The Heald Family and the Town of Healdsburg

Healdsburg's History HOME   

   Hannah Clayborn's History of Healdsburg    2003 Hannah Clayborn    

  ( a work in progress, June, 2003 More images in preparation.)


 No Stranger to Misfortune


 Heald Boys Head West


 Millwright’s Wages Better than Gold


 Heald’s Sanitarium


 Flurry of Newcomers


 Death, Birth, and a Wedding


 Prominent Squatter


 Planning for a Town


 A Spiritual Being





“Billy” Heald


 Sarah Heald Shaw


 Samuel Heald


Thomas Tobin Heald (Ridenhour, Guerne)

  Jacob Gregg Heald


  click to enlarge images

            In May of 1857, a somber group of settlers gathered outdoors in the central Plaza of their new town.  The hushed crowd, forming naturally into knots of family relations, stood amidst wild oats and clover still green and succulent from the spring rains.

Harmon Heald  - image from Thos. H. Thompson Co. 1877 Historical Atlas Map of Sonoma County


Overhead fine large oaks and one or two ancient madrones gave shade from a sparkling sun.  Officially laid out and named only two months before, the town had no building large enough to accommodate this funeral gathering.

            Sarah Heald, wife of the town's founder, would be buried today in the little cemetery at the edge of town (now the site of St. John's School).  Her husband had just donated that cemetery lot as public property.  Only four years before the ground under that cluster of madrones had been disturbed for the first time, to bury Sarah’s brother-in-law, George Heald.  Since then it seemed too many friends and relatives had joined him in the shady quiet, victims of pneumonia, cholera, typhoid, smallpox, and the dreaded consumption.

            Sarah's death surprised everyone.  A vigorous woman who had just celebrated her 27th birthday, she sank quickly after contracting pneumonia.  Townsfolk reported that she had decided to whitewash her kitchen walls after finishing a week's wash and became ill, they surmised, by sitting in a drafty doorway to cool off after “so freely exerting herself”.

            It was her husband, Harmon Heald, who was the sickly one.  He had slowly lost ground over the last year to consumption, what doctors called tuberculosis.  When his wife took sick, Harmon had in fact been visiting the Geysers Resort, hoping that the mineral springs and mountain air would restore his own failing health.

            A rumor spread that Harmon never made it back to see his wife alive again.  When she fell ill, someone had ridden all night to reach the Geysers.  The poor rider was so exhausted he had to be lifted from his horse.  And Mr. Heald set off immediately on horseback to reach her, even though he was terribly feeble himself.  Such was the speed with which the thing engulfed Sarah.[1]

            As he stood regarding his wife's coffin, perhaps with his two young sons, both under three years old, by his side, Harmon Heald may have surveyed the collection of cabins and rustic storefronts that made up this frontier town so recently named in his honor.  He had stood like this at other recent family funerals, his youngest brother in 1853 and his mother just last fall.  Unfortunately, more Heald funerals were to come.


No Stranger to Misfortune

Born January 29, 1824, Harmon Gregg Heald was no stranger to sudden misfortune.  His father, George, had moved the family from Delaware to a heavily timbered wilderness in Ohio, later to become Belmont County, soon after his first child was born in 1817.  Their good fortune, a cash inheritance left to them by George's father in Delaware, was transformed to tragedy when George was murdered for his money belt on his way home from collecting it in 1829.  Harmon's mother, Elizabeth Tatlow Heald, was left with eight children under the age of 14 to raise, an invalid mother to care for, and nothing but a 100 acre farm to sustain them.  The inheritance, now lost to them, had been badly needed to settle family debts.  Soon many of the family possessions were repossessed, even their saddle.[2]

            After 27 years of struggle in Ohio the Heald family set out for a more westerly frontier and better farmland in Missouri in 1844.  There they established themselves in a two-story log cabin on Snei Creek in Jackson County.  Many of their new neighbors in this place, the Hudson, Patton, Espy, Bledsoe, Pool, Porter, and Freshower families among them, would later join them in Sonoma County.

