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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Ransom Powell

In recording the lives of those who, having completed their allotted tasks in life, have gone to their reward, mention of Ransom Powell must not be omitted. A veteran of the Mexican war, one of the early pioneers of California and for many years a prominent business man in Sonoma county, when death removed him from the scenes of earth on April 8, 1910, his loss was the cause of general mourning in the community which had known him so long, his residence in the vicinity of Healdsburg dating from the year 1856. A native of Tennessee, he was born in Robertson county, January 11, 1824, the son of Reuben and Nancy (Ethridge) Powell, both of whom were born and reared in North Carolina. Subsequent years found Reuben Powell in Tennessee, where he owned a plantation, but in the year 1828, when his son was four years old, he removed to Franklin county, Ill., taking up land from the government upon which he lived throughout the remainder of his life. He died in middle age, at the age of fifty-three years, while his wife was only forty years old at the time of her death.

The seventh child in order of birth among the twelve born to his parents, Ransom Powell was four years old at the time removal was made to Illinois, where the father died three years later. Subsequently he lived with his step-mother three years, his father having been twice married. At the end of this time he went to Kentucky, where he began an apprenticeship of three years at the tailor’s trade, after which he went to New Franklin, Howard county, Mo., opened a tailor shop of his own, and continued in the tailoring business until the breaking out of the Mexican war. Enlisting in Company G, Doniphan’s Regiment of Cavalry, in 1846, he went to the scene of the disturbance that year, going through Santa Fe and El Paso, to Buena Vista, where Colonel Doniphan and his men joined General Taylor a few days after the battle at that place. On the way Mr. Powell and his comrades took part in a number of Indian skirmishes, and when about eighteen miles from Chihuahua met a force of seven thousand Mexicans, which the little band of one thousand, only six hundred of them Americans, fought and conquered. With the expiration of his term of service, which was also the close of the war, Mr. Powell took the company’s band of horses back to Howard county, Mo., after which, for a short time, he was engaged in business at New Franklin, Mo.

The news of the finding of gold in California was the means of bringing Mr. Powell across the plains in 1849. September of that year marking his arrival at Coloma. He engaged in mining on the American river until the rains set in and made further work impossible, after which he went to Sacramento and engaged in hauling freight from that city to the mines, on one load alone clearing $1,100. He continued in the freighting business throughout the winter, and in the following summer he returned to Howard county, Mo., where he had left his family, making the journey by way of the Isthmus. The year following his return he engaged in the dry-goods business, but in 1852 disposed of his interests in Missouri and again crossed the plains to the west. Misfortune overtook him on the way in the death of his wife. Completing the journey, he located on the Sacramento river, opening a wood yard in what is now Clarksburg, and continuing there for a number of years. Then, in 1856, he removed to Sonoma county, and in Healdsburg and vicinity the remainder of his useful life was p assed. In partnership with John McManus he was for three years interested in an extensive mercantile business, at the end of this time disposing of his interest in the store. He then turned his attention to the real-estate business, buying and selling land throughout the county, and it is safe to say, that at times he had owned more land than any other one man in this section of the state. About three years, from 1889 until 1892, he owned and managed a hardware store, after selling which he purchased the ranch of fifty acres one mile west of Healdsburg which was his home throughout the remainder of his life, his death occurring at Rose Ville, as his place was known, April 8, 1910. Here as with every other industry he had been interested in from time to time, he put his whole thought and attention, and from a rough, uninteresting tract of land he evolved a garden spot that is now the home of his widow and one of the most productive fruit ranches in the county. Peaches, pears, apples, and prunes are grown, the last mentioned fruit yielding twenty tons from five hundred and fifty trees.

In Howard county, Mo., Mr. Powel was first married to Elizabeth Hults, who died while crossing the plains in 1852, leaving one son, Lory, who is now a trader at Fort Sill. In 1853 Mr. Powell married Frances Ware, who passed away in 1857, leaving no children. A later marriage was formed with Mary Capp, who died a few years later, leaving two children, John D., a dentist in Sacramento, and Nettie, the wife of T. S. Roscoe, a railway conductor. In the fall of 1872 Mr. Powell married Katie Beeson, who at her death in 1875 left a son, Jesse, who died in January, 1903. Subsequently, February 1, 1887, Mr. Powell married Louise E. Madeira who was born in San Francisco, the daughter of George Madeira, who was born in Galena, Ill., and came to California in 1852. He is now making his home with his daughter.

In his political affiliation Mr. Powell was a Democrat, and was active in the cause of his chosen party, although never to the extent that he sought or desired public office, township trustee being the only office which he ever held. He was one of the organizers of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank, and as one of its directors, cared for its real-estate interests for many years. In his fraternal affiliations he was a charter member of Healdsburg Lodge No. 123, F. & A. M., and of Healdsburg Lodge, I. O. O. F. As one of Sonoma county’s best beloved citizens, Mr. Powell’s opinion carried great weight in his community, where his conservative worth stood the test of years, and where his word was regarded as binding as would be his bond.

Mrs. Powell takes special pride in the ranch, and also in the fact that under her care since the death of her husband it has been kept up to the high standard of excellence of which he was so proud. She is now changing the place into a prune ranch, having had the peaches dug out, and in their place has set out French and Imperial prunes. Active, intelligent and enterprising, Mrs. Powell has a host of warm friends and well-wishers in the community in which she has lived for so long a time, all of whom are interested in her welfare and count her among the substantial citizens of this part of Sonoma county.

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