Solano County

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It is doubtful if in all Solano county there is a man who has a wider and better acquaintance throughout this favored region than has James Roney, an honored veteran of the Civil war, thrice mayor of Vallejo, former treasurer of Solano county, former sheriff of the county, formerly and for years one of Vallejo's best known merchants and who now is living comfortably retired in the city which has been his home for more than fifty-five years. When it is recalled that the whole of what may be regarded as the "modern" development of Vallejo has been brought about during the period thus comprehended it will be realized that Mr. Roney has been a witness to and a participant in the upbuilding of this city from the time it began to take "a new lease on life" and to forge ahead along the lines of modern development, and it is not too much to say that he has ever been an effectual and persistent promoter of all proper movements and measures looking to that end. For some time Mr. Roney also was connected with the operations of the Mare Island navy yard and there has been no more effective advocate of that government institution's growing interests than he. All connected with the institution will ever gratefully recall the yeoman service he rendered in that behalf at a time when his influence in high quarters was exerted in such fashion as to effect a change of sentiment in congress concerning this yard's activities that brought about official orders that practically rehabilitated the yard, with resultant local benefits of incalculable value. Through this influence the building of the battleship California was brought to the island, an operation involving the expenditure for work done there of no less than twenty millions of dollars, naturally a stimulus to all other forms of activity here, and proving of ultimate inestimable service to the community. The total amount of appropriations secured by these activities to date totals about sixty-three millions of dollars. From the time of his arrival here back in the late '60s Mr. Roney has ever been a helpful factor in local development work and his name ever will be written high on the records of this community.

James Roney is a native of the old Keystone state, born in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 20, 1847, and is one of a considerable family of children born to James and Isabella (Matthews) Roney, both of whom were of sturdy Scotch-Irish stock. The senior James Roney was a mechanic and as the wages of mechanics in those days left little margin after the needs of a growing family were cared for the Roney boys necessarily were required early to go to work as a means to eking out the slender family income. It was thus that when but a lad the junior James Roney found himself working in a chair factory, "caning" the chairs at a wage of one dollar and twenty-five cents a week. The Civil war came on while he was thus employed, he being in his fourteenth year in that memorable year of 1861. With boyish enthusiasm and with the spirit of an ardent patriot he yearned for the success of the Union arms and in 1863, when sixteen years of age, entered the army, going to the front as a member of Battery B of the Second Pennsylvania Artillery and with that command, a part of Grant's enveloping army closing in on the dying Confederacy, served until the close of the war, among the campaigns he thus participated in having been the memorable struggle in the Wilderness region south of the Rapidan in Virginia in May, 1864, followed by Spottsylvania.

Upon the completion of his military service following Lee's surrender in the spring of 1865 Mr. Roney returned home and became employed in a saw factory at a wage of four dollars a week, and he remained in the east until in the spring of 1869, when he came to California, arriving at San Francisco on April 22 of that year. He presently located at Vallejo and in the summer of the next year married and established his home there. For some time after his arrival at Vallejo Mr. Roney was engaged as a stevedore and in other labors about the wharf and then he took employment as a clerk in a grocery store. In 1872 he became employed in the operations of the Mare Island navy yard. Two years later, in May, 1874, he bought the San Francisco and Vallejo express line and was engaged in operating the same for several years, at the end of which time he disposed of that business to advantage and opened a grocery store at Vallejo and was thus engaged in business in that city when in 1884 he was elected to the office of sheriff of Solano county. He was reelected to that office in 1886 and thus served two terms. In 1890 he was elected county treasurer and tax collector and after spending a term in that office resumed his interest in the express line, which his elder son meanwhile had taken up. That was in 1892 and for five years, or until in 1897, father and son carried on this business. They then disposed of it and Mr. Roney again became engaged in the grocery business.

In 1904 Mr. Roney was elected mayor of Vallejo and in 1906 the republicans renominated him for that administrative office but the fortunes of political warfare were not favorable to the republicans in that year and he failed of reelection. In 1915 his party again nominated him for mayor and he was elected, the term of office meantime having been changed from two to four years and at the end of his four-year term he was renominated and reelected, thus serving eight years of continuous tenure in that executive office, which added to his two years of prior service gave him ten years of service as mayor of the city, a service that in many ways proved of large benefit to the developing interests of the community. In 1923 his party honored him by a third successive nomination but political favors went the other way in that year and since his retirement from the mayor's office he has been living quietly retired at his pleasant home at 601A Georgia street, where he is very comfortably situated. In 1898 Mr. Roney was appointed a member of the board of labor at Mare Island and he continued thus in service in that important behalf until in 1915, when he resigned, following his election to the mayoralty for the second time. For years Mr. Roney has been recognized as one of the leaders of the republican party in Solano county and throughout this district, and his counsels in the deliberations of that party are listened to with respect and consideration. He also is a veteran Freemason, a Knight Templar and Royal Arch Mason, a past worshipful master of the blue lodge, a past high priest of the chapter (Royal Arch) and past commander of the commandery (Knights Templar). He also for years has been a leader in the now fast diminishing ranks of the local veterans of the Civil war and is the present commander of Farragut Post No. 4 of the Grand Army of the Republic at Vallejo.

It was on July 31, 1870, the year following his arrival at Vallejo, that James Roney was united in marriage to Miss Anna Elizabeth Schillinberg, who also was born in Philadelphia, daughter of William Schillinberg, and who had come to California a short time previously. Mrs. Roney died at her home in Vallejo on February 26, 1925, in the seventy-seventh year of her age, and at her passing left a good memory here, for she had for many years been a gentle and helpful influence in promoting the better interests of the community whose development she had witnessed from the days of the pioneers. Mr. Roney has four children, two sons, William A. and George A. Roney, the latter of whom is court reporter in and for Solano county, and two daughters, Isabella, wife of J. H. Cooper of Vallejo, and Jessie, wife of J. E. Paulson, also of Vallejo. William A. Roney has long been engaged in public service and is now deputy collector of internal revenue for the Oakland district, making his home in Oakland. Mr. Roney also has four grandchildren, in all of whom he takes much pride and delight.

History of Solano County, California By Marguerite Hunt and Napa County, California By Harry Lawrence Gunn. From Their Earliest Settlement To The Present Time. Chicago. S.J. Clarke Pub. Co. 1926. 883 pages.

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This page was last updated 21 Oct 2007

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