            Under great hardship Elizabeth Tatlow managed to raise and educate her children.  Harmon and his younger brother Thomas, even became schoolteachers for a time in Missouri.  Yet Harmon must have yearned for adventure even before news of the gold strike in California, for he took one summer off farm work to go by mule to Santa Fe, New Mexico.[3]

Tom Heald -- image, Healdsburg Museum


Heald Boys Head West

            When the news of the gold discovery reached Missouri in 1849 Harmon and Thomas immediately made plans to head for California with two neighbors, Samuel Philpott and Daniel Darby.  Together they managed to get together an outfit of three or four yoke of oxen, a wagon, and two saddle horses.  They departed in early May.




            From the very beginning their oldest brother, Samuel, who made his living building sawmills, did his very best to dissuade them.  He rode along with them for two days making appeals for their return.  Finally giving up, Samuel turned his horse back towards the Missouri farm.  While enroute he met yet another neighbor on his way to California.  This neighbor managed to persuade even the reluctant Samuel, for without returning to say goodbye to his mother or grab a change of clothing, he rode quickly to catch up with his brothers.

            The party of five joined several more neighbors (Marion Gibson and James and Jonathan Capell) as prearranged, and this combined company rode just behind a larger train of twenty-two wagons.  Then cholera began to claim its victims, first one, then another.  Like so many unfortunates on the emigrant trail, Jonathan Capell began to cramp with cholera one day before breakfast.  He was dead before lunch.  The Healds and their friends soon joined the larger train to have access to its two doctors.

            As it turned out the doctors on the wagon train were of little use to the Healds.  Both Harmon and Samuel struggled through bouts with typhoid on the trail.  Samuel had been left behind by these company doctors as a hopeless case in Oregon.  Later an army surgeon, who happened to be camped with government troops in the same valley, advised the Healds.  According to Thomas Heald's account the army doctor, "ordered that we discontinue the medicine we were giving and to rub well with alcohol.  We followed his instructions and my brother improved so that in eight or ten days we were able to travel."[4]

            After surviving typhoid Harmon had become badly afflicted with scurvy by the time they reached Sacramento in September of 1849.  Neither Samuel nor Harmon was strong enough to withstand the rigors of gold mining.  The Heald brothers sold off their wagon and oxen to a man in Napa County named Kellogg, who was also kind enough to take Samuel in for the winter.  Philpott set off to spend the winter with his sister, Mrs. Patton, living in Sonoma, and took the sickly Harmon along with him.

            When spring arrived Philpott and Harmon Heald set out to join Thomas Heald, who was now established as a miner on Deer Creek.  There they learned that Thomas had buried Daniel Darby, a member of the original party, who had succumbed to typhoid during the winter.  Although the site on Deer Creek would later yield fortunes in gold and become the town known as Nevada City, the Heald party, relying on rumors of better diggings, set off for the northern part of the Yuba River.  They reached it by mid-April, 1850.  There they found an isolated encampment dangerously low on provisions.  The Heald party sold one of their 75-pound sacks of flour for $112.50.  Working a claim a short distance above Goodyear's Bar near Downieville, they believed it exhausted by September.  They sold their claims and tools and headed for the town of Sonoma.



Millwright’s Wages Better than Gold

            Samuel Philpott soon returned to Missouri, and Thomas and Harmon Heald learned that their brother, Samuel, now recovered, was up on the Russian River, hired to build a combination lumber and flour mill for William J. March.[5]  This mill, the first lumber mill in northeastern Sonoma County, was built on the Upper Falls of Mill Creek (near the current Felta Road, just above the historic residence built by Perry Mothorn).

Mill Creek  c. 1905  Postcard -- r janosko collection

            Throughout the years of war between Mexico and the United States, March had been unable to find anyone to build his mill.  Hearing that an experienced millwright from Missouri was recuperating in Napa, he offered Samuel the position at the relatively luxurious wage of $9 a day (more than most were making at gold mining).  The millstones were put in operation in September 1850.[6]  A similar millstone from the Cyrus Alexander Rancho is now displayed on the Healdsburg Plaza.

