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Guide to the William Bowers Bourn Family Papers, 1845-1985
BANC MSS 86/94 c  
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Background
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: William Bowers Bourn Family Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1845-1985
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 86/94 c
    Collector: Bourn, William Bowers, 1857-1936.
    Extent: 29 boxes, 4 cartons, 1 album, 1 oversize folder, 1 tube 18.8 linear feet
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Collection contains correspondence, maps, photographs, account books, genealogies, financial and legal papers, wills, deeds, diaries, memorabilia, architectural drawings, and newspaper clippings pertaining to the San Francisco family. Also included is a scrapbook devoted to the Friends of France.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Restricted to the use of Ferol Egan until April l, 1991, or until completion of the Bourn biography, whichever occurs first.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], William Bowers Bourn Family Papers, BANC MSS 86/94 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The William Bowers Bourn Family Papers were given to The Bancroft Library in January and November 1986 by Francis Bourn Hayne.


    William Bowers Bourn I, (1813-1874 ) a wealthy merchant born in Massachusetts, came to San Francisco in 1850 with his new bride Sarah Esther Bourn(1829-1919). Bourn founded the Empire Mine in Grass Valley, California,which was in financial straits at the time of his death at the family home in San Francisco on July 24, 1874. He was survived by his wife Sarah and their children Mary (Maye), William II, Sarah (Zaidee), Ida, and Maud. Another son, Frank, died at the age of 11 in 1872 from a fall off a wall at the family's home.
    Under the guidance of William Bowers Bourn II(1857-1936) the family fortune grew enormously. WBBII and his mother revitalized the struggling Empire Mine and developed the family's vineyards in St. Helena (which were purchased by Christian Brothers in 1950). WBBII also founded and was president of the San Francisco Gas Company which developed into PG&E,and founded the Spring Valley Water Companywhich served all of San Francisco's water needs until the city purchased it in 1930 .
    WBBII was also an important civic leader. He was president of the Pacific Union Club and the San Francisco Music Association for many years and contributed a great deal of money and time to the planning of the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1914 and 1915. During World War I, he was president of an organization called Friends of France. He also organized the American League of California with Professor Charles Mills Gayleyof the University of California whose objective was to assist the Allies in Europe both financially and with manpower. On July 30, 1920, L'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur was conferred on Bourn for his service to France during the war.
    One of Bourn's lifelong friends was architect Willis Polk .The two began their association in 1894 when Polk designed an English townhouse at 2550 Webster Street in San Francisco for Bourn. After this venture the two continued to work together with impressive results:
    Once becoming allied ... Bourn and Polk lost no time in complementing each other's creativity and originality. First, at Bourn's Empire Mine in Grass Valley, Polk was commissioned to build the Empire Cottage (1896), the owner's private residence. This was followed by the Mine Office Building (burnt down in the 1930's), the Ophir Cottage, for Bourn's cousin, Superintendent George Starr, and the Empire Club (c. 1905), a social club to be used by the Mine's management personnel. Surrounding the Empire Cottage was a twelve-acre park with pools and an artificial lake. And in 1907, the post-earthquake year, Bourn as president of the Pacific Union Club, was influential in having the club buy the ravaged shell of the James Flood mansion and commission Polk to rebuild what is today one of the monumental buildings on California Street. It is still occupied by the Pacific Union Club.
