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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Judge Albert P. Overton

A native of Missouri, Judge Overton was born in Independence in 1830. His father, Moses Overton, was a native of Alabama and his mother, Mary Turner, was born in Tennessee, in which state they were married, and soon afterwards settled in Missouri, where they remained until they removed to Dallas, Texas, where the father died.

But four years old when his father died, Albert P. Overton was adopted into the family of his uncle, Jesse Overton, of Independence, Mo., with whom he remained until he was twenty years of age. About this time the news of the discovery of gold in California had spread to the middle west and young Overton was fired with the ambition of young manhood to come to the new Eldorado. On his twentieth birthday, he started from Dallas, Texas, coming by the southern route, and arrived in San Diego August 1, 1850. Until the following February he was employed in the government service in the Quartermaster’s department. He then came to San Francisco, thence to Sacramento, on his way to the mines on Trinity river, where, after three months experience in mining, his mind was dispelled from the charm of gold-digging and he went to El Dorado county. There he built a hotel known as the Duroc house on the road leading from Sacramento to Placerville; this he conducted until August, 1852, at which time he sold out and came to Petaluma, passing 9over the present site of Santa Rosa, then without a building and only three in Petaluma. The total number of voters in Sonoma county, which included Mendocino also, was only about three hundred.

Mr. Overton formed a partnership with P. B. Smith in the purchase of a tract of timber two miles west of Petaluma and they hired men to chop it into wood, bought teams and hauled it to Petaluma, and from there it was shipped to San Francisco by schooner. This was all done on credit, as they had no money. After selling their wood and having some money ahead after paying their bills, they purchased a lot in the town for $300. In the winter of 1853-4 they went to the timber, cut and split lumber and erected a building on this lot. To get their finishing lumber sawed they exchanged work with a man who owned a whip saw. The building when finished cost $300, not including labor and they rented the property for $75 a month. A year later Mr. Overton sold his interest in the wood business and, with two partners, Messrs. Arthur and Wiley, started a general merchandise business in this building, Mr. Overton putting in the building for $3,000 as his share of the capital. All business in those days was done on a credit system; many of their customers were nomadic stock-raisers with no permanent abiding place; Mr. Overton saw disaster staring them in the face and after three months time, sold his interest.

On retiring from business Mr. Overton resumed the study of law, which he had begun in Missouri, and in 1857 was admitted to practice, forming a partnership with J. B. Campbell and opening a law office in Petaluma. In 1860 Mr. Overton was appointed census enumerator, also was deputy assessor for the southern end of the county four years. In 1867 he was elected district attorney and in 1869 succeeded himself in the office. At the expiration of the second term he was elected county judge and served four years. Upon being elected to the office of district attorney Mr. Overton removed to Santa Rosa, where he remained until his death. In 1879 he was selected one of the thirty-two delegates at large to the Constitutional Convention which framed the present constitution. This body comprising one hundred and fifty-two of the ablest men in the state, convened in Sacramento and were in session six months. He was one of the organizers of the Petaluma Savings Bank. In 1873 he organized the Savings Bank of Santa Rosa and served as its president until his death. In 1877 he was elected mayor of Santa Rosa and served one term.

In 1855 A. P. Overton and America Helen Talbot were united in marriage. She was the daughter of Coleman Talbot, a Kentuckian, and pioneer settler of 1853 in Bennett Valley, Sonoma county, Cal. Miss Talbot was a school teacher who, being remarkable for her beauty, was called the “Belle of the Redwoods.” Mr. and Mrs. Overton became the parents of four children: Theodore T., a capitalist of Santa Rosa: John P., president of the Savings Bank of Santa Rosa; N. R., deceased; and a daughter Jessie, now Mrs. Levernash of San Francisco. Mrs. A. H. Overton died in 1869. Some years later Mr. Overton married Jennie A. (Olmstead) West, a native of Vermont.

Mr. Overton was very instrumental in the bringing of the State House for Feeble-minded Children to Sonoma county, was a member and p resident of the board of trustees from its organization until his death, in 1898. As a member of the board he was a prime mover in securing the purchase of about seventeen hundred acres at Eldridge from William McPherson Hill for the nominal sum of $50,000 and now with its improvements and advance in land value is estimated worth almost three-quarters of a million. Mr. Overton was very public spirited and helpful in every movement of importance for the advancement of Santa Rosa and when he came here he sold his interests in Petaluma and built several of the first brick buildings. Fraternally he was a Mason, holding membership in the lodge at Petaluma. He was very active in securing the right of way and starting the early railroads in the county, now the Northwestern.

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