            An English adventurer, Frank Marryat, found March (a "tall, sinewy" Missourian) and the Heald brothers at their "backwoodsman's hut" in the late summer of 1850.  Marryat marveled at that mill, "a glorious instance of what energy will accomplish, and the rapidity with which each man in an American colony contributes toward the development of the new country's resources."  March and the Heald brothers, against a backdrop of giant redwoods, "lived entirely on game", Marryat reported.[7]  By November of 1850 that mill employed six other would-be gold miners as well.[8]

            With his wages and money loaned by his brothers, Samuel Heald soon bought an interest in March's mill.  Thomas Heald became manager of operations.[9]

 Heald’s Sanitarium

            Although Harmon was still recovering from the effects of scurvy, the Heald brothers were so optimistic about the opportunities on the Russian River that they dispatched Samuel to return to Missouri to bring out the rest of the family.  Samuel began his journey via ship through Panama in January 1851, and returned by wagon overland that same autumn.  He brought with him his mother, Elizabeth, his brothers George and Jacob, Jacob's wife and child, his sister, Sarah, and his niece Mary.[10] 

            During Samuel's absence Harmon found a pleasant, sun dappled site nearby at the edge of an oak and madrone forest.  "It is understood that the selection of the site was made altogether with the view of recovering his failing health." recalled a later family chronicler.  He built his sanitarium, a small squatter's cabin, on the side of the main road to Mendocino and the counties to the north, then the only artery for wagon travel in this part of Sonoma County.  That site, legally part of the Sotoyome Rancho owned by the Fitch family, later became the 300 block of Healdsburg Avenue.[11]

            It has often been recorded that in 1852 Harmon built a small addition to his cabin and stocked it with goods that he sold to the Indians and new settlers in the vicinity.  His youngest brother, George, newly arrived from Missouri, apparently helped him in the store.  This became the magnet and nucleus of the later town of Healdsburg.  What is not often remembered is how Harmon apparently made the money to buy that first stock of goods.

            In 1851 he cleared away ten acres of land and planted wheat.  The virgin soil yielded a "splendid" crop, which he sold at 8 cents a pound.  Given the frail physical condition of Heald at this time, he, like most of the other first settlers in the region, may have used Indian labor to sow, tend, and harvest this grain.  An 1852 California census shows at least 100 Indians living in the vicinity of the cabin and 80 more at the Pina rancho in Dry Creek Valley.[12]   Heald may even have paid the Indians wages, for it had been reported that the Indians later bought goods from Heald’s Store with cash.

For a short while the native population far outnumbered the white settlers and Heald’s little redwood trading post stood alone under those majestic oaks.


Flurry of Newcomers

            The next few years brought a flurry of events that are sometimes difficult to sequence.  H. M. Willson, who settled just to the southwest of Heald's Store in June of 1852, later recalled wading the Russian River near the current auto bridge when he first arrived.  He found Mr. Heald's store already in operation.  Another family, the T.W. Hudsons, who later settled on their own farm just south of the town site, at that time were still boarding with Mr. Heald, helping him to run the store.  Thomas Hudson was an old boyhood friend of Harmon's from Missouri who had followed him to California.  Early Dry Creek settler, Burk Miles, remembered hauling what he thought was the first load of goods to Heald's store by wagon in October 1852.[13]  By the following spring Heald needed an even larger stock of goods, which he had sent from San Francisco by steamer and wagon.

            Settlers, or more correctly squatters, continued to arrive, but Harmon Heald's small stock of goods could not always supply them.  Mrs. Jennie Brumfield Strong's family arrived just before the early and very hard winter of 1852-53.  She remembered that the Brumfields almost starved that year.  Harrison Barnes and Bill Potter had put up a little store on the banks of the Russian River, a few miles southwest of Healdsburg, but the high water picked it up and carried the shanty downstream.  After that the closest flour was in Petaluma, and that at $18 a sack.

            During the winter of 1853-54 Heald built an addition to his store.  He was joined by a man named Morse who opened a blacksmith shop.  Soon William Dodge and William Dow, who moved their blacksmith operation from the Russian River, bought out that shop.  August Knaack, a German wagonwright, built the third building.  His shop adjoined the blacksmith shop and provided all the wooden parts for items made there.  Knaack also made chairs and repaired wagons.  These pioneer businesses were all built on the west side of the of the current Healdsburg Avenue adjacent to and running north of the Plaza in the general vicinity of the current Swenson Building.

