The Valley of Heart's Delight



BIO- Pen Pictures

Hon. W. Z. ANGNEY, deceased.  There is no career so brilliant but that an additional brightness attaches to it from the charm of honesty, and the possession and retention of this jewel, by a man in public life, assures him a lasting place in the esteem of his fellow-men.  Brilliancy, stability, and honesty, all these and more, were the possession of the late distinguished man whose name heads this sketch.  He was a native of Pennsylvania, born at Carlisle, the county seat of Cumberland County, on the third of October, 1818.  He commenced his education in the grammar department of the High School in his native borough , and at the age of seventeen years commenced attendance at Dickinson College, at which institution he graduated with high rank, four years later.  For his life vocation he chose the profession of the law, and commenced his legal studies under Mr. Alexander, of Carlisle, and was associated with that gentleman for two years.  Recognizing the fact that the place for a young man to obtain a foot-hold in professional life was in the new West, rather than in the over-crowded east, Mr. Angney removed to Missouri and located at Jefferson City, the State capital, where he was soon afterward admitted to the Bar.  At the breaking out of the Mexican War, he offered his services in behalf of his country, and received a Lieutenant’s commission.  He soon rose to the rank of Captain, and in the campaign commanded a brigade of regular troops.  Some time after the close of the war, Mr. Angney was elected as one of the delegates from New Mexico, to urge upon the general government of Washington the importance of , and necessity for, a civil government for the territory of New Mexico..  At the end of one year, his mission being completed, he returned to New Mexico.  In 1851, however, he set out for California, at the head of a large party, and was the first man to drive sheep over that route.


For some months he traveled throughout California, then returned to his native State.  He determined, however, to make the Golden State his future home, and for that purpose returned to the Pacific Coast, via Panama, and in 1853 took up his residence in San Francisco.  He resumed his profession, and in a short time built up a large practice, but having conscientious scruples about the practice of  law in San Francisco in those days, he decided to retire from it.  In pursuance of this purpose he purchased a herd of sheep, and, coming to Santa Clara County, established himself upon the fine ranch west of Gilroy, now known as the Scott and Hersey place.  Though he had given up his chosen profession in obedience to the dictates of his conscience, he was too good a citizen to refrain from taking his part in the public affairs of the community , and in 1867 he was put forward and chosen by the electors of his legislative district to a seat in the General Assembly of the State.  In the session of 1867-68 he was Chairman of the important standing Committee on Ways and Means, and of the special Committee on the Adoption of a Uniform System of Fees for all the counties of the State.  He was also a member of the standing Committee on Education.


In July , 1870, he was appointed by Governor Haight as a member of the State Board of Equalization, a position of honor and great importance  While a member of that Board, he was requested by Governor Haight to undertake the work of the revision of the code, or that portion of it embraced in the Revenue Law.  In a matter of such importance but few men, however great their capabilities, are competent to take charge.  Captain Angney, with his clear head and studious habits, was proposed as the one man best fitted for the work.  In compliance with the Governor’s request he undertook the work assisted by Mr. Maslin , the Clerk of the Board.  It required great labor and intense mental application , but he had the satisfaction to see that his revision was, for the most part, accepted by the code revisers.  That satisfaction was, however, the only compensation he ever received, as he asked for and received no pay for his labors.  The meed of credit should have been given, but this was scarcely done, and his name is known, in this connection, only by the few immediately identified with the work.  He did not care, however; when a duty was done, a good accomplished, the reward of conscience satisfied him. In 1875 he was again called by the electors of his district to perform public duty, and was chosen by them to a seat in the State Senate.  In this body he was chosen Chairman of the Committee on Finance.  He was also a Chairman of the Committee on Public Lands, and member of those on Agriculture, Fisheries, and Public Morals.  He served through the first session with great distinction, and in his appearance at the opening of the session of 1877-78, it was noticed that his health was fast failing.  When the Senate adjourned for the Christmas holidays, he went to his home, never again to leave it in life.  His death occurred on the twenty-eighth of January, 1878.  Great sorrow was felt on account of his death, not only at his home and in his family, but throughout the State, and among his public associates.  Many of the leading newspapers of the State said that the Senate had lost its most profound scholar, and not one notice failed to speak of the proud heritage of an honest and noble name he had left of his widow.  The committee appointed by the Senate to attend the funeral in an official capacity consisted of Senators  Murphy, Montgomery, Flint, Fowler, and Evans.  It was universally acknowledge that the State had lost one of its ablest and most conscientious statesmen.  Captain Angney was indeed a noble man, whose chief aim it was through life to do good.


