Contra Costa County











     Among the very early pioneers of the state of California was the head of the Harlan family, George Harlan, who brought his wife and children across the plains in 1846.  A year previous he had removed from Indiana to St. Joseph, Mo., and being directly in the path of the western emigrants he also conceived the idea of locating in the more remote west.  He accordingly outfitted with ox teams and came to California by way of Hastings' cut-off, and upon arrival here settled in Santa Clara.  From there the family soon removed to Mission San Jose, thence to Napa valley, just above Calistoga, where Mr. Harlan bought land.  This remained their home until the discovery of gold in 1848, when Mr. Harlan took his family to the American river, where he engaged in mining.  After a period of three or four months, they returned to Napa county, and shortly afterward located in San Francisco.  At her death Mrs. Harlan left the following children:  Rebecca, Joel, Mary, Nancy, and Elisha.  Another son, Jacob, died in Napa valley.  For a second wife Mr. Harlan married Mrs. Catherine Hargrave, a daughter of William and Catherine (Speed) Fowler, and born of this union were two children:  Sarah and George.

     Joel Harlan was born in Wayne county, Ind., September 27, 1828, the second in a family of six children.  He was seventeen years old at the time of their removal to Missouri, and a year later he enjoyed the pleasure and experienced the hardships and dangers of a trip across the plains.  He remained a member of his father's family for a few years after their location in the western state, but April 2, 1849, married Minerva J. Fowler and established a home of his own.  He located first on Cache creek, Yolo county, but subsequently removed to San Francisco.  In the summer of 1851 he located in San Jose, where he engaged in farming for two years, then removed to San Lorenzo (in 1853), where he was the first American settler.  In 1856 or '57 he came to his present location, taking a claim on the line between Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the property now occupied by his son Elisha.  This consisted of one thousand acres, and is known as the Rancho San Ramon.  He then built a beautiful residence, commodious and substantial barns and outbuildings, and set out shade and ornamental trees, transforming his property into a comfortable and attractive home.  He subsequently purchased five government claims of one hundred and sixty acres each, the property now held in the family amounting to seventeen hundred acres of valuable land, in addition to three hundred and ninety-six acres near Walnut Creek, and valuable property in San Francisco, some land in the rear of the Palace Hotel being still in litigation.  The most active years of Mr. Harlan's life were spent as a farmer and stockman, although at one time he engaged in the livery business, and during the gold excitement found occupation as a miner, meeting with success in this last employment, from one pan of dirt washing out $1,500 in gold.  He was an ambitious and industrious man, a financier of no little ability, and in every way a popular and esteemed citizen.  His way in the west was won against heavy odds, the trip almost costing him and his family their lives, as they were with the ill-fated Donner party as far as Truckee canyon.  After his arrival in the state he rose to prominence and affluence entirely through his own efforts, but in the midst of his success never failed to remember the needy and less fortunate.  He was greatly interested in the growth and upbuilding of educational advantages, and in the early days established a private school in his neighborhood.  His death, March 28, 1875, was mourned by many friends.

     The ceremony which united Mr. Harlan with Miss Fowler was performed April 2, 1849, in the Sonoma mission by ex-Governor Boggs.  Miss Fowler was a daughter of William and Catherine (Speed) Fowler, who also crossed the plains in 1846.  Mrs. Harlan is the mother of the following children:  Elisha C., who married Elmina Plamondon; Anna, who died at the age of six years; Laura M., deceased; Mary, who married W. A. Llewellyn, and has one child, Loren Llewellyn; Horace, deceased; Helene, wife of Fred Osborn, of San Francisco; Henry Leo, deceased, who married Minnie Hicks and had one child, Helene Hazel; Fred; and Addie Elmina, who married Fred A. Stolp, and has one child, Carmen Minerva.





Transcribed 11-7-16  Marilyn R. Pankey.

ญญญญSource: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 1373-1374. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

2016  Marilyn R. Pankey.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library