February 22, 1845 – January 11, 1919 — July 12, 1846 – August 28, 1929
Henry Washington Byron, the son of Peter Byron, who emigrated from England to Pennsylvania and married Mary Hesketh in that state. Peter and Mary moved to Ohio where their six children were born. Henry was born on February 22, 1845, and given the middle name of Washington because of that. In 1852 Peter and Mary settled in Peoria, Illinois. Henry was seven years old.
In 1859 he left Peoria for California. He walked to the New York Harbor where his sailed as a cabin boy to the Isthmus of Panama. He crossed the Isthmus by mule and then sailed to San Francisco arriving in 1860 and then to El Dorado County where he mined for 14 months with a limited success. Following the lure of gold-seekers he sailed to Australia, where he mined until 1864, making and losing and making money again.
On February 22, 1864, Henry married Rosina Gallard in Sydney, Australia. Rosina was born at Castle Hills, New South Wales in July of 1846. At the age of 18 she went to a little town near Sydney to visit her sister and while there she met Henry. He was preparing to book passage to California, and return to his Illinois home. They married on the 22nd of February 1864.
Henry and Rosina left in March of 1864 from Sydney on the sailing vessel “T. W. House” for San Francisco by way of Auckland, New Zealand. At Auckland the ship was re-christened “Sir George Grey” under the British flag. During the trip “frightful” storms were encountered, and at times it was not expected that the vessel could withstand the battering of the heavy seas. The passengers and crew joined in singing hymns to fill the moments when they felt the ship might go down After 59 days at sea the ship docked at Megs’ Wharf on July 9, 1864. Staying in San Francisco for only nine days they booked passage on a boat up the Sacramento River to Antioch. From there they walked the seven miles to the coal mines near Summersville in Contra Costa county to be with her sister Emma, and her husband Frank Edwards.
After five years in late August, 1869, the family left Summerville by team to find land in Tulare county. The travelers included Henry, Rosina, Lincoln, aged 3, and Olive, 5 months, along with nephew John Edwards, 7. After passing through Firebaugh in Fresno county they crossed the Kings River at Kingston. They met a man along the nine day journey who wanted them to buy his land ‘”way out” by Tulare lake.
After having lunch in Kingston they were on the road and reached a point where a decision needed to be made. Henry asked Rosina if they should continue on to Visalia or go down to the Mussel Slough country. Rosina replied “I think we had take Mr. Lowrey’s advice and go there. You know all the people along the way have advised us not to go to Visalia unless we want these dear children to die of Malaria.”1
After traveling ten miles they came to the farm of John Kurtz. The Kurtz’s gave them a warm welcome and let them stay on their farm while they looked for a piece of land of their own. The next day John Kurtz took Henry to see a piece of land that a Mr. Pearce had. After getting the land the first thing that needed to be done was build a camp and dig a well. Local Indians were hired and after three days they moved from the Kutz’s place.
After traveling ten miles they came to the farm of John Kurtz. The Kurtz’s gave them a warm welcome and let them stay on their farm while they looked for a piece of land of their own. The next day John Kurtz took Henry to see a piece of land that a Mr. Pearce had. It was section thirty-four in Township eighteen South of Range twenty-East in the district of lands subject to sale at Visalia, California, containing one hundred and sixty acres. After getting the land the first thing that needed to be done was build a camp and dig a well. Local members of the Yokut tribe were hired and after three days they moved from the Kutz’s place.
In the 1870 the settlers found a need for irrigation on the the dry land. Daniel Rhoads and others already had some irrigation as early as 1862 through a series of natural waterways. Henry and 25 others filed a “claim for water” in October 1870, and the Lower Kings River Ditch Company was formed. The ditch was dug by hand with rudimentary tools. By 1890 Henry was president, a director, and the superintendent.
In 1871 a son Mark was born to the Byron’s. He died “of thrush” four months later. The state had stopped burials at the Lake School property, and Mark was buried on the Byron farm. Others began to be buried there and the approximately 8 acre site became the Lemoore District Cemetery.
Henry died on January 11, 1919. Rosina died on August 28, 1929. Both are interred in the Lemoore Cemetery
Several of Henry’s brothers served in the military. His brother James served during the Mexican War as an artilleryman and lost left arm in an engagement by a premature discharge. His brother Philander served during the Civil War and was a prisoner at Andersonville in Georgia. His brother William was also in the Civil War and was a prisoner at Libby Prison in Virginia. Both lost their lives.
- From various publications of a journal by Rosina. [↩]