 Death, Birth, and a Wedding

            The first settler funeral and the first birth in Healdsburg both took place in 1853.  Harmon's younger brother, George, who had worked in the store, died on January 22.  T.W. Hudson and his wife had a baby boy, Henry H. Hudson, in May.  It was in that year also that Harmon married Sarah Smith, daughter of I.C. Smith.  They wed near Mark West Creek.

            Soon after his arrival, H.M. Willson (mentioned previously) and A.B. Aull went into partnership with Heald in the store.  Aull was married to one of Sarah Smith Heald's sisters.

            In 1854 a post office was opened in Heald's Store, run as a private enterprise with most letters costing 25 cents to post.[14]   Although settlers continued to arrive and settle in the surrounding countryside, and houses began to be erected in the current downtown area, the nucleus of the store, blacksmith, and wagonwright's shop had no other name than "Heald's Store".  According to one account the village itself was designated "Stringtown", just one of several hamlets "strung" along the road to the northern counties. [15]


Prominent Squatter

            Harmon Heald was gaining in prominence and wealth.  Elected to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in 1854, he won a close election to the California State Legislature the very next year.  His opponent in the latter race was Lindsay Carson, brother of the famous "Kit" Carson.  By late 1855 Harmon had two sons, George T. and Harmon C.[16]

            From the very beginning Harmon Heald knew that he was

Rancho Sotoyome Land Sale poster. -- image Healdsburg Museum

 squatting on the Rancho Sotoyome land

 grant, all 48,000 acres of which belonged to Josefa Fitch, widow of Captain H.D. Fitch, and her children.  Heald reportedly opted to remain there illegally, awaiting the court's decision on the validity of the grant.  After Captain Fitch's death in 1849, Josefa and her children moved from San Diego to live on the Sotoyome.  They were helpless to eject the squatters who now overran their property.  Although the validity of the Fitch grant was finally confirmed in 1855, a series of forced land auctions in April and May of 1856, ostensibly initiated by Josefa Fitch to pay land taxes, was the opportunity that Heald and other squatters had been waiting for.[17]  

            The plot of land that Harmon Heald purchased at auction was not the town site.  He purchased 100 acres between the old Healdsburg slough and Dry Creek for $200.  In July of that year, however, he purchased 10 more acres on the east side of the slough from his brother-in-law, Aquilla B. Aull.  In December he purchased another tract from another brother-in-law, George T. Espy, 55 acres extending south to the current Mill Creek Road.  Both Aull and Espy had purchased their plots at the original land auctions, and it is on these tracts that the town named "Healdsburg" was mapped and recorded on March 5, 1857.  Another, almost identical plat, was filed by Heald on August 10.

   Town Plat, August 10, 1857  

The original March, 1857 version of the map did not have purchasers names in the lots. The 85 lots originally sold for $15 each. West Street is now called Healdsburg Avenue, South Street is now Matheson Street. -- image from Healdsburg Museum

           Heald's first plat of the town showed 55 lots; his second showed 85, but the size and location of the original lots were identical.  Initially lots were offered at $15 a piece, but the price of prime commercial sites soon shot up.  One year later Heald sold a lot near his store for $458.  Sixty-eight of the original lots were sold within the first two years.








 Planning for a Town

            As already described, a number of businesses and dwellings had gone up before the official naming and surveying of the town.  Unlike some land speculators that would come after him, Heald generally made these lots available to their prior occupants at the base price of $15 a piece.

Not all of the original lots were put up for sale.  Heald gifted deeds to certain lots or transferred them for an honorary amount.  These included lots for the town plaza, the old cemetery (now St. John’s School), two lots for schools, and four lots for Healdsburg's first churches.[18]  These donations allowed the fledgling institutions, and therefore the town itself, to change from a “Stringtown” to a place for families to settle.

            In the same year that the town was christened Heald built a larger store on the lot that now forms the northeast corner of Healdsburg Avenue and Plaza Streets.  Here, we are told, he "opened an establishment of some pretensions" that was managed and operated by his friend H.M. Willson.  The next year, 1858, Harmon's brother Jacob and John Raney completed a hotel named the Sotoyome House, and a man named Rathburn built a brick commercial building (the first), all on the 300 block of Healdsburg Avenue.

            Just one year later, in 1859, a disastrous fire swept away all or most of the wooden buildings just mentioned including a saloon with a dance hall above it.  Rathburn's pioneer brick building finally stopped the spread of the flames.

