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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Thomas Jefferson Graham

The life of Thomas Jefferson Graham commenced in Canada in 1818 and it ended in California in the year 1897. Between these two dates we have a period of great individual activity, the moulding of a life and the shaping of a destiny. The life delineated herein is one that commends itself to posterity for the sterling qualities of the man and also for the success accomplished and wrested from the face of difficulties and obstacles. It presents all those rugged outlines that cause us to stop in our hurry of work and of play and remark upon the one who could so develop and establish a reputation that stands upon the pages of the history of Time, as one that is well worthy the emulation of the young of every generation.

Mr. Graham was reared in the city of Toronto, Canada, in which place his father died when the boy was fourteen years of age. Although deprived of the care and counsel of his father, he did not give way to the temptations and the trials that came upon him, but determined to go ahead and win out. He began work in a store and spent his nights in a school accumulating knowledge to be used at some future time for the advancement of his own ambition. Thus he continued in the place of his nativity until he was twenty-two years of age and then he came to the United States and settled in Sheboygan, Wis., where he engaged in the grocery business on his own account. There he continued until the year 1852, when he sold out his interests and started across the plains with a party of fifteen wagons. In the fall of that year they arrived in Sacramento, Cal., after a trip that was filled with adventure and experiences of many kinds. On the way they were attacked with the cholera and a number of the party succumbed to the ravages of this dread malady. One of the party was drowned as they were fording a stream. At Sacramento Mr. Graham left the party and with his wife he came to San Francisco by boat, and in November of the same year took passage by boat to go to the east via Panama. After reaching New York they turned their steps toward Wisconsin and returned to Sheboygan. Mr. Graham again engaged in the grocery business and was so occupied until the spring of 1846, when they sold out and took passage from New York to San Francisco via Panama, arriving there in the midst of the excitement caused by the operations of the Vigilance Committee. After three or four days stay in San Francisco they took passage for Santa Clara and from there they came to Petaluma, Sonoma county, which place was then only a small village. Intending to go into business as he had done in other places, Mr. Graham erected a store for this purpose, but realizing the opportunity along the lines of real estate, he sold his store before commencing business and invested the money in city property, which he sold again. He also conducted an insurance business at the same time, securing the agencies of the Aetna and Hartford companies. In the fall of 1883 Mr. Graham retired from active business and was so living at the time of his demise, in November, `897. He was a member of the Masonic order, belonging to the Blue Lodge and also to Petaluma Lodge No. 77, R. A. M. He was a well-known citizen and a man who was always agreeable to everything that stood for the advancement of the highest interests of the community in which he resided. His kindly disposition and courteous manner won him many friends in Sonoma county, and he was especially beloved by all the children of the town on account of his great kindliness toward them.

In Wisconsin on April 17, 1852, Mr. Graham was married to Miss Elinor McCain, daughter of Allen and Jane (Coulter) McCain, both natives of Delaware county, N. Y., who had moved to Wisconsin in the early days and made their home in the vicinity of Sheboygan until their deaths. Since the death of Mr. Graham the widow has made her home in Petaluma, where she is actively identified with the Episcopal Church, being one of the founders of the same, also a member of the vestry for a number of years, and also the Woman's Guild, in which she has taken a prominent part. Mr. and Mrs. Graham assisted in the building of the first Episcopal Church in Petaluma and after the congregation had outgrown the building they assisted in the erection of the edifice in which the church meets today. They have given liberally to the church and its charities. Mrs. Graham had a window placed in the church in honor of Rev. John Potridge, who has officiated for the past twenty-one years.

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