HENRY FOWLER


The days of chivalry and knighthood in Europe cannot furnish more interesting or remantic tales than our own western history. Into the wild mountain fastnesses of the unexplored west went brave men, whose courage was often called forth in encounters with hostile savages. The land was rich in all natural resources, in gold and silver, in agricultural and commercial possibilities, and awaited the demands of man to yield up its treasurers, but its mountain heights were hard to climb, its forests difficult to penetrate, and the magnificent trees, the dense bushes or the jagged rocks often sheltered the skulking foe, who resented the encroachment of the pale-faces upon these "hunting grounds." The establishment of homes in this beautiful region therefore meant sacrifices, hardships and ofttimes death, but there were some men brave enough to meet the red man in his own familiar haunts and undertake the task of reclaiming the district for purposes of civilization. The rich mineral stores of this vast region were thus added to the wealth of the nation; its magnificent forests contributed to the lumber industries and its fertile valleys added to the opportunities of the farmer and stock-raiser, and to-day the northwest is one of the most productive sections of the entire country. That this is so is due to such men as Mr. Fowler, whose name is inseparably interwoven with the history of the region. No story of fiction contains more exciting chapters than may be found in his life record, but space forbids an extended account of these.

Henry Fowler was born nineteen miles from St. Louis, in St. Clair county, Illinois, on the 17th of June, 1822. His father was William Fowler, a native of New York, and his mother, who bore the maiden name of Catherine Spead, was also born in the Empire state. The year 1817 they removed westward, locating in Illinois. The father was a carpenter and joiner by trade and also carried on agricultural pursuits. They remained residents of Illinois until about 1832, when they removed to Henry county, Missouri, where the father again engaged in farming. In 1843, accompanied by his son, William Fowler, Jr., and William Hargraves, he crossed the plains into Oregon. They stopped first at Oregon City, where all worked at the carpenter's trade through the winter months. In June, 1844, they left the Sunset state, and, crossing the Siskiyou mountains, reached the mission of Sonoma county in California. In that locality they entered the employ of General Vallejo, in whose services they continued until they had earned money enough to buy four thousand acres of land. The purchase was made in September, 1845, for eight hundred dollars, and the tract of which they came into possession included Calistoga Springs. Eventually they sold this property to Samuel Brannan for forty-five thousand dollars, a fact which indicates in large measure the great growth of the state and the rise in realty values. William Fowler, the father, continued to make his home in California up to the time of his demise, which occurred in Calistoga in 1866. His wife long survived him and died in Napa in 1883.

Henry Fowler was young man of about twenty-one years when he came to the Pacific coast, and well does he remember the incidents of the journey, fraught as it was with hardships and difficulties that were met by all the frontiersmen who made their way across the country in that epoch which antedated the era of railroad travel. Mr. Fowler continued his association in business with his father for some time and afterward joined General Hartson in dealing in East Napa property. There they built the Palace Hotel and otherwise contributed to the material improvement and substantial upbuilding of the place. In an individual enterprise Mr. Fowler became the owner of two hundred acres of land at the north end of Main street in Napa. He received but limited educational privileges in his youth, but manifested in his business career keen sagacity and ready recognition of business conditions and opportunities, and as the years have advanced he has prospered in his undertakings, become one of the substantial citizens of his county. He has also been very prominent and active in public affairs, shaping the municipal history, and in early days was connected with a number of important events which have left their impress upon the annals of the state. He was chosen city trustee of Napa at the time of the incorporation of the town, and has always been a co-operant factor in the measures and movements that have contributed to public progress and improvement. He was associated with one important historical event--the raising of the old Bear flag as a symbol of the state and a sign of dis-association with Mexican rule. General John C. Fremont had raised the American flag in Monterey, California, at which the Spaniards of the locality took offense. General Fremont made his way as quickly as possible to Sutter's Fort near Sacramento and then went on with all speed until he arrived in Oregon--upon American soil. Then Lieutenant Gillespie came on with orders to be in readiness with military aid and there had to hire escorts and follow him further into Oregon. Fremont returned to California and gathered as many of the Americans as he could get in and about Sutter's Fort. In the meantime William Hargraves, Captain John Grigsby and Benjamin Kelsey went to see General Fremont's company and were told to go and capture Sonoma and to take captives Salvador Vallejo and also General Vallejo and a Frenchman by the name of D. Prudhomme and an American Jacob P. Lee, a brother-in-law of General Vallejo. Henry Fowler was working on a ranch when the Bear flag was raised, and General Fremont took full charge of Vallejo Fort. He had made his trips northward by way of San Rafael and Sausalito, and the Bear flag which was raised was made by Bill Todd, a relative of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln. Twenty-five Americans agreed to go down and rescue Mr. Todd, who was held prisoner by the Spaniards, and this they did after a shooting affray which frightened off fifty or sixty Spaniards that were with Todd. The latter was later brought to Sonoma.

Mr. Fowler was married more than forty-six years ago in Calistoga to Miss Catherine Magness, a native of Arkansas, and five children have been born of this union: Harriet, who is now the wife of J. H. Mallett, Jr., who is living in Webster street in San Francisco, and is connected with the Renters' Building and Loan Association; Lillian, the wife of Sherwood Bird, also of San Francisco; Catherine, the wife of E. E. Kindlespire, of the same city; Albert Henry, who died in childhood; and Maude, the widow of W. T. Dinwoody.

Mr. Fowler is a member of the Masonic fraternity and has always lived in harmony with the teachings of the craft. There are few residents of California who have had more intimate connection with the history of the state and whose minds bear the pictures of prominent events in pioneer days for a greater period than Mr. Fowler, and because of his long and honorable connection with the state he certainly deserves mention among its representative men.

Source: History of the New California Its Resources and People, Volume II

The Lewis Publishing Company - 1905
Edited by Leigh H. Irvine


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