            The year of the fire also brought the building of the first public school building (a private academy had been built the year before), and already no fewer than three churches stood white around the plaza.  Only eight years after Heald built his first little cabin in an oak and madrone forest, there were 120 houses in the vicinity, a volunteer fire brigade, a concert hall, and a population in excess of 500.[19]  By that time Harmon Heald was not among them.


A Spiritual Being

            Commercial and civic growth create an almost irresistible momentum for historians.  Because they are easily recorded, all those "firsts" - first store, first house, first church - become the main story as Healdsburg grows from a hamlet to a village, from a village to a town with a name in 1857, and ten years later to an incorporated city.  Intangible and mostly unrecorded is the purely human, emotional dimension that not only accompanied this commercial boom, but, at least for its founder, must have overshadowed it.

            As Harmon Heald, sick himself with tuberculosis, stood beside his wife's coffin in the new plaza on that day in May 1857, he was probably not plotting his next commercial venture.  Others had already taken over most of the financial and business affairs of this man who had always been noted for his straightforward neighborliness.  Two months later Heald would sell out his new enlarged store to Sondheimer and Engle, who had profited as grain merchants in the vicinity.  His younger brother Thomas would act as his agent in the continuing flurry of lot sales in the new subdivision.

            According to the founder's nephew, W.T. Heald, Harmon did not name the town after himself, his fellow townsfolk did. In contrast to the many transient "rowdies" and gamblers that drifted through such frontier settlements,

"...the perfectly clean, upright, beneficent character of Harmon Heald stood out as a light in a dark place.  Of broad sympathies, he was a friend, companion and counselor of all.  His example far above reproach, was an attraction to both old and young.  His bearing and manners always invited conversation, and consequently he was a much known man.  Everything that he said was elevating, and his spirit was uplifting.  Mr. [Henry] Ferguson tells us that to him he seemed more a spiritual being than a natural one...When most men would have been downcast and peevish, Harmon Heald was cheerful, entertaining, hopeful both for himself and others, and ever solicitous for their welfare."


After his wife's death Harmon Heald went to live with his wife's sister and her husband, George Espy, near Healdsburg.  His two young sons were probably in the care of his wife's mother and brother, Ann and Thomas Smith, who also lived nearby.  George Espy was apparently very devoted to Harmon, and as his illness progressed Espy took him to "every place in the vicinity that had any note as a health restoring locality".

            Henry Ferguson remembered a church camp meeting on a lagoon in the autumn of 1858.  Harmon Heald, now unable even to stand on his own power, was brought on a cot.  Despite his weakness, Ferguson reported, Heald maintained a lively interest in visiting with all of his old friends.

            As winter came, Harmon's younger son and namesake, just three years old, became ill with one of those merciless diseases that annually swept through town.  He died on December 7, 1858.  Harmon followed ten days later.  He was 34.

            Charles Fitch, who was then 16 years old remembered whistling merrily as he galloped into Healdsburg to buy groceries on December 18.  Suddenly he was stopped by a neighbor who informed him that the founder had died the day before.  His whistling soon trailed to silence as he found the town "as still as death."[20]  That silence gauged the respect his townsfolk had for Harmon, but no town in northern California in those heady, booming years after the gold rush, could remain silent for long.



“Billy” Heald

            Harmon Heald's only surviving child, George William Heald, was only 4 years old at the time of his father's death.  He was raised by his uncle, Thomas U. Smith, on Mark West Creek, and later at a ranch near Ukiah.  The makeup of the Smith household illustrates the disturbing toll that disease took on these pioneer families.  When "Billy" Heald was 14 his uncle Thomas married a widow with two children of her own.  Later they took in two more orphans, a niece and a nephew, children of A.B. Aull.

            George T. Heald (always known as "Billy") was educated at Pacific Methodist College, first in Vacaville, then in Santa Rosa.  His aunt Jennie Smith remembered that the orphaned youth had a monthly allowance that exceeded $50 per month (an extravagant amount at the time) while at school.  All of his clothes were hand tailored, and when home from school on vacations, he demanded a freshly laundered shirt every day.  On his 21st birthday Billy received $50,000 as the proceeds of his father's estate.

