Biography of Henry Sterling Pankey

Henry Sterling Pankey a farmer of the Los Bolsa tract in Orange County, was born in Tippah County, Mississippi, in 1852, and reared principally in Tennessee.

His parents, Henry and Zilpah (Daniels) Pankey, were natives of South Carolina The father died when his son Henry was only a year old, and the mother married Marion Clark four years later. Being ill-treated by his stepfather, Henry left him to live with William Burns, of Texas. Six months’ schooling was all that Mr. Pankey ever received.

During the war he suffered many privations and undertook many disagreeable risks. He had to go twelve miles to mill, sitting upon his sack of corn to keep the soldiers from taking it. In March, 1869, he started across the plains for California with an ox team and a drove of cattle, and had to do a great part of the traveling at night. He carried water in pint bottles. From Fort Yuma onward he had but 50 cents in money upon which to travel. At Azusa he worked six months in payment for a horse, and subsequently worked for a man named Marion Taylor.

At this point it may be interesting to relate what was probably the most remarkable incident in Mr. Pankey’s life. He drove an ox team across the plains for his stepfather, who had so abused him. The last time he saw his mother was at Pachee Pass. She and her husband went to San Diego County and remained there five months, and he went afterward to Downey, where he died. Henry’s mother, now the second time a widow, had four children and was in destitute circumstances. She advertised for her son, who had left them on the plains, not knowing, of course, that he was at Azusa, and he did not know where she was. July 4 he went to a celebration at Downey, and happened to notice a saddle and a horse which he recognized as belonging to Clark. This he raced up, and by it found where his mother was, and was able thus to save her from the destitute circumstances into which she had been thrown.

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Mr. Pankey worked by the day, and by so doing earned sufficient to pay for a small piece of land near Downey, and in 1871 came to Orange County. After residing one year at Orange, he kept cattle for a year in Laguna Canon, and from there he went to Trabuca Canon, where he was the first settler and where he entered the business of bee-keeping. Afterward he followed farming two years at Newport, and then kept bees again at Temescal some two years, when he moved back to Newport and followed agriculture there three years. Then he came to New Hope district and bought twenty acres of land; but this be sold a year afterward and bought eighty acres on the Los Bolsa tract, where he now lives. Out of a barren waste he has made a fine farm, and where the wild cactus once stood roses now bloom. His beautiful residence is a monument of his enterprise. In his business as a general farmer he is very successful, having built himself up from the lowest financial round of the ladder to his present enviable position. Socially he is a member of the I. O. O. F., and of the Reorganized Church of the Latter-day Saints.

In 1872 he married Nancy E. Damron, a native of Kaufman County, Texas.

He was a resident of California, and his children are: Jeff. Vernon, who was killed at thirteen years of age; Maggie Lee, Dora Jennie, Zilpah Pearl, John Henry and Edgar.



The Lewis Publishing Company. An Illustrated History of Southern California embracing the counties of San Diego San Bernardino Los Angeles and Orange and the peninsula of lower California. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. 1890.

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