The Josiah Stanfords (1882 – 1905)

Josiah Stanford HouseJosiah Stanford was the eldest of six brothers born near Albany, New York.  Five of them set out for California in 1849, determined to find their fortunes in the gold fields.  Arriving in Sacramento, Josiah, Dewitt, Charles, Thomas and Asa soon changed course and decided to earn their fortune selling supplies to the tides of miners flooding California.  They opened several stores, including one in Sacramento that advertised Stanford Brothers were “fine importers and wholesalers of groceries, provisions wines, liquors, cigars, produce, mining implements and miners supplies”.  The last Stanford brother, Leland stayed in New York and began a political career before a fire destroyed his legal office and he joined his brothers in 1852.  Within ten years, most of the brothers returned east.  Thomas and Dewitt went on to Australia and Josiah and Leland remained in California.

During the early history of California, oil and kerosene were imported from the East Coast.  This system was disrupted during the Civil War when supplies dwindled and prices were driven higher creating a short-lived California oil boom.  Josiah capitalized by developing a new method of extracting oil by tunneling rather than drilling.  The new technique was made possible only by the use of cheap manual labor.  Fortunately for Josiah, his friend Charles Crocker had imported thousands of Chinese immigrants to build the transcontinental railroad.  In 1866, Josiah’s company produced up to 20 barrels of oil per day through this tunneling method, which was then sent to Stanford Brothers own refinery in San Francisco.[6] Josiah Stanford became the first person to establish commercial production of petroleum in the state and a principal in one of California’s first major oil companies.

Stanford Winery Warm SpringsIn 1869, Josiah and Leland became partners again, this time in a winery venture in southern Alameda County.  Leland purchased 100 acres near Warm Springs (now Fremont) and his brother Josiah planted and managed the Stanford Winery.  The first champagne style wine in California was produced from this vineyard.  By the time Josiah inherited the property from Leland in 1893, the winery had grown to 275 acres producing 1,000 tons of grapes and 320,000 gallons of wine in cooperage.  The name was changed to Weibel Vineyards when that family purchased the winery in the 20th century.

Josiah Stanford and his second wife, Helen purchased the Camron-Stanford House in 1882 and the family divided their time between Warm Springs and the house for the next 23 years.  The Stanford’s only son, Josiah W. Stanford or Joe, was just 18 years old when the family moved into the house.  He was an ardent cyclist and is pictured with his friend Mark Requa and other members of a cycling club at The Highlands, the Requa’s family home in nearby Piedmont.  In February of 1890 the celebration of Joe’s marriage to Gertrude Gordon was a small family affair at the home of the bride’s parents owing to the illness of his father and in May of 1890 Josiah died at Camron-Stanford House and was buried at Mountain View Cemetery.  The family suffered another loss in September of the next year when Gertrude died unexpectedly.  Joe had been left the Warm Springs vineyards by his father and spent most of his time there after Gertrude’s death while his mother remained in Oakland.  In 1899, Josiah married again, this time to landscape artist Alice Herrick, the sister-in-law of his friend Mark Requa.  Helen sold the house to John Wright in 1903.

[6] “Pacific Petroleum Geologist Newsletter”, Michael P. Nelson, 2001