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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Samuel Larison

From the time of his arrival in Sonoma county in 1855 until his death in 1898, at the age of seventy-five years, Samuel Larison advanced with certain steps toward an assured position in the agricultural affairs of the county and state. To him belongs credit for planting the first grape vines in the Oak valley and he was also the first to venture in the manufacture of wine in this part of the county. Those less venturesome than he were not slow in profiting by his experience, and from the suggestion which he gave by his experiments, sprang the tremendous vineyard and wine-making industry which has made Sonoma county such a wealthy agricultural center.

Not unlike so many who came to California from states to the east, Mr. Larison was a native of Ohio, born in Cincinnati in 1824, the son of James W. Larison, who came from Pennsylvania and became a pioneer settler at old Fort Cincinnati. Mr. Larison was born and reared in an agricultural community and as soon as he was old enough he began his independent career by working as a farm hand, first in his native state, and later in Iowa and Indiana. It was while he was in the latter state that he made up his mind to come to California, crossing the plains in the year 1853 in a train consisting of fifty-three wagons. The finding of gold had been the attraction which brought him to the west and he consequently lost no time in making his way to the mines of Marysville, which was then attracting considerable attention on account of the rich prospects there. After an experience of two years as a miner in which he met with more or less success, he came to Sonoma county and located on a ranch of one hundred and sixty acres near Cloverdale. Some idea of the unsettled condition of the country may be gathered from the statement that at the time he settled in the valley there were only ten acres of fenced land in the country round about, but he lived to see the entire valley thickly settled by a happy, contented people. Not a little of the credit for the thrift and enterprise which sprang up in the valley was due to the impetus which the settlers received from his pioneer efforts as a vineyardist and wine-maker, and in following his example the united efforts of the many have made this one of the most thrifty grape-growing and wine-making centers in the state.

The marriage of Mr. Larison in 1848 occurred in Indiana and united him with Miss Elizabeth Folsom, who was born in Virginia. A large family of eight children were born to this noble pioneer couple, but of the number only two are now living, Mrs. M. J. Mowbray and Seymour Larison. Mr. Larison was a well-known figure in Masonic circles, having been a charter member of four lodges, and at the time of his death was a member of Santa Rosa Lodge, in which he had attained the Royal Arch degree.

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