April 30, 1831 – December 2,1904
Jonathan Esry was born in Clark County, Illinois, April 30, 1831. He was the seventh child born to Jesse and Hannah (Foster). While nine years old the family moved to Missouri where he completed his education. At the age of 19, in 1852, he along with two of his brothers, Justin and James, using ox teams, crossed the plains to California along with Daniel Rhoads and Daniel’s wife Amanda who is Jonathan’s sister.
The trip took 108 days from St. Joseph, Missouri to the Sacramento Valley. James returned east after a year. They engaged in mining in El Dorado County, but only managed to make good wages. For a time they kept a miner’s supply store which they sold in 1856 and moved to Santa Clara County.
In 1857 Jonathan came to Tulare County and settled near the Kings river, being one of the first settlers here. He preempted1 land along the line of the railroad, a mile and a half northwest of the present site of Lemoore, for which he was later compelled to pay the railroad company a good price. Eventually he sold this property and in 1878 he bought four hundred acres three miles from Lemoore and by later purchases he increased his holdings in this vicinity to nine hundred acres. He sold off tract after tract until he had only one hundred and sixty acres, a fine ranch two miles and a half northwest of Lemoore, twenty acres in vineyard, most of the remainder in alfalfa. Here he established a dairy business, which his widow conducted after his death. He was an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and for several years was a trustee and deacon of the church at Lemoore.
On April 3rd of 1871 Jonathan married Sarah Ann Winsett, a native of Missouri, in Tulare county. Sarah was the widow of Thomas Esrey, Jonathan’s brother who died in the Civil War in 1862. She came to California from Missouri in 1870 with her four children; Jesse, Elizabeth, Nancy, and John. Sarah’s parents, Robert and Nancy (Schooler) Winsett, who were natives of Tennessee, came seven years later and lived in central California until they passed away. She made her home in the vicinity of Lemoore until her marriage. Jonathan and Sarah raised their four children; George Nicholas, Sarah Lumire (Kate), who married Lyman Follett, Robert Jonathan and Justin Earnest. Sarah died February 9, 1922.
Sarah’s son, Jesse was married to Sarah Kieffer who was a great granddaughter of Daniel and Amanda Rhoads.
- Preemption was a term used in the nineteenth century to refer to a settler’s right to purchase public land at a federally set minimum price; it was a right of first refusal.