Santa Clara County History

History of Santa Clara County


The Fruit Industry of the County--The Largest Prune Producing Section in the State--History of the Development--Introduction of the French Prune--The First Fruit Cannery--The Vineyards and Olive Orchards--When Artesian Water Was First Obtained--Farm Loan Board--California Prune and Apricot Growers, Inc.--Some Interesting Statistics.

Santa Clara County is the banner fruit-producing county of the state. In 1919 there were 98,152 acres planted in fruit trees and 2,850 acres in vines. The total acreage of cereals, vegetables and berries was 86,695. The live stock numbers 62,248; value $1,288,175. It is the prune center of America. More prunes are grown in this valley than are produced in the whole United States outside. In 1919 the number of prune trees was 7,652,000. Apricots came next with 665,000, peaches third with 482,000, and cherries fourth with 380,000 trees. In 1919 the orchardists of the county received about $49,000,000 from the products of their trees. This was irrespective of the money made by the canners and packers. The growers might not have obtained high prices had it not been for the efforts of the California Prune and Apricot Growers, Inc., an organization perfected three years ago for the purpose of creating stable prices and protecting the orchardists of California. In 1919 it operated with 75 per cent of the prune and apricot acreage of the state. In December of that year a campaign to hold, if not increase, its strength resulted in the securing of about 80 per cent of the acreage. The association occupies a large, handsome and commodious building on the southeast corner of Market and San Antonio Streets, employs a large force of men and women and does business every month in the year. The officers are: T. S. Montgomery, president; W. A. Yerxa, vice-president; H. G. Coykendall, general manager; H. C. Dunlap, secretary and treasurer, and J. T. Brooks, manager of Growers' Information Bureau. T. S. Montgomery, H. G. Coykendall, W. G. Alexander, H. C. Dunlap and A. Kammerer form the executive committee. The directors are W. A. Yerxa, Princeton; H. C. Dunlap, Yountville; Mark L. McDonald, Santa Rosa; G. C. Alexander, Healdsburg; T. S. Montgomery, San Jose; H. G. Coykendall, Cupertino; J. O. Hayes, San Jose; A. Kammerer, San Jose; Nathan Lester, Santa Clara; L. E. Mills, Santa Paula; C. G. Hamilton, Hemet, and W. J. Fulgham, Visalia. In 1921 a campaign resulted in giving the association control of over 80 per cent of the state acreage for the next seven years. All the officers were reelected.

As Santa Clara County is the largest fruit district in California, it follows as a matter of course that it is the largest canning and packing district in the state. There are (1922) thirty packing houses owned and operated by the California Prune and Apricot Growers, Inc., nine affiliated with that organization and eighteen independent packers, most of them operating in San Jose. There are forty canning factories in the county. One of these, the Co-operative plant, is the largest in the world. In 1921 it absorbed 30,000 tons of fruit and employed nearly 1,000 people. In the busy season of that year the combined county payroll reached over two million dollars. A number of new canneries and factories will be built this year, for the business is increasing by leaps and bounds. There are several dehydrating plants in the county to take care of grapes, strawberries, prunes and other fruits and berries.

Practically all varieties of fruits and vegetables except the tropical ones can be grown successfully in Santa Clara County. The proximity of the center of population and the excellent transportation facilities have been great aids in the development of the valley.

The history of the fruit industry in the county is an interesting one. The adaptability of the climate and soil for horticultural purposes became apparent long before the first Americans visited the valley. The Fathers who planted the Missions, planted orchards at the same time, and found a full return for all their labor. The fertility of the soil was supplemented by a peculiarity of climate that enabled trees to grow many more weeks in the year than in other countries, while during the season of rest there was no freezing weather to chill their sap or delay their progress in the spring. The result was that a very few seasons brought orchards to a condition of fruitfulness. All this was demonstrated by the experience of the Fathers at the Missions, but even with this experience before them, the early horticulturists of the valley were astonished by the results of their work.

The Mission orchard at Santa Clara was the only source of fruit supply to the valley for many years. It furnished stock for the few orchards that were planted in the early years of the American occupation. These plantings were few at first, owing to the gold excitement, but when people began to return from the mines the plantings became more numerous. The scarcity of fruit and consequent high prices gave a great stimulus to horticulture. Apples imported from San Francisco sold for a dollar apiece, and other fruits in proportion.

