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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Benonia Hotchkiss

Throughout a long period of useful years Mr. Hotchkiss was intimately identified with the agricultural development of Sonoma county, and when death terminated his energetic endeavors a large circle of acquaintances testified to his worth as a citizen, his sterling integrity as a man and his skill in husbandry. Born in the Green river valley of Kentucky in 1833, he inherited the chivalrous spirit and polished manner characteristic of a long line of southern ancestry. It was his good fortune to enjoy the educational and social advantages offered by the blue grass state during the prosperous era that preceded the Civil war and as he was a member of a family possessing considerable means, he enjoyed opportunities equal to those extended to other young men similarly situated. Possessing a faculty of intense application and considerable will power, he early determined to rise to success in agriculture, his chosen vocation, and with the belief that the west offered more desirable advantages than those of his own state, he migrated to California prior to the war and in 1860 located in Woodland, Yolo county, where for four years he kept one of the first hotels of the town. In 1865 he became a citizen of Sonoma county, where the remainder of his life was devoted to the building up of an improved estate. Sagacious judgment was one of his principal traits and he soon became numbered among the county’s leading farmers, giving his attention with such exactness to private affairs that he never identified himself with politics in any way aside from voting the Democratic ticket in all elections.

Not a little of the success attained by Mr. Hotchkiss was due to the capable assistance of his wife, who was his wise counselor and willing helper, and who still survives to enjoy the esteem of old friends and the fruits of early labors on the farm. Prior to her marriage in 1857 she was Miss Virginia Edrington, being a daughter of Barrett and Jane (Kerr) Edrington, natives of Kentucky. Two children, William J. and Mary Jane, were born of this marriage.

William Joseph, more familiarly known as W. J., was the only son born to Mr. and Mrs. Hotchkiss. He received fair advantages, graduating from the Santa Rosa grammar school and becoming a trustworthy and capable business man. Some years ago he was honored by election to the state legislature and represented his district at Sacramento with fidelity and appreciated distinction. By his marriage with Miss Emma Grove he has five children, namely: Miller, Homer, Marius, Linvil and Hazel. The last-mentioned is a graduate of the University of California and the champion tennis player of the world. The old homestead, purchased by the elder Mr. Hotchkiss some time after his arrival in Sonoma county, comprises three hundred acres lying near Healdsburg. A portion of the land is in hay and pasture, supplying feed for the live-stock kept on the place. By far the greater part of the land is under cultivation to fruit of variety that bears in abundance. Prune and apples are among the specialties and each is an income-producer of no small proportions. The improvements inaugurated by the former owner have been maintained by the widow and son and no pains are spared in keeping the large orchards in thrifty condition. In the year 1911 they set out three thousand new prune and apple trees. Since early girlhood Mrs. Hotchkiss has been identified with the Christian Church, which was also the religious preference of her husband, the two being generous contributors to that organization in its missionary movements, while at the same time they were sympathetic co-operators in all enterprises for the well-being of their community.

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