Contra Costa County












ALONZO PLUMLEY.  Notwithstanding numerous discouragements, the most serious of which resulted from the great drought of 1864, Mr. Plumley has worked his way from poverty to comfortable circumstances, and now ranks among the most prosperous ranchers in the vicinity of Byron, Contra Costa county.  The position he has gained indicates the possession of sterling traits of character.  As a boy he was handicapped by the death of his father, and the presence of a stepfather in the home caused him to start out for himself at an age when most boys have no responsibilities greater than the reciting of lessons in their schools.  A native of St. Lawrence county, N.Y., born August 12, 1830, he is a son of Joseph and Sarah (Rider) Plumley, and belonged to an old eastern family.  Although the fact of being forced out into the world at an early age was in some respects a misfortune, it had the advantage of implanting within him firmness and self-reliance, without which permanent progress can not be maintained.  For a time he lived in Cook county, Ill., where he rented land and followed farming, also was employed in canal boating.


The year 1853 was the most important in the life of Mr. Plumley, for it witnessed his marriage and his arrival in California.  On the 1st of March, that year, he was united with Miss Julia Chilson, a native of Massachusetts, and a daughter of Joshua and Lovina (Cook) Chilson.  On the 21st of the same month he and his wife started on their wedding journey, which consisted of a trip across the plains with team and wagon.  Although long and tedious, the journey was not especially dangerous and no misfortunes marked its course.  On the 5th of May they crossed the Missouri river, and on the 5th of August landed at Volcano, Amador county, Cal., from which point they proceeded directly to Contra Costa county.  The first location of the young couple was in Pacheco valley, where he built a cabin and began farming.  In those days elk, deer, antelope and grizzly bears abounded, and it was necessary to corral the hogs in order to prevent the bears from devouring them.  As Mr. Plumley was an expert marksman, he often shot wild game and kept the family supplied with an abundance of meat, besides meeting with some thrilling adventures in the pursuit of game.


The experience of Mr. Plumley on his land resembled that of other early settlers, for he found he had located on a grant and hence was obliged to sell his improvements and seek a new location.  In 1858 he took up a claim in the Morgan territory, and began stocking the place with cattle.  Affairs progressed nicely and he was getting a good start when the drought of 1864 came with its discouraging effects.  Hoping to save his cattle he drove them over the country seeking pasturage, but none was to be found.  In their search for green feed the cattle drifted for miles and thus were lost, while those that remained perished for want of feed.  To add to his troubles, a severe illness prostrated him for a time and then came the flood with its train of disaster and destruction.  Forced to begin anew, he decided to secure another tract of land.  During his travels over the plains he had noticed that around Point of Timber the soil seemed particularly fertile, and this led him to remove to the quarter-section near Byron that formed the scene of his activities in later years.  The feed being excellent here, he took up sheep-raising and at one time had a flock of six thousand head.  Later he turned his attention to cattle-raising, in which, although people predicted nothing but loss for him, he met with a success so encouraging that others decided to emulate his example.  From time to time he erected needed buildings for the shelter of stock and storage of grain.  His fields of alfalfa are as fine as the county affords.  In his experiments with fruits he learned that pears and grapes thrived, but other fruits did not flourish, and he now has five acres in pears, and a vineyard of four acres.  Of his original property he has sold twenty acres to one son and twenty acres to another, and a house has been built on one of these tracts.  His attention has been given so closely to farming and stock-raising that he has not mingled in public affairs, nor associated himself with any fraternal organization other than the Ancient Order of United Workmen, in which he has served officially for twenty years.


Twelve children comprise the family of Mr. and Mrs. Plumley, namely:  Lovina E., who married Martin Roberts, has three children – Marvin, Sylvester and Elwin; Sarah E., who resides in Washington, became the wife of Henry Sedge, and their children are Ella, Olive, Maude, Henry, Willard, Lillian and Alonzo; Charles E., is a carpenter; Olive A. is the wife of W. M. Moore, and has four children, Maude, Laverne, Chester and Albert; Ida E., deceased, was married to A. F. Byer and had four children, Virgil, Ethel, Eugene and John; Alonzo M. married Elizabeth Livingston, by whom he has one child, Henry; Lorenzo G. married Jane Gann, and has one son, Rodney; Willard O. is the next in order of birth; Emma L., the wife of Charles L. Prichard, has two children, Hershel and Lloyd; Edith O. married Henry Prestley, and they have three children, Susie, Maude and Ardith; Lillie J., wife of J. H. Sobey, has two sons, Russel and Darrell; and L. Maude is at home with her parents.




Transcribed by Donna Toole.

ญญญญSource: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 734-735. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

2015  Donna Toole.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library