The first orchards planted after the American occupation, with the exception of a few private trees, were by E. W. Case, William Daniels and Joseph Aram. Case's orchard was about 350 trees and was on property fronting on the Alviso road. Aram's orchard was of twenty acres and was situated where the Woolen Mills were afterwards built. Daniels' orchard was about one acre and was in the northern part of town, on a tract lying between Julian and St. James, Market and First
streets. Part of the trees planted by these San Joseans were furnished by a man named Ganz and were brought from Ohio. This was in 1852. In the succeeding year Case and Aram imported more trees from the nursery of Charles Hovey, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

One of the popular fall eating apples of Central California is the Skinner seedling. It is a San Jose production and originated from seeds brought across the plains by the late judge Henry C. Skinner. He was one of the pioneer orchardists of the city and one of the promoters of the Santa Clara County Agricultural Society. He arrived in San Jose in 1850 and purchased the family residence of Harry Bee at the northwest corner of Julian and Nineteenth (then Fifteenth) streets. The grounds were spacious, extending to Coyote Creek, and were enlarged by the purchase of many acres in what is now East San Jose.

In the spring of 1852 Commodore Stockton, who then owned the Potrero de Santa Clara rancho, which lies between San Jose and Santa Clara, imported from Hovey's Massachusetts nursery a large number of trees for the purpose of starting a nursery. With these trees came a professional botanist named Sheldon, with B. S. Fox and Thomas Egan as assistants. Sheldon died on the Isthmus and Fox took charge of the enterprise, Egan assisting. With the party came also J. F. Kennedy as salesman and commercial agent. The nursery was established in April, 1853, and for some time was the depot for nursery supplies for the valley. The trees consisted of apples, peaches, pears, plums, nectarines and apricots. With this importation came also the first strawberries grown in the county. In 1854-55 a Frenchman named Lavalle imported fruit trees and planted them in both nursery and orchard form on the property lying north and west of Julian Street and owned by Peter O. Minor. He planted two acres and afterwards removed the trees to the west side of the Coyote on the property of the late Edward McLaughlin. In 1855-56 he had a very large collection of trees in his nursery, which he afterwards sold to H. H. Winchell, China Smith and William Smith, and they continued the nursery business for some years thereafter. L. A. Could and B. F. Walkins planted three orchards and nurseries at Santa Clara at about the same time. J. A. Ballou, who was at that time employed in the Case orchard, and who at ninety-five years of age is still living, says that from the 300 trees planted then, about 800 pounds, mostly apples, were produced.

During 1856 the State Horticultural Society held a fair in San Jose, and from the exhibition the reputation of Santa Clara County fruit spread and people came hundreds of miles to see it.

In 1853 a Horticultural Society was formed in San Jose. The meeting for the organization was held on the grounds of Louis Prevost under a giant live oak tree. There were present William Daniels, Louis Prevost, Louis Pellier, J. R. Bontemps, B. S. Fox and E. W. Case. Nearly all the old-time fruit growers became members. The names of Joseph Aram, R. G. Moody, Davis Divine, L. A. Gould and John Llewelling appear in the list. This pioneer society afterwards united with the Agricultural Society. Both societies ceased to exist many years ago.

In 1856 nearly all of these early orchards had commenced to bear, and the quality of the fruit and the promise of extraordinary production gave these pioneer orchardists an idea of the remarkable resources of climate and soil. This year stands out prominently as the date of the introduction of the French prune to this county, and in fact, to this coast. The fruit has become a standard and will always remain a favorite with orchardists. The history of its first importation is as follows: Louis Pellier, a vine and fruit grower of France, had come to California in the winter of 1848-49. After trying his fortune in the mines he journeyed to San Jose in 1850 and purchased a tract of land fronting on the west side of San Pedro near St. James Street. The tract was for years known as Pellier's Gardens. Here he planted a nursery and orchard and cultivated flowers and plants. His brother, Pierre, had come out a year before and was assisting him at his work. When Pierre arrived he brought with him the cuttings of some of the finest varieties of grapes, among them the Black Burgundy, Chasselas Fontainebleau and Madeleine. In 1854 Louis Pellier sent Pierre back to France with instructions to go through Burgundy and other parts of the country and secure the best varieties of fruit grown in each section. Pierre was assisted by his brother John, and two years were spent in gathering stock. When they returned to San Jose they had cuttings of the Petit prune, Gros prune and many varieties of cherries, pears and plums. The Petit prune at first was not very popular, but it was finally brought to the attention of John Rock, who recognized its value and soon popularized it.

B. S. Fox in 1853 established a nursery of his own on Milpitas road. He had with him Thomas Egan and the acreage was soon increased to 200 acres. Fox was not only a pioneer fruit grower, but a man of great scientific knowledge. A large orchard was developed from the nursery and to his enthusiasm Santa Clara County owes much of its early horticultural development. He died in 1881 and his landed property was left to his nephew, R. D. Fox, who conducted the nursery successfully for many years and then became connected with the California Nursery at Niles.

