William Bowers Bourn II

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William Bowers Bourn II
William Bowers Bourn II
Bourn II (1917) during construction of Filoli
Born(1857-05-31)May 31, 1857
DiedJuly 5, 1936(1936-07-05) (aged 79)
Alma materSidney Sussex College, Cambridge
OccupationEnergy utilities entrepreneur
Known forSocialite, Entrepreneur
SpouseAgnes Moody (1881–1936, death)

William Bowers Bourn II (31 May 1857 – 5 July 1936) was an American entrepreneur and socialite. Bourn ran and controlled the Empire Mine and the San Francisco Gas Company, he was an investor in Spring Valley Water Company, and he led a merger to what later became Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Bourn II was the builder of many estates in California, including Filoli, the country estate in San Mateo County, California.


Bourn was born in San Francisco, California in 31 May 1857, the second child of mining entrepreneur William Bowers Bourn I and Sarah Esther Chase.[1][2] He was educated at Union College, St. Augustine’s College, an Episcopal missionary college in Benicia, and the University School in San Francisco.[1] While attending the University School in San Francisco, 17 year old Bourn lived full-time with his father and his 21 year old cousin Willis Ingalls visiting from the East Coast.[1] The two boys were trained to work alongside Bourn the elder and learned about business dealings and mining.[1] His father accidentally shot himself in the stomach in their San Francisco Nob Hill home and died on July 1874.[1] A few months later in 1875, he left for England and a classical education at Sidney Sussex College of Cambridge University.[1][3][4]

He returned to California in 1878 to help his mother manage the family business interests.[1] He reorganized the Empire Mine, significantly improving operations at the mine. He opened a bank in Grass Valley and became a director of the San Francisco Gas Company. By 1887 he had sold his mining interests. In 1888 he partnered with E. Everett Wise and other investors to build the mammoth Greystone Cellars in Napa Valley. Bourn bought Wise out, but sold it entirely in 1894 in the midst of the phylloxera scourge.

Bourn reacquired control of the Empire Mine in 1896.[5]: 34–35, 37–38 

In the 1890s he spearheaded the merger of electricity and gas companies in San Francisco, which would later become the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and in 1890 began significant investments in the Spring Valley Water Company, which would be bought by the city government of San Francisco in February 1929 and, with the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir expansion which Bourn had opposed, become its water supplier. Bourn was regularly pilloried by the San Francisco Chronicle as a thief and scoundrel for water rates, but Bourn replied that the company needed to earn a reasonable return on its investments and was also making provision for future population growth.

Personal life[edit]

Bourn was married in 1881 to Agnes Moody.[1] They had two children together, a son and a daughter. The first born was son William Bowers Bourn III, born in 1882 and he died one day later.[1] Their second born was daughter Maud born in 1883.[1] Bourn and his wife built their country estate Filoli in Woodside, California in 1915.[5]: 42–43  Bourn suffered a stroke in 1922, which kept him in a wheelchair.[5]: 60 

In 1929, his daughter Maud died from pneumonia in Manhattan, New York.[5]: 60  By 1929, he had sold the Empire to Newmont Mining Corporation.[5]: 61 

William Bowers Bourn II died at Filoli and was buried in the Bourn Family Cemetery with his wife and daughter on the property.[2]

Estates and properties[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j DeVere, Julia Bly (2017). Filoli: Family Home; Historic Garden; Living Museum. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 11–13. ISBN 9781784421557.
  2. ^ a b Egan, Ferol (2009). Last Bonanza Kings: The Bourns of San Francisco. University of Nevada Press. ISBN 9780874178494.
  3. ^ Garrison, Joanne. "William Bowers Bourn II, builder of Filoli". San Mateo Daily Journal. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  4. ^ https://cdn.calisphere.org/data/13030/hj/tf3n39n6hj/files/tf3n39n6hj.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  5. ^ a b c d e McQuiston, F.W., 1986, Gold: The Saga of the Empire Mine, 1850-1956, Grass Valley:Empire Mine Park Association, ISBN 9780931892073
  6. ^ a b c d Bevk, Alex (2013-01-29). "Mining Millionaires Collected Mega Mansions". Curbed SF. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  7. ^ a b "CHASE Cellars - The Napa Wine Project". Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  8. ^ Weinstein, Dave (2009-01-03). "Architect had designs on San Francisco". SFGate. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  9. ^ "Historic homes in Pacific Heights, S.F." SFGate. 2010-11-18. Retrieved 2020-05-04.

External links[edit]