Contra Costa County












EDWARD M. DOWNER.  Prominent among the representative men of Pinole, Contra Costa county, is Edward M. Downer, who holds various positions in the business activity of the place, at present acting as agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad, postmaster, and editor of the Times.  Born April 28, 1869, he is a native of Yuba county, Cal., and a son of James Edward Downer.  The latter, a native of New York state, crossed the plains to California during the early gold excitement, probably in ’49, and engaged in mining until his death, which occurred at the age of sixty-five years.  His last work was done in Nevada county.


Reared in his native state, Edward M. Downer completed his education in the high school of Nevada City, after which he studied telegraphy at Rocklin, Cal., under the direction of James Agler, the present manager of the Southern Pacific Railroad company.  His first work in this line was at that place, from which he went to various locations as it was the duty of a beginner in telegraphy to go wherever called until assigned a permanent position.  February 1, 1891, he was made station agent and operator in Pinole, a position he has retained satisfactorily to the present time.  In the meantime he had risen to prominence in his adopted city, and for the past ten years has held the office of postmaster.  In addition to his other interests he established in 1894 a weekly paper known as the Times, this the first and only paper ever published in Pinole, and which now has a circulation of a thousand copies.  His office is modernly equipped with a press run by an electric motor.


The marriage of Mr. Downer united him with Lizzie Bouquet, a native of this county and the daughter of the late Frederick Bouquet.  They have one child, Hazel I.  Fraternally Mr. Downer is a Royal Arch Mason, and in various lodges has served in an official capacity.  Immediately after his location here Mr. Downer began to buy lots and build houses, owning at the present time considerable property, conspicuous among which is his beautiful home, located on a rise of ground overlooking the town and bay.  He has taken an active interest in the progress of the city and has served in official capacity, having discharged the duties of city clerk in behalf of the citizens.




[Inserted by D. Toole]



1938 Jan 10, Oakland Tribune, P7, Oakland, California

Taken by Death

Mayor Downer of Pinole Dies

Banker and Civic Leader Succumbs After Long Illness

Pinole, Jan. 10.  Mayor E. M.  Downer, 68, Contra Costa County banker and civic leader, died at his home here early today after a protracted illness.  Ailing for the past two years, Downer has been confined to his bed for six weeks.  He was president of the Mechanics Bank of Richmond and the Bank of Pinole, both of which he founded, and vice-president of the First National Bank of Richmond.  He was president also of the Pinole Light and Power Company and the Carquinez Hotel Association.  President of the Richmond Union High School board of trustees, Downer was also a director of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the Berkeley Country Club.  His fraternal affiliations included the Masonic Lodge, Sciots, Shrine and Elks Club of Richmond, the Athenian-Nile and the Athens Clubs of Oakland.  Former postmaster and publisher of the Pinole paper, Downer came here in 1859 as a railroad telegraph operator.  Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Edna Downer; a daughter, Mrs. George Thornton of Richmond; two sons, Edward of Oakland and Robert of Pinole; two stepsons, Jack McLean of Richmond and Howard Poinsett of Pinole; a brother, Jack Downer, of Lakeport; three grand-children, James Thornton, Deborah and Edward Downer III, and three step-grandchildren, Howard, Rowland and Elizabeth Poinsett.  Funeral services are pending at the Wilson and Kratzer Mortuary.


1938 Jan 11, Oakland Tribune, P62, Oakland, California

Death Notices

Downer – In Pinole, January 10, 1938, Edward M. Downer, beloved husband of Mrs. Edna Butler Downer, loving father of Robert Byron Downer of Pinole and Edward M. Downer Junior of Oakland, and Hazel Downer Thornton of Richmond, loving stepfather of Howard Poinsett and John B. McLean of Pinole, beloved brother of Jack Downer of Lake County, California, loving grandfather of Elizabeth Jane Thornton, Deborah Ann Downer, Edward M. Downer the Third and Elizabeth, Roland, Howard Poinsett Junior. A member of Pinole Lodge No. 253, F. & A. M.; Aahmes Shrine, Scottish Rite, Knights Templar; Richmond Lodge No. 1251, B.P.O.E.; Richmond Sciots; president of Richmond Masonic Hall Association and Carquinez Hotel; member of Berkeley Country club, Royal Order of Jesters of Oakland, Director of Richmond Chamber of Commerce and member of Richmond High School Board, president of Mechanics Bank of [article not completed].


1938 Jan 11, Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California

Pinole Mayor Laid to Rest

Last Rites are Held for E. M. Downer, Contra Costa Banker

Richmond, Jan. 11, Private services for Edward M. Downer, Contra Costa County banker and civic leader, were held this afternoon at the family home at Pinole.  The Rev. Thomas A. Buyer, county probation officer and former Christian minister, and the Rev. C. R. Hess of Quincy, former pastor of the Pinole Community Church, officiated.  Interment was at Mountain View Cemetery.  Besides Downer’s financial interests he has been active in many fraternal and civic organizations and held several political offices.  He became Pinole’s first Mayor in 1903 and served until the time of his death early yesterday.

Organized Bank

In 1905 Downer organized the Bank of Pinole, which later established branches in Rodeo, Crockett and Port Costa, and 1907 established the Mechanics’ Bank of Richmond, which later established branches in El Cerrito and Albany.  He served as president of both institutions until his death.  He also served as vice-president of the First National Bank of Richmond since its organization in 1917 and was engaged in many other business and financial activities.  He was born at Browns Valley, Yuba County, on April 19, 1869.  He was the son of James E. Downer, who crossed the plains during the gold rush.

Worked for Railroad

His first job was that of telegraph operator for the Southern Pacific Company at Pinole in 1889.  A year later he became the station agent and in 1893 became postmaster of Pinole.  In 1901 he established the Pinole Times, a weekly newspaper, which he continued to publish until his death.  He later became president of the Pinole Light and Power Company and president of the Carquinez Hotel Association.  He also was president of the Richmond Union High School Board of Trustees, the Richmond Masonic Hall Association, a director of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the Berkeley Country Club.

Lodge Member

His fraternal affiliations were with the Athenian-Nile Club and Athens Club of Oakland, Richmond Lodge of Elks, Pinole Lodge of Masons, Aahmes Temple of Shrine, Richmond Pyramid of Sciots and the Knights Templar of Oakland.  A resolution of condolence, praising Downer as an outstanding civic leader, was adopted last night at the Richmond City Council and was sent to member of the bereaved family.  P. M. Sanford, president of the Chamber of Commerce, characterized Downer as a “most useful and outstanding citizen in Contra Costa County who was closely allied with every important civic undertaking of the community.”  Surviving relatives include:  His widow, Mrs. Edna Downer; two sons, Edward M. Downer Jr., of Oakland, and Robert Downer of Pinole; a daughter, Mrs. George Thornton of Richmond; two stepsons, Howard B. Poinsett of Pinole and Jack McLean of Richmond; a brother, Jack Downer of Lakeport, and six grandchildren, Elizabeth Jane Thornton, Edward M. Downer III, Deborah Downer, Howard B. Poinsett Jr., Rowland Poinsett and Elizabeth Poinsett.  The Wilson and Kratzer Chapel was in charge of services.





Transcribed by Donna Toole.

­­­­Source: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 1006-1007. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

© 2016  Donna Toole.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library