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The Families

The Bourns

William Bowers Bourn & Sarah Chase Bourn

William Bowers Bourn Sr., founder of the family's wealth and status in California, was born in Somerset, Massachusetts and moved from New York to San Francisco in 1850 to join his partner and father-in-law, Captain George Chase. Bourn Sr., a successful merchant, owned half interest in a cargo shipping business with Chase.

The Bourn Family, 1919The Bourn Family, 1919.

Shortly after his arrival in San Francisco, Bourn Sr. invested in other shipping businesses, mercantile trade, agriculture, the first gas light company and the Empire Mine—a hard rock gold mine in Grass Valley. He later bought control of the mine, that eventually became the chief source of the Bourn family's wealth. The mine continued in operation for 106 years, despite the decline in gold mining in California. Bourn Sr. was also interim president and director of the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. He was known in the financial district of San Francisco as having “Bourn luck.” By today's standards, William Bowers Bourn Sr. would be considered a very successful investment banker.

Bourn Family House on Taylor Street in San Francisco.Bourn Family House on Taylor Street in San Francisco.

The first Bourn family home in San Francisco was at Third and Brannan Streets (the house no longer exists) and their second home was at 1105 Taylor Street. After their last child was born in 1868, Bourn Sr. gave his wife, Sarah Chase Bourn, a house and vineyard in St. Helena, known as Madroño. Following the accidental death of son Frank in San Francisco in 1872, the family spent most of their time at Madroño.