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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Harvey Gregory

Not unlike many others, Mr. Gregory came to California in the hope of regaining health impaired in activities east of the Rocky mountains. The delightful health-giving climate repaired the inroads which duties in a more rigorous climate had made, and for more than a quarter of a century thereafter he was able to accomplish what at the time of coming to the west he thought was impossible. He passed away at his home in Santa Rosa May 30, 1910, beloved by a host of friends who had learned to love him for the sturdy qualities which had been the foundation of his long and useful life.

Near Goshen, Orange county, N. Y., Harvey Gregory was born October 13, 1833, the son of parents who tilled the soil as a means of livelihood. He was educated in the public schools and academy near his home, after which he followed teaching for some time, or until he removed to Muscatine, Iowa, where he purchased a farm and began life as an agriculturist. At the time of purchase no improvements had been made on the property, and the work involved in its transformation into the fine property which it later became was the means of impairing the health of the owner and ultimately bringing him to the Pacific coast. Coming to Sonoma county in 1883, Mr. Gregory located on a ranch two and a-half miles from Santa Rosa, where he was engaged in horticulture, selling out orchards of apples, prunes and pears, a business which he followed until January, 1904, when he disposed of his property and located in Santa Rosa, where he was living at the time of his death, May 30, 1910.

It was due to the untiring energy and indefatigable labor on the part of Mr. Gregory that the Sonoma County Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company came into being in 1898, at the organization of which he was elected secretary, and continued in the office up to the time of his death. For the last five months however, he was unable to perform the duties of the office, and his wife nobly and efficiently assumed the responsibility, and after his death she was elected secretary for the remainder of his term.

The first marriage of Harvey Gregory occurred in Iowa and united him with Miss Melissa Holcomb, who at her death a few years later left one child, Clara, who is now Mrs. Shepherd, of Muscatine, Iowa. His second marriage was to Almira Bamford, who passed away in Sonoma county, leaving three children, as follows: Frank, who died in Oregon; Bion, of Mexico City; and Lester, of Fort Bragg. On March 17, 1897, Mr. Gregory was married in Santa Rosa to Mrs. Mary M. (Gilbert) Kniffin, who was born near Muscatine, Iowa, the daughter of Hiram and Eliza (Benefield) Gilbert, born respectively in Kentucky and Indiana. Mrs. Gregory's paternal grandfather, Mordecai Gilbert, was a native of Virginia, whence in the early days he removed to Kentucky, and still later to Iowa. The maternal grandfather, Robert Benefield, came from Indiana to Muscatine county, Iowa, when that county was as yet practically uninhabited by white men. Mrs. Gregory was fourth from the oldest of a family of nine children born to her parents, eight of whom are still living. She was given the privileges of the public schools of Muscatine county. Her first marriage was with Isaac Kniffen, a native of New York state and later a farmer in Muscatine county, Iowa, where he was living at the time of his death. Some years afterward his widow removed to Hodgeman county, Kan., where she entered one hundred and sixty acres of land, but the county suffered from lack of rain during the years she remained upon it, and when the opportunity came she disposed of the land, after which she removed to Topeka. One child was born of her union with Mr. Kniffin, Minnie L., who became the wife of Dr. Beatty, of West Branch, Iowa. In his political belief Mr. Gregory was a stanch Republican, and with his wife was an active member of the grange and the Methodist Episcopal Church. Personally he was a man of kindly, lovable qualities, a man of integrity and true worth, one whose greatest happiness was showing kindness to those about him.

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