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Last Bonanza Kings

The Bourns of San Francisco

Ferol Egan

Publication Year: 2009

The dramatic story of one of nineteenth-century California’s wealthiest and most influential families

Published by: University of Nevada Press

Front Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title page

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pp. 4-7


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pp. vii-x

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1. Planting the Seed

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pp. 1-8

There were eleven ships in the Winthrop Fleet that set sail from England to the New World in 1630. For twenty-one-year-old Jared Bourn of Bobbingworth, Essex, it was an adventure he would probably remember for the rest of his life. Although he sailed aboard the Arbella, the flagship of the fleet, young Bourn had signed on as an indentured servant, ...

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2. Westward Vision

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pp. 9-15

William Bowers Bourn was a tall, handsome young man who was no more than seventeen years old when the call of the sea roared into his ears. As a sixth-generation descendant of Jared Bourn, young William could point with pride to his pioneer ancestry, but as the sixth of seven children of Francis Bourn III and Mary Bowers, ...

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3. Bound for California

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pp. 16-24

By the time Captain Chase's letter reached William Bourn at his waterfront office in New York, a shorter, faster route to California had been developed across the Isthmus of Panama. Such enterprising men as William Henry Aspinwall and his cousin, William Edgar Howland, were involved in a steamship business ...

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4. San Francisco: Rough City of Golden Dreams

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pp. 25-34

William Bourn and Sarah made their first San Francisco home at Bay State House on Front Street, which would serve them until something better could be found or built. Although Sarah was happy to be with her husband, she seldom saw him during the day. ...

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5. Interlude of Family Happiness

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pp. 35-46

In the fall of 1865, the Bourns awaited the arrival of Hannah and Willie, coming by steamship from the East via Panama. Suddenly, Will received distressing news from the Imperial Silver Mining Company that indicated its dealings were not what he expected from a well-run business. ...

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6. Bourn's Nevada Adventures

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pp. 47-57

In the latter months of 1866 and the beginning of 1867, William Bourn held positions that would have been too much for an ordinary man. In his San Francisco office, he carried out the combined duties of president and director of the board of the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. ...

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7. Bourn's Luck

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pp. 58-66

As Wiliiam Bourn profited from both the Comstock Lode and the silver strike in Nevada's White Pine County, so too did the city of San Francisco, for it was silver and not gold that turned San Francisco into a major city on the Pacific Coast. ...

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8. Tragedy and Responsibility

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pp. 67-75

While William Bourn continued to spend most of his time in San Francisco watching over the many aspects of his business empire, Sarah threw her energy into making Madrofio an ideal country estate as well as a working ranch. At the beginning of 1873, she was learning all she could about tending her vineyards. ...

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9. Cambridge Years

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pp. 76-85

Afer the death of her husband, Sarah Bourn insisted that her son return to the University School in the fall term to complete his studies. During this period, cousin William Ingalls agreed to stay with him at the family home; while young Bourn finished his courses, Ingalls worked in the Bourn office. ...

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10. Young Bourn and the Empire Mine

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pp. 86-94

Upon William Bourn's return home in the latter part of 1878, he was no longer a growing young man. His face was much fuller, and he had long, dark sideburns and a well-trimmed, full mustache. His dark eyes appeared to be even deeper than his sisters had remembered, but his quick wit and sense of humor were as delightful as ever. ...

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11. Napa Valey Years

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pp. 95-104

As the Bourns knew from the original property deeds, the site of Madrofio once had been part of the Bale Ranch. In 1841, after his marriage to María Ignacia Soberanes, General Mariano Vallejo's niece, Dr. Edward Turner Bale‒a former English surgeon‒called his land grant Rancho Carne Humana. ...

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12. San Francisco: City of Promise

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pp. 105-118

As the decade of the 1890s began, William Bourn felt the call of a changing San Francisco. No longer was the city anchored in its rough-and-tumble beginnings. While its heritage from the California Gold Rush and the boom years of Nevada's Comstock Lode lingered in the building of individual fortunes, San Francisco was becoming a city of promise. ...

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13. Expanding Horizons

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pp. 119-131

In the beginning of 1895, William Bourn learned that conditions at the Empire Mine continued to deteriorate. Ever since George Starr's departure for South Mrica, his replacement, Robert Walker, had gone through one barren zone after another. The owner, James D. Hague, received no profit from the mine, but he had a daily payroll to meet and all the expenses associated with searching for gold. ...

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14. The New Century

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pp. 132-147

Will Bourn saw the beginning of 1899 as the end of one century and the beginning of a new era, but there was still business left over from the past. He faced the second phase of a lawsuit brought against him in 1890, which challenged his handling of his father's estate. ...

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15. Growing Fortunes

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pp. 148-164

Five years into the new century, Will Bourn could look at his business empire as though he were a successful cash-crop farmer. Instead of producing grain, fruit, or produce to take to market, his specialty lay in growing fortunes. & 1905 moved into the fall season, the Empire Mines and Investment Company showed net profits of well over two million dollars ...

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16. Water, Land, and Politics

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pp. 165-195

California's need for water was something that William Bourn understood very well. Most of the state was semi-arid, and until a major water system was developed, there was the constant threat of drought when local reservoirs would run low. Even in normal fall and winter seasons, the San Francisco Bay Region had a rainfall history ...

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17. The Changing Times

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pp. 196-218

By the beginning of 1914, the Bourns were convinced that their years at Sky Farm had been a splendid combination of country living with easy access by train and automobile to the cultural life of San Francisco. During these years, they had seen the building of such Peninsula mansions ...

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18. The Final Years

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pp. 219-254

The new decade of the Roaring Twenties opened with gala parties at Filoli. Invitations to these parties were prized, for Filoli had become synonymous with elegance. The great home was surrounded by beautiful gardens that formed outdoor rooms with a significant pattern for each room. ...


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pp. 255-278

Sources and Acknowledgments

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pp. 279-280


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pp. 281-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780874178494
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874177862

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 17
Publication Year: 2009