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Sierra County








            Isaac S. Church, who was numbered among the pioneers of the Sacramento Valley, was one of the leading citizens of his community and did much to advance the interests of the Sierra Valley, of which he was a resident for many years.  The Church family is an old one in this country, having been established in New England early in the colonial period.  One of its members, Isaac Church, served as a captain during the Revolutionary War.  One of his grandsons, Ezra Bliss Church, was born in Ferrisburg, Addison County, Vermont, where he grew to manhood and was educated.  He married and took up general farming as a vocation.  Accompanied by his wife, whose maiden name was Harriet Sattley, and their son, Isaac Sattley Church, they, in 1860, came to California.  The son had previously come to this state and had returned to Vermont in 1859 for the express purpose of bringing his parents out to the coast.  Ezra B. Church came to the Sierra Valley, in Sierra County, where he took up one hundred and sixty acres of land at what came to be known at Church’s Corners.  On this place he engaged in farming, which he carried on until advancing years compelled his retirement from active affairs, and here he died, at the age of eighty-six years.  Politically, he was a strong Republican from the organization of that party.  His wife also was a native of Vermont, died here at the age of eighty-three years.  When the government established a post office at Church’s Corners, in 1890, the office was given her family name, “Sattley,” and her son Ezra officiated as the first postmaster.

            Isaac Sattley Church was born on the home farm at Ferrisburg, Vermont, on the 25th of October, 1829, and received his education in the public schools and in the academy in his home community.  When the discovery of gold in California was reported in the east, he gave up his school work and in the spring of 1850 he made his way to the new El Dorado, journeying by way of the Isthmus of Panama.  On this trip he was accompanied by several of his schoolmates and of the entire company on board ship he was the youngest.  They landed at San Francisco on May, 20, 1850, and he at once proceeded to the mines at Horseshoe Bend, where he remained about two months, without meeting with success.  He went from there to Nelson’s Point, in Plumas County, where he spent a month and succeeded in finding gold.  During September he and his four partners went to the forks, which locality was later given the name of Downieville, in honor of Major Downey.  They prospected and mined there until the fall of 1851, when, Mr. Church’s health having become impaired, he quit mining and established a dairy in Downieville.  In the following fall he sold the dairy and turned his attention to freighting from Marysville, the head of steamboat transportation, to the mining camps in the Sierras.  For this purpose he utilized a mule pack train.  He was successful in this enterprise and in 1859 he returned to his Vermont home and brought back his parents to the Sierra Valley.  There, in 1860, he bought a squatter’s title and settled on a farm.  When the government survey was made of this land he bought it from the government and then engaged in stockraising and general farming, including dairying.  He continued that work for some years, meeting with fair success, and then, in 1901, after a severe illness, he rented the land, reserving the residence and pasture for his personal use.

            Mr. Church was married twice, first, on February 15, 1860, to Miss Sarah Geer, who was born in Vergennes, Addison County, Vermont.  She came to California as a bride and remained a resident of the Sierra Valley until her death, which occurred on January 27, 1882.  To this union were born six children, namely:  Francis Sattley, who was engaged in farming at Riverbank, California, when his death occurred in 1929; Charles Geer, who is engaged in ranching near Loyalton; Mary P., the wife of William McNair, who for years was a rancher in the Sierra Valley but now resides in Morgan Hill, California; Charlotte A. Fowles, also a resident of Morgan Hill, California; Albert Bliss, who abandoned lumbering to farm the home place at Sattley, California; and Roxie E. Jane, who was the wife of the late Charles McElroy of the Sierra Valley and who now resides in Sacramento, California.  Sometime after the death of his first wife, Mr. Church married Mrs. Rachel (Street) Hale, who was born in Ohio.

            Politically, Mr. Church adhered to Republican principles from the organization of that party, but never sought public office or political leadership.  He was always greatly interested in educational matters.  He aided in building the Alpine schoolhouse near his ranch and he gave name “Alpine” to the district, which is particularly appropriate by reason of its scenic beauty.  He was one of the men of industry, determination and sterling worth who through their individual activities and influence had much to do with the general progress and development of this section of the valley and was one of its most substantial and respected citizens.



Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: Wooldridge, J.W.Major History of Sacramento Valley California, Vol. 3 Pages 316-318. Pioneer Historical Publishing Co. Chicago 1931.

 © 2010  Gerald Iaquinta.



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