The American family of Bledsoe is of French extraction and has long been prominent in Virginia, where Willis Bledsoe, Sr., the father of the subject of this sketch, was born in 1797. Early in life he settled in Kentucky, where he married Miss Jane McDonald, a member of an early and prominent pioneer family of that state. Their son Willis was born in Kentucky March 22, 1841, and three other sons and a daughter were born to them in that state. In 1846 Mr. Bledsoe removed with his family to Missouri, where he bought a farm and became a successful, well-to-do and highly respected citizen. Originally of the Baptist faith, Mr. Bledsoe later became a Universalist. He died in 1870, have attained the ripe old age of seventy-four years. Their children are all living and Willis Bledsoe is the only one of them in California.
The subject of this sketch was educated in public schools in Missouri and at the end of April, 1862, when he had just passed his twenty-first birthday, he set out for California overland with Dr. Glenn, assisting the latter to bring out one hundred and forty-six head of mules, and they arrived at Sacramento July 6, following. They were enabled to make this journey in such a short time because Dr. Glenn had previous crossed the plains seven times and therefore knew all the camping places at which water could be obtained for the mules. Mr. Bledsoe secured his first position in California in a garden, at twenty-five dollars a month. From there he went to Shaw’s Flat, Tuolumne County, but remained only a week, going from there to San Joaquin County, where he had a letter of introduction to J. W. Jones, on whose farm he worked for five years, beginning at thirty dollars a month and receiving additions to his salary until he was paid six hundred dollars a year and his board. During the succeeding six years he and Mr. Jones were partners in the sheep business, owning at times as many as fifteen thousand sheep. Disposing of this interest, they engaged in farming on a large tract of land which they had acquired, Mr. Jones owning twenty-one thousand acres and Mr. Bledsoe one thousand, two hundred and eighty acres. Since then Mr. Bledsoe has acquired three thousand and two hundred acres more, making an aggregate of fourth thousand and four hundred and eighty acres, which he has farmed successfully, harvesting in one year twenty thousand sacks of wheat, which he sold at one dollar and sixty cents a hundred pounds. Of course that was an exceptional yield and an exceptional price, but he has been continuously successful and is regarded as one of the successful men of the county.
He is a Freemason and a Democrat, and as a citizen is widely known and popular. In 1885 he built one of the most delightful residences in the city of Modesto, which is surrounded by beautiful grounds that he himself planted and improved and is an eloquent witness to his good taste and refinement.
In 1870 Mr. Bledsoe married Miss Edna M. Jones, a daughter of his former partner, J. W. Jones, who was a California pioneer in 1852 and arrived there a poor man with only such effects as were hauled by one horse and bringing no other stock except a cow. His family consisted of his mother, his wife and four children. The present Mrs. Bledsoe was then only three months old. Mrs. Jones was taken sick while crossing the plains and died of cholera on the Platte River. The history of Mr. Jones’ business success is well known in California, where by the most admirable methods he rose from comparative poverty to affluence. Mrs. and Mrs. Bledsoe have had three children. Effie A. is the wife of M. E. Leek, of Modesto, who is the official reporter of the courts of Stanislaus County. Walter G. is a farmer living in Merced County. Alfred L. is a student at the University of California at Berkeley. Mr. and Mrs. Bledsoe are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which Mr. Bledsoe is holding the office of trustee.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.