In 1854 came James R. Lowe. He was an Englishman by birth and a professional botanist. He had been engaged in some of the most prominent landscape garden operations of the English nobility and had come to the United States to superintend some work for New England nurserymen. He came to California at the request of Major S. J. Hensley, of San Jose. He laid out the famous Hensley grounds on North First Street, which up to the time they were subdivided into lots contained more rare plants than any similar area in the state. Mr. Lowe was in constant communication with the superintendent of the Duke of Devonshire's gardens, and hardly a mail was received at the San Jose postoffice that did not contain some rare plant, bulb or cuttings from the Duke's gardens.

J. Q. A. Ballou went into the fruit business on his own account in 1856. At that time he purchased the place on the Milpitas, afterwards occupied by him as a homestead, and in February, 1857, he planted about 500 trees, principally apples and pears. In 1858 he added 1500 more trees. In 1861 he procured from Louis Pellier grafts for fifty French prune trees. From these grafts he had his first crop of prunes in 1867. In 1868 he dried eleven tons of fruit for the Eastern market.

The plantings in the celebrated Willow Glen district were commenced as early as 1868, when W. C. Geiger set out a portion of his cherry orchard on what is now Willow Street. In 1862 C. T. Settle planted an orchard of appies and pears on what is now the northeast corner of Lincoln and Minnesota avenues. At that time this district was covered by a dense growth of willows and the lower portion was subject to overflow by the Guadalupe River. The only road was El Abra, since called Lincoln Avenue, and the main central portion of the district was owned by Settle, Cottle and Zarilla Valencia. Settle was soon followed by Royal and Ira Cottle, who also planted apples and pears. Soon afterwards Miles Hills and a Mr. Sampson purchased the Valencia tract and subdivided it into ten-acre lots. The first experiment was with strawberries. The venture was so profitable that it created great excitement and soon everybody in The Willows was planting strawberries. The industry flourished for some years and then came into competition with the strawberry growers on the lowlands near the bay. Here the artesian wells gave a great flow and The Willows people could not pump water and successfully compete with their lowland neighbors. They converted their berry patches into orchards.

One of the earliest orchards of the county was that of D. C. Vestal, on Twelfth Street near the Berryessa road. It was started in 1854 and was devoted mainly to apples and pears. It was on Vestal's place that the Moorpark apricot was first propagated for market. George Hobson, who had an orchard and nursery on the tracts afterwards occupied by L. F. Sanderson and now known as Luna Park, had two of these trees, but held them in little estimation on account of their irregularity in ripening. From these trees Vestal procured buds and worked them into a few trees on his place. When the fruit appeared he was so greatly pleased with its size and flavor that, in 1869, he planted three acres. His experiments attracted attention and the Moorpark came into universal favor. The Vestal tract is no longer an orchard. A few years ago it was subdivided into building lots and but few of the old trees remain.

As there were varieties of fruit which could not wholly be taken care of by the canners, a company was formed in July, 1874, to meet the situation. It was called the "Alden Fruit and Vegetable Preserving Company," and the projectors were W. H. Leeman. F. C. Leeman, C. T. Settle, Ira Cottle, Royal Cottle, Oliver Cottle, S. Newhall, W. W. Cozzens, R. C. Swan, K. D. Berre, A. D. Colton, Miles Hills, J. M. Battee, T. B. Keesling, M. Hale and Pedro de Saisset. They purchased an Alden evaporator and placed it at the corner of the San Salvator Street extension and Josefa Street. During the few years of its existence the company turned out some good fruit, but the machinery was not adapted for the work, so the company concluded to retire from business. W. W. Cozzens and G. A. and C. F. Fleming afterwards tried evaporating, with marked success. The business was discontinued about twenty years ago.

At this time The Willows was the principal orchard section of the county. The older orchards of Ballou, Tarleton, Aram, Vestal and others were north of San Jose and David Hobson had an orchard near Berryessa. The orchards of Gould and Walkins were at Santa Clara and there were others in other places, but The Willows section was nearly all planted to fruit and it came to be believed by many that this was the only section in the county where the fruit industry could be successfully conducted. There is a record of one man who owned a fine place in Berryessa, who bought a tract of ground in The Willows in order to have an orchard. That same Berryessa farm is now one of the most promising orchard places in the valley.

In 1856 Lyman Burrell planted fruit trees and vines in the mountains above Los Gatos. This was the first planting in the mountains. In 1873 an almond orchard, now absorbed by the town of Los Gatos, was planted, and in 1874 J. F. Kennedy, in the hills east of Los Gatos, planted a small orchard. In 1876 W. D. Pollard planted twenty acres two miles north of Saratoga and the next year the once famous O'Banion & Kent orchard was started. William Rice planted an orchard in the same neighborhood. These men were looked upon as fools. It was at first predicted that the trees would not grow in such dry, thin soil. When the trees did grow it was prophesied that they would never have vigor enough to bear a paying crop. At six years old they yielded about $500 per acre (a large amount of money for those times), and then came the prediction that they would die out in a few years. But as time passed and the trees did not die, the scoffers accepted the facts and began to plant for themselves.

