Richard A Fowler 1805-1856

Richard A Fowler (1805-1856), long forgotten Sonoma city pioneer. Was in California by Jan 1847. He probably came by 1846 as no one would have come in the Winter.


See also my article: Descendants of Richard A Fowler (1805-1856)

Richard A Fowler was born about 1805 in Canada. About his origin, the following interesting facts:
1 His daughter Mary's second marriage to Suhrbier states that Richard was from Canada.
2 In the 1850 Federal census, both Richard and Meriah state that they were born in Canada, while George Rock states that he was born in Lower Canada. In this census Richard is 45.
3 In the 1852 State census, both Richard and Meriah state that they were born in "Kenedy", and their last residence was in Missouri. In this census he is 47.
4 He was a witness to a deed 13 Jan 1847 from Jacob Lease to George Rock. George Rock also states in 1850 that he is 65 and born in Canada. In addition, the only other person to say that he was born in Canada, and living in Sonoma at that time, is Thomas O'Mal 27 Bar Keeper, perhaps in the bar of the hotel that Richard is keeping? He appears on the same census page with Richard.

So from this it would appear likely that George Rock also known as Roch, is Maria's father. In 1850, all three of their daughters were said to be born in California, the oldest one being 4. Richard witnessing a deed in Jan 1847 also proves that the family was in California before the gold rush. The latest possible date being Fall of 1846 since nobody dared to cross the Sierras in the winter.  It's always possible that he came down from Oregon, but an attempt to link him to the other Fowler family known to have come to California by that route, this early, hasn't found any evidence so far. The 1850 census was enumerated 30 October 1850, so Eliza J must have been born before 30 October 1846 in California.

About George Rock

Rock (Geo.), 1836, first appears at Sonoma as a witness against a horsethief. iv. 118; seems to have had a rancho near Sonoma, and in '37 was nominal grantee of S. Julian, Sta B., iii. 655-6, being in '37 grantee of Guenoc, Lake Co. iv. 671. According to the Lake Co. Hist., he lived at Guenoc from about '48, as agent for Jacob P. Leese.

Now this George Rock, was the same person who had gotten the Guenoc Grant, a 26,628 acre land grant from the Mexican government in 1845. This was the Coyote Valley, along Putah Creek for several miles (present Lake County). He took up residence in Stone House, now an historic monument in Hidden Valley, then the harbinger of a village called Guenoc. For further info see Stone House. George Roch supposedly had a cattle operation, and supposedly built his house in 1850 and abandoned it by 1851 (the 1850 census of Sonoma town was done 30 Oct 1850).

Some people have strange ideas about why the Ranch was named Guenoc. However, knowing that George Roch or Le Roch was from Canada, I checked Canadian surnames and found a Le Guenoc. So I prefer the idea that George Le Roch's mother was a Le Guenoc. It makes a lot more sense than the alternate explanations.

Back to Richard Fowler

They did not come from Oregon to California with the more famous Fowler family, since the 1852 census says their last residence was in Missouri, although possibly this only refers to Mariah. They are not listed in the Donnor Party, they may have come with Lilburn Boggs, in the lucky half who reached Sutter's fort in October 1846.  But interesting in this regard is Mary Otis Fowler's obituary which states that her mother crossed the plains on a wagon trail, but does not mention her father.  Of course since Richard died so early, and Mariah lived so much longer, it's also possible that whoever gave the obit information, simply did not know.

On 4 May 1826, there is record at the Bureau of Land Management that a William White, assignee of Richard Fowler obtained a piece of land at E1/2NW S19-T48N-R13W in Boone Co, Missouri

Richard's middle initial was "A" and there is a marriage of an Alexander Fowler to an Ann Mariah Fowler in Shelby County 23 Jan 1840 by a Justice of the Peace, and then in 1840 in Clinton, Monroe Co Missouri an A Fowler listed 20-30 with another male, possibly his brother 15-20 and a female possibly his wife 20-30. Living next door is a W C Fowler 20-30 with female 15-20 and nine households later a Wm Fowler 00120101-00100001 which would be reasonable for the parents of them all.

Exactly where in Missouri they came from, and exactly where in Canada they had been born is still a mystery. I'm hoping by tracing neighbors who may have come in the same wagon train I can pinpoint something to prove where they lived in Missouri.  So let's see where they might have lived in Sonoma.

