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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


William James Robinson

Among those who have written their names in the annals of California is William James Robinson, a prosperous and prominent citizen of Sebastopol, Sonoma county, who has made excellent use of the opportunities which he found awaiting him when he came to the state in 1872. A native of Canada, he was born near Ottawa, in the province of Ontario, April 22, 1852, the son of John and Elizabeth (Scott) Robinson, both of whom were born in Ireland, the latter being of Scotch descent. During young manhood John Robinson immigrated from Ireland and settled upon a farm in Ontario, and it was on this homestead farm that William J. was reared and became familiar with stock-raising and general farming. He was still a young man in his teens when he left home and took the responsibilities of his own support in his hands, at that time, 1872, setting out for the Golden state. His journey’s end brought him to San Francisco, and going from there to Marin county, he secured work as a farm hand on ranches, in so doing familiarizing himself with dairying. Altogether he remained in Marin county for eight years, during which time he succeeded in accumulating sufficient means to warrant him in engaging in an enterprise of his own.

With the money which he had thus saved Mr. Robinson came to Sonoma county and took a lease of six hundred and forty acres of land about one mile from Bloomfield, which he stocked with cows, and for the ensuing five years he followed the dairy business with excellent success. With the means which he had accumulated in the meantime he was enabled to purchase a ranch of his own, and it was with considerable pride that he assumed the ownership of five hundred and forty-seven acres of fine hill and valley land near Sebastopol, upon which he continued in the dairy business for some time. Here also he engaged in raising a fine grade of Norman and Pollock Clyde horses and also standard bred horses, among them such well known strains as Director, Wilkes, Bentons, Electioneer, Alexander Bellringer and Nutwood. Mr. Robinson was for many years engaged in raising Merino and Shropshire sheep; at times his flock numbered seven hundred head. However, the dairy and fruit-raising industries always engaged the most of his attention, for as soon as he purchased the ranch he set out an apple orchard of forty acres of the following varieties: Gravensteins, Spitzenbergs, Yellow Newtowns, Wagners, Bellflowers and Baldwins. Besides the raising of apples, which netted him $2 ,500 during the season of 1909, he raised a variety of plums, peaches and prunes, the latter, however, more for family use than for commercial purposes. The exceptional location of the ranch made it especially well adapted to the crops raised, and an abundant and constant supply of pure water from springs in the hills was an invaluable advantage and enhanced the value of the property considerably. In 1910 he sold his ranch at an advance of about four hundred per cent of the purchase price in twenty-six years’ ownership. He then located in Sebastopol, where he is engaged in looking after his real estate holdings. He owns Robinson Hill, a place of thirty-one acres, on which is a slightly knoll affording one of the grandest views in town, and is one of the highest points in this part of the county. Here he intends building a cosy bungalow; the place is improved with Gravenstein apples, blackberries and vines. With others he purchased the Kanody ranch of two hundred acres at Windsor, that is being laid out into ten acre tracts. At the present time he is building the Robinson block on Main street, 52x75 feet, two stories high. He is also the owner of nine houses and some business lots in Sebastopol.

Mr. Robinson’s marriage in 1878 united him with Miss Mary Ann Black, a native of Ireland. At her death in 1902 she left a husband and two children to mourn the loss of a devoted wife and mother. One child, Charles, had died in 1884, when four years old. The two sons now living, James and Arthur, were associated with their father in the management of the ranch until it was sold, and now James is engaged in mining and Arthur has charge of Robinson Hill ranch. He is a member of the Sebastopol Apple Growers Union and the Sebastopol Apple Show Association. Politically Mr. Robinson is a Republican, to the principles of which party he adheres faithfully. In the best sense of the word Mr. Robinson is a self-made man, and it is for this reason that he, as well as those who know him best, rejoice in his present prosperity and the position he now holds as one of the representative business men of Sonoma county. It is to such men as he that Sonoma county owes its present state of wonderful development. Coming here with a knowledge of the tilling of the soil and the raising of stock, and having learned that good management and economy succeeds, by close application to business and improving his ranches with trees he has demonstrated what could be accomplished by industry and perseverance in a land so favored with rich soil and abundance of rain.

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