The orchard interests of Berryessa are not of an early date. Following David Hobson, with his small orchard, came J. H. Flickinger and the real development of one of the richest fruit sections of the state really began. The story of the Berryessa development will be told in the chapter relating to the prosperous towns of the county.

In 1856 Sylvester Newhall built a nursery and planted an orchard in The Willows. In 1863 John Rock established a small nursery on land near Alviso. He soon moved to the Boots place and in 1865 purchased forty-eight acres on the Milpitas road near San Jose and planted a nursery of fruit and ornamental trees. In 1879 this place became too small for his operations, so he purchased 138 acres. The rapid strides of the California fruit interests made such demands on the Santa Clara County nurseries that in 1884, Rock, with R. D. Fox and several other nurserymen, organized the California Nursery Company and purchased 463 acres near Niles, which were planted in trees and garden stock. The nursery, enlarged and beautified, is still running, though John Rock has been dead for many years.

The San Tomas orchard, a mile southeast of Saratoga, was planted by T. W. Mitchell in the early '80s. In 1880 G. A. Gardner purchased the tract on the Los Gatos road on the northeast corner of what was afterwards called "Orchard Homes." Newhall's forty-acre prune orchard was planted in 1883, and about this time fruit tree planting was carried around Campbell's Station and along the Infirmary and Grewell roads. The Bradley prune orchard was planted in 1875. The large plantings north and west of Santa Clara, together with those of the Doyle, Cupertino and other districts, date from 1880. Following came plantings in and about Evergreen and along the Monterey road.

There are but few orchards in the immediate vicinity of Milpitas, but the hillsides to the east have been utilized by Portuguese gardeners for the planting of potatoes, peas, beans and other vegetables for the midwinter market.

It would hardly be possible to give the names of the owners and dates of planting of all the orchards in the county. Among the biographical sketches in this book will be found the experiences of very many of the county's leading fruit growers, and these sketches are intended to fill up the details of this general history.

To wander among the great orchards in summer, when every tree is bending beneath its weight of fruit-purple prunes, golden apricots and yellow peaches tinted with the crimson hues of wine--is to walk in a terrestrial paradise like Adam before the Fall. Eves there are in plenty, bright-eyed, ruddy-cheeked daughters of California, who will tempt you to eat your fill of the refreshing fruit, which you may do without fear, within reasonable limits.

As the orchards of the valley increased in number and bearing capacity, the fruit growers began to fear that perhaps the crops would be wasted for the reason that no one had yet attempted to preserve them for market. But the danger was averted by the enterprise of Dr. James M. Dawson, the pioneer fruit canner and packer of the valley. He put up the first canned fruit for market in 1871. From observation of the superior quality of fruit grown in the valley, he foresaw the marvelous possibilities of the climate and soil for fruit production as a factor of commerce on the Pacific Coast, and he also realized that for the fruit industry to attain any importance it was a prime necessity that means should be provided to prepare and preserve the fruits in the immediate vicinity of the orchards. Acting upon these convictions and stimulated by the wise counsel and hearty co-operation of his wife, he resolved to start a fruit cannery in this valley. An ordinary cooking range was purchased and placed in a 12x16 shed kitchen in the rear of their residence on the Alameda and on this the fruits were all heated before being placed in the cans. The fruits were obtained from orchards in the neighborhood and the season's output, consisted of 350 cans The next year the base of operations was changed to San Jose, the cannery being located in an orchard at the corner of Sixteenth (now Twenty-first) and Julian Streets. W. N. Stevens, a brother-in-law, was taken in as partner. The pack that season was double that of the first.

In 1872 Lendrum & Company, grocers, joined the firm and a large building was erected on the corner of Fifth and Julian streets, in which the pack of that season--nearly 800 cans--was made. A year or two later the business was incorporated under the title of the San Jose Fruit Packing Company, Dr. Dawson being made president. The plant was enlarged and the pack increased to 25,000 cans a year. The business continued until 1878 when Dr. Dawson disposed of his interest and retired.

In 1879 Dr. Dawson returned to his place on the Alameda and resumed the business in a moderate way in a building erected in the rear of his residence. The following year he took in his son, E. L. Dawson, as an equal partner, the firm title being, "The J. M. Dawson Packing Company." The plant was enlarged from year to year. In 1883 Dr. Dawson retired. He died in 1885 and his son continued the business.