            An almost eerie pattern of mortality followed Harmon Heald's descendants down through three generations.  His son Billy later married and had two children, running a fine ranch near Ukiah, where he raised horses.  While out in the mountains of Mendocino County looking after his timberlands he suddenly contracted pneumonia during a raging storm.  He died at his home several months later, in March, 1889.  He was 34 years old.  His oldest child, a daughter, had died in infancy.  That left only one surviving son, Harmon Wilfred Heald, born in 1879.

            Harmon W. Heald grew up and married Florence Cranston of San Francisco (a relative of  Senator Cranston).  They had two children, a daughter and a son.  Florence died two months after giving birth to her son in February, 1908, at the age of 30.  Her husband followed her into the grave three months later, at the age of 28.  Their firstborn daughter Jessie was taken by meningitis in December of that year, leaving just one surviving son, Harmon Cranston Heald.[21]

            Harmon Cranston Heald finally broke the pattern by living a long life in Alameda.  He worked for United Airlines.  Married in 1935,  Harmon C. Heald had one daughter, who is still living, Patricia Heald Stevens.


  Sarah Heald Shaw

            Harmon Heald never lived to see the town he started grow to a respectable incorporated city, but several of his siblings prospered in and around Sonoma County.  Although she was approaching her thirties when she arrived in Healdsburg, Harmon's only sister, Sarah, married Thomas A. Shaw only six months after she arrived from Missouri in April 1852.  They purchased the ranch from George Heald in that year on the Russian River that later became known as the Hobson Ranch.  After several moves the Shaw family finally settled near Cloverdale.


  Samuel Heald

            Samuel Heald, the eldest of the brothers, built a house near his mill on Mill Creek.  He returned to Missouri to retrieve the rest of his family in 1851, and they lived with him in the vicinity of the mill until the summer of 1852.  Harmon had already established himself near the current Healdsburg Plaza, and three other brothers, Thomas, Jacob, and George, settled on preempted land or land "purchased" from squatters in the vicinity.

            Samuel ran the mill alone for three years until 1854, when he returned to Missouri to find a bride.  Although married previously when he lived in Missouri, his wife had died there in childbirth.  He now returned to marry one of her sisters, Martha Cobb.  After a long honeymoon spent traveling across the United States they returned to California.  Samuel went on to build an early flourmill in Napa, then moved to San Jose.  When he also contracted tuberculosis he returned to Cloverdale to live with his sister Sarah Shaw.  He died there in August of 1874 at the age of 56.  He and Martha had two children, both of whom lived to adulthood.  They in turn had no children.[22]


Thomas Tobin Heald (Ridenhour, Guerne)

            Thomas Tobin Heald had worked in his brother Samuel's sawmills when they were back in Missouri.  At the time that they first left for California Thomas had been both teaching and attending school.

 Later he operated the sawing portion of the Heald and March mill near Healdsburg.

            In 1852 he bought a ranch on the Russian River about eight miles below Healdsburg, where his niece and mother joined him.  Although there was as yet no road on the west side of the river, several settlers had preceded him, including the Gordons, the Porter brothers, William Potter (who would later settle in Potter Valley), and Louis Ridenhour.

            Louis Ridenhour, had preempted some land near the present community of Hilton, but also rented some land from Thomas Heald and worked it on shares.  That's how he became acquainted with Thomas Heald's niece, Mary, whom he married in June, 1856.  The couple moved to the ranch at Hilton and in June of 1857 built the two story Greek Revival home with an upper story verandah that still stands on River Road, near Korbel Winery.[23]   

            By the family's account, Thomas was devoted to his mother, Elizabeth Tatlow Heald, who died in November, 1856. Thomas was left alone on the farm after his niece's marriage and his mother's death, so he moved into Healdsburg, where he managed some of his brother, Harmon's business affairs and began to buy and sell property and erect buildings.  The first of these was a two-story building where the Sons of Temperance met.  He told one of his relatives in 1918 that he "had at that time great confidence in its arresting the saloon element and making the young prosperous town a temperance one."  In his spare time he wrote treatises on the foundations of different Christian denominations.

