HON. HENRY EWALTZ MCCUNE
As one whose career is worthy of note and who furnishes a splendid example of what is commonly termed a self-made man, Mr. McCune stands pre-eminent among the citizens of Solano county. From a small beginning he has climbed the ladder of success step by step until he has neared its topmost pinnacle, and to-day he is one of the largest land-owners in Solano county, Cal., which has been the scene of his successful labors for half a century. A native of Pike county, Mo., where he was born June 10, 1825, he is the son of John and Rebecca (Ewaltz) McCune, his father being of Scotch ancestry and his mother of German, the former a native of Pennsylvania and the latter of Virginia. These parents went west from Kentucky, where they were married, to Pike county, Mo., where they reared a family, and it was there the father died in 1853. There Henry E. McCune was educated. Upon the outbreak of the Mexican war he joined the mounted volunteers and served gallantly for eighteen months being wounded at the battle of Vera Cruz, and honorably discharged from further service.
Returning home, he turned his attention to stock-raising, especially to cattle. In 1854, in company with R. K. Biggs, he purchased three hundred head of cattle which they drove across the plains to California. Locating in the northern part of Solano county, Mr. Biggs sold his interest and returned east. Mr. McCune retained his, and selecting a favorable site, he preempted a quarter section of government land, and it is a notable fact that he still owns it. Building a board house 16x16 feet, with the boards running up and down, and also a lean-to shed ten feet square, he was considered fortunate among his neighbors. From this rude dwelling he cared for his stock and made his start.
At that early day there were no trees from the creek to the hills. About 1862 Mr. McCune began to fence his land and to raise grain. The nearest postoffice (sic) was at Vacaville, and frequently when going for his mail he was asked how things were out in the “desert,” as it was then called. This so-called desert proved in time to be a valuable section. In 1868 Mr. McCune planted a grove of gum, walnut and elm trees, and to-day he probably has the largest gum tree in the whole state, showing the strength and fertility of the soil to grow or produce. Some time later, Mr. McCune erected a residence, which was destroyed by fire in 1880. He prospered in all his business ventures, investing his money in real estate. He not only purchased land in Solano, but also in other counties, and he has made and maintained an excellent record as a stockman and cattle raiser, keeping both thoroughbred Hereford and Durham cattle on his ranches. He also raises hogs and sheep extensively, having generally about twenty-five hundred head of the latter. His cattle are also numbered by the hundred, and at one time he and J. S. Garnett brought fifteen hundred head of fine cattle to Solano county.
Mr. McCune is one of the largest land-owners on (sic) the county, owning twelve hundred acres in one body devoted to grain; twenty-five hundred acres in another place, part of it being in the foot-hills, utilized as both a grain and stock farm; seventeen hundred acres known as the Big ranch, devoted to grain; the Bank ranch of four hundred and seventy-five acres, also a grain farm; the McMillan ranch of three hundred and twenty acres, devoted to the same; and, in addition, he is associated with other capitalists in various tracts of land in other sections of the state. Although some attention has been given to raising fine fruits, the greatest part of Mr. McCune’s fortune has been made from stock and grain pursuits.
The marriage of Mr. McCune, February 1, 1849, in Ralls county, Mo., united him with Miss Barbara S. Rice a native of Kentucky, who shared his trials as well as his success. She was an exemplary wife and mother, rearing a large family of children, and was blessed with a large circle of grandchildren. Their children and grandchildren are enumerated as follows: Mary M., wife of J. A. Hill, who has three children, Irene, Edna and J. Silver; Ruth A., wife of P. R. Garnett who has three children, Inez, Reba and Hugh; Rebecca E., wife of H. C. Silver, who has two children, Ruth and Rose; Jessie L., wife of C. A. Rice, who has one child, Sadie; Sarah E., wife of Dr. M. Gardner; Joseph H., a farmer by occupation, who married Miss Lizzie Baker, a daughter of William Baker, and they had two children, Barbara and Willie; Elizabeth R. and Rose B. McCune are deceased Mrs. McCune died, and by a second marriage, to Sallie Baker, daughter of Dr. Samuel Baker, two children have been born, Josie and Ermel. A number of years ago, Mr. McCune purchased the Hockham residence in Dixon and still occupies this place as a residence, which he improved and beautified in many ways. About 1892 his wife planted two palms near the entrance to the grounds and they are now thirty-five feet high and three feet diameter.
The political career of Mr. McCune began about 1873, when he came before the public as a candidate for joint senator of Solano and Yolo counties, and although a Democrat, he was elected on the People’s ticket and served two terms of two years each. He has always been interested in the cause of education and his services in this direction have ever been given freely and gratuitously and he has frequently spent large sums in perfecting some of his plans in this line. For thirty years he was a trustee of California College, for more than twenty years was president of the board of education, and since its organization he has been president of Dixon College.
Mr. McCune is a generous contributor to religious causes. In early manhood he united with the Baptist Church, and for over forty years has served as deacon, being also active in Sunday-school work. Upon first locating in Solano county there was no Baptist Church, and the first services were held in the school house at Vacaville in 1856 and later in the Vacaville high school building. Early in the ‘60s a church was built at Silveyville, Mr. McCune being largely instrumental in securing it erection. In 1870 this church was sold and afterward moved to Dixon, it now being the residence of Mr. Van Sant. Subsequently the present fine edifice was built in Dixon. In fraternal circles, Mr. McCune is a member of the Masonic order, a member of Silveyville Lodge No. 201, F. & A. M., Dixon Chapter No. 42, R. A. M., Sacramento Commandery No. 2, K. T., and both he and his wife were members of the Eastern Star during the existence of that order in the community. Few men have attained individual success for so long a period in one community and the splendid record of Mr. McCune is worthy of emulation by the rising generations.
Transcribed By: Cecelia M. Setty.
Source: "History of the State of California and Biographical Record of the Sacramento Valley, Cal.," J. M. Guinn, Pages 381-382. The Chapman Publishing Company, Chicago, 1906.
© 2017 Cecelia M. Setty.