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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


William Mather

The ranch of William Mather is conveniently located near Sebastopol, and is known as the Sebastopol nursery. Here a specialty is made of raising Burbank’s Giant Crimson winter rhubarb and Gravenstein apples. A native son of the state, William Mather was born in San Francisco in 1863, but as he was left an orphan when he was three days old he has no personal knowledge of his progenitors. However, he found a kindly protector in Stephen C. Story, of Bennett, who gave him a home and superintended his education and training until he was eighteen years of age. He made the best of the opportunities given him, so that when he had reached the age mentioned he was well equipped to take up the responsibility of his own support. Altogether he worked for wages for about six years, during which time he determined to specialize upon the cultivation of one or two products, and he is satisfactorily demonstrating the wisdom of his course in the raising of Burbank’s Giant Crimson winter rhubarb and the Gravenstein apple. In speaking of the former, Mr. Mather says: “Several years ago I saw the value in this most productive plant, and at once sought Mr. Luther Burbank, who perfected this wonderful creation, for instruction as to the culture in order to secure the most profit, following his advice in every particular.” From February to May is the best planting season about two hundred plants being the average per acre, and if the pants are in good condition by December they should yield from ten to fifteen pounds per hill. Three crops are generally gathered from the same plants before the first of March, which is the time when the common rhubarb finds its way into the market. One of the most favorable features of the raising of this commodity is the fact that it has a clear market, as other fruits and vegetables are out of season, and furthermore it finds a market three months earlier than the inferior grade of rhubarb, does not need peeling, and being heavier in saccharine, needs only about half the sugar ordinarily used in preparing this fruit for the table. Some idea of the large undertaking of which Mr. Mather is the proprietor may be realized when it is said that during the season of 1909 he cut over forty-five thousand rhubarb plants. Supplying the market with this fruit is but one feature of the ranch’s output however, a large income being realized from the shipment of roots of the plant to all parts of the world, as well as the sale of Gravenstein apple trees, his apple nursery numbering from ten to thirty thousand trees of this special variety of apple.

In 1887 Mr. Mather was united in marriage with Miss Eliza C. Allen, a native of Illinois, and one son, Herbert R., has been born to them.

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