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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



A study of the Bradford genealogy indicates that the family were identified with the pioneer element in every portion of our country. Beginning near the shores of the Atlantic they followed the westward drift of migration and always were to be found in the vanguard of civilization, developing land, building up villages and aiding in the transformation of forest or prairie into regions of productivity and scenic charm. Some remote ancestor had erected a mill on one of the Connecticut streams and around it were built a few houses, thus starting a hamlet known as Bradford Mills, but later called merely by the title of Bradford. There occurred the birth of George Brad- ford in 1790 and there he early learned lessons of endurance of hard- ship and self-reliance in labor. The location and period alike precluded educational opportunities, yet he was fortunate enough to attend a neighboring school for some years prior to the age of thirteen. After that his information was gained solely by experience, reading and observation.

When the great valley of the Mississippi was in the infancy of its development George Bradford traveled along much of its length and studied its possibilities. Settling in New Orleans he began to operate keel boats on the river and for some five years continued to do a freighting business with his small crafts. At the expiration of that period he disposed of his interests in the south and settled at Washington, Daviess county, Ind., where he soon acquired varied commercial connections. For a time he owned a mill. The distilling business also engaged his attention. Mercantile pursuits contributed to the variety of his occupations, while the ownership and cultivation of land kept him in close touch with the most important occupation of the county. While living at Washington he met and married Miss Mary Bruce, a native of Mason, Ky. During 1856 he followed his sons to California and after having made the trip via Panama to San Francisco he proceeded to Sacramento, where lie made his home until his death.

Born in Washington, Ind., February 10, 1826, William Barton Bradford spent the years of boyhood in attendance upon the country schools of the period and in helping with the work on the home farm. Possibly he might have settled on an Indiana farm and passed his entire life in that state had it not been for the discovery of gold in California. As soon as he had heard the exciting tales brought by messengers from the far-distant mines he decided to come to the west and the year 1849 found him en route for Panama, whence he came to San Francisco. His first experience as a miner occurred at Georgia's bar on the American river in 1850 and proved not especially encouraging. An unprofitable summer in the mines was followed by return to San Francisco and a trip on the ocean from there to Portland, Ore., where he remained for one year, returning in the fall of 1851 via the Oregon trail to Sacramento, where he bought a team and engaged in the hauling business with his brother, James B., for eighteen months, with headquarters at Diamond Springs.

An experience of six years in the teaming business was followed by the removal of Mr. Bradford to Yankee Jim's, but later he came back to Sacramento and bought a livery barn on Eighth and K streets. His ventures had proved so successful that when he resumed mining he had a large sum with which to work. However, an experience in the mines at Last Chance proved so disastrous that he lost $45,000 within eighteen months. It was then necessary to start anew. Dissolving a long-continued partnership with his brother he bought one hun- dred and sixty acres in the fall of 1859. During the following year he bought a team, drove to Aurora and engaged in the general mercantile business for three years. Following 1864, however, he resided continuously on the ranch which he bought in 1859 and which lies near Bruceville, Sacramento county, operating it until liis death, August 17, 1912. A specialty was made of the grape industry, one hundred and twenty acres being in vineyard and the balance of the ranch, forty acres, in pasture. To an unusual degree he met with success in the development of his vineyard and the sale of the annual product. The reputation of his grapes extended throughout the surrounding country and the crop always commanded the highest market prices.

The first wife of Mr. Bradford was Jennie Smith, a native of Minnesota and his faithful helpmate from their marriage in 1872 until her death in 1900. Later he was united with Mrs. Amanda (Hall) Utter, a native of Newport, Ind., and a woman of attractive qualities of heart and mind. She was a widow of Dowty Utter, with whom she crossed the plains in an overland stage in 1860 to Sacramento county. Mr. Utter engaged in farming near Franklin, this county, and here he passed away in 1870. Four children were born of this marriage. As early as 1849, Mr. Bradford was initiated into Masonry and he was one of the very oldest members of the blue lodge in his county. During young manhood he voted with the Republican party. At the time of the Civil war he was an ardent admirer of Abraham Lincoln, whom he twice supported in presidential elections. He continued to vote the Republican ticket until 1896, when his views concerning the silver question led him to cast his ballot for William Jennings Bryan. Religious movements had his generous support and enthusiastic interest. From the year 1880 he was connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and he gave to the denomination his zealous co-operation and the influence of his consistent character and upright life. Mrs. Brad- ford has been no less interested in religious progress and advancement than was he, and by her life and benefactions continues to bear testimony of her faith and interest in the work of the Church.

History of Sacramento 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: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011