John George Frey’s mother didn’t quite make it to the hospital. He was born in 1937 in a birthing house in Santa Rosa. His mother, Emma Frey, was a woman of the old school. She gave birth, stayed in the house a week to recover, and went on with her life.
“No hospital back then for her,” says her granddaughter, Julie Davis, who has spent much of her adult life as a nurse at Warrack and Sutter hospitals.
In the 1930s, the Freys had a ranch on Frey Road named after the family. There is also a Frey Canyon named after the family near Kenwood. The ranch was originally owned by Julie’s grandparents, Emma and John Godfrey Frey. They put in a prune orchard and also went around the county baling hay with a high-powered hay press. Grandma worked on the cook wagon.
Julie says her father John George grew up on the ranch and raised sheep for the Santa Rosa Future Farmers. He met his future wife Joan Sartori at Dunbar School near Glen Ellen. When he took over the ranch, he raised melon, corn and later pumpkins for the farmers’ market.
Julie, who was born in 1960, remembers going to the farmers’ market with her parents and “everyone knew each other...it was like a big extended family.”
Julie picked prunes but when the prune business died, her father put in a walnut orchard and a small vineyard of Chardonnay grapes. He also raised Angus cattle that his kids showed at three local fairs. For many years, John sold produce at the ranch on the honor system but in recent times he had to “bolt the box down to the table.”
Growing up on the ranch “was full of hard work but had its re- wards, too,” Julie says. “What other kid had 55 acres to play on? We made forts in the mustard field, offices out of prune boxes and had a rope swing in the hay barn. My life was spent on the ranch picking prunes and losing prune fights to my brother Donald.”
Donald is an FFA teacher, sister Linda works for a local eye doctor and John Jr. is a local pharmacist. These country children all excelled in 4-H programs.
In 1981, Julie married Rodger Davis, “a city boy now turned country,” and graduated from the nursing program at Santa Rosa Junior College. She worked 20 years at Warrack Hospital and then joined Sutter Hospital.
She and her husband have two children: Sarah, a dental hygienist, and Ashley, a respiratory therapist. They were born at Sutter Hospital and excelled in many 4-H activities. Both married “great guys” and live in Sonoma County. Life comes full circle with the family’s fourth generation Sonoma County baby due this year.
The family gathers each year on the old Frey ranch, where they celebrate an annual luau at a spot called “Camp Cow A Dunga,” because it is literally in the cow pasture. It’s a “down-on-the-farm kind of time,” Julie says.