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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


James Ross Mowbray

Many years have elapsed since the death of Mr. Mowbray in 1881, but the good which he accomplished in the locality in which he lived for so many years in Sonoma county has kept his memory fresh in the minds of those who came after him and profited by the uplift which his life and efforts gave to the upbuilding of the community.

J. R. Mowbray was a native of Ohio, born in the Miami Valley in 1818, and in the locality of his birth he was reared to a stalwart young manhood. He was in the full flush of young manhood when he heard of the opportunity for young men in California, and among those who came to the state early in the year 1849 he was one of the most enthusiastic. The trip was made across the plains behind slow-plodding oxen, but as soon as he reached his journey’s end he lost no unnecessary time in going to the mines of Sierra county. His enthusiasm was not without its satisfaction, if the five years he spent in the mines there may be taken as an indication of satisfaction in his efforts. From Sierra county he then went to the Sacramento valley, remaining there for a short time only, when, in 1860, he came to Cloverdale and near this town, in the limits of the town of Preston, he purchased a ranch upon which he lived and labored the remainder of his life. His ranch comprised one hundred and seventy acres of choice land, sixty acres of which he planted to wine grapes. In the early days, however, much of his attention was given to cattle and sheep raising, and he was one of the very first in this part of the county to make the change from stock-raising to the raising of grapes and other fruits now a source of such large income to the valley.

Mr. Mowbray’s marriage in 1867 united him with Miss Mary J. Larison, a native of Ohio and the daughter of that well-known pioneer, Samuel Larison. One son was born of the marriage of Mr. Mowbray and his wife, Frank, a civil engineer by profession, who is engaged in business in Vancouver, B. C. Fraternally Mr. Mowbray was an Odd Fellow. His death in 1881 was looked upon as a public loss, for he was held in the highest regard by all residents of the community, by common consent being counted one of the most fruitful benefactors the valley had ever known.

Since Mr. Mowbray’s death the widow has resided on the place, engaging in grape-growing and agriculture. She built a new residence on the hill, over-looking Preston and the Russian river, and known as Rio Vista. She is a member of the Eastern Star and the Rebekahs at Cloverdale, in both of which lodges she has held office. In her religious views she is liberal, and assists all of the churches in their philanthropies as well as all public enterprises for the upbuilding of the community. As one of the very first settlers in the valley no one appreciates more than she the wonderful transformation from its original primitive condition to the paradise that it is today.

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