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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


William A. Lewis

It is now almost sixty years since the subject of this article came to California, attracted by the many stories of the great possibilities of this land of the Golden West and in all these years he has never regretted the step he has taken although he, like the other early pioneers, had to make sacrifices continually and suffered the privations that beset a new and undeveloped country. But these things never deterred Mr. Lewis, for whenever he found obstacles in his way he would press forward all the harder to surmount them. Thus, after years of close application and a successful career he is able to retire with a competency ample for the wants of his family and himself.

The grandfather of Mr. Lewis was John Lewis, who was of Welsh and French extraction and a native of the state of Virginia. From there he emigrated to Kentucky, where he married and afterward moved to Missouri, reaching St. Louis on January 5, 1797, and settled in a part of the city then called Creve Coeur Lake. He was one of the first―probably the first―American agriculturist that acquired a permanent residence in what is now Missouri. In his family there were seven children, five sons and two daughters, of whom one, Elizabeth, was a woman of strong intellectual powers. She was closely allied to the history of St. Louis and by her many deeds of Christian charity won for herself a warm place in the hearts of the people. She was the second daughter of John Lewis and was born in Harrison county, Ky., April 3, 1794, and was taken to St. Louis Mo., by her parents. She was thrice married, the first time, immediately after the completion of her thirteenth year, to Gabriel Long, a wealthy merchant and planter of St. Louis, June 25, 1897; to Rev. Alexander McAllister, a talented and much-represented clergyman of St. Louis, on April 30, 1823; and to A. R. Corbin, Esq., of New York (then a resident of St. Louis and the editor and proprietor of the St. Louis Argus, the organ of the old Jackson party), June 11, 1835. Her last husband, with whom she lived more than thirty-three years, was afterwards married to a sister of Gen. U. S. Grant. Her death occurred at the residence of her husband in New York City, July 9, 1868, in the seventy-fifth year of her age. Her end was painless and happy; she was surrounded by her husband and daughters, by many grand-children, and several great-grandchildren. Thus surrounded and supplied with every comfort and with every alleviation of suffering which affection and affluence could command this early emigrant to St. Louis, this pious Christian, this accomplished lady, this most loving wife and mother passed to that blissful abode provided by Infinite Goodness for the good of all nations and of every degree.

Sallie, another daughter of John Lewis, became the wife of Col. Daniel M. Boone, a son of the famous Col. Daniel Boone, the old pioneer and hunter of Kentucky. She lived to the age of nearly seventy years and was the mother of a large family. One of the sons of John Lewis was also named John and was four years old when his parents moved to Missouri, having been born in Kentucky in 1793. He grew to manhood in St. Louis and there married Nancy Curry, also a native of Kentucky. He was a farmer by occupation and spent the most of his life in St. Louis county, where he died in 1848. In his family there were ten children, six sons and four daughters, all of whom lived to be grown men and women.

William A. Lewis was born in St. Luis, May 1, 1830. He was reared on his fatherís farm, fourteen miles west of St. Louis, and educated I the common schools. In 1852, his father being dead, he came to California, crossing the plains with his uncle, Lindsay Lewis, in an ox-team train of seven wagons, taking five months to make the journey from the Missouri river to Marysville, Cal. His brother Austin had come to California in 1849 and his uncle, Samuel Lewis, had also come in 1849 and spent his last days in Petaluma. In the spring of 1853 W. A. Lewis engaged in trading with the emigrants, buying and selling stock and that same fall he located in Sonoma county, buying one hundred and thirty-five acres, the nucleus of his present possessions. He engaged in the stock and dairy business and has added to his place from time to time until he now has a ranch of two thousand acres. Over much of this land title disputes arose and he had to fight for his rights through the courts as well as at times having to buy the purported rights of other claimants. His start was made with twenty cows, which was gradually increased, against adversity at times, but he stayed with it and the result to him is eminently satisfactory. His place is located about four miles west of Petaluma on the Chelino Valley road, and is watered by San Antone creek and numerous springs. Before he saw the real value of land in Marin and Sonoma counties he was offered different tracts for from #3 to $4 an acre, but $50 slugs were very valuable, while land and real estate were unsalable at that time, hence many an opportunity was passed by. In the early days, for he was of the first settlers in this locality, there were no fences and he could ride across lots to Petaluma through wild oats over his head on horseback. He has sold butter for $1 and $1.10 per pound and eggs for $1 per dozen. The grass was abundant for many years and it was not until years later that it became necessary to make any hay. His place is a part of the Borjorques ranch and he resided there until 1882, since which time he has resided in Petaluma, from which place he visits his ranch frequently, it being leased to two tenants.

Mr. Lewis married, February 4, 1868 in St. Louis, Mo., Miss Mary Louise Hall, who was a native of St. Louis, the daughter of Dr. James H. Hall, a prominent physician and surgeon of St. Louis and later of Petaluma. They are the parents of five children, as follows: Nannie M., the wife of Foster Moale of San Francisco; Hall, an attorney in San Francisco; Lillian, Mrs. Dr. Fleisner, of Petaluma; Edith, Mrs. White of Petaluma; and William who is a poultry rancher in this city; the latter has made several trips to South America and nine trips east and is well qualified to decide that California is the most desirable location in which to reside.

Mr. Lewis has helped to build schoolhouses from the first that was built in his vicinity until they are all built up in four districts around him. He is very public spirited and enterprising, aiding in any enterprise for the upbuilding of the country, and his many deeds of kindness and charity are remembered by the many recipients and al is done in an unostentatious manner. It is to such men as William A. Lewis that the bay region owes its present progress and growth. As this was going to press notice came that Mr. Lewis died Monday, August 7, 1911, at his home surrounded by his wife and children.

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