    Ringler, Donald P. and Rossi, George. Filoli The Builder—the Architect—the Mansion—the Gardens. Private Printing. Hillsborough, Ca. 1978, pp. 8-9.
    All of this work was a prelude to the building of Bourn's massive estate Filoli in San Mateo County during the years 1916 and 1917. The name of the estate is derived from the first two letters of each word from Bourn's motto, Fight, Love, Live. The estate was planned similar to the 11,000 acre Muckross estate outside Kilarney, Ireland, which Bourn purchased for his daughter Maud Bourn Vincent and son-in-law Arthur Rose Vincent as a wedding gift in 1910. In 1975, Filoli was deeded to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and opened to the public as a historic landmark.
    In 1922, Bourn suffered a stroke at the Empire Cottage which confined him to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. His daughter Maud died of pneumonia contracted while crossing the Atlantic on her way to New York on February 12, 1929. Early in 1936 Bourn's wife, Agnes Moody Bourn, died at Filoli after a long illness. On July 5 of that same year he died, leaving a large fortune to his surviving sisters Maye, Ida, and Maud.
    One of these sisters, Maye Bourn Tucker(1855-1947), married into a family with a remarkable history. Her husband James Ellis Tucker(1845-1924 ) had many extraordinary adventures in his youth, as the following excerpt from his obituary in The Pacific Churchman (Carton 2, Folder 29) demonstrates:
    A thrilling book of boy adventure could be written of his experiences before he was out of his teens. Born in Richmond, Va., October 25, 1845, a scholar at the English Rugby while his father, Nathan Beverly Tucker, was Consul-General at Liverpool, he also attended school at Vevey, Switzerland, when his father was Minster to Spain. At sixteen he entered the Confederate service in the Civil War and was commissioned by Mason and Slidell in Paris to bear dispatches to the Confederacy. In running the blockade the ship on which he had sailed was wrecked but he was saved by swimming and duly delivered the dispatches to President Jefferson Davis. A member of the Second Virginia Cavalry under General Stuart, he went through the war, was wounded more than once and witnessed the surrender at Appotomax. After the war he joined his father in Canada and attended the University of Toronto. All this for a youth hardly twenty would make in itself a record of his early days as enthralling as any California tales of our young mining life. But there was more. As a young soldier of fortune his ardent spirit led him to allay himself with that tragic Mexican Empire of Maxmilian and he was in charge of a guard of honor which escorted poor Empress Carlotta from the City of Mexico, he escaping from the country when Maxmilian was shot. All this happened before he came to Califronia in 1869, having corossed the Mexican border at Brownsville Texas. The first twenty-five years of his life were thus abundant in strenuous action in the tented field. Then came his more normal California occupations. Five years in the service of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, that having its own memorabilia including a shipwreck of the Costa Rica. He was also connected with mining interests in Lake County and for twelve years at the United States Custom House served as Chief Appraiser under Presidents Harrison and Cleveland.
    Other prominent members of the Tucker family include James' brother Dr. Beverley D. Tucker and nephew Dr. Henry St. George Tucker, both bishops with the Episcopal Church. Other related family groups represented in the collection are: Augustus O. Bourn, cousin of William Bowers Bourn I and governor of Rhode Island from 1883-1885; the Hayne family, including the architect Francis Bourn Hayne ; the Ingalls family, including the aviatrix Laura Ingalls; and the Vincent family, including the artist Elizabeth Vincent. For further information about the Bourn family history, see the following chronology prepared by Francis Bourn Hayne.



