Biography of Peter J. Wolfsen of Merced

A native son of California, born near Oleta, Amador County, on August 8, 1866, Peter J. Wolfsen is the eldest of nine children born to Henry C. and Amelia (Howell) Wolfsen, pioneers of that county. Henry C. Wolfsen was born in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, and came to California during the Gold Rush, via the Panama route. He engaged in work, first in the Southern Mines, later in the silver mines in Nevada, and also in sawmill work, finally devoting his whole energies to agriculture. In the fall of 1875, he moved to Merced County, and located on the old Crawford ranch, near what is now Planada; this property he leased, and operated for three years raising wheat with good success. He then moved to the Page ranch of 1280 acres, operated it for one season, and finally settled on the J. M. Montgomery ranch, embracing 4000 acres, on Bear Creek, and this property he purchased in 1880 and made it the family home for the remainder of his days. He was a well-known Odd Fellow, and an active man in school work, serving as a trustee of the Bear Creek district. Amelia (Howell) Wolfsen was a native of England, but came to the United States when a girl, with a party of friends, and crossed the plains with ox-teams from Missouri. She and Mr. Wolfsen were married in Amador County, and were among the permanent up-builders of the central part of the State. Mr. Wolfsen died January 30, 1901, aged sixty-five years, four months and eleven days; Mrs. Wolfsen passed away January 20, 1918.

Peter J., being the eldest of a large family, and the times uncommonly hard for the early ranchers, had opportunity for but little schooling, and was forced to go to work at an early age, learning the ranch business through contact with its practical side in close association with his parents. He remained at home until 1889, and then, following his marriage, he commenced ranching on his own account on one-half of his father’s home ranch. This he continued until 1894, when he moved to his present place six miles southeast of Merced. This property then comprised 1360 acres, and he was very successful as a grain and stock-raiser for many years; he later sold off some of his land, and today owns only 200 acres, highly improved to intensive ranching, and with modern residence and ranch buildings.

The marriage of Mr. Wolfsen, at Hornitos, April 8, 1891, united him with Miss Mary Arthur, born at Coulterville, California, the daughter of the late Robert and Belle (Steele) Arthur, both native of Ohio of Scotch extraction. They were also among the early settlers of Central California. Married in Ohio, they came west in 1865, via Panama, and that year settled in Coulterville, where Mr. Arthur ran a blacksmith shop. Three children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Wolfsen: Arthur, married Agnes Ball, of Nevada, and is the father of two children, Norman and Gertrude; Ruth, at home; and Chester, married Hazel Elliott, of San Francisco, and is the father of three children, Elliott, Harlan and Beverly Jean. Mrs. Wolfsen passed away on September 22, 1924, aged fifty-seven years. Mr. Wolfsen is highly esteemed in his community as a man of good principle, and one who has the real upbuilding of his district at heart. He is a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, of Merced.

Source: Outcalt, John. A history of Merced County, California : with a biographical review of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; Los Angeles, Calif. : Historic Record Company, 1925.

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