“Dutch Bill” Howard was not Dutch, nor was his name William Howard. He was in fact, a Danish sailor named Christopher Thornassen Folkmann, born in 1823. Folkmann was serving as an able bodied seaman on the U.S. Ship St. Mary, which dropped anchor in San Francisco Bay in 1849. Unable to resist the lure of California’s recently discovered goldfields, Folkmann jumped ship, stole a small boat and headed north taking the name William Howard (the name of the captain he served under in the Navy). He then somehow acquired an unclaimed timbered plateau that was to become the site of Occidental.
In the early 1870’s, when the North Pacific Coast narrow-gauge railroad was proposed, Howard granted the railroad company a free right of way through his property. In return, he was granted a free, lifetime railroad pass (the train often stopped at his gate for him), and the railroad station was marked with a sign which read “Howard’s.”