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Porter and Sesnon Family PapersMS.196
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Scope and Contents
  • Biographical / Historical

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: University of California, Santa Cruz
    Title: Porter and Sesnon Family Papers
    Creator: Porter (Family: Porter, George K.)
    Creator: Sesnon (Family: Sesnon, William T.)
    Identifier/Call Number: MS.196
    Physical Description: 8 Linear Feet 14 boxes
    Date (inclusive): 1880-1997

    Conditions Governing Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Conditions Governing Use

    Property rights for this collection reside with the University of California. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. The publication or use of any work protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use for research or educational purposes requires written permission from the copyright owner. Responsibility for obtaining permissions, and for any use rests exclusively with the user. For more information on copyright or to order a reproduction, please visit guides.library.ucsc.edu/speccoll/reproduction-publication.

    Preferred Citation

    Porter and Sesnon Family Papers. MS 196. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Susan Sesnon Dolkas for the Porter and Sesnon Families, December 2000.

    Scope and Contents

    This collection includes correspondence, family photographs, writings, ephemera and realia related to the prominent Porter and Sesnon families of Santa Cruz, California.

    Biographical / Historical

    The Porter legacy in California stretches back to the Gold Rush Era, when a trio of Porter cousins, George K., John T., and Edward F. "Ned" Porter, made their way from New England to Santa Cruz County and engaged in a wide array of entrepreneurial activities.
    In 1854, another cousin, Benjamin Franklin Porter made his way to California by crossing the Isthmus of Panama on foot, before joining his family members in Soquel. He became active in the local economy and, in the mid­ 1850s purchased the Soquel Tannery along with his cousin George and C.W. Moore.
    In the autumn of 1867, Benjamin returned to New England, where he married his childhood family friend, Kate Hubbard. The couple returned to California, where they started a family. Mary Sophia "May" Porter was born in Soquel on October 9, 1868. Mary's sister Sadie died of typhoid fever at the age of 24. Mary was the lone descendant and heir of her father and mother's vast estate, and of her Uncle Ned's, who also had extensive residential and commercial holdings in the Soquel township.
    In 1896, Mary married William T. Sesnon, of Alameda, a businessman and civic leader who served as clerk of San Francisco County. William expanded the Porter family business and real estate holdings into successful oil ventures, manufacturing sites, and land development. The couple had four children - Porter, Katherine, Barbara and William Jr., who were raised spending their summers at the Pino Alto estate in Soquel.
    When William Sr.'s health deteriorated in the late 1920s, the once thriving salons at Pino Alto came to an end. William died in 1929, and Mary passed away the following year. The property was eventually sold off, first to the Salesian order, before it was finally purchased by Cabrillo College in 1978, where it became known as the Sesnon House.
    Descendants of the Porter-Sesnon clan have always been active and generous in the community. Porter College at the University of California Santa Cruz is named after Benjamin Franklin Porter, while his daughter's love of art is memorialized at the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery.
    Excerpt from, Dunn, Geoffrey. "Mary Porter Sesnon and the Magic of 'Pino Alto'". Santa Cruz Style, Spring 2018.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Santa Cruz County (Calif.) -- History -- Sources