With the earlier events that shaped the history of Kern County the name of this California pioneer of ’49 was intimately associated and the title of Judge, by which he was long and familiarly known, came to him through an efficient service of more than thirty years as justice of the peace at Kernville. For the difficult tasks incident to the development of a frontier community he was well qualified by the inheritance of rugged traits of mind and sturdy endurance of body from a long line of American ancestors who were pioneer upbuilders. Whether his task was that leading occupation of earlier days, mining, or the equally arduous experiences incident to hauling freight between Los Angeles and Kernville; whether presiding over the justice court with keen discrimination and impartial judgment or with far-seeing discernment concerning future conditions planting and developing the first commercial orchard in the Kernville region, into each responsibility he threw his energies with the whole-souled devotion and enthusiastic interest that made him a leader among pioneers.
The genealogy of the Sumner family shows a close association with the colonial history of New England, where they became residents about the middle of the seventeenth century. The family history shows that William, the only son of Roger and Joan (Franklin) Sumner (the former a husbandman of Bicester, Oxford. England), was born in that English shire in 1605 and some time after his marriage to Mary West he brought his family to America, settling at Dorchester, Mass., where for many years he was a member of the general court and a prominent citizen. The next generation was represented by William, Jr., likewise a native of Bicester, England, and who married Elizabeth, daughter of Augustine Clement, of Dorchester, England. Throughout much of his life he followed the sea, but eventually he retired to Boston and there his death occurred in February, 1675. Clement, son of William. Jr., was born in Boston September 6, 1671, and married Margaret Harris, by whom he was the father of a son, Samuel Sumner, born in Boston August 31, 1709, and married at Charlestown, Mass., to Abigail, daughter of Samuel Frothingham, of that place. The death of Samuel Sumner occurred January 26, 1784. In the next generation was Ebenezer Sumner, born in Boston in March of 1742, married to Elizabeth Tappan and deceased at Newburyport, Mass., December 27, 1823. Hon. Joseph Sumner, son of Ebenezer, was born at Newburyport, Mass., May 26, 1783, became a merchant at Lubec, Me., served as a member of the Maine state legislature and died September 21, 1861. By his marriage to Sarah Wiggin, a lineal descendant of Governor Wiggin, of Massachusetts, there was born at Newburyport, Mass., January 3, 1819, a son, Joseph Warren Sumner, who in early manhood, after having completed an academic education, engaged in merchandising in Lubec, Me., and also operated a line of fishing boats from that isolated Atlantic port. The discovery of gold in California furnished the incentive for his emigration from the bleak coast of eastern Maine to the then unknown shores of the Pacific. A voyage via Panama brought him to San Francisco, from which city he proceeded to the mines of the Sierras. From that time he never entirely relinquished his identification with mining and his interests in that work took him as far away as British Columbia. During 1860 he became the owner of the Sumner mine at Kernville, where for many years he also owned and operated the Sumner mill, besides conducting a freighting business to Los Angeles. As early as 1869 he purchased the Sumner ranch across the north fork from Kernville and there he embarked in horticulture upon a scale larger than that attempted by previous experimenters in that occupation.
The marriage of Judge Sumner in Lubec, Me,. August 3, 1843, united him with Miss Mary E. Dakin, who was born at Digby, Nova Scotia, January 16, 1826. They were spared to a long married life of mutual service and helpfulness and in death were not long divided, his demise taking place at his Kernville home March 29, 1911, when he had reached the age of ninety-two, while the death of his wife followed in the same year on the 31st of May, rounding out eighty-five useful years. Their only son, Elisha Payson Sumner, had passed away at Saco, Me., November 23, 1871. The older daughter, Mary Josephine, of Los Angeles, was the wife of the late Rev. C. G. Belknap, a member of the Southern California conference of the Methodist Episcopal church. The youngest member of the family circle, Alice Maude, is the widow of Andrew Brown, formerly a prominent merchant and banker of Los Angeles. From the standpoint of citizenship Judge Sumner was progressive, in personal character he was just and yet generous and broad. For many years he served as a member of the school board and aided in the building of school houses and the establishment of school districts. Fraternally he was a Master Mason. Originally an old-line Whig in politics, on the founding of the Republican party he transferred his allegiance to its principles and also supported the abolitionist movement from its inception. It was his privilege to vote at eighteen presidential elections, dating back to the exciting campaign of William Henry Harrison, when even at the remote and isolated Maine home of the Sumner family the cry of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” was the most familiar slogan of the period, and extending through all the years up to and including the scarcely less exciting and interesting Roosevelt campaigns.
History of Kern County, California, with biographical sketches
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.
Publisher: Los Angeles, Cal., Historic record company, 1914