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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Samuel A. Nay

Distinguished as one of the early and most respected settlers of California, Samuel A. Nay was first identified with Marin county as a large land-holder and extensive raiser of sheep and cattle, but for the past forty years his life and labors have been associated with Sonoma county, where his varied interests have brought him into prominence in almost all of the various avenues of agriculture. Until recently he occupied a ranch of fifty-five acres in Petaluma township, devoted to fruit-growing and the raising of poultry, twenty-five acres being in Newtown pippins, besides which he raised many kinds of valuable fruits. His poultry yard was conducted along scientific lines, and was one of the most profitable and up-to-date establishments of the kind in the county. He is now living retired in Petaluma.

A native of New Hampshire, Samuel A. Nay was born in Hancock, Hillsboro county, February 18, 1830, the son of Gardner and Amelia (Simonds) Nay, and following in the footsteps of his father in the choice of a life-work he became a farmer and carpenter. During his youth the home of the family was transferred from New Hampshire to Illinois, and it was in that state that the death of the father occurred in 1861. Subsequently the mother came to California to join her sons who had located here in the meantime, and here her earth life came to a close in 1878. All of the eight children born to the marriage of this worthy couple grew to maturity with the exception of one child who died in infancy. Samuel A., who was the fourth in order of birth of his parents’ family, started out to make his own way in the world at the age of twenty-one years, working at the carpenter’s trade, which he had learned from his father. He was thus engaged when he heard of the finding of gold in California, and as did thousands of others, he laid aside everything to come to the west in an endeavor to make his fortune. In the spring of 1852 he took passage at New York City on the ship Georgia, but before reaching Cuba the ship sprang a leak, and from the island to Aspinwall the voyage was continued on the ship Ohio. After crossing this narrow neck of land they embarked on the Pacific side on the ship Panama, and after a sail of thirty-six days hove in sight of the Golden Gate April 1, 1852. After three days spent in the metropolis Mr. Nay went to Marin county, where he hired out to work at teaming for $70 for the first month, $90 for the second month, and $100 for the third month’s work. Later he worked in a sawmill in tat locality, and while there was importuned by his former employer to resume teaming for him with the promise of $125 per month, but as he had discontinued the work on account of its being too laborious for his strength he was not persuaded to accept it, even though it meant an advance of $25 a month over what he was receiving in the mill. Subsequently he rented land in Marin county and engaged in raising potatoes, but as this commodity proved a drug on the market that year he found himself $300 in debt, besides the loss of his time and labor. During the season of 1855, however, he fared better, raising a record crop for which he received four cents a pound. From 1855 until 1858 he was engaged in the cord wood business near San Rafael in partnership with his brother William J., an association that proved profitable and amicable as long as it continued. Still later they were in partnership in the dairy business in that \locality, but in 1863 Samuel A. Nay bought out the interest of his brother and continued the business thereafter alone. Upon disposing of his interests in Marin county in 1871 he came to Sonoma county and purchased the ranch of fifty-five acres near Petaluma which claimed his close attention for so many years. Besides this ranch he was also interested with his brother in a sheep ranch of eighteen hundred acres near Guerneville, upon which, when it was sold, he realized a profit of $5,000. To Mr. Nay belongs the credit for being the first man in Petaluma to make a success of chicken-raising, and he may well be proud of his accomplishment, for it was the means of developing the greatest poultry industry known anywhere in the world today, Petaluma being the world’s center in this industry. During all the years that Mr. Nay has lived in the county he has speculated in land, buying and selling ranch property principally, and in almost every instance he has doubled on his investment.

While a resident of Marin county, in 1855, Mr. Nay was married to Miss Sarah E. Winans, a native of Ohio, and the daughter of James and Martha (Ashby) Winans, natives respectively of Pennsylvania and Indiana. Mr. Winans was a farmer who crossed the plains in 1854 alone, but in 1856 returned east for his family, finally locating in Marin county, and there his death occurred in 1893. Their children were as follows: David M., a rancher of Petaluma township; Sarah E., Mrs. S. A. Nay; Mrs. William Nay; and Mrs. Hannah Beerbauer, a resident of Humboldt county. Three children were born of the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Nay, Charles J., Heber L. and Frank G. Fraternally Mr. Nay is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Felllows, and politically he is a believer in Republican principals.

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