Henry I. Willey (1882-86)

Photo of Henry I. Willey

Henry Ide Willey is a unique figure in that he was the first Surveyor General actually born in the State he later served. Son of the noted educator Dr. Samuel H. Willey, founder of the college of California and the first President of the University of California, Henry Willey was born July 2, 1850 in Monterey and is believed to be one of the first American children born in California.

It is not unlikely that Willey received tutoring at home during his early years, as few school existed in California during the period of the 1850's. Although little is known of Willey's life until the age of 25, he apparently received higher education in Mexico, where he both studied and was employed in the civil engineering field.

Between 1880-1883, Willey resided in San Diego County and worked as a civil engineer, although it is not known where he was employed.

In 1882, Willey was elected Surveyor General of the State of California. He was re-elected to that office in 1884.

Willey's term of office may be characterized primarily as a caretaker administration. While no particular scandal or rumor of improper conduct occurred in the press during the years of Willey's administration, one is struck with the feeling in reading Willey's Reports that he was out of his depth in attempting to cope with his elective responsibilities. In vivid contrast to the reported accomplishments of such Surveyors General as Marlette, Houghton, and Minis, Willey exhibits no particular feeling for the office and little understanding of the ramifications of his numerous tasks.

Following his term of office, Willey left Sacramento for San Francisco, where he advertised and was employed as a consulting civil engineer. In 1893, however, Willey was appointed a Deputy Bank Commissioner by the Board of Bank Commissioners with jurisdiction over the property and assets of the People's Home Savings Bank. It is interesting to note he continued advertising as a consulting engineer until 1897. At that time, Willey apparently moved to the East for his obituary noted that prior to his return to California in 1913, he had been headquartered in New York.

Willey died on October 11, 1913, in Berkeley, California. He was survived by his son, and surprisingly, by his Father as well.

Bi-Annual Reports

Informational Exhibit

Surveyors General

The following include a short biography, photo of, and the annual reports from each Surveyor General, documenting some of the activities and observations of the Surveyors General, and record the early geographical development of the new state.