Early Settlers

Most information contained in this Settler summary came from Grass Roots of Anderson Valley and The History of Mendocino County for Boys and Girls, both written by Blanch Brown. Additional details were gleaned from the 1860 Census, The Valley Argus (1922) and Voices of Anderson Valley. It is so wonderful that throughout the years, some have taken to the time to write down their memories, allowing us to keep sharing the history.

Two brothers, Henry and Isaac Beeson and their stepbrother, William Anderson were probably the first white men to see Anderson Valley. In the fall of 1851 they started from Lake County, where their parents were, on an exploring and hunting trip. They wounded an elk and, following its track, came out on the rocky point (probably Burger Rock) southeast of the place where Boonville is now. The young men made their way down and crossing the level, made camp at the foot of the hills.

It was autumn, and the dry grass lay in a thick turf, so the boys knew the soil would be rich for crops and that there would be ample feed for stock. They were so pleased with the spot that after a few days they hurried back to Lake County and reported that they had found a “big meadow, and it was like a garden of Eden.”

So the Anderson Family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, two of her three children by a former marriage, two of his by a former marriage and the couple’s own three children made their way, with ox teams and saddle horses, into Anderson Valley. They began to build a cabin, but a band of Indians appeared and made it clear that they must leave. It is believed they went south to Dry Creek in Sonoma County and returned in the spring of 1852.

They built a log house, the first house in Anderson Valley, just beyond the high school (2004) on Mt. View road. Mr. Anderson raised horses and hogs. To sell the stock, the animals were driven to Petaluma, where they were exchanged for flour, salt, brown sugar, matches, ranch tools and seeds for crops. Hardships had taken their toll and in 1857 Mrs. Anderson, at age 52 died. The next year her husband sold all his property to Mr. Joseph Rawles.

In the fall of 1852, Mr. J.D. Ball arrived in the valley. His journey began in New York and included stops in Wisconsin and Placerville, CA. In the valley he took up land near Con Creek. He set out the first apple orchard. He built a building for his headquarters, which was located across from the current Boonville Hotel. On the 25th of November, 1856 J.D and his wife Melissa gave birth to the first white child in Anderson Valley, Julia Flavilla Ball. She married Joseph Henry Wightman, a respected local contractor. Some of the homes he built are still resided in and are beautiful monuments to his work.

Mr. & Mrs. John Gschwend arrived in 1855. They were natives of Switzerland. They met and married in Illinois, then traveled to Kansas. From there they crossed the plains with a company of Swiss families. Upon arrival in California, they came directly to Anderson Valley, settling in the northwest portion of the valley, near what is now Gschwend Road. The Gschwends built a house of split timber. This house still stands (2004), the residence of his great, great granddaughter, Christine Clark. Mr. Gschwend built a sawmill near Mill Creek. He later built a gristmill. He built the road to Ukiah, which was a toll road. He also opened the first wagon road to the coast by way of Navarro Ridge. Mr. & Mrs. Gschwends daughter, Christine was born in 1857, just months after Julia Ball, making her the second white child born in the valley. She married Mr. James Reilly.

The Guntleys, Snyders, Reillys, Weists and Gossmans came to the valley about this time and a little settlement was made in the lower end of the valley. The settlement was named Christine, after Mr. & Mrs. Gschwends’ daughter.

Mr. William Prather arrived in 1855. His journey to California began in 1852 in Iowa. Upon arrival in the valley, he met Mr. Amos Burgess, who had arrived in 1853 from Virginia. They became partners, raising stock and farming. After about five years, Mr. Burgess wrote to his sister, Nancy (Burgess) Ingram and her husband, Daniel Holder Ingram, urging them to come to California. They arrived in 1859, settling land adjacent to the Burgess place.

Other settlers to arrive between 1855 & 1860 included Henry Irish, James Smalley, Mr. Conrad, James McSpadden and James Wallace and many families as found in the 1860 Anderson Valley Census; Smalley, Conrad, OBarr, Bowen, Nunn, Vines, Buster, Farrel, Counts, Sheilds, Lawson, Williams, Donelly, Plaskett, Leonard, Hawkins, Stephens (The Blacksmith), Robinson, Tift, Perkins, Elliott, Ornbaun, Ponad, Gasklii and Brayton.