Another pioneer packing company, the Golden Gate, was incorporated in 1877. Since then it has grown to be one of the largest fruit packing establishments on the Pacific Coast. The plant is on Third and Fourth streets, between Julian Street and Hensley Avenue. In 1881 the entire works were destroyed by fire. New and larger buildings immediately succeeded the old ones and the best and most approved machinery was secured. Geo. M. Bowman was superintendent and manager for over twenty years and at his death the management was assumed by Elmer E. Chase, whose rare business ability was exhibited in many improvements and a largely increased output. In 1917 the packing house passed into the hands of the Hunt Bros., who own packing houses in several sections of Central California, Mr. Chase joining forces with the Richmond Company.

The Los Gatos Fruit Packing Company was organized in 1882, with fourteen stockholders and the following officers: Samuel Templeton, president; James E. Gordon, secretary: J. W. Lyndon, treasurer; Robert Walker and Michael Miller, directors. The institution commenced work in a building 60x80 feet, with machinery capable of handling 5000 cases in a season. The plant was steadily increased, new buildings were erected and every means taken to meet the demands of the trade. But dull times came, the company became insolvent and in 1888 went out of business.

During the eighties the fruit industry increased by leaps and bounds, vineyards, pasture and grain lands were converted into fruit orchards until the county became one vast orchard--the largest fruit producing section in the world. In 1886 the consumers of fruit in the East became convinced that the prunes grown in Santa Clara County were superior in quality to those grown in France. This superiority is due to two causes: First, because the peculiar soil and climate of the county induces a thriftier growth, a more perfect ripening of the fruit and complete development of the sugar; second, because of the method of curing practiced here. In France the process through which the prunes are carried results in cooking the fruit to a greater or less extent. This renders it soft and pleasant to eat, but when made into sauce it loses much of its flavor. In the California process where the fruit is cured by exposure to the sun, no cooking results and the fruit retains its full flavor.

The present main strawberry section of the county lies north of San Jose and Santa Clara, toward Milpitas and Alviso. The first person to go into business in this district was Mr. Cary Peebles. who planted a few acres in 1868 on the place afterward owned by Mr. Agnew at Agnew's Station. His success induced other plantings and in a short time the whole belt of country where flowing artesian water was available was engaged in this industry. In late years strawberry culture has been undertaken north of Berryessa in other sections of the valley. Large tracts of land have been leased by Japanese and Chinese and now (1922) the Orientals control the bulk of the valley's berry output.

The following showes [sic] the annual orchard production of Santa Clara County: Apples, 10,000 tons; apricots, 25,000 tons; cherries, 10,000 tons; grapes, 40,000 tons; peaches, 25,000 tons; pears, 18,000 tons; prunes, 60,000 tons; plums, 37,700 tons; almonds, 200 tons; walnuts, 300 tons; berries (strawberries, blackberries and loganberries), 65,000 chests. Olive industry fairly large, producing both ripe pickled olives and olive oil.

Soil productions--Sugar beets (for refineries), 150,000 tons; beans (canning), 500 tons; peas (canning), 150 tons; spinach (canning), 1,000 tons; tomatoes (canning), 60,000 tons; potatoes (fall), 1,000 tons; potatoes (early), 1,500 tons; other vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, celery, artichokes, lettuce, squash, corn, onions, etc.), 2,500 tons.

Annual exportations, domestic and foreign--Canned fruits, berries and vegetables, 100,000 tons; dried fruits, 65,000 tons; green fruits, 12,000 tons; garden seeds, 1,000 tons; miscellaneous soil products, 2,000 tons.

Forty per cent of the prunes are sold in foreign markets and 60 per cent in domestic markets; 20 per cent of the canned fruits find foreign markets and 80 per cent domestic markets. The forty canneries in San Jose and Santa Clara County put out approximately one-third of the entire canned output of California.

The total acreage of orchards of various kinds of fruits in Santa Clara County, in round numbers, is as follows: Apples, 1200 acres; apricots, 7,000 acres; cherries, 4,000 acres; figs, 40 acres; olives, 250 acres; peaches, 5,000 acres; plums, 11,500 acres; prunes, 80,000 acres, dried; pears, 3,500 acres; lemons, 200 acres; limes, 10 acres; oranges, 40 acres; pomelos, 10 acres; grapes, 10,000 acres, almonds, 400 acres; walnuts, 1,000 acres; total, 124,150 acres.

There are 2,850 acres of vineyards in Santa Clara County. The acreage has been larger, but the rapid growth of the fruit industry induced many vineyardists to uproot their vines and plant fruit trees. When the Prohibition law went into effect in 1919 the vine growers of the state predicted disaster to their business, but the result has shown that they were mistaken. In 1919 the growers of Santa Clara County made more money than was made by them in any year while there was lawful sale for their grapes and wines, the demand coming from the East and Europe. Now wine grapes are dried by dehydration, several plants being in operation. Of course Prohibition did not affect the sale of table grapes. These are grown in the foothills mostly and are of superior quality and size.

