Contra Costa County












††††††††††† As rancher and breeder of fine race horses, George Van Gorden is located near Danville, Contra Costa county, upon a finely developed and improved ranch of seventy-five acres, which was originally a part of the Hemme property, the beautiful home having been built by Clarence Hemme. In 1899 he purchased this property, since which time he has given his entire time and attention to its improvement and cultivation. The property includes a twenty-acre orchard of the very best variety of pears, prunes, walnuts, apples, etc., while in the same neighborhood he bought two hundred acres which he utilizes for pasturing purposes. He had bred many fine horses upon his ranch, having recently sold a three-year old, called Venator by Brutus, for $3,000.

††††††††††† Born in Niles, Mich., September 8, 1845, George Van Gorden was a son of the late Ira Van Gorden, a well-known and honored pioneer of California. He was born in Pennsylvania, the son of Gilbert and Mary (Ives) Van Gorden, the former of whom spent two years in California but returned to Michigan, his home for many years, where his death occurred at the age of ninety-seven years. When a boy Ira Van Gorden went with his parents to Indiana, where he grew to manhood and in time married Rebecca Harlan. They removed to Michigan and engaged in farming until 1845, when he and his family crossed the plains to California, traveling from Council Bluffs in company with the ill-fated Donner party. On their arrival in the state Mr. Van Gorden located at San Jose Mission in Alameda county. Shortly afterward the Mexican war broke out and he enlisted and served under General Kearney. On returning to civil pursuits he came to the redwoods in Contra Costa county and whipsawed trees to build a house. He put up a small one for his family and made that his home for some time. On the report of the discovery of gold he sent Thomas Smith on horseback to verity the information. Following his return with a confirmation of the report, Mr. Van Gorden went to Coloma, having to cross the straits in whale boats as that was the only means of passage. He entered into the life of a miner and met with success, but not liking the mountains, climate or hardships which were essentially a part of such an experience, he returned in 1849 to San Jose Mission, and began farming with Thomas Smith. A year later they went south to buy saddle horses and prospected to San Diego, where he entered into the cultivation of a vineyard in partnership with John Broder in 1855. They finally sold out and went to Tulare county, and there Mr. Van Gorden bought a ranch and built a home, set out one of the finest orchards in the county, and went into the cattle business, going south to buy his stock. In 1865 he sold out and removed to San Luis Obispo county and bought a large ranch, upon which he continued in the stock business until his death, December 13, 1902, at the age of eighty-three years. His wife died in 1848. They were the parents of four children, namely: Jerome, of Visalia; Charles, deceased; George, the subject of this review; and a daughter who died in infancy. Mr. Van Gorden married for a second wife Mary Balaam, and six children were born of this union.

††††††††††† Left motherless when three years old, George Van Gorden was reared to the age of fourteen years in the home of his aunt, Mrs. Henry C. Smith. He then returned to his fatherís home and engaged in the stock business with him until 1868, in the meantime, however, in the year 1863, engaging to some extent in mining on the Kingís river, in Fresno county. In 1868 he began the stock business in San Luis Obispo county, following the same until 1892. In that year he sold out his interests in that county, and having in the meantime become associate with mining interests and the breeding of fine horses and cattle, he purchased a ranch of one hundred and fifty acres of land in Alameda county. This property he now rents. He also bought an orange grove in Butte county, consisting of twelve acres, and this is now in most excellent condition. In 1899 he bought seventy-five acres which comprise his present home, and at once entered upon the business which now engages his attention. He has met with success and is justly numbered among the representative men of the county. In addition to his ranching interests he owns the controlling stock in the Drinkwater Gold Mine, in Trinity county, a mine of considerable value. He has traveled considerably and has prospected in California, Alaska, Mexico and various other states, in his mining interest.

††††††††††† In 1868 Mr. Van Gorden married Annie Stiner, a native of Mariposa county, Cal., and the daughter of Calvin M. and Elizabeth (Ridgeway) Stiner. Her father was born in Aberdeen, Miss., and the motherís parents were Jarrett and Ann (Mitchell) Ridgeway. They all came to California in 1849 and settled in Mariposa county, engaging in mining. Later Mr. Stiner settled in Visalia, his death occurring in San Francisco in April, 1871, at the age of fifty years. He was a respected member of the Masonic body. His wife is still living. Mr. Ridgway made his home in Mariposa county until his death at the age of fifty-six years, his wife dying in August, 1903, aged eighty-three years. He improved a substantial property, putting out the first orchard in that county. To Mr. Van Gorden and his wife were born the following children: Anna, who married Dr. H. S. Kergan, of Oakland, and has two children: Marian A. and Janice; Maurice, at home; and Laura Emma, who married Fred W. Grunig, of San Jose and died at the age of twenty-four years, leaving one child, Durward. Fraternally Mr. Van Gorden is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.†† ††




Transcribed by: Cecelia M. Setty.

≠≠≠≠Source: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 975-976. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

© 2016 Cecelia M. Setty.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library