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Florence Lander Porter

MRS. FLORENCE LANDER PORTER.—A highly-esteemed early resident of Turlock who has not only seen the town grow to a city, hut with her lamented husband, also one of the long-honored citizens here, helped in the building, is Florence Lander Porter, who first came to California in the late '60s. She was born near Cassville, Grant County, Wis., on March 23, 1841, the daughter of Isaac Chrisman Lander, a native of Kentucky, who was reared there, and who later removed to Grant County., Wis., where he followed the trade of wheelwright. In those early days he also spent several seasons in the pineries of Wisconsin, assisting in logging and lumbering. Her mother. before her marriage. was Thurza Ann Ray, a native of Kentucky who came, in her girlhood, with her father, Capt. Richard Ray, to Galena, Ill., the town so historic through its association with General Grant, and later removed to Cassville, Grant County, Wis. He served in the Black Hawk Indian War as captain of a company. Mrs. Porter was the fourth eldest child, and was reared and educated in Wisconsin, attending the public schools in Grant County, and the Mazomanie schools in Dane County.

After their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Lander moved on to a farm at Cassville, but in 1850, Mr. Lander joined the rushing tide across the plains in ox-teams to the Pacific Coast, first going to Oregon, where Mr. Lander followed the industry of catching salmon. In 1856, Mr. Lander returned East to his family on the Wisconsin farm, and then they moved to another farm at Mazomanie, near Madison, where they continued until 1872, when he migrated with his wife and son to California and located at Turlock. He bought a farm of eighty acres in the western part of the district, and Lander Avenue, named for him, is the cast line of what was once his ranch. There he resided until his death, at the age of eighty-one, in 1880. Sometime after his death, his children sold the eighty acres, and it was afterwards laid out into lots, and is now entirely built up. Ten of their children grew to maturity. Eliza, Mrs. McCapes, died in Fresno; Minerva, Mrs. Ransom, died in Albert Lea, Minn.; Henry died in Sonoma County, Calif., he had come to California in 1861; Florence L. is the subject of this review. Richard, who came here in January, 1870, was an early settler of Turlock. He served in Company D, Thirty-third Wisconsin Regulars in the Civil War, and died in Healdsburg. Isaac also had the honor of serving in the Civil War as a soldier in the Second Wisconsin Regiment, and died in Iowa. Lavina, Mrs. Harvey, passed away in North Dakota; Clarke died in Turlock; Alice, Mrs. Mann, died in Minnesota, while Charles still resides in Oakland.

Stephen V. Porter was born in Mammacating,. Sullivan County, N. Y., the son of John Porter, who brought the family to Dane County, Wis., where he was a successful dairy farmer. He had received a good training in the local schools in Wisconsin, and when he became a farmer, he operated in the most intelligent manner and enjoyed proportionate success.

Mr. and Mrs. Porter were married on February 28, 1867, and the following year they came out to California, by way of Panama, on the old Constitution from New York to Aspinwall, and then journeying to San Francisco on the Henry Chancery, came to Turlock, where they leased 600 acres of John Mitchell's farm and went in for the raising of grain. They went through many hardships, when for many seasons there was a total loss of crops. Before the railroad was built to Turlock, the Turlock post office was in Mr. and Mrs. Porter's farm house, one mile north of what is now Main and Lander streets; her brother, Clarke Lander, was the first postmaster in the Turlock post office kept there in their house, and Mr. Porter was assistant postmaster, and carried the mail from Paradise to their house ; and when the town started, the post office was brought into the town, and Clarke Lander was postmaster until he died in 1876 then Mrs. Porter's father, Isaac C. Lander, was appointed postmaster, and held that office until he died in 1883, when his son Charles succeeded him. The first religious services ever held in what is now Turlock was held in Mrs. Porter's home by a Baptist missionary, and the place became a civic and religious center in those pioneer days. In 1871 the Porters moved to near the present site of Newman, where they farmed for nearly three rears; but having raised only one good crop in that time, they returned to Turlock.

Mr. Porter finally entered the employ of the Southern Pacific Railway as an engineer, and held that position from 1876 until M2, or over thirty-six years at various places on the road, and then he resigned on account of his health and retired on a pension. In the meantime, at Turlock. they had bought two acres of land at the corner of West Plain and Lander streets, and there they built two houses. Mr. and Mrs. Porter gave the site for the First Methodist Episcopal Church at that same corner, and a church was built at a cost of about $6,000; but the congregation was small and the debt too large for them to pay, so the church building and the lot were sold to the Swedish Mission congregation. This gift by Mr. and Mrs. Porter must not be under estimated, because the lot in question is today one of the most valuable business sites in town.

After Mr. Porter resigned, he lived retired until he died on September 29, 1912, the father of four children. Bertha is deceased ; Winifred has become Mrs. D. H. Goodrich of Berkeley, and the mother of four children—Clifford Stephen, Helen Martha, Dorothy May and Ervin Porter ; Grace and Hattie are also dead. He was a member of the Ancient Order of United Woodmen, and was a strong Republican. He had been a veteran of the Civil War, and had served in Company A of the Eleventh Wisconsin Infantry for four years lacking four days; he was the color bearer and then the adjutant of his company, and his faithful service as a patriot in the cause of his country extended from August 8. 1861, to August 4. 1865, participating in the battles of Vicksburg, Champion Hills, Raymond, Black River Bridge, Jackson, Miss., Pt. Gibson and others, all under General Grant. When the color bearer of the regiment was shot down, Stephen Porter picked up the Stars and Stripes and leaped to the head of his regiment and carried them through the thick flying bullets and planted the flag on the parapet of the fort they were besieging. He was an optimistic man and one who always had a cheery and friendly word for all those with whom he came in contact. He had a fondness and love for children and they in turn appreciated his thoughtfulness and showed a marked devotion to him, He was an honored number of the G. A. R.

Since Mr. Porter's death, Mrs. Porter has made her home in Turlock looking after her varied and important interests. She is a member of the Woman's Relief Corps and was a charter member of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Turlock, with which she has been associated since 1859, having joined that communion when she was eighteen years old. On March 23, 1921, the Ladies' Aid of the Methodist Church in Turlock gave Mrs. Porter a birthday party on her eightieth birthday, attended by sixty ladies, and she was presented with a beautiful electric lamp. An interesting feature was the poem written in her honor entitled "Eighty Years Young."

Source:  History of Stanislaus 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  by George H. Tinkham, Historic Record Company, Los Angeles California   1921.

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