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Sonoma County

 

David Barton English

One of the thrifty and enterprising agriculturists of Sonoma county is David Barton English, who though a recent settler on his property near Forestville, has been a resident of the state since 1853. He was born in Platt county, Mo., April 14, 1837, but he has little or no recollection of his parents, for death robbed him of their love and guiding care when he was a small child. However, he remembers with kindly feeling his foster-parents, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Tripple, who after the death of his parents took him into their home and reared him as one of their own children.

David B. English was a youth of sixteen years when with a family by the name of Stewart he started on the overland journey to California setting out on May 8, 1853, and reaching his destination five months later. The journey was a difficult one for the young traveler, for he was compelled to walk most of the distance as well as drive one of the teams. As soon as he reached his journey’s end his fatigue was forgotten in the excitement of his mining prospects, but here, too, he was destined to reap his reward only after the hardest exertions. He undertook placer mining in Eldorado county, and as there was no water near the mine he had to carry the dirt in gunny sacks a considerable distance to the stream, where he worked it with a rocker. Notwithstanding the difficulty under which he had to labor, he continued his efforts in the mines for two years, after which he came to Sonoma county and hired out as a herder of sheep for some time.

After giving up sheep-herding Mr. English went to Napa county and was employed at farming until 1855, when he came to Sonoma county and preempted one hundred and sixty acres near Guerneville; later he took up a homestead claim of one hundred and sixty acres adjoining, and made it his home for twenty-five years. Still later for five years he occupied a ranch he owned near Guerneville; this he sold and later returned to the home place, where he lived previously, until 1909, when he came to Forestville and took possession of the home he now occupies, consisting of the home and over an acres of land in the village.

In 1866 Mr. English was united in marriage to Miss Emily Beaver, a native of Indiana, theirs being the first marriage ceremony ever performed in Guerneville. No children were born of their marriage, but they have adopted two children, Ernest G. and Susie R., who bear their name and are the recipients of all the love and affection that natural parents could bestow. Politically Mr. English is a Republican, and twice he cast his vote for Abraham Lincoln. No one could be more enthusiastic for the advancement of Sonoma county and California than is Mr. English, this being especially noticeable along educational lines, for he is a firm believer in furnishing the best possible advantages for the rising generation. For five years he had acted in the capacity of school trustee of Miram district. He contrasts the advantages which the school boy of today has with those of his own school days, when he trudged to the log schoolhouse in Platte county, Mo., and conned his lessons sitting on the puncheon seat. Not only was the housing poor, but the instruction was meager in the same proportion, the teacher, more often than not, being incompetent and unfitted for the task which he had undertaken. If there is one thing that stands out more clearly than another in the life of Mr. English, it is his uniform adherence to the Golden Rule in every transaction, whether large of small, reflecting in inner fineness of character and broad humanitarianism that places his fellow man on an equal footing with himself.

Mr. English has the distinction of building the first house on the site of what is now Guerneville in the summer of 1861, the structure being erected for R. E. Lewis, who has been dead a number of years. The following poem was written by Mr. English in 1907 and published in a newspaper in Guerneville:

 

REVERIES OF AN OLD MAN

The recent snow storm reminds an old-timer of his childhood days,
And how he one time enjoyed the snow in so many ways;
Of when he climbed the hill that he might go down sliding;
And of the many times, tucked in robes, he went sleigh riding.

Then for a change, by a short time, patiently waiting,
The ice would form on lake and river.  Oh! What fun a-skating!
But time to the old man, now, has worked a might change,
Which he sometimes thinks quite wonderful and strange.

Behold the old man now; his steps are feeble, his head is bending low,
Ask him what he finds, now, in the cloud-driven snow,
That, now, he’s grown quite old, with his blood running slow?
Perhaps he will tell you he no  longer delights in the snow.

Yet, while those desires have fled from him, others seem to enjoy
Them about the same as he did, when he was a farmer’s boy.
And for their sakes he hails again, with returning joy,
The falling snow, that gave him such pleasure when a boy.

Now, hearken, while he tells of his boyhood days once more,
When he had naught but childhood’s griefs in his heart’s store;
How, then, he rode on horseback, upon a sack of corn,
And on his way to mill, almost wished he’d never been born.

With pants too awful short, his shins so cold and bare.
His pants and socks did not meet—neither had length to spare.
With coarse brogans, all run down and over at the heel,
Imagine if you can, how comfortable one would feel.

He suffered most between sock and pants, of course,
Where each were drawing from each other as if trying for divorce.
And yet he sat his steed in calm, stately repose,
While the frost was fearfully biting his defenseless nose.

Now he’s living life o’er again, which was not complete,
For he suffered much, in those days, with frostbitten feet.
Now let this soliloquy end; let the curtain fall
While he still believes that a boy’s life might be the best of all.

He’s watching now, with interest, the progressive boy of today,
And he’s marking how different he’s doing from that old way.
He’s watching his progressive steps, and of his increasing desire,
While upon the rounds of ladder-fame he’s climbing higher and higher.

And, too, he’s questioning self, why he did not study while in school,
But he’d rather sit in idleness upon the dunce’s stool.
Now he’s reminded of some wise saying, belonging to the past,
The truth dawns upon him: The last shall be first and first shall be last.

Then, in his enthusiasm, he loudly proclaims with joy:
What would I not give to be again a simple farmer’s boy!
That I might live my life o’er again, and improve the past,
For I have, by experience, found the philosopher’s stone at last!

I’ve found that it is not he that wills, but he that joins the race
And fights manfully with obstacles in the way, face to face;
If great things one would achieve, he must not disdain to toll,
For many of our Presidents, when young, were tillers of the soil.


Source:
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