Biography of William W. Wilkins
Marin County, CA Biographies





William Wallace Wilkins. The subject of this sketch, whose portrait will be found in this work, was born in Middleton, Essex county, Massachusetts, May 27, 1824, being the fifth child of James and Betsey Wilkins. He remained at his birth place till he was twenty years of age, attending the common schools during a few months of the Winter season, and laboring on a farm the remainder of the time. In 1844 he went to Danvers, a neighboring town, and was engaged in a shoe manufactory, where he remained for two years. He then returned home and remained till March 17, 1849, when he united with a joint stock company, which was fitting out a vessel for California. The vessel was a bark of two hundred and sixty tons hurthen, called the "La Grange," and was under charge of Captain James Dewing. The vessel was sailed around Cape Horn, and no port was made except the Falkland Islands. After a fair passage they arrived in San Francisco bay, September 17, 1849. They at once started up the Sacramento river, but at Benicia it was found necessary to discharge a part of the cargo, and the entire outfit for constructing a steamboat which they had brought with them was put off here, and a part of the company detailed to build the steamer. When completed, it was called the "Commodore Jones," in honor of Commodore Thomas Ap Catesby Jones, whose vessel preceded the "La Grange" on its way to Benicia only a mile or so. This steamer was the first one that ever made the trip from Benicia to Sacramento, also up the many creeks and inlets of San Francisco bay. She was disposed of soon, however, by her builders, and her name changed to the "Jack Hays," under which name she got to herself quite a fame. After discharging the steamboat part of her cargo, the "La Grange" was sailed to the Embarcadero of Sacramento and fully discharged. When the town of Sacramento found itself in need of a calaboose, no house could be found suitable for the purpose, and the "La Grange" was leased for that use. Later the city purchased her for a city prison, and she lay at anchor there till she rotted out. When the ship arrived at Sacramento, Mr. Wilkins, with twenty five of the company, set out for the mines, locating at Dry creek, Amador county. After six weeks they returned to Sacramento, and the company disbanded. He, with others, procured an out fit and ox teams to draw it, and returned again to Amador county, where he remained till 1850, when he went to El Dorado county, locating on the north fork of the American river. Thence he went to Nevada City; thence to Auburn, and finally located, in the spring of 1851, on a claim on the Missouri Bar, in the middle fork of the Feather river. While here he was called upon to undertake one of those perilous journeys so common in those days, which read now more like fiction than truth. Their larder having become exhausted, it became necessary to have it replenished. He and another man started for Marysville, their nearest town, for provisions, and were met by a fearful snow storm, and it became necessary for them to beat the paths for their animals. Only having provisions for a two days' journey, their rations were exhausted long before they had reached the settlements of the valley. During the journey they fell in with another party of men, and they all traveled together. At the close of the fourth day out, Mr. Wilkins, accompanied by a man named Stevenson, started out to find a settlement if possible and to get assistance for the party. Fortunately, at the end of four miles, they descried a cheerful camp fire leaping high into the darkness of the night. Once there speedy relief followed to all the party. After proceeding to Marysville, and purchasing the provisions and returning to camp, what was his surprise to find his party all gone in search of the Gold Lake myth, and that their claim had been jumped. He then went to Ophir, Placer county, and remained till late in 1852, when he came to Bolinas, having taken passage from San Francisco on board the sloop "Falmouth," Captain Riley, master. He at once entered into partnership with Captain Morgan, on the Belvidere ranch, where he remained till 1860. He then moved on the ridge now owned by Captain Bourne, and engaged in cutting wood and getting out railroad ties. In 1869 he purchased his present homestead of one thousand three hundred and ninety seven acres, just at the head of Bolinas bay, and is now engaged in the dairy business. Mr. Wilkins is a man of sterling worth, and one of the many estimable gentlemen to be found in Margin county. He was united in marriage with Miss Mary B. Morse, daughter of Joseph H. and Mary E. Girdler Morse, February 12, 1876, who was born in Manchester, Massachusetts, October 17, 1846. Their children are: Mary and Bessie, twins, born December 1, 1876; James G., born August 11, 1878.

From:
History of Marin County, California
Alley, Bowen & Co., Publishers
San Francisco, California 1880


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