In Nov 1847 Richard Fowler of Sonoma City bought lot 31 on the SE corner of Vallejo (now called Spain) and Third for $9.25. A week later he bought Lot 7 and 11 in Block 2 in St Louis (the embarcadero of Sonoma town, later called Schellville) for $50.00. On  12 Jan 1848 he bought Lot 46 on the NE corner of Napa and Third for $9.25. On 11 Apr 1848 he bought Lot 8 in block 2 in St Louis for $110.00. On 6 Aug 1850 as "Richard Fowler, of St Louis" he bought Sonoma lot 216 on the SW corner of Prussia and Third for $100

That is a lot of land for one family with only three small girls to have, and I wonder why he had so much land?  By this time, boats were going back and forth from the Sonoma landing to San Francisco and Sacramento.  So possibly, he wanted a piece of this lucrative "visitor" trade and had to establish a toehold at St Louis, in order to try to entice people to come to his hotel.  This is all speculation until the history of Sonoma can be written in a serious and determined way, instead of the few slim volumes we have today.

In the 1850 census he is enumerated as a Hotel Keeper.
1850 Census Sonoma Co, California
(Sonoma Township), page 15B, Household 95, Family 96
Fowler Richard 45 M Hotel keeper 4,000 Canada
Fowler Maria 35 F Canada
Fowler Eliza J. 4 F California
Fowler M.A. 3 F California [married in 1865 Douglas Church]
Fowler Mary Otis 1 F California [married in 1865 Thomas Fawcett]

A cursory reading of available Sonoma township history doesn't show any Richard Fowler as a hotel manager or otherwise. In the 1852 census it describes his occupation as "Public Entertainment", although exactly what this means, I'm not sure. By the time his estate is probated in 1857, the administrator, William Cubberly, who had married the widow Mariah, evidently did not have enough money to pay the fees involved, and the administration was never completed. This doesn't strike me as a wealthy family.

In 1853 Lot 31 is held or sold by Sheriff [Israel] Brockman, perhaps for failure to pay tax?. Lot 46 was sold in 1852 to Thomas Harmsworth Way. Lot 8 in Block 2 was sold to Lewis Adler in 1854. The last recorded deed by Richard Fowler was in 1854.

In 1853 he paid tax on City lots 4,5,8 of B4 and 2 of B5 St Louis and 7 and 11 of B2, 5 of B9 and Sonoma 216, 539

In 1854 he is stated as a resident of Sonoma Township and paid tax on Lots St Louis 5, Sonoma 539, 216, 556, and 557

Richard Fowler died 7 Feb 1856, he is probate number 42 Register A Page 133. Maria was the executrix at first. But she married William Cubberly b in England, on 10 Mar 1856 in Sonoma and she then names him as administrator between March and April. On 2 Aug 1859, William Cubberly delays his final account due to his inability to pay costs of probate

So to determine where in Missouri Richard Fowler came from, I decided to start tracing everybody who lived in Sonoma town, who had come there direct from Missouri. So here is a list of people who lived in Missouri prior to coming to Sonoma, and who didn't live anywhere else in-between.

Arnold Hutton b 1803
Martin Hudson b 1805
William Hudson b 1814, came 5-7 years ago
John Manning b 1823, came less than 8 years ago
Joseph Nevil b 1823, came less than 2 years ago
George Smith b 1812, KY to IL to MO to CA, came 3-6 years ago
A C McDonald b 1814, came less than 18 years ago
Hiram Smith b 1799, came less than 7 years ago
T H Fine b 1821, came 2-6 years ago
H T Jones b 1805, came less than 3 years ago
Benjamin Mitchell b 1818, came 2-5 years ago
John McCraken b 1820, came 5-6 years ago
William M Boggs b 1826, came more than 3 years ago (son of Lilburn below)
Lewis Adler b 1821 came 1-6 years ago, based on the Bones children living with him.
Samuel Morrow b 1801 came 2-9 years ago
G W Lane, less than 5 years ago
Alexander Dunbar b 1800, came less than 4 years ago
John Smith b 1814, left Missouri 3-7 years ago, stopped in Oregon
David St Clair, b 1793, came 2-4 years ago
Charles Stewart, b 1822, came 4-8 years ago
Harriet Hollingsworth, KY to IN to IA to MO to CA, came 2-6 years ago
John Lewis b 1817, OH to MO to CA, came 3-6 years ago
Albert Lyon, came 2-7 years ago
L W Boggs b 1797, less than 5 years ago ("Lilburn Boggs", Wikipedia) ("Lilburn Boggs", Royalweb)
"The Lilburn Boggs family lived in Independence, Missouri where Boggs had a business outfitting traders to Santa Fe and other parts West. Lilburn Boggs and his family came to California, among the overland emigrants, starting West in May 1846. He served as wagonmaster on the trail. He brought with him his second wife Panthea, his son William, as well as William's new bride Sonora Hicklin, the daughter of a wealthy Missouri family. He arrived in Sonoma County in November 1846"

Wm H Moore b 1797, came 3-6 years ago
Rebecca Peterson, came 2-6 years ago
Thomas Harper, came 2-3 years ago
-End of List-