Robert Sterling Obituary, as printed in
Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California, Lewis Publishing Co., 1891
Transcribed by: Betty Wilson August 2004
ROBERT H. STERLING, who has been prominently identified with the real-estate and insurance business of Napa County since 1866, has been a resident of California since 1849, and of Napa since 1852. He was born in New York City in 1829. His parents were David and Emma (Waterman) Sterling; his father, a native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was at that time a book publisher, doing business under the firm name of Sterling & Strong. His mother was a sister of Captain Robert Waterman, who came to this coast in 1850, in command of the steamship Northerner, one of the early Panama liners.
While Mr. Sterling was an infant his parents removed to Bridgeport, where he was brought up, receiving his education in the public schools of that city. At the early age of fourteen years he shipped before the mast in the ship Natchez, making the trip around the world in nine months and twenty-six days. He followed the sea until the breaking out of the excitement consequent upon the discovery of gold in California, when he came around the Horn as a passenger in the ship Tarolinta, arriving in San Francisco July 6, 1849. Among his fellow passengers by this vessel were William S. O’Brien, later of the firm of Flood & O’Brien, the well-known millionaires of the Pacific coast, Dr. J. C. Tucker, of Alameda, Daniel Norcross, of San Francisco, and others who have become more or less prominent in the history of the State.
Engaging in mining, he was soon taken sick and returned to San Francisco, where he shipped as first mate on the Tarolinta for a voyage to Shanghai. He returned to San Francisco in the following spring with health perfectly restored, and took charge of the storeships of the Pacific Mail Company, and also of the stores of Stevens & Bancroft, which position he held for a year, and then returned to the East, where he remained for another year.
Returning to California, he located in Napa County, and has resided there ever since, first engaging in the stock business, raising horses, cattle and sheep in partnership with Captain A. A. Ritchie, in that part of Napa County which has since been set off as Lake County.
In 1858, the death of Captain Ritchie requiring the sale of the stock to close up his estate, Mr. Sterling embarked in the lumber business in Napa City, in which he continued till 1866. He then engaged in the real-estate and insurance business in connection with the office of Assistant Assessor of Internal Revenue, which office he held until it was abolished in 1874. In 1881 he was appointed Deputy Collector of United States Revenue, serving until the change of administration in 1885, since which time he has devoted himself exclusively to his private business.
Mr. Sterling married in 1854 Miss Lydia J. Wheaton, of Guilford, Connecticut, daughter of Captain W. N. Wheaton. They have one daughter, Julia H., now the wife of Horace L. Hill, of San Francisco. He is a member of the Masonic order, Mount Lodge, No. 18, and of the Royal Arch Chapter, No. 30, both of Napa; a life member of the Society of California Pioneers, of San Francisco; and also of the Board of Supervisors of Napa County. Mr. and Mrs. Sterling are attendants of the Episcopal Church.
Always an earnest supporter of Republican ideas and of that political party, he was one of the first Board of Trustees of the Napa State Insane Asylum, of which the late Judge Chancellor Hartson, James H. Goodman, Dr. John F. Morse, of San Francisco, and John H. Jewett, of Marysville, were also members. This board had the control of the building of this institution from its inception, and under their supervision the buildings were nearly completed and partially occupied. Mr. Sterling and the majority of that board were reappointed for a second term, but soon afterward a change of political administration took place in the State, and the Republican board was legislated out of office.
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