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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


HON. ALBION PARIS WHITNEY. Over a quarter of a century has come and gone since the earthly career of Mr. Whitney came to a close, but so deeply embedded in the hearts of his friends and fellow-workers is the memory of his long and helpful life among them, that time nor circumstance has had no power to dim it. For all that he was able to accomplish in life he took no credit to himself, but gave it rather to his worthy forebears, members of the famous old Whitney family of New England, whose accomplishments in the interests of humanity have made the name a household word all over the world. In direct line his ancestors were William, Samuel, Abner, John, Moses, Richard and John, the last-mentioned being the establisher of the name on American soil. From England he came to the United States in 1636 and settled with his wife and five sons at Watertown, Mass. From this immigrant was descended Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin; William Collins Whitney, secretary of the navy; besides many statesmen, inventors, educators and manufacturers who have been invaluable factors in the progress of the United States.

A native of Maine, Albion P. Whitney was born in Bangor September 15, 1825, on the family homestead, where he was early in life initiated into the duties of a farmer’s son. When he was sixteen years old he went with his brother into the wild woods in the northern part of his native state, engaging in the lumber business there until 1855, and becoming an expert sawyer and milkman. The western fever having attacked him, he came west as far as St. Anthony’s Falls, Minn., and worked in the lumber camps for one season. Later he penetrated the dense woods in Meeker county, that state, and finding a good mill site, in partnership with two others established a mill on Crow river and engaged in the manufacture of lumber for two years. The undertaking proved very successful, but as immigration seemed to be attracting settlers further west, Mr. Whitney determined to give up his business and make a tour of investigation in the west. Leaving his family in Minnesota, in 1858 he set out for Pike’s Peak, Colo., but changed his course after meeting people on the way who were returning from the Peak. Instead, he took the trail leading to California, coming around Puget Sound with an ox-team. At the end of one year’s work in a sawmill he sold the wagon in which he had made the journey across the plains for $55, sending $50 of this home to his family. Better prospects awaited him, and for the following three years he filled contracts for getting out mining timber in Placer county, Cal. In the fall of 1861 his family joined him, his wife making the trip with four children by the Panama route, landing at San Francisco December 15. From there they came to Petaluma, where Mr. Whitney had located in 1860. In the spring of each year he returned to fill his contracts.

With means which he had accumulated $1,600, in 1862 Mr. Whitney purchased the interest of Mr. Cross in the grocery business of Cross & Lamereaux, to which he later added a grain business. A couple of years later he acquired the balance of the business, which grew apace and ultimately assumed large proportions due to the enterprise and far-sightedness of the proprietor, who carried on a large business in freighting grain and produce by water to the coast markets. This he continued up to the time of his death February 10, 1884. When one reflects that he came to California without resources except the endowment which nature gave him, the success which he attained was truly remarkable. For many years he was one of the leading men of the county, taking a keen interest in the well-being of the city and state, and in many public offices of trust and responsibility he rendered efficient service. He was chairman of the board of city trustees for a number of terms, and in 1874 was honored by being the first man elected to the state senate on the Republican ticket. For a number of years he was a member of the school board of Petaluma, and was also an important member of the District Agricultural Association.

Mr. Whitney’s marriage, February 1, 1850, united him with Miss Susan D. Eastman, who was born in Jackson, N. H., March 28, 1832, but was brought up and educated in Maine, her parents removing to that state when she was six years old. Otis Eastman lived to reach a very great age, making his home with his daughter in Petaluma for eleven years, but later became a resident of Humboldt county. Eight children were born of the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Whitney, of whom the four youngest were born after the removal of the parents to California. Named in the order of their birth the children are as follows: Calvin E., who prior to his death at the age of forty years was engaged in the omission business in San Francisco; Cleora, the wife of Frederick Hewlett, a resident of Napa county; Nancy Jane, who became the wife of George P. Morrow, of Oakland; Arthur L., who is engaged in the manufacture of salt in San Mateo, Calif.; Leona Merrill, who died at the age of two years and six months; Marcella, the wife of C. B. Wheaton, of Alameda; Albion H. who is interested in the salt business with his brother Arthur; and Clara, the wife of Louis E. Spear, of Alameda. Mr. Whitney’s name was one well known in Masonic circles, for he believed in and worked for the good of the order as did few others. He was a member of Petaluma Lodge, F. & A. M., which he served for a time as chaplain, besides filling the same office in the commandery. As is well known, Mr. Whitney came to the west empty-handed so far as this world’s goods were concerned, but by industry, energy, thrift and good management accumulated a vast wealth, leaving $160,000 to his family. A portrait of Mr. Whitney accompanies this biography, taken when he was a member of the state senate, at the age of forty-nine years.

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