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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Elbert R. Charles

One of the good old settlers of Sonoma county for whom no word is ever spoken but that of praise and to whom no worthy philanthropy has ever appealed in vain is Elbert R. Charles. His father, Hon. James Monroe Charles, born in Lancaster county, Pa., was a pioneer settler of Illinois, locating near Jacksonville, Morgan county, and later in Quincy, Adams county, in 1832, and there he followed farming. Still later he moved to Hancock county, where he was quarter-master of the local regiment and was appointed sheriff to succeed the former sheriff, who was a Mormon. He was at the court house at Carthage waiting for orders, when the volunteers performed their work of destruction of Joseph and Hiram Smith. Subsequently he was in Clark county, Mo., for a short time, then on account of his health he came to California, bringing his family with him across the plains with mule team. In the course of three months they were settled in Sacramento, where, with Mr. Law, he built the levee from I to R street, this being a big undertaking and costing $50,000. From the time of his arrival in 1853, success seemed to follow him. The following two years he farmed in Yolo county and in 1856 he bought one hundred and eighty acres at Lakeville, Sonoma county, and later one hundred more from General Vallejo, where he settled down and improved the farm. In 1864 he purchased seven hundred and fifty acres more, adjoining the old adobe ranch. Remaining there through the '70s, he then removed to the Ojai valley, Ventura county, where he bought a ranch, this proving equally as successful a venture as previous ones. This proved to be his last purchase, for he then located in Petaluma, where he died in 1893. While there he was supervisor for some years and a member of the state constitutional convention, thus in public as well as private life his integrity, veracity and strength of purpose where never questioned. He was united in marriage to Jane Purdy, born in Westchester county, N. Y. Her death occurred in Petaluma, at which time she left two children; George W., who was a stockman in Humboldt county and was accidentally drowned in Eel river in 1898, and Elbert R.

Elbert R. Charles was born in Adams county, Ill., near Quincy, April 10, 1838. He received his education in the grammar schools in Illinois and Missouri and later in California, spending one year in a Presbyterian academy in Sonoma. Preferring the life of an agriculturist to that of a profession, he settled down to farming, showing his fitness by his subsequent success. His first experience was near Lakeville, on a three hundred and twenty acre farm. Here he had his dairystock, sheep and horses, making a specialty of full blooded and graded Clydesdale horses, where for forty years he raised this stock, together with that of the Old Glory strain, with the result that he had some of the finest horses in the country, one team of Clydesdale carrying the laurels of the county for all time. In the year 1891 Mr. Charles located in Petaluma, following the express and transfer business, in partnership with Benjamin Cox, but later bought him out, continuing alone for several years, after which he became agent for the Standard Oil Company, with which he continued for seventeen years, and he is proud to say that he never had a word of complaint form the company during all this time.

Mr. Charles was united in marriage to Miss Virginia Rollett, who was born in Sonoma in 1846, her parents coming to Sonoma valley, Cal., from Virginia two years previously, in 1844, and here they had the distinction of having built the first saw mill. She was reared and educated in California, where her demise occurred in 1901. Of their two children Everett passed away at the age of thirty years, and Clare is the wife of W. W. Hanger, of Fresno, Cal.

At the age of seventy-three years this optimistic, high-minded old gentleman lives retired at his comfortable home No. 300 Sixth street, where his many friends are ever welcome to his hospitality. An active, useful, honorable life has its reward in his happiness, a happiness that radiates from his genial personality.

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