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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


James William Gray

This history of the early American colonization of Sonoma county contains, among the names of dauntless pioneers, that of Isaac Gray, a hardy frontiersman and resourceful farmer, who was born in Indiana in 1840 of southern lineage and during boyhood immigrated with other members of the parental family to California in 1852, making a brief sojourn in Stockton and thence coming to this county as early as 1854, when he was a lad of fourteen years. Settlers were few, ranches widely scattered and schools conspicuous by their absence, hence he had few opportunities to acquire an education. In spite of this handicap he became a man of keen observation and broad intelligence. Conditions were such that he could not accumulate wealth, but he reared his children comparative comfort and gave them the advantages denied to his own early years. By his marriage to Clarissa Palmer, who was born in Indiana in 1848, he became the father of five children, namely: Edward A., who married Flora Coots and has three children, Walter, Clarence and Alvina; Franklin H., James W., who was born in Sonoma county in 1871 and has spent his entire life within the boundaries of his native township; Ella L., Mrs. C. O. Swanson, who has one son, Jesse; and Rilla L., who married George Coster and has one son, Melvin.

The public schools of this county gave James William Gray an opportunity to acquire a knowledge of the elementary branches. Through all of his life he has remained in the same locality. Its gradual but steady development he has witnessed with deep interest. By personal efforts he has contributed to local advancement. Upon completing his schooling he took up agricultural activities and on November 20, 1902, he was united in marriage with Miss Lillian Goode, who was born in Manchester, England, in 1878, and by whom he has two children living, William L., a bright boy of five years, and Muriel, who is two years old. Virgil F. died when he was two years old. Mrs. Gray is a daughter of George Goode, a native of England, who became a farmer in North Dakota. He died in 1885, at the age of forty-eight years. His wife, who in maidenhood was Susan Help, was also a native of England, and now resides near Healdsburg. There were twelve children in the Good family, namely: Thomas; George, who is married and lives in Washington; Alfred; Walter; Charles; Joseph; Frederick; John; Clara, the wife of John Borden, of Idaho, and the mother of one child, Susanna; Frances, who married R. D. Patterson, residing on Mill Creek, and has two children; and Susan, who died at fourteen years of age. Mrs. Gray came to the United States with her parents in 1880, when she was two years of age, and was reared in North Dakota until 1894, when she came to Healdsburg.

Upon acquiring property of his own James William Gray secured for $3,000 cash the title to two hundred acres of land in Mendocino township hear the city of Healdsburg. Almost all of this large ranch is still in native timber and there are also ten acres of bottom land. Along the side-hills the land is well adapted to horticulture and some has been planted to prunes and apples. A splendid start has been made in the bruit business, besides which the owner received an income of about $1,500 during the year 1910 for wood and tan-bark. So encouraging is the fruit business that he has planned to plant all the available land on the ranch to fruit in the near future, putting in the trees as rapidly as the work can be done, with due regard to careful planting and superior quality. Should the future continue to bring encouraging results he will in a few years be the owner of one of the best fruit farms in the township and his efforts in this direction have greatly enhanced the value of the tract. So great has been his interest in the development of the property that he has not found leisure for participation in public affairs and aside from voting the Republican ticket he has taken no part in local elections, yet he is a citizen of progressive spirit and especially loyal to all movements for the material upbuilding of the township and county. In religion he has been liberal, conceding to all the same freedom of opinion which he claims as his own right, but willing to aid church, missionary and charitable projects to such extent as his means permit.

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