Faxon Atherton

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Faxon Dean Atherton
BornJanuary 29, 1815[1]
DiedJuly 18, 1877(1877-07-18) (aged 62)

Faxon Dean Atherton (1815–1877) was an American businessman and landowner, and was a prominent citizen of San Mateo County, California.[2] He is the namesake of Atherton, California.

Early life[edit]

A native of Massachusetts, Atherton was born of an established New England family, with roots in the colonial period of the United States. He was educated in his native state and went into the shipping and merchant business at the age of 15. He was charged with the operation of vessels plying between Boston - Valparaíso, Chile and Monterey, California, gaining him wide and varied experience.

In 1834, Atherton traveled to Valparaíso, Chile where he would later establish a ship chandler's store, trading in tallow, hides, and merchandise.[3] Nine years later, in 1843, Atherton wed Dominiga de Goñi in Valparaíso.


Atherton first visited San Francisco, California in 1836, when the city was in its infancy. His friend and business associate, Thomas Larkin urged Atherton to move to California. Larkin wrote, "... [T]here is education available for your children and a dignity of living on landed estates down the San Francisco peninsula (that is) convenient and accessible ... [Y]ou and I were of that country. Our eyes were turned towards it in admiration and in my part in gratitude. My children were from there. They and yours will soon be." During the California gold rush, Atherton amassed a great fortune with his shipping business and the import and export of goods.

In 1860, Atherton bought 640 acres (2.6 km2) at ten dollars an acre of land on the San Francisco peninsula in what was then known as Fair Oaks, becoming one of the first residents of the area. He built his home, Valparaíso Park, approximately where the Circus Club, a private country club, is now located.

Atherton was a land speculator purchasing tracts in Hayward, Watsonville, and other places. Atherton purchased Rancho Milpitas in the area of Fort Hunter Liggett from Ygnacio Pastor immediately upon its title clearance by the US Land Claims commission in 1875.

During the conversion of land, records under the Land Commission were changed and Ygnacio's small ranch grew from several thousand acres to 42,000 acres (170 km2). Owners of plots dating back to the Hispanic period, including Indians, Mexicans, and Spaniards, on land not originally owned by Pastor became squatters overnight. Atherton then sent notice to evict them. Many were settlers on improved lands awaiting pre-emption, including George Dutton and others who had believed they owned property in the town of Jolon.


Atherton's greatest legacy was his family name given to the town of Atherton, previously known as "Fair Oaks". On the town's incorporation in 1923, it was found that the name was already in use, so Atherton was chosen.[4] As early as 1912, it was already being referred to by that name.[3] Some of his children's names appear on West Atherton street signs: Isabella, Alejandra and Elena.

Faxon Dean Atherton married Dominga de Goñi (from Valparaíso, Chile) in 1843. They had seven children:

  1. Maria Alejandra Atherton (b. 1844), married Jared Lawrence Rathbone.
  2. Elena Amanda Atherton (b. 1845), married Frederick William Macondray, Jr of Boston, Massachusetts, son of one of the first merchants of San Francisco and large land owner.
  3. Anacleto Francisco Atherton (b. 1849)
  4. Jorge H. Bowen Atherton (1851-1887), eloped with Gertrude Franklin Horn in 1876.
  5. Eulogia Isabel Atherton (b. 1853), married Enrique Edwards, of Valparaíso, Chile. Their great-grandson, Dr. Carlos Lopez, became president of Menlo College in 2004.
  6. Francisco Fascon Atherton (b. 1857), married Jane Selby, daughter of Thomas Henry Selby, 13th mayor of San Francisco, California, who built the Selby Shot Tower in San Francisco and founded the Selby Smelting Works.
  7. Florence Atherton (b. 1861), married Edward Lilburn Eyre, first mayor of Atherton in 1886. [NOTE: She has sometimes been confused with Florence Atherton Faxon Spalding, a Boston music teacher, who married, also in 1886, George Frederick Spalding of Newton, Massachusetts, father of John Varnum Spalding, an associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (1944–1971).]


  1. ^ Date of birth confirmation at JSTOR
  2. ^ Stanger, pg. 112
  3. ^ a b Hynding, p. 115
  4. ^ Bush & Merrill, pg. 7


  • Stanger, Frank M. "South from San Francisco", 1963, Publisher San Mateo County Historical Association.
  • Bush, Sarah L. & Merrill, Genevieve. "Atherton Lands", 1979 (Self published.)
  • Hynding, Alan. "From Frontier to Suburb: The Story of The San Mateo Peninsula", 1985, ISBN 0-89863-056-8
  • Alexander, Philip W., "History of San Mateo County : from the earliest times, with a description of its resources and advantages, and the biographies of its representative men.", 1916, Burlingame, California: Press of Burlingame Pub. Co.

External links[edit]