Essay on William Bowers Bourn II

Essay on William Bowers Bourn II

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William Bowers Bourn II was born on May 31, 1857 in San Francisco, California. His father, William Bowers Bourn I was a successful Massachusetts merchant who brought his wife, Sarah Esther Bourn, west to San Francisco in search of wealth. It was not long after their arrival in 1850 until he established himself in the financial world of San Francisco. His investments included a commercial banking business, mining stock and the San Francisco Gas Company. William developed a special interest in mining, and took full control and ownership of the Empire Mine in Grass Valley, California. In 1874, William suffered a tragic accident with a pistol, shooting himself in the stomach to his death. His legacy and empire was left to his son, William II, for a future of greatness.
Following her husband’s death, Sarah took control of the family’s business and sent William II to Cambridge to further his education. It was around this time that mining business began to falter, and mining engineers were reporting that the famous Empire Mine in Grass Valley no longer had a future. When William returned from Cambridge, he refused to accept this idea, knowing that the Empire Mine had been one of the richest deep mines in California. In 1884, he persisted to examine the mine with the latest mining technology and found the Empire Mine’s richest vein yet. His prosperity continued, as he followed his father’s footsteps by investing in the First National Bank of Grass Valley.
In 1888, tragedy hit the Bourn family once again, as Sarah Bourn’s country home in St. Helena had burned to the ground. Even through all of the family’s priceless possessions were ruined, the Bourn’s moved forward and rebuilt the estate larger than before. William gave attention ...


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...ney to the planning of the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1914 and 1915. During World War I, he was president of an organization called Friends of France, and organized the American League of California with professor Charles Mills Gayley to assist allies in Europe. France had awarded Bourn with the L' Ordre National de la Legion d'honneur for his war efforts.

Towards the end of his career, Bourn commissioned Willis Polk to build his estate, Filoli, in Woodside, California. Construction finished in 1917, but unfortunately Bourn suffered a stroke at his Empire Cottage in 1922. He would be confined to a wheelchair until his death. The Empire Mine was sold to Newmont Mining Company in 1929, and the City of San Francisco bought the Spring Valley Water Company in 1930. William Bowers Bourn II died at his Filoli estate on July 5, 1936.


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