In 1862, William's brother, Cornelius Prather arrived with his family, settling in the area known today as Philo. Cornelius gave land for the first school in this district, which stood on the west side of the road in Philo. He also deeded land for the Methodist Church, which is still in use (2004). In June 1888 he succeeded in getting the first post office in the valley established. He named the post office Philo in honor of a special friend of his in Iowa and he became the postmaster.

Alderson and Porter McGimsey were the oldest sons of John Cox McGimsey. They had an established stock business in Napa County, near Calistoga and came to Anderson Valley seeking good pasture. They built enclosures for their livestock east of Anderson Creek and to the right of the present Ukiah Road. It is said that they brought the first sheep to Anderson Valley. Mr. John McGimsey & family arrived in 1856 and settled across from Hutsell Lane. This place, one mile south of Boonville was known as The Corners. In 1862 Mr. John Burgot built a hotel at The Corners, which was known as Anderson House. By 1864, there was also a blacksmith shop and a general store at The Corners.

In the early 1860s’, Mr. Alonzo Kendall opened a hotel where the present town of Boonville stands and called the place Kendall City. The store at The Corners was moved to the new place and the owners sold to Mr. W. W. Boone, who named the town after himself. Mr. Kendall moved on to Manchester in 1867.

Mr. Joseph Rawles and his family arrived in Anderson Valley in 1857. Their journey began in Ohio. From there they lived in Indiana, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska, then back to Iowa, where they made the decision to go to California. They resided in both the Grand Island in the Sacramento River and Rincon Valley near Santa Rosa before moving to Anderson Valley. Mr. Rawles took up a claim near what was later named Peachland on Lone Tree Ridge. In 1858, Mr. Rawles purchased the land and home of Mr. Walter Anderson. By 1880, records show that he owned 1600 acres of farming and grazing land, stocked with 3,160 head of sheep.

Mr. Charles Wintzer arrived in 1858 and built a house, a store and established a post office. He was a stockman and later sold all his property to Mr. Robert Rawles, the son of Joseph Rawles.

Mr. Cleve Murray and his wife, Susan came to California from Missouri in 1856. With them were his children from a previous marriage, Cleve, Polly and Ike; her children by a previous marriage, Mary Ann and Rollet Williams; and a stepson from her first marriage. They first settled in Marysville, and then traveled on to Anderson Valley. They settled across Rancheria Creek near what is now Yorkville. When they arrived they found an Indian rancheria with friendly inhabitants. The Murrays built a home nearby where the soil was rich and there was a beautiful spring of water. About 3 years later, John Wesley McAbee and family arrived and settled on 700 acres across the creek from the Murrays.

The Stubblefield party arrived in 1865. The party included Mr. Robert Stubblefield, daughter Isaphene, her husband Patric Adams, daughter Mary Ann and her husband Richard York. Mr. York chose a home on 700 acres, building a home on the west side of Rancheria Creek, about 1 mile from the Murray ranch. Mr. Patric Adams settled on land adjoining the Murray place. Mr. Stubblefield may have been in partners with him, as years later it was called the Stubblefield Place. Later, following Mr. Murrays’ death, his wife Susan married Mr. Stubblefield. Mr. Stubblefield purchased land on Camp Creek (about three miles above Rancheria Bridge on Manchester Road), where he and his new wife lived.

Settlers continued to flow into Anderson Valley including Charles Bradway, who made a business of hunting to furnish meat for the mills on the coast, Robert Tarwater, a trader, the Clows, Tom Hiatt who built a mill on Mill Creek and Dr. Brown. Angelo Fratti, one of the first settlers to settle on “Vinegar" Ridge" arrived during this time too.

Knowing how special Anderson Valley is, it is not surprising that word continued to spread, bringing both newcomers and family of these early settlers to this place called "a big meadow, like a Garden of Eden" by the first settlers to enter Anderson Valley.

Books Note: Grass Roots of Anderson Valley shares many more details and stories about these early settlers. Other books about the early settlers include Clem Heryford Diary, Grandma Stubblefield Rose, Henry Beeson Story, Indian Summer, McAbee Family, Soft Shelled Eggs and Recollections of “Sharkey" Rawles, and Reflections of Delcina McAbee Rawles. All are available through the Anderson Valley Historical Society.

12340 Hwy 128, Boonville CA
An elderly couple gaze patiently at the camera in this antique photo

E.M. Hiatt, who retired as Yorkville Postmaster in 1889, shown here with his wife, Elizabeth