His widow, the companion who stood by him through life, and helped him in all the tedious details of his public labors, deserves in this connection much more than a passing mention.  Mrs. Angney’s maiden name was Lydia Frances Witham.  She was born at Denmark, Oxford County, Maine.  Her father, Eli Witham, was a native of Maine and one of the old families of that State, his ancestors having been residents there at the time of the Revolutionary War.  They were of English origin, and the seat of the family on the eastern coast of England, bears the name of Witham, and is situated on the bank of a river of the same name.   Eli Witham was reared in Maine, and married at Durham, New Hampshire, to Miss Hannah Fernald, who was a native of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which had been the family home from the time of their settlement in America..  Her Grandfather Frenald was a native of England, and he was the founder of the family in this country.  He located in Portsmouth, and engaged in commercial life.  His death, which occurred at Boston, was the result of an accident, he having been killed by the firing of a gun which was intended as a salute to a ship belonging to him, which was coming into the harbor.  His son, Gilbert Fernald, the grandfather of Mrs. Angney, was a learned man, and profound writer.  Mrs. Angney has a volume of poems, his production, which bespeak the talent and culture of the author.  Eli Witham, father of Mrs. Angney, was a farmer , who cleared up a farm amid the heavy timber land of Maine, and there lived until his death, and the farm remained in the family name until the fall of 1887.


Mrs. Angney received the advantages of such educational facilities as the schools of the neighborhood afforded during her early youth, and at the age of fifteen years she was graduated, then engaged in teaching for a time, after which she attended the Coney Female Academy at Augusta, Maine, where she completed her school education.  Her health not being able to withstand the rigors of the Maine climate, she came to California in the fall of 1858, with friends from home, and, while residing at San Francisco, was married, in 1864, to Captain Angney.  She has been a constant contributor to the press, and besides has written a number of excellent poems, some of which have been printed many times, and widely read, but many of the gems of her pen have never yet been offered to the public.  When quite young, in Maine, she commenced writing for the press, and her earliest contributions were given to the Scholars; Leaf, a children’s publication, and afterward to various papers in New England.  She has been a contributor to the papers of New York City and San Francisco, besides the Santa Clara County papers, and still occasionally writes for the papers of her native State.  Her charitable work has been somewhat independent of societies, thought she always responded to every call on her benevolence for the advancement of amelioration of the conditions of the human race.  The following beautiful poem, written by Mrs. Angney, was published in the San Francisco Examiner soon after the death of her husband-


Suggested by Reading the Poem, The “Parting Hour”


By the beat of my troubled heart,

By the anguish that fills my breasts,

By the burning tears which start,

By the nights that bring no rest,

I can read the poet well;

His meaning is well-defined:

The one who goes is happier

Than those he leaves behind.”


If they go but to come again

After a few short years,

“Tis no the ones that are going

That shed the bitterest tears;

New life, new scenes are before them,

New objects to cheer the mind;

But the thoughts of the absent are ever

With those that are left behind.


But when the dark doors are opened,

The doors of the dismal tomb;

When the last good-by is spoken,

And the loved one gone too soon,-------

“Gone from all care and trouble”

Is the only solace we find;

But God, I know, will remember

The sorrowful ones behind.


SOURCE:  Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888. - page 313-315 - Transcribed by Carolyn Feroben


SANTA CLARA COUNTY - The Valley of Heart's Delight