Seneca Ewer was survived by three of his adult children — Fred S. and Ralph, both of St. Helena. His daughter Mildred lived in San Francisco as Mrs. Blanton with her husband.
Note: obituary stated his Will was contested by his widow, Mrs. Jessie Ewer.
"HON. SENECA EWER-While the life history of the men of '49 is always interesting and always instructive beyond that of any other body of men that ever lived, yet there are always a few the record of whose life and actions should be written more fully and read more generally, especially by the young, than any other. The man who has made his way laboriously upward from the narrow circumstances of youth to the affluence of mature life; who has achieved an education against the obstacles of lack of means and fortune, and who has climbed to a position high in the respect, esteem and honor of his fellow-men, the life of such a man should be written fully and without reserve, and be placed within the reach of the newer generation as an example of diligence. It is such a career that it is our pleasure here to record—that of the Hon. Seneca Ewer, who is one of the prominent men in Northern California.
Mr. Ewer was born near Auburn, western New York, in the year 1823, his father being an agriculturist of that section. When he was but nine years of age the family moved to Michigan, settling on the shores of the Huron River. Here young Ewer grew up a stout and sturdy lad, inured to the hard work of a farm in those early days, and spending as much of his leisure time during these years as he could upon the water, gaining a knowledge that stood him in good stead afterward. But he did not waste his time. He fitted himself to become a teacher in the district schools, and with the money earned in this manner paying his way first to a preparatory school and then to college, graduating in 1847 at the Michigan University. Remember that all this was done without aid from any one, saving only that a loving mother knit his socks and fitted him out with pants and vests. Like all the country school-teachers of that day, he boarded around from house to house, often having to walk as much as two miles to school. A most amusing incident of the time, but one that will illustrate the state of affairs that then existed, occurred to Mr. Ewer. While he was boarding at the house of an English family, one cold night they brought out a warming-pan to warm the schoolmaster's bed. It was the first thing of the kind he had ever seen and he was much interested in the novel instrument.
Determining to come to California in 1849 and test for himself the truth of the golden stories that were flying over the country, he set out for the long trip overland from Michigan. At Lexington, Missouri, a party of five, consisting of Mr. Ewer, Ben Manning, George Reeves and son and another set out together. Later on they united with the famous Michigan train that called themselves the Wolverines and came in by the Lassen route. On the road they fell in with Mr. Loring Pickering, of the San Francisco Call and Bulletin, and family, and finding the route difficult they joined teams and left a wagon behind. Bearing the headwaters of the Feather River; Mr. Ewer with Mr. Pickering and family packed over to the Feather River in the Sacramento Valley, leaving the team to follow as fast as it could. They had a pretty hard time of it, being short of provisions; but the lucky shooting of a deer by Mr. Ewer provided for them abundantly. They came out at Long's Bar, reaching there November 4, 1849. The wagon, reduced to a cart, came in soon after and Mr. Pickering began trading in a small way, while Mr. Ewer mined and knocked about generally. The hardships of the time may be imagined when the only bed that Mr. Ewer had for quite a time was a wagon-bed shared with others. The boat used for crossing the river was swept away during the high water with several men in it one of whom was drowned. To replace it one of the old-fashioned curved wagon beds was used for a ferry and Answered until a better one could be constructed. Meantime the soaking rains prevented the wagons from coming in with provisions and "grub" ran short. Mr. Ewer and four others were sent out on a perilous trip down the river by boat to Sacramento to obtain supplies. Mr. Ewer's boating experiences on the Huron River came into play, he acting as steersman. They got the provisions and after a terrible hard pull up the current, found to their disgust that, the rains being over, wagons had got in and there was a plentiful supply of everything.
The following summer Mr. Ewer was engaged in mining on the middle fork of the Feather River, twenty miles above Bidwell's Bar, and from the fall of 1851 to 1855 was in the general merchandise business at Hamilton, then the county-seat of Butte County, and in the fall of 1855 he went to Oroville and began the practice of law, at the same time devoting himself to the breeding of stock, cattle, sheep, etc., in Butte County, and rapidly attained a prominent-position.
In 1854 he was elected a member of the Assembly on the Democratic ticket, attending the session which met at Benicia, and removed the capital to Sacramento, and again in 1865 he was chosen to represent Butte County in the State Senate by the Republican party for the years 1866-'68. Previous to this he had in 1852 been Judge of the old Court of Sessions of Butte County. He was also a delegate to all political conventions, etc., of his own party during these years. Finally, in 1870, he came to Napa County and settled in St. Helena, since which time he has been one of the most active and public-spirited residents of the Napa Valley. It is chiefly to his energy that St. Helena owes her excellent water supply. He has been an active promoter of the wine-growing interests of the valley, and is the possessor of large vineyards. The splendid fire-proof, stone wine-cellar belonging to Ewer & Atkinson at Rutherford is a signal proof of his efforts in this direction. He was one of the organizers and the first president and is now a director of the Bank of St. Helena; and is a member of the board of directors of the Grangers' Bank of California in San Francisco, and of the Napa Bank at Napa City. He has one of the finest residences, surrounded with magnificent grounds, in St. Helena, where he is now enjoying the comforts that have been so well earned by his active and energetic life, and in which, regarded with the confidence and esteem of his fellow citizens, he can justly spend the remainder of his days, as becomes the man who by long and successful labors has carved out his fortune with his own hands.
Mr. Ewer was a Democrat previous to the war. being elected to the Assembly on that ticket. Since the war he has been a Republican, active, yet conservative.
His son, Fred S. Ewer, is following his father's footsteps and seems likely to take an equally prominent place in years to come. He is the secretary of the St. Helena Water and Gas Companies, and is active in the wine interests of his father, showing promise of becoming an expert wine-maker."
Source: Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California, Author: Lewis Publishing Co. (1891).
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