September 13, 2005 > The Dusterberry Family
The Dusterberry Family
Henry Dusterberry was born in 1847 and immigrated to the United States and worked in Wisconsin as a farm hand and teamster. He started across the plains in April 1852 and arrived in California in September where he worked in the mines. In the fall of 1854, Dusterberry came to Washington Township and worked for Ed Niehaus and company.
He was employed at a variety of jobs until July of 1863 when he purchased 81 acres on Central Avenue and began farming. He married Ellen Faley that September. They bought the old Ben Marston home, built an addition and raised their family of five on the farm. Their children were Mary, Henry, Frank, Frederick, and Elizabeth. Ellen died in 1894 at the untimely age of 58. Mary also died quite young.
Henry was elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 1878 and re-elected for successive terms until he had served for 14 years. He was a member of both the Argonaut Club and Pioneer Club of Washington Township. He lived to age 88 and was reported to be the last surviving member of the Washington Township Pioneer Society.
The Dusterberry children went to Centerville Elementary School, Washington Union High School, and attended Holy Ghost Catholic Church. They all lived near Central Avenue and were very active in Centerville and Washington Township community affairs.
Frank was a prominent leader in civic and fraternal organizations and his influence reached far beyond Centerville. His successful business career began when he joined Frank Harvey to form the Harvey and Dusterberry mercantile business in 1890. This was one of Centerville's leading business concerns. Dusterberry was the local agent for the Wells-Fargo Company office for several years.
Frank held the position of Centerville Postmaster from 1893 to 1898. The post office was apparently in the Harvey and Dusterberry store. He helped organize the Bank of Centerville in 1905 and served as vice president. This bank became the First National Bank of Centerville in 1920, with Frank as manager, and the Bank of America in 1931, which Frank also managed. He retired in 1938 but remained as Chairman of the Advisory Board. His testimonial retirement dinner was attended by 300 people.
As president of the Centerville Chamber of Commerce for 15 years, Frank continued to work even when there was no group. He was a leader in the move to build the Dumbarton Bridge, served as a Red Cross volunteer, school trustee, and Water District director. He helped establish the Washington Township Health Center and the Southern Alameda County Welfare board and was also a treasurer of the Washington Parlour of the Native Sons and a deputy supreme representative for the Knights of Pythias Lodge. He was a guest of honor at a District Convention in San Francisco in 1936.
Frank married Margaret Crothers in 1915, and they lived at 324 Central Avenue. She was very active in community affairs, and both are listed in Volume One of "Who's Who in California". Their children were Frank and John. Both boys were in the service in 1944 when their father Frank T. Dusterberry died.
Henry Junior was the farmer of the family. He cared for the large orchard holdings that once numbered 100 acres on Central Avenue. His widow continued to live on Central Avenue after his death.
Frederick conducted a plumbing shop. He installed and repaired the plumbing in many buildings in the area. He advertised "Sanitary Plumbing, Well Being, Pumps, and Windmills." He was also a high school trustee for many years.
Elizabeth, the youngest child of Henry and Ellen, lived her entire life in the family home on Central Avenue. She was born in 1874 and remained on the ranch to care for her dad after her mother died. She was nicknamed "Bess" and when interviewed at age 86, was still spry and witty. She lived in the house until her death. She was remembered as a faithful attendant at the daily mass services at Holy Spirit Church.
Henry Dusterberry deeded land for Holy Spirit Church "in consideration for the sum of $10 in gold coin to Archbishop P. W. Riordon of San Francisco" in 1889.
Jo Marion bought the Dusterberry house in 1974 after Elizabeth died and set about to restore it. She raised it off the ground to install a foundation; a truck driven by a drunk driver ploughed through the house wrecking pipes, chimneys, and plaster. She had the damage repaired and resumed the restoration but the problems continued. Vandals attacked the house in 1974 and ruined walls, carpet, and fireplaces.
The Dusterberry house survives as a living memorial to an important pioneer family. We appreciate the efforts of all those who have laboured to help preserve this historic home.