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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Charles Preston Nolan

More than forty years have brought their transitions of weal and woe, of prosperity and adversity, into the varied experiences of Charles Preston Nolan, an honored pioneer of Sonoma county, since he relinquished all interests in the east and cast in his lot with the people along the Pacific coast. From the home of his boyhood to the scenes familiar to his mature years the width of a continent intervenes, while his change in occupation likewise has been radical, the arduous calling of a seafaring man having given place to the quiet round of horticultural and agricultural duties. When he came to the west he was entirely without means, nor did he enjoy the friendship of people of wealth and influence. The modest degree of success rewarding his efforts he owes to his own unaided exertions. Its significance is not limited to the personal element, but embraces the thought that the county offers large opportunities for men of purpose, energy and zealous application.

The early memories of Mr. Nolan center on the rock-bound coast of Maine. Near the coast of the Atlantic ocean, in Lincoln county, he was born November 3, 1841, being a native of Damariscotta, a village whose inhabitants principally worked in the mills, although a large number preferred to go to sea. The latter occupation was chosen by Mr. Nolan when at the age of fifteen years he discontinued his studies in the local schools and took u the task of earning a livelihood. For four years he followed the sea with ocean vessels and in February, 1863, volunteered in the United States navy. His service of thirty-one months was passed on board the Princeton and the Seminole, under Admiral Farragut, in the Western Gulf Blockading squadron, and among other engagements I which he participated was the battle of Mobile bay. After the fleet had taken all the forts in Mobile bay the harbor was dragged for torpedoes. This was accomplished by a tug dragging a circle with a large hawser, and Mr. Nolan with twenty-six others would wade out and haul it in. The first time they secured three torpedoes, the second time five, and the third time three torpedoes. This last experience early cost Mr. Nolan his life. In raising the middle torpedo to untangle the chains it sl8pped from the ones who handled it and struck one of the caps, causing all three torpedoes to explode. Fortunately Mr. Nolan and a comrade walked about thirty feet away, at the suggestion of his comrade Richard Hand, which saved their lives, all of the rest being killed. He had not thought it dangerous. When the fleet captured the rebel ram Tennessee he secured a piece of the flag and carried it for many years, giving small pieces of it as souvenirs to comrades, and wheat is left is now in the possession of his son Walter.

On receiving his honorable discharge with a record for fidelity and courage, Mr. Nolan settled in Boston, Mass., and for two years engaged in the trucking business, after which, in 1867, he came to California. Since then he has remained in the west. His friends and kindred in New England have become scattered or are dead. His father, Patrick, a native of Nova Scotia, and his mother, a native of Maine, both have passed into the silence of the grave. The ties that once bound him to the east are broken never to be reunited on earth and all of his interest are now associated with his western home.

For some time after coming to California Mr. Nolan worked on the Gualala river, but his principal occupation has been the cultivation of the soil. At this writing he owns thirty-five acres of valuable land situated near Occidental. Twenty-four acres have been placed under cultivation to fruit, mostly apples, Gravensteins, Spiitzenbergs, Jonathans, Roman Beauties and Belleflowers, in the raising of which he is regarded as a local authority. The sale of his orchard products brings him a large income each year and enables him to enjoy comforts justly merited by long years of labor. When he came to the west he was unmarried and it was not until some years later that he established domestic ties. During 1875 he was united in marriage with Josephine Chenoweth, a native of California and the daughter of western pioneers now deceased. Two sons comprise the family of Mr. and Mrs. Nolan. The elder, Walter, was born in 1876 and since about 1898 he has engaged in teaching, but recently his work has been interrupted by his determination to study for a university degree. At this writing he is a senior in the State University at Berkeley. The younger son, Albert Wallace, born in 1878, is a successful school teacher in his native county. Mr. and Mrs. Nolan are active members of the Methodist church at Occidental. The political affiliations of Mr. Nolan bring him into sympathy with Republican principles and he supports that party in the national elections, but in local campaigns he give his support to the men whom he deems best qualified to represent the people efficiently, irrespective of their partisan ties.

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