    Former Owner and Builder of


    San Mateo County, California

    FI = Fight LO=Love LI = Live


    F. Bourn Hayne ----------41 Diablo Drive, Kentfield ----------June 7, 1958

    May 31, 1857, William Bowers Bourn, II, born at the home of his parents located at the corner of Third and Brannan Streets, San Francisco, California.
    SON OF
    William Bowers Bourn, I, who was born in Somerset, Mass., June 21, 1813, came to San Francisco as a wealthy merchant in 1850, and died in San Francisco July 24, 1874. He was of the 6th generation descended from Jared Bourn who probably came to this country in the fleet with Governor Winthrop in 1630. Jared Bourn moved from Boston to Rhode Island in 1655.
    Sarah Ester Chase who was born in Boston, Mass., September 3, 1829, married W. B. Bourn, I, in Brooklyn, N.Y., July 25, 1849 and followed her husband to California, arriving in San Francisco May 4, 1854. She died at her home, 2030 Broadway, San Francisco (still standing) April 9, 1919. She was of the 7th generation descended from Thomas Chase who was born in England and came to this country in about 1640 and settled in Hampton, New Hampshire, where he died in 1652.
    Mary (later called Maye) Champney Bourn; m. James Ellis Tucker formerly of Virginia, in San Francisco, 1895. Born in San Francisco February 11, 1855; dies San Francisco November 2, 1947. No issue.
    William Bowers Bourn, II; m. Agnes Moody, Yonkers, N.Y., Oct. 12 1881. Born May 31, 1857 in San Francisco; died at Filoli, July 5, 1936. (One daughter, Maud).
    Sarah (called Zaidee) Frances Bourn; m. Horace Moody. No issue. Born San Francisco June 5 1859; died San Francisco Oct. 15, 1898.
    Frank Washington Bourn. Born San Francisco June 20, 1861; died San Francisco January 24, 1872.
    Ida Hoxie Bourn; never married. Born Brooklyn, New York, April 2, 1864; died San Francisco, December 23, 1951.
    Maud Eloise Chase Bourn; m. William Alston Hayne, II, San Francisco December 27, 1899. Born San Francisco November 15, 1867; died San Francisco June 1 1948. (Two sons: Wm. Alston Bourn Hayne and Francis Bourn Hayne)
    Wm. B. Bourn, II, grew up in and around San Francisco. As a youth he attended the College of St. Augustine (an Episcopal Military Academy) at Benicia, California and Bates School.
    July 24, 1874 Death of his father at the new family home, 1105 Taylor St. San Francisco.
    Jan. 13, 1875 Leaves New York to go to Cambridge University where his is admitted to Sidney Sussex College.
    May 1876 He migrated to Downing College where hi was rated as a Fellow Commoner, which was an honor, where he remained about a year, and returned to California in 1877.
    May 1878 Returned to Downing College in May. Returned to California in fall to help his mother with the responsibilities of the family's Empire Mine and the vineyards at St. Helena.
    Oct. 12, 1881 Married Agnes Moody in Yonkers, N.Y. Returned to California for the development of the Empire Mine and other interests.
    Aug. 24, 1882 A son in born that dies in infancy.
    Nov. 1883 A daughter, Maud Bourn, is born.
    Feb. 2, 1888 Recently re-designed home of his mother at Madrono, St. Helena, burns.
    1888-1889 Building of the great Greystone Winery at St. Helena. Phylloxera wiped out vineyards of the state so Greystone winery is hug financial loss.
    About 1890 Built beautiful home at 2550 Webster, St., S.F. Willis Polk the architect. (This still standing) At this time built the Empire Cottage at the Empire mine, Grass Valley,. Same architect.
    About 1890 He is the president of the S.F. Gas company which developed into the P. G. & E.
    About 1890 He becomes interested in the development of Spring Valley Water Co. of which he became president. This was later sold to the city of San Francisco in 1930.
    About 1892 His mother moves into her new home at 2030 Broadway.
    Dec. 26, 1894 Elected by people of San Francisco as a Freeholder.
    About 1907 As president of the Pacific Union Club he influences the members to buy the fire-gutted ruins of the Flood mansion at California and Mason Streets and rebuild it as the clubhouse. Willis Polk was the architect. (Still standing).
    About 1908-1917 He lived, part time, at Sky Farm in San Mateo, rented from the Crocker Estate. He was renting Sky Farm when the plans for Filoli were being drawn in the office of architect Willis Polk. His artistic friends, Bruce Porter, contributed much in the development and furnishing of the place and especially in the landscaping of the gardens. Architect Arthur Brown, Jr., designed the garage and outlying buildings. The wrought iron sun porch at the north end of the house was designed by Architect James H. Mitchell in about 1928.