Before the American occupation vines were planted here and there through the valley from cuttings procured from the mission, but these plantings could hardly be called vineyards. The first planting of any magnitude was made by Charles Lefranc at the New Almaden vineyard in 1852. In 1857 he married Miss Adele Thee, whose father Etienne Thee, owned a half interest in a tract of land where the New Almaden vineyard was afterwards located. Mr. Lefranc purchased the other half in 1851 and afterward came into ownership of the whole tract.

Thee had planted a few mission vines on the place before Lefranc took charge. The area was then increased, finer varieties being added. The early importations were in 1854 and were made through the house of Henry Schroeder, whose agent in France acted for Lefranc in securing cuttings. The first installment arrived and each succeeding season saw additions to the varieties. The Verdal was introduced into this country by Mrs. Lefranc in 1859. She brought the cuttings on horseback from the Canada Raymude ranch and they were presented to her by a Spanish nobleman who had brought them from the old country.

In 1858 Frank Stock planted a vineyard at the corner of William and Eighth streets, San Jose. He imported valuable German varieties, among which were the Johannisberg Riesling, Franklin Riesling, Tramina, Golden Chasselas and Zinfandel. When the vineyard was discontinued in 1869 Mr. Stock presented his vines to Mr. Lefranc, who removed them to the New Almaden vineyard. In course of time the glut of French wine at San Francisco disappeared and there came a demand for more. Then Lefranc turned his attention to wine making, his first considerable vintage being in 1862. He continued his planting until he had 131 acres in vineyard.

Antonio Delmas, like Louis Pellier, was an early importer of wines, his vineyard being on part of what is now Delmas Avenue. Pedro Sainsevain also had some good varieties at an early day. In 1868 Victor Speckens had a vineyard of choice grapes in full bearing. This vineyard afterward went into the hands of John Auzerais, of San Jose, who planted many new varieties.

Other plantings of notable varieties were made between 1868 and 1871. The Stocktons planted the Gravelly Hill Vineyard, D. M. Harwood planted the Lone Hill Vineyard, Frank Richmond in the same neighborhood followed suit and Norman Porter selected the Cupertino district for a new vineyard.

This district, now given over mainly to orchards of prunes, apricots and cherries, was once famous for its vineyards. In 1848 Elisha Stevens, who was captain of the Murphy party in 1844, settled on the ranch, afterward known as "Blackberry Farm," and gave his name to Stevens Creek. He planted four acres of Mission grapes on the creek bottom. He also planted blackberries and this action gave the name to his place. Soon after this a Spaniard named Novato, who had settled in the foothills near Permanente Creek, planted a few cuttings from Captain Stevens' vineyard. With the exception of a few patches here and there that was all the planting done until 1870. Much of the soil was thin and covered with chemisal and had no reputation either for fertility or endurance. Many grain farmers became poor in trying to make a living there and it was considered a pure waste of time and money to endeavor to obtain a living by grape culture. In 1870 S. R. Williams came into the district and took a contract from William Hall to clear the ground and plant 100 acres in vines and care for them for three years. He did this and as pay received a deed to fifty acres of the land. Williams was followed by Portal, who set out the Burgundy vineyard and by J. F. Thompson who planted forty acres adjoining. They were followed by Hail, Gardner, Wright, Montgomery, Bubb, Farr, Blabon, Hallenbeck, Coombe and others. Nearly all these plantings were made from 1880 to 1885.

Other districts were being developed while the Cupertino planting was going on. The Union and Los Gatos districts, Evergreen, Madrone and the Collns districts, hills above Saratoga and on the eastern side of the valley, toward the Mission San Jose had many spots converted into vineyards. Most of the vines on the San Francisco and Boyter roads, and the foothills near Evergreen were planted after 1880.

In 1856 Lyman J. Burrell planted grapes in the Santa Cruz Mountains near the summit. He was followed by H. C. Morrell, D. C. Feely and many others until the Skyland region became famous for its fine output of table grapes. For years hundreds of tons were annually shipped to the East.

In 1919 there were 23,000 olive trees in Santa Clara County. The largest and most important olive farm is known at home and abroad as the "Quito Olive and Vine Farm." It contains eighty-one acres, is eight miles from San Jose and is situated on the Quito road near its junction with Saratoga Avenue. It was formerly a part of the Jose Ramon Arguello rancho and was used by him as a country homestead, and here, in 1865, he planted the first of the olives, a small vineyard and a fruit orchard. His death, in 1876, led to a division of the estate and in December, 1882, the olive farm passed into the hands of Edward E. Goodrich, a graduate of Yale and of the Albany Law School. The development of the place has been carried on slowly, but steadily since that date. A few years passed during which time, the entire place was given over to olives. The buildings consist of a mill, with crusher and press addition, winery, barn, commodious houses for the force of workmen and other appurtenances of an up-to-date institution. In the process of oil making, Mr. Goodrich so improved upon the work of the Italians that it was not long before his products came to be recognized as superior to any sold in the United States. At the great American exhibitions he took first prizes, while the sales were never able to keep pace with the demand. Besides the profit of the olive farm, the tree has certain special attractions. By its almost unlimited life an olive orchard is ever increasing in value. By its hardihood it can occupy land not adapted to fruit culture and almost valueless for general farm uses. Mr. Goodrich died on April 21, 1920. In August, 1919, he had sold the farm to G. Bruces, who will continue the manufacture of oil.

