurred in 1902 and united him with Mrs. Irene Butts, by whom he has one son, Frederick.

For years, Mr. Barnes was connected with the Fulton Wine Company, a corporation which is now controlled by the Asti Colony Company. On two occasions he was a candidate for supervisor from Santa Rosa district, but both times was defeated by the landslide against the Democratic party. For the past twenty years he has been a delegate to state and county conventions. He holds honorary membership in the Santa Rosa Lodge of F. O. E., of which he is also the oldest member in point of years. He vividly recalls the appearance of Sonoma county at the time the family located here in 1857; it was an unbroken wilderness and many a time did he pass over with herds of cattle what is now the site of the thriving city of Santa Rosa. In those days he drove ox-teams in hauling lumber, and at one time he drove twenty-one yoke of steers in moving a large house. Few residents of this city have traveled over all parts of this state to the extent that Mr. Barnes has in the interest of the enterprises in which he has been engaged from time to time, and few if any are more ready to sound the praises of this city and county than is he.

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