            After Harmon's death Thomas was very occupied settling up his brother’s ever-growing estate, but once that was done his loneliness sent him in search of a wife.  He traveled as far as San Jose, where his brother Samuel was building a mill.  But he found his future partner, Julia Guerne, daughter of vineyard owners, near the present Glen Ellen.  Her brother, George Guerne and Thomas Heald would later found a sawmill near the town that would later be named after George, Guerneville. 

            Since his new wife's parents were French-Swiss vineyard owners, Thomas Heald apparently abandoned his temperance activities at about this time.  Although he apparently never drank or smoked himself he allowed his wife to serve wine, and he even grew hops and tobacco on his ranch.  Thomas Heald, in fact, believed that he was the first to plant hops on the Russian River sometime before 1867.[24]

Jacob Gregg Heald -- image, Healdsburg Museum


  Jacob Gregg Heald        

Jacob Gregg Heald, another of Harmon's brothers, came out with the second group of Healds in 1851 with his wife and daughter.  He, like Thomas, settled on a farm in the vicinity of Healdsburg in 1852.  At first a squatter, Jacob later purchased his land from the Fitch's, but sold it again to A.B. Aull.  Soon he was buying and selling land and built the second "Sotoyome House", a hotel,  with John Raney in late 1857 and early 1858.  An earlier "Sotoyome House" run by William Dorff, had been built on a lot just north of the Healdsburg plat.  It was sold to Heald and Raney in March , 1857, but they chose to rebuild on the present west side of the 300 block of  Healdsburg Avenue.

            By 1860, Jacob Heald moved his family north to what later became the large and prosperous Oat Valley Farm north of Cloverdale.  While he was away on a mining expedition to Oregon in 1864, Jacob's wife, Mary Hanna Heald, died of appendicitis.  Two years later he married Rachel Elliot, a widow with four children.  After some initial economic setbacks, his success in the wine business lifted all of his debts.  Two of the children from his first marriage survived him, as well as a son from his second.  Jacob Gregg Heald died after a fall from a horse in 1895.[25]

  2003 Hannah Clayborn



2003™. All rights reserved.




[1]Heald, William Thomas, The Heald Family Who Settled Healdsburg,, pg. 10, 11.  "Interview with Aunt Jennie Smith", from the notes of W.T. Heald, Healdsburg Museum.  Sonoma County Cemetery Records, pgs. 74, 75.

[2]Ibid., pgs. 1-3, 41.  Thompson, Historical and Descriptive Sketch of Sonoma County, 92.

[3]Heald, The Heald Family,, pgs. 3,4, 46.  "Account of Mary Ridenhour" in notes by W.T. Heald, Healdsburg Museum.  Thompson, Historical and Descriptive Sketch, 92.

[4]Heald, The Heald Family, p. 4.  Notes from the diary of Thomas Tobin Heald, from the papers of W.T. Heald, Healdsburg Museum.

[5]Healds, The Heald Family, pgs. 5,6.  Captain H.D. Fitch had originally contracted with W.J. March to build the mill on the Sotoyome Rancho in 1847.  It is presumed that construction was interrupted by the War with Mexico.  By 1850 March had apparently taken over construction as a private enterprise.  Letter from Moses Carson to H.D. Fitch, 1 Nov., 1846 (reprinted in Ferguson, Historical Development of the Russian River Valley, App. F, p. 147.  Agreement between William J. March and H. D. Fitch, 30 August 1847 (as described in Miller, Henry Delano Fitch, pg. 196, 217.

[6]Notes taken by W.T. Heald from the diary of Samuel Heald, copies at Healdsburg Museum.  Samuel began work for W.J. March, Dec. 31, 1849.  Captain H.D. Fitch had originally commissioned March to build that mill and according to family records, had the saw and grist mill machinery sent around the Horn from Boston.  See: Mrs. Temple Bailhache, "Early California History and the Settlement Around Healdsburg" in Enterprise 24 Sept. 1925.  Letter from Moses Carson to H.D. Fitch 1 November 1846, as reprinted in Ferguson, Historical Development of the Russian River Valley App. F, 147.  Agreement between William J. March and H.D. Fitch, 30 August 1847 as described in Miller, Henry Delano Fitch, pg. 196, footnote 17, 217.    After 1852 Valentine "Felta" Miller purchased the mill and along  with his nephew, George Miller, and Richard Lewis continued to grind out flour.  In 1868 Miller sold out to Stephen Soules who moved it from the Upper Falls on Mill Creek to a point just below the second falls.  It operated until 1881 when the machinery was moved into the new steam powered grist mill built by John Hassett in Healdsburg.  The old mill building on Mill Creek was used for dances and parties.  In 1889 it was sold to the Mothorn family, eventually dismanted, and the large hand-hewn timbers were used in the construction of a new barn near Mill Creek.  One of the original mill stones is now on the Perry Beeson property nearby. See:  Edwin Langhart, "That Old Mill" in Tribune 1 April 1976, B-7.

