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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Charles Blackburn

The name of Blackburn needs no introduction to the citizens of Petaluma, for since the early '50s it has been represented here through the activities of three generations, each adding luster to the name and accomplishments of his predecessor. The establisher of the name in this country was Charles Blackburn, who in 1820 was born in Sheffleld, England, and there in youth he prepared himself for his future by learning the carpenter's trade. An apprenticeship of seven years resulted in a complete understanding of his trade, besides which he became an expert builder and cabinetmaker. With this equipment as his chief stock in trade he immigrated to the United States in 1843, going direct to Iowa, where, in Oskaloosa, he found plenty of opportunity for the exercise of his knowledge of carpentry and building.

Altogether Mr. Blackburn remained in Iowa about nine years, or until 1852. In the meantime, on June 19, 1845, he formed domestic ties by his marriage with Miss Jemima Jane Richardson, who was born in Springfield, Ill., and now at the age of eighty-four is still in good health and in the enjoyment of all of her faculties. As has been stated, Mr. Blackburn remained in Iowa until 1852, that year marking his journey westward with his wife and three children, Mary E., Martha and John S. Coming direct to Petaluma, Sonoma county, here as in Iowa he found work awaiting him and from the first he had all that he could do. He assisted in the erection of the first church edifice in the town and also built many residences that have stood the test of the elements for over half a century. He also helped in the erection of the first house in what is now Santa Rosa.

In 1856 Charles Blackburn established the undertaking business in Petaluma which has made his name so well known in this part of Sonoma county. He began in business with a partner, but soon afterward purchased the latter's interest and assumed control of the entire business. As the business enlarged he kept pace by the introduction of improvements, one of which was the introduction of the hearse in 1857, this being the first funeral carriage ever seen or used in this community. His reputation as an up-to-date funeral director was not confined to the immediate locality in which he lived, but spread to all parts of the county, and as a consequence he was soon in command of one of the largest enterprises of the kind outside of the metropolis. The heavy pressure of business responsibilities began to tell upon his health at last, and in 1890 he resigned the management of the business to younger hands. Six years later, November 27, 1896, he passed away, at the age of seventy-six years. Although business cares occupied much of his time, he still had time to do his duty as a good citizen, and there was no department of the city's welfare with which his name was not associated. He was especially interested in Republican politics, but was never desirous of office or honor of any kind from his political friends. Fraternally he belonged to Petaluma Lodge No. 30, I. O. O. F.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, three children were born to Charles Blackburn and his wife in Iowa (Mary E., Martha and John S.) and after coming to California, seven more children were added to their family group, viz.: Charles; Allen H.; Mary J., who became the wife of Samuel Rodd; Hester C., the wife of J. Frank Elphick; Emma H.; Lilly, the wife of A. Harry Parsons; and Frank L. After the death of the father the business was carried on by John S. Blackburn, the eldest son, and since his death, in 1903, Frank L. Blackburn has continued the business.

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