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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


James R. Nesbitt

In so far as Petaluma’s reputation as a well-built and substantial city has to do with the cement and c9oncrete work which forms so large an element of her material foundation, much credit is due to James R. Nesbitt, a leading cement and concrete contractor and road builder of this city. He was born in the north of Ireland in 1857, and at the age of fifteen years came to make his home on this side of the Atlantic. The vessel on which he made the voyage landed its burden of human freight in the harbor of New York, and the young Irish immigrant passed his first year on this side in the Empire state, working at anything honorable that came his way. From New York state he went to Lexington, Ky., and there as in the east he was successful in finding employment. During the year that he remained in that southern city he had charge of a herd of Durham cattle, very high blooded and valuable stock which brought the owner enormous prices. One of the bulls which weighted twenty-eight hundred and sixty pounds was sold in England for thirty-one hundred guineas or $15,500.

It was in 1876, after a varied experience in the eastern and southern sections of the Union, that Mr. Nesbitt came to California, and here he has been contented to remain. Not only is he satisfied with the state in general as a desirable place in which to live and make a living for himself and family, but he is especially pleased with Petaluma in these respects, and here he has made his home ever since coming to the state, thirty-five years ago. For the first sixteen years of this time he was engaged in baling hay, working up a splendid business in this line, but he gave it up at the end of this time to take up work at his trade of cement contractor. With the growth and expansion of the young town this business became increasingly profitable, and the demand for his services soon placed his business on a firm foundation. Many miles of sidewalk on the best streets of the town were laid under his direct supervision, besides numerous curbs and gutters, all of which are in good condition and are a credit to Mr. Nesbitt as well as to the town. He has also built may miles of macadam road in this county as well as in Marin county. Besides work of the character mentioned, he also takes contracts for foundations of buildings, notable among those which he has laid being the public library, the Doyle building on Washington street and the Hill opera house.

In Petaluma, in 1879, Mr. Nesbitt was united in marriage with Miss Isabell Rice, a native of California, whither her father came in an early day, settling in Sonoma county. A large family of fourteen children were born of the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Nesbitt, but of the number only nine are living, as follows: Joseph, Hugh, Randolph, James, Isabell, John, Elizabeth, Sadie and Thomas. Fraternally Mr. Nesbitt is a member of the Eagles and Fraternal Brotherhood. He is a friend of education and advancement, and is one of the most thoroughly reliable, both as to character and attainment, of any of whom we have knowledge in the town.

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