The growing of seeds is carried on extensively in Santa Clara County. There are several companies engaged in this industry, the principal ones being the Braslan Seed Growers Company, Inc., the California Seed Growers Association, Inc., and the Kimberlin Company. The Braslan Company started business in 1905, have seed farms covering 400 acres in Edenvale and Gilroy, and for years had large government contracts. The output of garden seeds is now used mainly by the large nurseries and seed distributing establishments of the East, Europe and the Orient. The warehouse is at Coyote Station, twelve miles south of San Jose on the Monterey road and the Gilroy line of the Southern Pacific Railway. C. P. Braslan, who started the business, died in 1910, and the company is now a family affair, Mrs. Braslan being the principal owner. The officers are Dr. E. O. Pieper, president and manager; W. E. Evans, secretary and treasurer.

The California Association, an offshoot of the Braslan Company, was organized in 1912, with D. G. Fisher, president; J. W. Edmundson, vice-president, and Miss Mary Williams, secretary and treasurer. It has 1,000 acres in two farms in Santa Clara County and the warehouse is located in San Jose near the old narrow gauge depot. The garden seeds harvested find their way to all parts of the world.

The Kimberlin Company--C. R., L. M. and J. L. Kimberlin--controls about 800 acres, the farms being in Milpitas and Gilroy. Like the other companies, the seeds grown have the whole world as a market.

The citrus fruits have been cultivated in Santa Clara County for a period antedating tradition. Orange and lemon trees early found place in the Mission orchards and many were brought to the valley by the early immigrants from Mexico. They were common in the dooryards and gardens of old Spanish homesteads and bore abundant fruit, though not of the best quality. Orange and lemon trees of a better variety were, many years ago, planted on the grounds of W. S. McMurtry and W. H. Rogers in Los Gatos. They grew thriftily and bore well. Christian Fieldsted, on the eastern foothills, had an orchard of oranges and semi-tropical fruits which was a source of considerable profit. In 1880 Harvey Wilcox planted sixteen acres to oranges in the hills overlooking Los Gatos. At six years of age these trees brought a large harvest of beautiful fruit. As a rule citrus fruits were not planted for the market, but as an ornament and to furnish a home supply. For this reason public attention was not called to this branch of horticulture until the winter of 1886-87. At that time the County Horticultural Society held a citrus fair, at which oranges and lemons were presented for exhibition from 163 different localities in the valley. This exhibition was made, not for the purpose of showing citrus culture as a leading industry of the valley, but to demonstrate to Eastern visitors that Santa Clara County possessed a soil and climate suitable to the growth of these fruits. But orange culture will never become a very important branch of the county's horticulture. This will not be from lack of adaptability of soil and climate, but because it does not pay as well as other lines of fruit growing, nor is it so sure or capable of being conducted with so little expense. But orange and lemon culture still continues on a small scale. In all sections of San Jose and in many parts of the county, particularly in the foothills, may be seen hardy and well-bearing orange and lemon trees.

In aid of the farmers there was organized in 1917 the Santa Clara County Farm Loan Association as a part of District No. 11, which comprises California, Oregon, Nevada and Utah. The National Farm Loan Act, under which the association operates, has for general purposes the lowering and equalization of interest rates on first mortgage farm loans; the providing of long term loans with the privilege of repayment in installments through a long or short period of years at the borrower's option; the assembling of the farm credits of the nation to be used as security for money to be employed in farm development; the stimulating of co-operative action among farmers; the making easier for the landless to get land and the provision for safe and sound long-term investments for the thrifty. The Federal land banks make the loans and issue their bonds or debentures to investors. The national farm loan associations are organizations of borrowers and through them applications for loans are made to the Federal land banks. The rate of interest is five and one-half per cent, but a different rate may be charged if found advisable. The secretary-treasurer of the local farm association is required to collect the installments from the borrowers in his association and remit them to the Federal land bank. Both interest and principal are included in the equal annual or semi-annual installments throughout the entire period of the loan. The farmer who borrows is required to buy stock of his local association equal to five per cent of his loan. This stock is held by the association as collateral security until the farmer has paid off his loan. With the money which the borrower pays for his stock the association buvs stock in the Federal land bank's capital in order that it may make more loans. In case of severe losses experienced by the local loan association which make it unable to meet its obligations, each borrower is personally liable for an amount equal to the face value of his stock. If loans are conservatively made, it is claimed that no loss can reasonably occur that would call for this five per cent liability. If the banks make a profit they will pay dividends on all stock except that held by the government. The Santa Clara County Association has for officers: L. Woodard, president; F. M. Righter, vice-president; L. P. Edwards, secretary. In the Madrone district is another association, with Mrs. S. M. Schofield, Woodard, Righter, R. J. Mayne and Mrs. Agnes Schroeder as directors. The county is also well represented by Granges of the Patrons of Husbandry.

