An honorable service during a long period of the Civil war and equally honorable record as private citizen, mark the life of Samuel Varner, a well known resident of Santa Rosa. Though for years a resident of the east, and also for a considerable period identified with the central west as a resident of Kansas, he has found no spot so nearly approaching the ideal as this part of the Sunset state, where kind nature smile upon the intelligent efforts of man and a picturesque environment pleases his artistic tastes. Since coming to Santa Rosa in 1875 he has witnessed the rapid growth of the locality and has enjoyed the benefits accruing therefrom, while at the same time he has won the esteem of friends and acquaintances.
In Monroe county, Ohio, Mr. Varner was born June 2, 1844, the descendant of German and scotch ancestors through his father and mother respectively. The events of his life were associated with his birthplace until he was fifteen years of age, when he went to New Martinsville, Wetzel county, W.Va., and he was living in the latter place at the time of the outbreak of the Civil war. Though only seventeen years of age he volunteered his services, becoming a member of the West Virginia Infantry, Company H, under Capt. James M. Bowers for about one year and then under Capt. Thomas Reed. In the engagement at Moorefield, Mr. Varner was taken prisoner September 11, 1863, and sent to Libby Prison, where he remained until March 15 of the following year, when he was paroled and during the time of his parole secured his transfer to Camp Chase, Ohio. After remaining in the latter prison for six months and four days he was exchanged and immediately ordered back to Shenandoah Valley, where he joined his regiment, going up the valley with General Hunter to Lynchburg, Va. Overpowered by the enemy, General Hunter retreated to Maryland, and thereafter he was superseded by Gen. Phil Sheridan, who returned to the valley with the troops. It was not until September 19, 1864, that they met the enemy in the battle of Winchester, and between that date and October 19, five hard-fought battles added another chapter to the history of the Civil war. During these engagements one hundred and four pieces of artillery were taken, besides eight thousand prisoners of war. Immediately after the battle of Cedar Creek the forces were ordered back to West Virginia to be mustered out. Mr. Varner was mustered out November 26, 1864, after a service of three years, two months and nine days. Only those who have experienced incarceration in southern prisons during the war can have any conception of the mortality among the prisoners. At the time Mr. Varner was transferred from Libby Prison to Belle Island eighteen men in all were taken, but between that time and their later transfer to Camp Chase, only two were left, Mr. Varner being one of them.
After the close of his service, Mr. Varner returned to Monroe county, Ohio, and settled down to the life of the agriculturist, following this business as long as he continued in that state, and also after his removal to Kansas, to which state he went in 1867. His removal from Kansas to California occurred in the year 1875, and marks the beginning of the happiest period of his life, for here he is surrounded by the beauties of nature and in a large measure is enabled to live retired from the arduous labors that marked his younger days.
Mr. Varnerís marriage in 1865 united him with Margaret Stoffal, a native of Pennsylvania and a descendant of German ancestors. Nine children were born of this marriage, but only seven are now living. Thaddeus A. married Josie Cole; Clara J. is the wife of John T. Coon; Samuel Sheridan chose as his wife Alma Young; Philip E. married Jennie Smith; Rosie M. holds a position as bookkeeper in a commercial house in San Francisco; Fred Garfield, a well-known resident of St. Helena, Napa county, is now mayor of the town (before her marriage his wife was Stella Swienger); Elsie Margaret is the wife of E. M. Ford and resides in San Francisco. Wherever Mr. Varner has chosen to make his home he has entered into the activities of the locality, and while in Kansas was assessor of his home town of Quenerno. Since coming to California his interest in promoting beneficial measures has led to his election to a number of public offices, among them being the office of road-master, which he filled acceptably for two terms; he also served as census marshal for Redwood township for the same length of time and his services as school trustee have been marked by the good work accomplished in advancing the cause of education and educational facilities throughout his district. Politically he casts his vote in favor of Republican candidates.
No one is better known in this part of California in Grand Army circles than Mr. Varner, who is now serving as Commander of Ellsworth Post No. 20, Department of California and Nevada. He was honored by his comrades by appointment as delegate to the national encampment which was held in Atlantic City, N. J., in September, 1910. Mr. and Mrs. Varner made an extended trip in order to get to this encampment. They were absent from home seventy-eight days and no fewer than twenty-three states were either visited or passed through by the Santa Rosans. On the itinerary was planned the return to the scene of their wedding in Monroe county, Ohio. This they did and celebrated their forty-fifth anniversary on the spot on which they were married, where they found only three persons who attended the nuptials. Mr. Varner attended a re-union of war veterans in Monroe and Belmont counties while in Ohio, at which there were seven thousand veterans of the battlefield. At this gathering Mr. Varner made a speech as a delegate from California. Another re-union attended by Mr. Varner was that of the veterans of the three states, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. Between ten and twelve thousand attended this gathering. Mr. Varner visited the celebrated spot in Columbia county where General John H. Morgan surrendered. A stone monument has been erected here and our subject had his picture taken standing alongside this historic pile. He prizes the photograph very much. After attendance at the celebrations of the Grand Encampment at Atlantic City, lasting over four days, the residents of Santa Rosa visited Shenandoah Valley and also the historic battle-grounds of Winchester and Cedar Creek, in which battles Mr. Varner had been a participant. From these places visited Mr. Varner cut canes and brought them back to California as souvenirs, as did also Mrs. Varner. One of the souvenirs which Mr. Varner brought back with him was a piece of shell which was ploughed up from the famous battlefield of Gettysburg. This was given him by a relative, but he prizes it as highly as anything he secured himself from the battlefields visited. A number of these souvenirs Mr. and Mrs. Varner intend to present to their comrades of Ellsworth Post of Santa Rosa, to be kept in the museum the post has established at its headquarters. Among Mrs. Varnerís souvenirs is an ear of corn from the battlefield of Winchester. With spirits as buoyant as any boy or girl and minds free from care and troubles of this life, Mr. and Mrs. Varner have returned to their home in Santa Rosa. They will spend the remainder of their active lives here and one of the pleasantest memories they have is that of the trip recently completed.
On February 14, 1911, another honor was conferred upon Mr. Varner when he was appointed aide-de-camp to the Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, J. E. Gilman.