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Amador County








            William M. Penry was born on the 27th of September, 1838, in Mississippi of Welsh lineage.  The family was founded in America by the great-grandfather of our subject, who located in South Carolina, where the grandfather, Jonathan Penry, was born May 21, 1785.  He served as a soldier in the War of 1812 and removed from his native state to Mississippi, where he died at a ripe old age.  His son, Samuel H. Penry, the father of our subject, was born in South Carolina June 17, 1811, and accompanied his parents on their removal to Mississippi, where he married Narcissa Davis, born October 30, 1817, a native of Georgia, by whom he had six children, four of whom are now living.  During the Mexican War he entered his country’s service and aided in defending her rights.  Subsequently he removed to Texas, where he successfully carried on agricultural pursuits and died November 9, 1899.  When the war between the north and south was inaugurated two of his sons, N. S. and Corydon, joined the Confederate forces, and the latter was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, his death resulting from his injury.  Narcissa Penry died November 14, 1892.

            Mr. Penry, of this review, was educated in the state of his nativity and learned the printer’s trade, at which he worked as a journeyman until 1857.  In that year he sailed from New Orleans for San Francisco, reaching his destination on the 26th of April, 1857.  There he worked at his trade for a few months, after which he went to visit his uncle in Placer County and while there purchased an interest in the Folsom Dispatch, with which he was connected for two years.  On the expiration of that period he sold his share of the paper and established the Folsom Telegraph, in connection with Mr. Kilma.  That paper is still published, but in 1863 Mr. Penry dissolved his connection therewith and came to Jackson, where he has since resided.  After the big fire which occurred in this city he had, in connection with Mr. Pain, re-established the Amador Dispatch, and for thirty-four years aided in its publication, being most of the time the editor and proprietor.  In 1896 he sold the journal to E. C. Rust, who is now its publisher.  Since that time Mr. Penry has lived retired from active business.  He made the Dispatch one of the leading newspapers in this section of the state and secured for it a very large circulation, and the financial returns therefrom annually augmented his income until, with a comfortable competence, he was enabled to retire to private life.

            In politics Mr. Penry has always been a pronounced Democrat, and reared in the south, his sympathy was naturally with the people of that section of the country during the Civil War.  On that account he was arrested in 1865 by United States soldiers.  About one hundred, under the command of Captain Knight, came to his office and demanded his surrender.  For five or six weeks he was imprisoned and was then discharged without trial.  He has, however, always been true to the interests of the county, town and state, and his efforts have been effective in promoting the welfare of the community in which he makes his home.  Through the columns of his paper he has always been the champion of the measures calculated to prove a public benefit and many needed reforms and improvements were adopted through his instrumentality.  He served for some years as a deputy assessor of the county, but devoted the greater part of his life to journalistic labors, in which he met with gratifying success.  In a minor degree Mr. Penry has been an inventor, having originated a “pole climber” and a “folding ladder,” the latter being fully covered by patents, and is a revolution to all previous inventions of the kind, his chief motive being to invent a more simple and convenient fire escape, but it may be used in many other ways.  He has never devoted time and money to bring it properly before the public, hence has never met with any marked degree of success.

            In 1870 Mr. Penry was united in marriage to Miss Jennie Barton, a native of Ohio, and to them was born one son, William M.  Our subject is a valued representative of the Masonic fraternity and since 1860 has been a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in which he has passed all the chairs and has frequently represented his lodge in the grand lodge and has taken an active interest in its work.  Of the Knights of Pythias lodge at Jackson he is a charter member, and also belongs to the order of Rebekah and the Ancient Order of United Workmen, his wife being a member of the Eastern Star and also of the Daughters of the Rebekah.

            He and his wife have a very pleasant home in Jackson and enjoy the high esteem of the people among whom they have so long resided.  His life has been well spent and has been characterized by devotion to all that he believes right.  The rest which he now enjoys is well merited, for his property has come to him as a reward of earnest and indefatigable labor.



Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: “A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of Northern California”, Pages 521-522. Chicago Standard Genealogical  Publishing Co. 1901.

© 2010  Gerald Iaquinta.



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