    For many years Mr. Bourn was president of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and a trustee of Stanford University and to both he contributed financially in a large way. He contribute much to many churches and charities, but objected to publicity being made about his gifts.
    March 30, 1910 His daughter, Maud Bourn, married to Arthur Rose Vincent of Ireland, in St. Matthew's Church, San Mateo. Reception was at Sky Farm.
    Nov. 1910 Purchased the vast Muckross estate in County Kerry, Ireland which included most of the Lakes of Killarney, for his daughter and son-in-law.
    About 1911 Mrs. W. B. Bourn presented at Court of St. James, London.
    About 1912 Mrs. Vincent presented at Court of St. James, London.
    1914 Gave much time, energy and money for the organization and planning of the Panama Pacific International Exposition in S.F.
    1914-1915 Plans being drawn for Filoli House and grounds. Exterior nearly built, 1915.
    Jan. 13, 1915 Birth of first grandchild, Elizabeth Rose Vincent.
    Nov. 27, 1915 Principal speaker in Honor to France program at Panama Pacific International Exposition. Is America neutral? he cried and the large audience shouted back, No. He was president of Friends of France.
    January, 1917 With Prof. Charles Mills Gayley of University of California he plans formation to the American League of California to help the Allies in Europe. At a luncheon at the Pacific Union Club the League was formed with Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur of Stanford as president. Others of the Executive Committee were Osgood Putnam, Prof. Chas. M. Gayley. Guy C. Earl, and W. B. Bourn. Every encouragement was sent to U.S. Congress to declare war on Germany. President Woodrow Wilson has broken diplomatic relations. W. B. Bourn paid most of the expenses of the League.
    February 2, 1917 Friends of France send off two ambulance units to France made up of Stanford boys.
    May, 1917 At Filoli balustrade of west wall is completed. No lawn growing.
    September, 1917 Filoli House finished and furnished. Mr. and Mrs. Bourn living there. Surrounding lawns in and shrubs being planted.
    March & Apr. 1918 Lawns and shrubs around house look bigger and better.
    June, 1918 Mr. Bourn's mother, Mrs. Wm. B. Bourn I, visits Filoli. She died April 9, 1919.
    By 1918 Garage is finished; garden house and high garden wall not built. Ground totally undeveloped.
    Nov. 11, 1918 Armistice signed ending First World War.
    April, 1919 Lily pod pool completed; lawn by it being planted; shrubs at front entrance and surrounding house growing well and in full bloom.
    July 16, 1919 Birth of second grandchild, Arthur Wm. Bourn Vincent.
    August, 1919 Garden House and high garden wall completed. Construction of gardner's house is underway. Site for tennis court is selected.
    Sept. 1919 Architect Arthur Brown, Jr., and wife at Filoli. All gardens north of garden house and wall and around Lily-pod pool finished and growing. Fruit trees arriving in boxes.
    February, 1920 Yew trees north of garden wall all planted; eight to ten feet high. Brickwork is well underway for paths, pools, terraces, etc., within walled garden. Soil is prepared and level, but nothing is planted. Gardner's cottage is about completed. No development at all to south of walled garden.
    Dates in Photograph Album end here, but pictures show growth and development which must have been from 1921 to about 1924.
    July 30, 1920 L' Ordre National de la Legion d'honneur conferred on Wm. B. Bourn for his service to France during First World War.
    October 5, 1921 or 22 Suffers STROKE at Empire Cottage, Grass Valley. Remains wheelchair invalid till his death.
    February 12, 1929 His daughter, Maud Bourn Vincent, dies in New York of pneumonia following crossing of Atlantic en route to California.
    1929 Empire Mine sold to Newmont Mining Co.
    About 1930 Spring Valley Water Co. bought by City of San Francisco.
    About 1932 Mrs. Bourn taken sick; is confined to her bedroom at north end of Filoli.
    1932 Elizabeth Rose Vincent presented at Court of St. James, England.
    January 1, 1933 Muckross given to Irish Free State.
    June 6, 1934 Elizabeth Rose Vincent married to Lord Burgh of Northcourt on Isle of Wight, England. Lord Burgh, an eighth baron, was Alexander Leigh Henry Leith, a former officer in the Black Watch, Highland Regiment.
    January 5, 1936 Funeral services for Mrs. Bourn at Filoli.
    July 5, 1936 Death of William Bowers Bourn, II, at Filoli.
    Mr. and Mrs. Bourn are buried on top of a small knoll west of Filoli House. In this private cemetery plot are also buried the remains of their infant son and their daughter Maud Bourn Vincent.
    January 13, 1937 Filoli sold to Matson Securities Co. for Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth by Filoli, Inc., Edward Eyre, President, F. S. Markey, Secretary, Bank of California and Wells Fargo Bank & Union Trust among the stock holders. Filoli Trust created October 6, 1937 by Filoli, Inc. Filoli Inc. was liquidated and first distribution was November 10, 1936.
    Sept. 24, 1956 Death of Arthur Rose Vincent in Ireland. Was buried there.
    Mr. and Mrs. Bourn are survived by two grandchildren, Arthur William Bourn Vincent, married Elizabeth Tourne but to date no issue, living at 2404 Broadway, San Francisco, and Elizabeth Rose Gardner, divorced, one son by first husband who was Lord Burgh of Northcourt. The son was born March 23, 1935 and christened Alexander Peter Willoughby on August 3, 1935 on the Isle of Wight. Mrs. Gardner (one daughter, Sandra Gardner) now lives in France.

