ELBERT OLNEY, of Oakland, a contractor in painting, decorating, and allied lines of house-finishing, was born in Albia, Monroe county Iowa, February 7, 1849 a son of William and Eliza Ann (Green) Olney, both of whom are still living at Durham, Iowa.  The mother was born in northern New York, in May, 1821, was married July 20, 1839, in Iowa, her parents having previously moved to the State.  Her father lived to old age, and her mother (nee Tanner) was over eighty at death.


The paternal ancestry of Mr. Olney in America dates back to Thomas Olney, born in 1600, in Hertford, Hertfordshire, England, whose permit to emigrate to New England bears date of April 2, 1635.  He came to Salem, Massachusetts, by the ship Planter; was appointed surveyor in January, 1636; receive a grant of forty acres on Jeffrey creek, at what is now Manchester, near Salem, and was made a "freeman" the same year.  He became identified with the peculiar views of Roger Williams and with others was excluded from the colony, March 12, 1638.  Meanwhile he had accompanied Roger Williams to Narragansett bay, where they selected a place on Seekonk river, which they purchased of the Indians.  With eleven others they founded the settlement of Providence, constituting with "the thirteen proprietors of Providence," Thomas Olney being the first treasurer in 1638.  In July, 1639, he and his wife and her companions were excluded from the church at Salem "because they wholly refuse to hear the church, denying it, and were re-baptized."  In 1647 Mr. Olney was one of the commissioners to form a town government.  In 1648 he was chosen an "Assistant" for Providence, and served in that capacity almost continuously until 1663.  In 1656 he was chosen to treat with Massachusetts Bay about the Pawtuxet lands; in 1663 he was one of the grantees of the Royal Charter of Charles II, and in 1665, with Roger Williams and Thomas Harris, was a member of the Justice' s Court.  He was one of the founders of the Baptist church, of which he was at one time the acting pastor or minister, and on that account is sometimes called Rev. Thomas Olney.  He was married in 1631 to Marie Small, and died in 1682.


Their second son Epenetus, born in 1634 was married March 9, 1666, to Mary, a daughter of John Whipple; was active in the affairs of the colony, a member of the town council and of the colonial assembly.  He died June 3, 1698.  His third son, John, born in 1678, was married August 11, 1699, to Rachel Coggeshall, and died November 9, 1754.  Stephen, their fifth son, born about 1716, was married about 1741, to Mary Whipple, the second of that name in the family annals, and died November 4, 1754.  Stephen, Jr., their third son, born December 22, 1752, Martha Aldrich about 1775; was a captain in the State militia; resided successfully at Smithfield and Gloucester, Rhode Island, and died December 12, 1841.  William, the fifth son of Stephen, born February 24, 1792, was married, at seventeen, in February, 1809, at Greenfield, New York, to Charlotte Tanner.  After 1817 they moved to Pennsylvania, thence several years later to Ohio, and before 1836 to Iowa.  Finally the head of the family started for Oregon, early in '40s, to seek a new location, and died there.  William, his fourth child, born in New York State, May 23, 1817, entered Marietta (Ohio) College at the age of about eighteen, and afterward followed the family to Iowa, where he taught school for a time and was married July 20, 1839, to Eliza A. Green.  He became identified with the growth of Albia, Monroe county, owning at one time several hundred acres of land in the vicinity and some building lots in the town.  In the prosecution of those interests he developed into a contractor and builder, having picked up or formally learned the trade of carpenter.  He was also a licensed preacher of the Free-Will Baptist church for fifteen years, chiefly at his own charge, impelled by his zeal for the branch of the Christian church.  William and Eliza A. Olney are the parents of eight children, namely: Warren, born in March 11, 1841, now of the law firm of Olney, Chickering and Thomas, of San Francisco, and residing in Oakland; Mary Jane, born February 2, 1843, married Thomas J. Scott, a farmer of Monrovia, Iowa; Albert, born in 1845, died in infancy; Cyrus Milo, born March 9, 1847, enlisted in the Eighth Iowa Calvary in 1863, lost his health on the "march to the sea," was discharged, sent to the rear and taken home, where he survived an invalid to September, 1868; Elbert, the subject of this sketch, Jasper, born November 1, 1850, now a carriage painter at Knoxville, Iowa; Ervin H., born in 1852, was chiefly associated with his father's enterprises, and died at the age of twenty-three, leaving a widow and daughter; and Francis, a farmer at Durham, Iowa.


Mr. Olney, whose name introduces this biography, at the age of fifteen, entered the Iowa Central University at Pella of the chief Baptist educational institute in the State and remained there three years.  From eighteen to twenty he taught in the local district schools, and then embarked in his present business in Chicago.  At twenty-one he was a journeyman painter, and with little interruption worked as such from 1871 to 1884, being a foreman about three years, and for six years in immediate charge of the almost continuous worked executed by his principles for the Marshall Field, the great dry groups goods merchant of Chicago, in his various buildings, which freely familiarized him with first-class work in his line.


In July, 1884, Mr. Olney came to this coast and went into business on his own account, at Olympia, Washington.  In 1885 he came to Oakland, where he has since been engaged in business, with fair success, and where he was rejoined by his wife and children in May, 1886.


Mr. Olney was married in Chicago, August 8, 1869, to Miss Emily M. Moore, born October 21, 1848, near Galesburg, Illinois, a daughter of Daniel and Mary (Olney) Moore.  Her father, who was a merchant most of his life, died in 1890, age seventy-nine; and her mother, a descendant in the seventh generation from Thomas Olney of Providence, is living in Olympia, Washington, now at the age of about seventy-five.  Mr. and Mrs. Olney lost their sixth child at the age of thirteen months, and have five living children--the first three born in Chicago and the younger ones in Highwood, now Fort Sheridan, near that city.  Lenora, born March 6, 1871, at the California College, in the East Oakland, in May, 1891; Edna M., born July 13, 1872; Emily, December 22, 1873; Elbert Valentine, February 14, 1876; and John William, December 2, 1879.


Mr. Olney is a member of University Lodge, No. 144, I. O. O. F., of which he was Noble Grand in 1891; and of Clinton Lodge, No. 2,019, Knights of Honor, of which he is a Past Dictator, and Representative to the Grand Lodge in 1891.  Mrs. Olney is a member of a Rebekah-degree Lodge, I. O. O. F., and, with several of her children, of Athens Lodge, I. O. G. T., and Home Protection Lodge, Sons and Daughters of Temperance.



"The Bay of San Francisco" Volume 1. Lewis Publishing Company 1892. Page 449-451.

Submitted by: Nancy Pratt Melton.

© 2002 Nancy Pratt Melton

San Francisco County California Biography Project

California Statewide

Golden Nugget Library