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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Andrew Frei

A short distance from the far-famed river of the Rhine, in the canton of Aargan, Switzerland, the humble home of an industrious millwright formed the early environment of Andrew Frei, who was born January 30, 1831, and in early life learned many lessons of frugality and industry under the patient guidance of his father, Andrew, Sr. The death of the millwright when his son was a lad of nine years proved a heavy loss to the latter, who was thrown wholly upon his own resources, as his mother had died when he was only two years of age. A thorough education was impossible to the young orphan, but by observation he has gained a fund of information not always possessed by men claiming collegiate degrees. He was not allowed to grow up in idleness, but was bound out as an apprentice to the wood-turner's trade in Switzerland and under the oversight of a capable master he acquired a knowledge of every department of the occupation. During the year 1852 he came across the ocean in sailing vessel which anchored in New York during the month of May after a forty-nine day voyage, and from that city he went on to Pittsburg, where he followed his trade.

Hearing much concerning the vast undeveloped regions of the west Mr. Frei determined to come hither and accordingly he gave up his position in Pittsburg, went to New York and boarded an ocean vessel bound for the Isthmus of Panama, and on reaching the Pacific he boarded the steamer Golden Gate, which cast anchor at San Francisco January 14, 1859, thus bringing to an uneventful close a long and tedious voyage. Shortly after his arrival he embarked in the manufacture of furniture with Charles Field as a partner and continued in that connection for almost fifteen years, eventually acquiring his partner's share in the business, which he conducted successfully until 1895. Meanwhile he had accumulated a competence through judicious management of the business and when he came to Sonoma county in the year 1895 he had the means necessary for the acquisition of considerable property.

As early as 1882 Mr. Frei acquired four hundred and fifteen acres of raw land seven miles west of Santa Rosa. No attempt had been made to p lace the land under cultivation previous to his purchase. Pine trees covered much of the tract. Under his subsequent careful oversight and personal labor the large ranch was brought into a condition for profitable cultivation and it has proved to be well adapted to peaches, prunes, apples, pears and grapes. In addition to this place Mr. Frei owns a ranch of three hundred and forty-four acres four miles north of Healdsburg, in Dry Creek valley, Sonoma county, the greater part of which is planted to vineyard. He also has a full equipped winery on the ranch for the manufacture of wine, which he operates. The income from these two large ranches is sufficiently large to prove that they are earning a fair income on the original investment and on the present valuation.

A comfortable modern residence on Second and Pierce streets, Santa Rosa, is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frei and the center of a delightful hospitality that includes their large circle of friends. Mrs. Frei, formerly Louise Zweifel, was born in Canton St. Galen, Switzerland, July 6, 1851, where she received a highschool education. During May of 1876 she arrived at Oakland, Cal., in company with her mother, and at San Francisco, October 16, 1877, she became the wife of Andrew Frei. Four children blessed their union, namely: Louisa, born October 4, 1878; Andrew M., who was born September 16, 1880, was educated in the California State University at Berkeley, and who died October 11, 1910; Walter C., who was born October 6, 1881, and completed the course at Berkeley in 1901; and Louis A., who was born November 26, 1883, and in 1907 completed the studies connected with civil engineering at Berkeley. Mrs. Frei is a daughter of Christian and Salome (Untersander) Zweifel, natives of Switzerland, the former born August 2, 1816, and the latter November 3, 1821.

From early manhood until his death Mr. Zweifel followed farm pursuits. In his family there were seven children but two of these died in infancy; the others are Albert, Walter, Adolf, Paulina and Louise.

Formerly Mr. Frei belonged to the Rifle Club of San Francisco, an organization of city men for purposes of sport and recreation. The general elections find him a supporter of the Republican ticket, but in local matters he gives his allegiance to the men whom he considers best qualified to represent the people. Notwithstanding his years of busy activity and his present advanced age, he is keenly interested in his farms and manages them with the same judgment and ability characteristic of his younger days. Loyally devoted to his adopted country, he cherishes for the commonwealth and the nation a depth of affection not surpassed by native-born sons. His rank as a patriotic citizen is deservedly high and in the county of his home he has a reputation for all the qualities that endear a man to his community and enrich the local citizenship.

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