    Scope and Content

    The overall arrangement of the collection is by family grouping, as it was arranged upon its arrival. The initial arrangement was broken into two series, correspondence and family papers, the latter including genealogies, financial and legal Papers, clippings, memorabilia, etc. There are a few subject files of letters in the second series in the following locations: Carton 2, Folders 14-22, containing letters and accounts from the Sarah E. Bourn Estate, 1947-1959 and letters concerning the renovation of this estate; and Carton 4, Folders 7-9, concerning property owned by Ida Bourn and Maud Bourn Hayne, 1901-1908. A third series of subject files was created to accomodate miscellaneous files on Filoli, the Empire Mine, Willis Polk, and other topics. Complete series descriptions follow.
    The bulk of the collection chronicles the personal lives of Sarah E. Bourn and her daughters Maye, Zaidee, Ida, and Maud through their letters to one another, incoming letters from other relatives and friends, and their personal and financial papers. These letters and papers provide an in-depth view of one of early San Francisco's wealthiest and most socially prominent families, a family that survived both physically and financially the earthquake of 1906, World War I, and the Great Depression.
    Although William Bowers Bourn II is one of the most prominent members of the family, he figures minorly in the overall collection. Of the 27 boxes of correspondence, only 1 ½ are devoted to him, a scant 26 folders. These are primarily letters to his mother and sisters, with a few financial letters. There are virtually no letters dealing with the Empire Mine, Spring Valley Water Company, or his dealings with Willis Polk. This is typical of the entire collection which tends to be mostly about the personal rather than business side of the family. The best sources of information about WBBII are the clipping files (Carton 3, Folders 27-29) and a biography prepared by Francis Bourn Hayne (Carton 3, Folder 32). WBBII's association with the Friends of France is well-documented in a scrapbook and in loose items removed from the scrapbook (Carton 3, Folder 37).
    James Ellis Tucker, the other prominent figure in the collection, is on the other hand very well-documented. There are many letters written to his mother and father describing his experiences in the Civil War (Box 4, Folders 13-15), as well as several rare Confederate documents, including Tucker's orders, permission for sick leave, paroled prisoner's pass, and an announcement of the surrender at Appomattox (Carton 2, Folders 30-38). Tucker's later correspondence in Boxes 5 and 6 details his association with the Bourn family including his marriage to Maye Bourn. Boxes 7-9 consist of correspondence of other members of the Tucker family.
    Also of note in the collection are Hannah Annie Ingalls' (sister of WBBI) letters to her husband Zebediah, 1865-1866 (Box 27), giving the most complete history of the family at this time; information on the aviatrix Laura Ingalls (not to be confused with the author Laura Ingalls Wilder) and and FBI investigation of her activities during World War II (Carton 4, Folders 29-31); A Sketch of the Descendants of Jared Bourn Who Settled in Boston About the Year 1630 by Augustus O. Bourn, 1875 (Carton 1, Folders 2-3), which traces the family to 17th century England; and the genealogical information for each section of the family (see folder listing) prepared by Francis Bourn Hayne.
    Several maps and published materials have been removed respectively to the Maps Collection and for separate cataloging. For a list of these removed items, see Carton 4, Folders 52 and 53. All photographs have been transferred to the Pictorial Collection. The Environmental Design Documents collection has several drawings by Willis Polk, Bakewell and Brown, and other architects commissioned by the Bourn family. For an inventory of these drawings, see Box 25, Folder 9. For information on the Spring Valley Water Company, see the Bancroft Library's collection number C-G 189.