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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Hon. Ezekiel Denman

The records of the Denman family show that it is of English origin and the founder of the name on this side of the Atlantic was the grandfather of Hon. Ezekiel Denman, whose name appears above. William Denman, for such was the name of this immigrating ancestor, came to America with his wife and children, among the latter of whom was William Denman, Jr., who was then three years of age. The family settled in Sullivan county, N. Y., and there the son passed his boyhood and youth upon the home farm, in the meantime becoming familiar with its duties and responsibilities, and upon attaining mature years settled upon a farm of his own in the same county. There he ultimately became well known as a successful farmer and stock-raiser, and there too he reared to lives of usefulness nine children in whose welfare and accomplishments he took a just pride. The mother of these children was Nancy Curry in maidenhood, a native of Sullivan county, N. Y.

One of the children born to William and Nancy (Curry) Denman was Ezekiel Denman, who was born (December 2, 1827), and reared in Sullivan county, N. Y., and attended the district school in pursuit of an education. His advantages in this respect were meagre, however, for the schools were in session during the winter months only, and at other times throughout the year his time and services were required on the home farm. When he was twenty years of age he began teaching school in Sullivan county, but shortly afterward was transferred to Ulster county, where he continued teaching for about three years. Following this experience in the school room he returned to Sullivan county and purchased a farm which he conducted successfully for two years, and upon which he might have continued indefinitely had not the news of the finding of gold in California swept with such telling force over the entire country. Thereafter the quiet round of duties no longer satisfied his ambitious nature and he determined to come to the west and prove the truth of the wonderful stories which he had heard. After having disposed of his farm he was ready to set out for the west about the middle of August, 1851. From New York City he took passage on the Georgia for Panama, and after reaching the Pacific side, embarked on the steamer Oregon for San Francisco, reaching his destination in the latter part of September. He went at once to the mines of Buckeye Gulch, near Mokelumne Hill, where he stayed about eight months, later went to Ione valley, and from there returned to San Francisco early in the year 1852. In the metropolis he engaged in the milk business until the following June, when he came to Petaluma, Sonoma county, and was so well pleased with the outlook that he purchased a ranch and determined to make his future home in this locality. His purchase was in Two Rock valley, a part of the old Bojorques rancho, and in addition to cultivating this he also engaged in buying and selling land in the country round about. He made his home in Two Rock valley until 1869, during which time he became known as one of the mose extensive ranchers on this section of country, having no less than one thousand acres in the home property, of which at one time four hundred acres were under cultivation to potatoes. Besides this ranch he also brought under cultivation about twenty-two hundred acres of other land in Sonoma and Marin counties. The home which sheltered the family in the early days was constructed of redwood, which Mr. Denman cut from the forests and prepared by hand.

Mr. Denman's identification with Petaluma dated from November, 1869, and for a quarter of a century thereafter or until his death December 16, 1894, he was no less well known in financial circles than he had previously been in agricultural affairs. For a number of years, or until 1887, he continued the management of his various ranches, but in that year he relinquished their care to tenants, and in so doing was enabled to devote more of his time to financial and public interests. He was one of the first and largest stockholders in the Sonoma County Bank, which was organized in 1866 and of which he was made first vice-president. He held this position continuously until 1886, when he was elected president. He was also one of the original stockholders in the Petaluma Woolen Mills. No one was more willing or anxious to work for the progress and upbuilding of Sonoma county than was Mr. Denman, yet on the other hand it was only after persistence on the part of his fellow-citizens that he could be prevailed upon to become an office holder. For several years he was a member of the board of trustees of Petaluma, of which he was at one time president, and he was also a member of the board of education. It was probably as a director of the Sonoma and Marin District Agricultural Society that he achieved his greatest success, and during his presidency of two years the society accomplished much of the betterment of agricultural conditions.

In June 1855, Mr. Denman returned east for a visit to his old home, and while there was united in marriage on October 3, 1855, with Nancy Louise Hardenburg, a native of Sullivan county, N. Y. She survived until January 9, 1870, having become the mother of nine children, of whom six are living, as follows: Frank H., of whom a sketch will be found elsewhere in this volume; Nellie L.; Ida B., Mrs George P. McNear; Carrie E., Mrs. J. Edgar Allen; John R.: and Catherine, all residents of Petaluma and vicinity. On October 15, 1877, Mr. Denman was united in marriage with Mrs. Isabelle St. John, who survives him and makes her home in Petaluma. Fraternally Mr. Denman was a Mason of the Knight Templar degree. Personally he was a man of unblemished reputation,his strict integrity and thoughtful consideration for the rights and happiness of others being the keynote of his character. In his death, which occurred in Petaluma December 16, 1894, he was mourned as a personal friend by all, even by those who knew him only by hearsay.

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