[7]Marryat, Mountains and Molehills, 96, 97

[8]U.S. Census, Mendocino County, California, 1850, Nov. 14,  104:18-27: 

[9]Heald, The Heald Family, pgs. 6, 33, 38.

[10]I have not been able to establish who the parents of Mary Heald were.  Each of the Heald brothers refers to her as their niece, and later family chroniclers also seem to be confused on this point.  The oldest Heald sibling, Mary Ann, had married and remained in Ohio.  Another brother, William, had previously returned to Ohio from Missouri.  In Ohio he married and had a daughter, but then died young.

[11]Ibid., 6, 7.  Munro-Fraser, History of Sonoma County, 217.  Notes from T.T. Heald, History of Healdsburg, copy of original manuscript, no date, Healdsburg Museum.

[12]Thompson, Historical and Descriptive Sketch, 92.  California State Census, 1852, 216.  Healdsburg Enterprise, 19 Feb. 1887, 3:5.

[13]Healdsburg Enterprise, 19 Feb. 1887, 3:5.  Russian River Flag, 11 Aug. 1881, 3:4.  Heald, The Heald Family, 13, 14.

[14]Munro-Fraser, History of Sonoma County, 217, 218.  Notes from T.T. Heald, History of Healdsburg,.  Sonoma County Cemetery Records, 75.  Heald, The Heald Family, 15, 39.  Clayborn, A Promised Land, 149.  Several early businesses established themselves "across the old slough", which would be the area between the current North and Piper Streets.  One account places Knaack's chair mending shop there, as well as a livery stable, saloon, and a building that was intended as a public house.  The area north of Piper Street had no businesses in the early years, all being land owned by Linday Carson.  See:   Account of J.S. Williams in Russian River Recorder, July, 1977, 2.

[15]Woods, Recollections of Pioneer Work in California, 215.

[16]Heald, The Heald Family, 7.  Sonoma County Cemetery Records, 75.

[17]Clayborn, A Promised Land, 31, 32, 42-60.

[18]Heald, The Heald Family, 8,9, 13, 15.  Munro-Fraser, History of Sonoma County, 218.  The first town plat, in March, 1857 was filed, apparently at Heald's request, by Dr. Benjamin B. Bonham.  Sources differ as to who surveyed the town:  either H.P. Mock or "the first Sonoma County Surveyor, Horace Martin".  see account of Tom Heald in Enterprise, 15 Dec. 1906, 1:3. and Munro-Fraser above, 218.

[19]Munro-Fraser, History of Sonoma County,  218, 219.  Minutes of the meetings of the  School District Trustees, Mendocino Township , beginning April 3, 1854.  T.T. Heald, Notes from History of Healdsburg,  copy of original manuscript.  Heald, The Heald Family, 16.

[20]Heald, The Heald Family,  11, 17, 27, 51.

[21]Sonoma County Cemetery Records,  74, 75.  "Interview with Aunt Jennie Smith", from the notes of W.T. Heald, Healdsburg Museum.  Heald, The Heald Family,  31, 32.  Oral interview, Jack W. Heald, Cave Junction, Oregon, 1994.  Notes of W. T. Heald, Healdsburg Museum.

[22]Heald, The Heald Family,  21, 22, 36, 37.  Sonoma County Cemetery Records  , 74, 75.

[23]Heald, The Heald Family,  38-40.  "Account of Mary Ridenhour", in notes of W.T. Heald, Healdsburg Museum.

[24]Heald, The Heald Family,  40-45.

[25]Heald, The Heald Family,  49-54.  Sonoma County Cemetery Records , 74, 75.