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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


James P. Clarke

Among the native sons of the state the name of James P. Clarke stands prominent as one who has practically made his way unaided to the leading position among the ranchers of Sonoma county, his property in Penn Grove township, not far from Petaluma, representing his efforts for many years. He was born in San Francisco November 12, 1856, the son of James Clarke, who was born in the north of Ireland in 1821 and came to this country prior to the memorable year of 1849. He landed on these shores in the harbor of New York and has worked as a farm hand in the east in order to secure the means for his transportation to the Pacific coast, which was his ultimate destination. When he had secured the necessary means he embarked on a vessel bound for the Isthmus, and after crossing this narrow neck of land he re-embarked on another vessel that finally landed him in San Francisco. Mining was then the chief attraction to all immigrants, and Mr. Clarke was no exception to the rule, and for two years he followed the fickle fortunes of the miner in Placer county. From there he came to Sonoma county in 1851, and from then until his death, about 1895, he contentedly followed the life of the agriculturist. In his political leanings he was a Democrat, and for a number of years he served his fellow-citizens in the capacity of road-master. By his marriage with Miss Mary Smith, who was born in Ireland in 1831, eight children were born, four sons and four daughters, as follows: James P., Thomas, William, Lawrence, Margaret, Mary, Julia and Ellen. By her marriage with John McGolrick Margaret became the mother of two children, Charles (deceased) and Mary. Thomas chose as his wife Bridget Mallon, and they have five children, James, Thomas, Mary, Margaret and Llewellyn.

At the time of the birth of James P. Clarke his parents were living in San Francisco, but two years afterward, in 1858, they took up their permanent residence in Sonoma county, and this has since been the home of Mr. Clarke. Here, in Penn Grove township, near Petaluma, he has a ranch of two hundred acres of land, where he maintains a dairy of thirty cows, raises horses to some extent and also raises turkeys, having three hundred at this writing. For twenty years, under Democratic as well as Republican supervisors, he has been the road overseer of the Sonoma mountain road, an office in which he has shown excellent judgment, and his work is appreciated by the officials. While Mr. Clarke is very energetic and superintends his ranch, which takes nearly all of his time, he still appreciates the necessity of healthful sport and recreation, and this he finds in hunting and fishing, a pleasure which he himself as often as home duties will permit. His father before him was a lover of out-door sports, and in the early days took great delight in hunting with his pack of hounds in the forest. Although still a middle-aged man Mr. Clarke is one of the very oldest settlers in this section, having lived here since 1858, and has seen the great growth and development of a country wild and unfenced. In the early days he could ride across the country to Sacramento without being hindered by fences. Since that time the plow and ax have made Sonoma county one of the greatest agricultural and horticultural counties of the state.

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