Biography of William H. Barnwell
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





WILLIAM H. BARNWELL. - In the early days of the history of California, before land had attained its present great value, vast areas were owned by wealthy rancheros and by the church which at one time held almost complete sway in Southern California. Thus the land from Capistrano to San Diego was formerly the property of a single ranchman, while the original territory of the San Gabriel mission extended as far as the San Bernardino mountains. In our day no such enormous ownership is possible in this rapidly growing country, but there are today numerous landowners in California possessing prosperous ranches many acres in extent. Such a one is William H. Barnwell, a well known rancher and road overseer of Humboldt county, Cal.

Born in Southampton, England, July 31, 1858, Mr. Barnwell was the son of Thomas Joseph Barnwell, a storekeeper, and Ellen E. (Jenner) Barnwell, who were the parents of sixteen children, William being the fifth in age. The first twelve years of his life were spent in school, after which he secured a position as messenger boy. But the desire for a more stirring life was uppermost in his mind, and following, perhaps, the example of a sailor uncle, Henry Hyde Ticknor, who had crowned his roving life by coming to far distant California where he became the owner of a one hundred sixty acre claim at Willowbrook and was one of the earliest white settlers of this county, the boy William Barnwell spent two years at sea, making several trips by steamship from Bristol, England, to New York City, and becoming a personal friend of the captain. After seven years spent in clerkship in London, Mr. Barnwell followed his unchanged determination and in 1880 came to his uncle in California, locating at Alderpoint, Humboldt county, where he took up a preemption and worked for his uncle who had then sold his sheep ranch and kept a roadside inn and store and owned a ferry. Besides these interest's, his uncle had charge of the stage at Alderpoint, for at that date there was no train service such as we have today. By assisting his uncle in the running of this stage, Mr. Barnwell became efficient in the work and was taken into the employ of the Miller, Bullard & Sweasey Stage Company, running a stage from Eureka to San Francisco in thirty six hours, changing horses every ten miles.

In January, 1884, Mr. Barnwell located a homestead claim at Chalk Mountain, Humboldt county, proved up on it and later bought the balance, and here is located today his vast ranch of nine hundred sixty acres called Chalk Mountain. West of this property lay an estate of twenty acres belonging to Greenleaf C. French, an old settler in the county, who had come from Maine when a young man. Four years after the death of Mr. French, Mr. Barnwell married his widow, Mrs. Orinda French, and acquired the ownership of this property which is known as Burr Creek ranch, on the Bridgville and Blocksburg road, and here stands his pleasant home which has recently been fitted with an acetylene gas plant and possesses the comforts and conveniences of modern life. In all, Mr. Barnwell is the owner of nine hundred eighty acres, all of which is in the Van Dusen township, Humboldt county. Mrs. Barnwell had already been twice married and was the mother of seven children. By her present marriage she has one child, William H. Barnwell, Jr., who lives with his parents on the estate at Burr creek.

The beautiful residence of Mr. and Mrs. Barnwell, besides standing on an estate which is to both of them redolent of the enthusiasm of the pioneer spirit and the gentler thought of old home ties, abounds with all that modern taste can bring to the making of a hospitable and pleasant home, and is expressive of the cordial and generous spirit of its owners. Of English descent, Mr. Barnwell brings to his country home in California the geniality of old England and here dispenses hospitality with much of the large and kindly spirit of old English squires of whom Washington Irving's books tell us. Vines and gardens, a piano and other musical instruments, guns and the kindly presence of dogs, speak of the pleasant home life as well as of the sportsman's interests and the health giving outdoor life which all California's seasons offer.

From:
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915


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