Being a Respository of the Historical Cemeteries of Humboldt County, California

Monday, March 14, 2011

Petrolia Pioneer Cemetery: Wright, Lucian Merritt, Sr. & Lucy Ann Farnsworth

Lucian Merritt, Sr. & Lucy Ann Farnsworth

Lucian Merritt Wright, Sr. was born near Montreal, Quebec (1) in 1813 of Massachusetts-born parents (2). At 22 he left his home in Canada and immigrated to Belvidere, Boone County, Illinois and in the spring of 1836 he went north to settle in Walworth County, Wisconsin, where, according to a history written in 1912, he "owned land north of Duck Lake and he built a kiln and made lime of the best quality(3)." According to the county's website, Walworth County was first settled in 1835, the first families coming "principally from New York state (4)." Lucian married a young woman from New York state "soon after" going to Walworth County, according to his obituary. His wife, Lucy Ann Farnsworth, was born 5 October 1822 in New York (5), the eldest child of Zacheus and Salome Lyon Farnsworth. The earliest record of the Farnsworth family in Walworth County is Zacheus' enumeration in the 1842 Wisconsin State Census (6). Three points of data tell of the Farnsworth's pioneer trek: the birth of daughter Julia in New York in 1836; the family's enumeration on the 1840 census in McHenry County, Illinois (where daughter Adelia was born); and the 1842 Wisconsin State Census which establishes them, as well as Lucian Wright, at Geneva in Walworth County.

How soon after arriving in Wisconsin Lucian married is debatable. Did Lucy marry and leave her family as a 14 year old girl, somehow having formed an attachment with Lucian at some earlier time? Or are we to look at the records rather than Lucian's obituary and surmise that the "soon after" remembered many years later was the relative time of a few years? At any rate, Lucian and Lucy Ann's first child, Marshall, was born 1 June 1844 in Walworth County (see previous blog entry). Their daughter Mary Henrietta was born 28 January 1849, also in Walworth County. Sometime during that year, according to the 1930 memoir of his daughter Rosina Wright Johnson, Lucian conferred "with his wife's uncle Mr. Hiram Lyon" and went west to California (7). Rosina states that he returned later the same year but according to his obituary he stayed "for three years, when fortune favored him, and he returned to Wisconsin for his family." This seems to be the more likely story. Lucy Ann appears as the solitary head of her household on the 1850 census with her two young children. Not to worry, however: the very next households enumerated were those of her siblings and widowed mother (8)!

Lucian, again according to Rosina's memoir "arrived safely home [and] he again engaged in farming and burning of lime from limestone quarried on his farm." Rosina M. was the next child born to Lucian and Lucy Ann in 1852. In 1855 a second son, Lucian Merritt, Jr. was born and in 1857 daughter Lucy Salome was born. In 1859 it was decided the family would immigrate to California and on 8 April of that year the left via wagon train on the overland route. Rosina lists the members of their party in her memoir:
"Lucian Wright, his wife Lucy Ann Wright, son Marshall, past 13, Mary, 10, Rosa, 7, Lucian Jr. nearly 5, Lucy S., 2. And Marcus Baldwin, his wife Esther L. one daughter Ella, nearly 5, a son Richard about 2, and Edward, 8 months. Asa Butler and wife Rosina, the three women being sisters...George Reynolds and wife Susan who were friends, near neighbors and newlyweds and thus took a long wedding journey. Frederick M. Farnsworth, a brother of the three sisters. Mrs. Leman, a widow and sister of Mr. Butler, and Roswell Burt, a widower from Geneva."
Lucian and Lucy Ann's daughter Susan Geneva was born "under the covering of a tent Sept. 5. in Honey Lake Valley in Lassen Co." Family lore states that she was named Susan after the settlement of Susanville, but it should not be forgotten that the family travelled with a good friend named Susan (Mrs. Reynolds). Hiram Lyon met the party on the eastern side of the Coast Range with mules to pack and ride over into Humboldt County. Everyone, including the women and children, rode mule-back and Susan Reynolds "very kindly carried the new baby, little Susan, nearly all the time they were on horseback, thus relieving the mother who was not very strong." The group arrived at Hiram Lyon's place at Cuddeback in October.

