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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Lewis G. Nay

An impression of peace and prosperity and personal worth and strength is conveyed in the life history of Lewis G. Nay, who took up his residence in Petaluma in the early ‘60s, and in the years that have intervened his interest in the town which he helped to bring to its present state of prosperity has not been diminished, notwithstanding the fact that he is now well advanced in years and has not been intimately identified with business affairs for many years. However, as he goes up and down the streets of his home town he is gratified by the sight of the substantial buildings which stand as evidence of his accomplishments as a builder in his younger years. Many of these are the most prominent public buildings and residences in town, including among others the Wickersham bank building, the Whitney building, the city hall, Masonic hall and Odd Fellows building. In connection with his building business he ran and operated the Petaluma Planing mill for fifteen years, and after disposing of this, retired from active business life, since which time he has found all that he care to do in looking after his large holdings of real estate in the town and county.

The parents of Mr. Nay, Gardner and Amelia (Simonds) Nay, were both natives of New Hampshire, but after their marriage they removed to Genesee county, N. Y., where the father continued to work at the machinist’s trade. It was while his parents were living there that their son, Lewis G., was born, December 26, 1823. Owing to a sever attack of chills and fever in 1828 Gardner Nay returned to New Hampshire and settled at Hancock, Hillsboro county, remaining there for thirty years, during which time he carried on contracting and building and managed a farm. In 1858 he came west as far as Illinois, and there he died in 1861, leaving considerable means to his wife and children. In his political views he was a Democrat, and religiously he was a Baptist. Two years after his death, in 1863, Mrs. Nay came to California, making her home with her son until her death, at the age of eighty-three years.

Lewis G. Nay learned the carpenter’s trade from his father during his boyhood, and later was of great assistance to his father in carrying out his many building contracts. When he attained his majority he felt competent to undertake carpentering on his own account, first working at his trade for a year in Manchester, N. H., and later in Boston, Mass., for the same length of time. A larger opportunity for the exercise of his ability came to him in 1846, when he went to Lawrence and became identified with the Bay State Company woolen mills, and for the following seven years he not only worked at his trade, but also assisted with the building and installing of machinery. It was with considerable reluctance that his employers saw him leave their service to accept a position with the Boston flax mills, where he was variously employed as repairer, installer of machinery, pattern-maker and general overseer of the machinery and wood shops. Leaving the east in 1856, he came as far west Illinois, and in McLean county bought a section of land in partnership with his brother-in-law, A. Thurston. This was all virgin land, and after clearing it he engaged in general farming and stock-raising until coming to California in 1863. His first experience in the west was in the dairy business in Marin county, where he was associated with his brother, Samuel A., and in June of the same year he came to Petaluma, which has been his home ever since.

From the first years of his residence in the town Mr. Nay has given himself heartily to the upbuilding of his community, and at the earnest solicitation of his fellow-citizens he has consented to fill public office a number of times, being a member of the school board for one term, and city trustee for a considerable period. During the early years of the Wickersham Bank (then known as the First National Bank of Petaluma) he was made and remained a director in the Wickersham Banking Company during its existence.

The first marriage of Lewis G. Nay occurred in 1847, uniting him with Miss Sarah L. Foster, a native of New Hampshire, her death occurring two years after her marriage. His second marriage was with Miss Eliza Walker, a native of Maine, who at her death two years later left one son, Lewis W., who died in San Bernardino, Cal., November 7, 1903. Mr. Nay’s third marriage united him with Miss Margaret N. Fishburn, a native of Franklin county, Pa., who died in 1881, at the age of forty-five, leaving two children, both of whom are deceased, dying at the ages of nineteen and twenty years respectively.

The present Mrs. Nay was before her marriage Mrs. Sarah J. Wate4rs, and is the mother of one daughter, Mrs. Abbie M. Treadwell. Mr. Nay has for many years been prominent in the Odd Fellows, being a member of Petaluma Lodge No. 30, and has passed all the chairs in this organization. He is also a member of Silver Spray Lodge, D. of R., of Petaluma, which he served as first noble grand. He organized Petaluma Rebeklah Lodge No. 226. Mrs. Nay is a prominent member of the order, being past noble grand of Silver Spray Rebekah Lodge, and also a member of Petaluma Lodge, in which she has passed all of the chairs. She assisted in the organization of Antietam Relief Corps, and was the first president, besides which she was a member of Erickson Woman’s Relief Corps of Sebastopol.

In the evening of life’s busy day Mr. Nay can look back with no regrets and forward without fear, for he has endeavored to live by the Golden Rule and has always done his share towards the upbuilding of Sonoma county and especially Petaluma.

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