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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



The genealogy of the Runyon family is traced back to French ancestors, but several successive generations of the name have been identified with American history. Michael Runyon and wife, the latter of American birth but English parentage, lived upon a plantation in Kentucky until their demise when advanced in years. Their son, Armstead, was born and reared in the Blue Grass state, whence he removed to Preble county, Ohio, and then became a pioneer of Will county, Ill., during a period so early in the development of the Mississippi valley that Chicago was still a frontier trading post and the rich agricultural section of Northern Illinois wholly undeveloped and sparsely inhabited. During young manhood he had married Anna Hornbacker, who was born in Ohio of German or Pennsylvania-Dutch stock, and with her energetic assistance he had earned a livelihood from a tract of unimproved and undeveloped land. Fond of the frontier, a pioneer in every sense of that word, he found his highest enjoyment in the strenuous labors incident to such an existence, and when he heard of the discovery of gold in California he was as eager to join the procession of Argonauts as though he himself had been a stalwart youth in his teens. With his sons, O. E., A. N. and Solomon, he left Illinois early in the spring of 1849 and followed the usual route of migration across the plains, arriving safely at Sacramento during the middle of September. It was his privilege to witness the memorable era of early Californian development, the rapid accession to the population, the admission of the state into the Union, the growth in wealth from mines and of prosperity from the early expansion of agricultural interests, and with his own past experience amid frontier conditions he was in a position to understand and appreciate the environment of the period as well as the prospects for future development. His death occurred in Santa Rosa, where he had spent the last days of his useful existence.

Upon the frontier farm in Will county. Ill., where for years Armstead and Anna Runyon labored to earn for the family the necessities of existence, their son, Solomon, was born November 27, 1827. The neighborhood had not developed a public-school system and he had scant opportunity for acquiring an education, but he learned to read and write and to keep accounts in a primitive manner. The broad knowledge of his later years was wholly self-acquired. Remaining on the home farm and working for his father until he was twenty-one, he afterward took up the battle of life for himself. When he came to California during 1849 he began to work in the mines, and for two years he pursued the exciting life of a seeker after gold, but the results did not justify further continuance. Accordingly he resumed the occupation which in Illinois had engaged his attention. During 1852 he entered one hundred and sixty acres of state land near Schoolcraft, Solano county, and there he settled, spending the next few years in the improvement of the property. .September 15, 1859, he bought a ranch twenty-four miles below Sacramento on the river of that name, and there he took up agricultural activities with such success that- in 1868 he was able to replace the old home with a modern mansion, which for years ranked as the most elegant residence on the river.

After he had remained a bachelor until middle life Mr. Runyon established a home of his own, being united in marriage, July 23, 1863, with Miss Adaline Bloom, who was born in Missouri and arrived in California September 12, 1850, having been brought across the plains by her parents, William H. Harrison and Delilah Bloom. The only child of her marriage was a daughter, Ora, born January 18, 1875, and educated in Mills College, Oakland. Her demise occurred November 18, 1905. The landed possessions of Mr. Runyon were enlarged by the purchase, December 13, 1871, of one hundred and fifty-five acres at the head of Andrus island five miles down the river from the old homestead. August 21, 1881, he purchased an adjacent tract of two hundred and eighty-six acres, so that he had in one body four hundred and forty-one acres of rich land. Other acquisitions of property made him one of the largest land owners of the entire valley and much of this vast acreage was planted in fruit trees, so that he ranked among the most extensive orchardists of the locality. In addition he owned considerable property in Sacramento and San Francisco.

The landed possessions of Mr. Runyon and the management of the same did not represent the limit of the varied activities of his useful career, existing in the incorporation of the California Transportation Company, he afterward retained a large amount of stock in the concern and served upon its directorate. For years he was interested in the Sacramento street railway and was one of six men who bought the farm that is now Oak Park, laid out the townsite, and built a residence as a model; and this was virtually the starting of that prosperous suburb of Sacramento. In order to promote throughout the west an interest in the growing of fruit he identified himself with the State Board of Horticulture, which he served as treasurer at one time and in which he was a member of great influence, his recognized success as an orchardist giving him prestige among those who were seeking to give to horticulture its rightful position near the head of the profitable occupations of the west.

Honored among the pioneers of the state, respected by the rising generation cognizant of his successful supervision of large enterprises, a leader in the charities of the Knights Templar and the Masons of the thirty-second degree, Mr. Runyon was regarded as one of the most influential men of the Sacramento valley, and his death, which occurred May 23, 1896, was regarded as a calamity to the interests of his community. However, with a sagacity equal to his own, his wife took up the supervision of the vast estate of twenty-eight hundred acres, divided into six ranches, and she has given intelligent and successful oversight to the important holdings, which are largely devoted to the growing of fruit and vegetables, the raising of grain and alfalfa and the care of dairy products. On two of her ranches she makes a specialty of growing asparagus, having over two hundred and fifty acres in that product, and is one of the largest asparagus beds in the state. Markets in San Francisco and also local canneries are supplied from these beds. In order to ascertain the condition of every ranch and the needs of the crops, she makes frequent trips to the tracts and gives personal attention to the same.

Her success is a matter of general observation. While owning and occupying one of the finest residences in Sacramento, situated at No. 1801 H street, and holding a position among the society leaders of the capital city, she has not limited her life to home and society, but has endeavored to aid in the greater interests of the entire valley. For years she has made a specialty of reclamation work. On this subject she is regarded as an authority in the Sacramento valley. Her long study of reclamation and her broad knowledge of the local conditions caused her to be selected as a member of the commission that is studying a feasible plan for the opening of the mouth of the Sacramento river. She is a frequent attendant at the meetings of the National Rivers and Harbor Congress and enjoys the distinction of being its only lady member in the United States, besides having the further honor of occupying a high place in the councils of that important organization. She is a member of the Rebekahs and the Onisbo Chapter No. 164, O. E. S. of Sacramento, and is past grand treasurer of the Chapter, O. E. S. of California. 

History of Sacramento 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: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011