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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Alexander Cadwell

Whatever of prosperity has come to Sonoma county in the past, and whatever of pre-eminence the future may bring to it, a large share of the credit for this consummation belongs to the pioneers, those brave men who came here in an early day and endured privations without complaint and overcame obstacles that seemed insurmountable. Among these persevering pioneers mentioned should be made of Alexander Cadwell, who toiled and labored faithfully and well in the years when settlers were few and discouragements numerous. The record of his life contains much for the encouragement and emulation of the young and furnishes another proof that California offers favorable openings for people of determination and perseverance.

A native of New York state, Alexander Cadwell was born October 28, 1825, the son of parents who were imbued with the pioneer spirit for when their son was a child of six years they took their family and household effects in a “prairie schooner” to the middle west. At that time, 1831, Illinois was considered the frontier, and Indians and wild animals abounded in Lasalle county, where the Cadwells settled. There the family were living on a farm when the news of the finding of gold in California came as a wave of glad tidings over the whole country, and among those who responded to its message was Alexander Cadwell, then a young man twenty-four years old. Joining a party of immigrants, he set out to cross the plains with ox-teams, but when they reached Salt Lake City he and a friend left the party and made the remainder of the journey to California on horse-back. They finally reached their destination and at once made their way to the mines of Butte county, being interested there and in Placer county until the year 1856. The records do not state with what success Mr. Cadwell met in his mining ventures, but it is safe to presume that his luck was of the average kind and not the extraordinary, for it is known that during a part of this time, for two years, he carried on a tavern near Sacramento.

Mr. Cadwell's advent in Sonoma county dates from the year 1857, when he settled in Knights valley and took charge of a fruit ranch and nursery. With the knowledge which he had gained in this position, he located in the Stony Point section in the spring of 1859 and established a nursery which he maintained for many years. Here he purchased a tract of one hundred and sixty acres, which was so thickly covered with oak timber as to make it seem impossible of being made tillable. Mr. Cadwell was not dismayed with the outlook, however, but industriously set about clearing away and replacing it with fruit trees. From time to time he disposed of portions of the land, until today the ranch comprises fifty acres only, but every acre of it is under cultivation to the choicest varieties of fruit and returns of bountiful income. Apples form the principal crop, Gravenstein, Newtown pippin, Spitzenberg and Alexander varieties being the favorites, besides which cherry and pear trees yield abundantly of their luscious fruit. Thirty tons of dried apples is an average shipment from this ranch, while the shipment of fresh apples runs about four thousand boxes a season, the cherries averaging a yield off six tons, and pears seventeen tons. An up-to-date drier for the evaporation of fruit is one of the accessories that has contributed to the wonderful success of the Cadwell ranch. This large ranch enterprise represents the unremitting efforts of Mr. Cadwell for nearly fifty years, coming here in 1859, and here he passed away, April 19, 1906.

In Illinois, in November, 1866, Mr. Cadwell was united in marriage with Miss Hattie Wiswall, a native of that state, and the daughter of Jason and Julia (Dimmick) Wiswall, natives respectively of Pennsylvania and Connecticut. They made their home in Illinois until 1880, when they came to California and located in Redlands, San Bernardino county. There the father died in 1886, and the mother passed away at the home of her daughter in 1894. There were seven children born to Mr. And Mrs. Wiswall, six daughters and one son, all living with one exception. Two children blessed the marriage of Mr. And Mrs. Cadwell, Howard and Josephine. The son married Miss Farbach, of San Francisco, by whom he has two daughters, Gladys and Alma. Josephine became the wife of Walter Towne, of Petaluma, and they have two children, Lorene and Helen. Mr. Cadwell's knowledge of fruit-raising made him a recognized authority on this subject throughout his locality and as such he was a valued member of the Petaluma Grange, of which he was also one of the founders. He was also a member and active worker in the Congregational Church. Since the death of Mr. Cadwell his widow has carried on the ranch, and in its management of maintaining the same high standard of excellence for which it was noted during the life of Mr. Cadwell.

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