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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



The pioneer instinct has been strong in the Twitchell blood. It was that which led the first representatives of the name in America to leave the comforts of European civilization and identify them- selves with the stern environment of New England. The same love of the frontier appeared in the history of a New England couple, the husband, Capt. Timothy Twitchell, from New Hampshire and the wife, Susan (Watson) Twitchell, from Vermont, who gave up home and friends and sought the unknown territories of the south, there to make a temporary home in the ancient city of Pensacola, Fla. During the sojourn of the family at that point a son, Edward, was born November 8, 1828. There were two other sons, George and Amos, equally talented as the one previously named, but their ability led them into different lines of activity and one became a very successful physician, the other a scientist. Capt. Timothy Twitchell was a seafaring man; as early as the '20s he sailed around Cape Horn to the California coast, as well as up to the shores of Alaska, trading in hides, horns and tallow, and he is known to have put in at the Bay of Monterey.

 Concerning the early life of Edward Twitchell little is to be said. It presented the same round of struggle, the same lack of advantages, the same deprivation of comfort and the same willing endurance of hardship which characterized the lives of the people during the early half of the nineteenth century. No break came in the monotony of labor and isolation until the discovery of gold in California. That event changed the entire life of the young man in Florida. An expedition was organized comprising people from his part of the southeast. Joining the party he traveled by boat to Mexico and then rode on horseback across that country, taking boat on the Pacific side and sailing north to the harbor of San Francisco in August, 1849. The trip, though necessarily one of great hardship and privation, was not without its share of pleasure and interest to the young man whose previous knowledge of the world had been limited to his own little corner thereof.

 While it was primarily for the purpose of mining that Mr. Twitchell came to the west, we find that the occupation did not engage his attention for any protracted period. Even when at the camps he found the trade of a carpenter more profitable than looking for gold. Having learned and had experience as a civil engineer in New Hampshire in 1848, under a celebrated surveyor, upon his return to Sacramento he became deputy to Gen. Horace Higley, surveyor-general, and for twenty-five years he remained in the office, meanwhile working under General Houghton and others. For a time he was a surveyor and miner in the White Pine district, in Nevada. During the early days he did considerable surveying in Sacramento, Berkeley, Alameda and Oakland, and at one time owned property in these cities, as well as in Fresno and Yolo counties. While in the government employ he made the first survey of Lake Tahoe, also, surveyed in New Mexico and Arizona, surveyed and named Twitchell Island, and had other important expeditions. For many years he owned a large tract of land on Sherman Island. In his last years he had retired from business cares, but still took part in civic affairs and gave earnest support to movements for the local advancement. He died February 8, 1912. He was a member of Sacramento Society of California Pioneers.

 The marriage of Mr. Twitchell and Margaret Woodland was solemnized in Sacramento December 20, 1870. They became the parents of three children. The only son, Edward W. Twitchell, M. D., is a prominent physician of Sacramento. The elder daughter, Blanche, is the wife of James H. Jennings, son of an honored pioneer of San Francisco and himself a well-known resident of that city. The younger daughter, Ethel, married Prof. W. D. Briggs, who is connected with the English department of the Leland Stanford University at Palo Alto. Mrs. Twitchell was born in Louisiana, but at the age of six months she was brought by her parents across the plains to California, the journey covering four months. The family traveled up the Mississippi river to St. Louis, thence joined an expedition overland, and finally arrived at Fort Sutter during August of 1849, and Sacramento has been Mrs. Twitchell's home ever since. Not long after arriving her father, James W. Woodland, who was the first assessor of the city of Sacramento, was shot and killed during a squatters' riot that occurred on the corner of Third and J streets, Sacramento, he having taken no part in the trouble, but happening to turn the corner just as the parties came together, and a stray bullet hit and killed him. The fact that he had just left his home after the birth of an infant son added to the sad event. Later E. B. Crocker bought the old Woodland homestead and on the ground he erected a building now known as the Scudder House. When Miss Woodland began housekeeping in her own home as the bride of Mr. Twitchell, her mother, Mrs. Jane (Alexander) Woodland, joined her there and afterward remained an inmate of the Twitchell residence, where she died in 1905 at the age of eighty- six years. 

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