The Wrights wintered over at Cuddeback and then preceded to their destination of the Mattole Valley, arriving there on 8 February 1860. On the first of June in that year the family was enumerated on the census at Mattole Township, Lucian being listed as a farmer. Rosina remembered: "There was a school taught by Charley Gillett which the older children attended...there were about twenty families in the valley at the time besides quite a number of bachelor's homes...Mr. Wright soon planted apple trees at the home and some of the trees are still bearing fruit in 1930, and many have eaten of the apples from the Wright orchard. The present generation knows nothing of the privations of the pioneer settlers in the Mattole valley, when Centerville was the nearest post office 20 miles distant, mail being sent by any person coming into the valley."
Lucian Wright's farm was North of present-day Petrolia and the North Fork of the Mattole River, on what is known as the Table. Petrolia Table Cemetery, the new area burial ground is not far from the lands inhabited by the Wright family. On 30 July 1867 Lucian and Lucy's last child was born near Petrolia, a daughter, Lestina May.
Lucian Merritt Wright, Sr. died at Petrolia on 24 December 1886. Lucy Ann and Lestina were enumerated, probably at the family home, on the 1900 and 1910 censuses. Lucy Ann Farnsworth Wright died 3 October 1913 at Petrolia. After her parents died, the home became known as "Tiny's place" as Lestina inherited it and lived there for a long while afterward.

Lucian Merritt and Lucy Ann Farnsworth Wright were true pioneers, not just as early settlers on the wild Lost Coast, but as pioneers to earlier places at earlier times. They are buried in the Petrolia Pioneer Cemetery in a plot with their daughter Lestina, who died on 7 August 1931(9).

The children of Lucian Merritt Wright, Sr. and Lucy Ann Farnsworth Wright:

  1. Marshall Wright* born 1 June 1844, Walworth County, Wisconsin (Married Martha Ann Rudolph*).
  2. Mary Henrietta Wright born 22 January 1849, Walworth County, Wisconsin (Married her second cousin, Elisha Lathrop Whipple). The Whipples lived in Mendocino County.
  3. Rosina M. "Rosy" Wright* born 1852, Wisconsin (Married Darlington Jeffries Johnson*).
  4. Lucian Merritt Wright, Jr.* born 1854, Wisconsin (Married Alice May Smith).
  5. Lucy Salome Wright* born 1857, Wisconsin (Married Elias Sanders Hunter*).
  6. Susan Geneva "Susie" Wright born 5 September 1859, Honey Lake Valley, Lassen County, California (Married Henry Odell Duff).
  7. Lestina May "Tina or Tiny" Wright* born 30 July 1867, Petrolia, Humboldt, California.
*Buried at Petrolia Pioneer Cemetery.
  1. Ferndale Enterprise 24 December 1886 "At Rest"

  2. 1880 United States Federal Census (3 & 4 June) Petrolia Precinct, Humboldt, California

  3. Beckwith, Albert Clayton: "History of Walworth County, Wisconsin" 1912, B.F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana

  4. "About Walworth County" page on Walworth County, Wisconsin's website, accessed 10 March 2011,

  5. Ferndale Enterprise 7 October 1913 "Pioneer Lady of Petrolia Dead"

  6. 1842 Wisconsin State Census (Geneva, Walworth County)

  7. The Journal of Rosina M. Wright Johnson, 1930 (Courtesy Mattole Valley Historical Society)1850 United States Federal Census (27 September) Geneva, Walworth, Wisconsin

  8. Ferndale Enterprise 14 August 1931 "Miss L. Wright Called By Death."
Photographs from the collection of the Mattole Valley Historical Society.


  1. By the way, is there any way i can subscribe to your blog to get notifications whenever you post on here?

  2. Hi Julia! (I thought i posted this a minute ago, but forgot to do the Google-account thing.) Great job on this blog... i think we should put a link to your blog in the guest book people sign when they walk into the cemetery. I've called Patty Mendes to alert her to this site.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Laura! I added the subscription gadget; let me know how it works!