In the line of vegetables Santa Clara County is in the front rank as a producer. In 1919 over a million cases of canned tomatoes, string beans, peas, cucumbers and other odds and ends, aggregating over 250,000 cases, were packed, while as for onions, something like 500 tons were raised. There were also paying crops of asparagus, lettuce, beets, cauliflower, celery, corn, cabbage, squash, potatoes, etc., raised in the sediment soil along the creeks and in other favorable localities.

As for poultry, of all the prizes awarded of late years, ninety-five per cent went to Santa Clara birds. Including chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks, there were 17,220 head.

Dairying is also carried on extensively. The butter output averages 500,000 pounds, and over that amount in cheese. The southeastern end of the county, around Gilroy and Morgan Hill, is well suited to this kind of industry. Alfalfa can be readily grown on the level land of the valley. where the water supply is good, and as hogs and alfalfa go together, the same conditions will apply to both.

The orchards of the county are irrigated, sometimes from stream ditches, but mostly from artesian wells. These wells were first used in the valley in 1854, shallow wells and water from the creeks sufficing for the requirements of the earlier days. In January, 1854, when the Merritt brothers built their brick house on Fifth Street--it is still standing--they commenced boring for a lower stratum of water, seeking a stream that did not act as a sewer for all the accumulated filth on the ground. They struck water at a depth of fifty feet, but determined to go deeper. At eighty feet they tapped a stream that came rushing to the surface like the eruption of a volcano. The hole was six inches in diameter and the pressure was sufficient, as Mr. Hall says in his "History of San Jose," to run a sawmill. The success met with in this well induced the boring of others. In the same month J. S. Shepard had a well sunk on his place, three miles from town. This well went through muck and clay to a depth of seventy-five feet and a stratum of sand. Five feet in this sand water was struck and, although the pipe rose sixteen feet above the surface of the ground, the water came out of the top as though forced by powerful machinery. During the next month T. Meyers bored a well and obtained a plentiful supply of water. But the greatest well in the history of the county was bored in August of the same year by G. A. Dabney, near San Fernando Street. Mr. Hall thus describes it: "After boring six feet the auger entered a bed of clay, through which, a distance of fifty-four feet, it penetrated, when the water rushed up with a force unknown here in well-boring. It flooded the surrounding lands so that it became a serious question how the water should be disposed of. The City Council declared it a nuisance and passed an ordinance directing Dabney to stop or control the flow of water, and if not, he should pay a fine of $50 for every day he allowed it thus to run. The ordinance had no effect on the dynamical properties of the water, nor any on Dabney; for about six weeks it flowed on,rising nine feet above the surface of the ground, when other wells bored in that vicinity lessened its force and volume. It was a curiosity and received visitors daily."

After this demonstration of the fact that artesian water could be had, there was no more complaint of the lack of this necessary fluid. The old acequia fell into disuse and finally disappeared. Wells were sunk in various localities and always with good results, but as the wells accumulated the force of the flow was somewhat diminished. The first irrigating was done on the lower land north of town. At one time the California Investment Company, which had acquired several thousand acres of salt marsh land along the shore of the bay, attempted to reclaim it by means of artesian wells. The project was to build levees around their property to shut out the sea, pump out the salt water and replace it with fresh artesian water. They went so far as to bore many wells, but abandoned the project, either because it was impracticable or on account of the expense. The wells, however, were a great source of annoyance to the people living in the north. Being allowed to flow continually, the water in other wells was lowered and many ceased to flow at all. The matter became so disastrous that an act was passed by the Legislature declaring it a misdemeanor to permit artesian wells to remain uncapped when not in use. After much labor this law was enforced and the injured wells recovered their vigor.

Many attempts have been made to trace and locate the artesian belt, but it is continually being struck outside these locations, and no one cares to risk his reputation by saying where it is not. It was at first thought to lie exclusively between San Jose and the bay, following the lower levels of the valley. In 1870 artesian water was supposed to have been found in the San Felipe tract southeast of Gilroy. But one night a well, windmill and tank, house and frame, on the property of Mr. Buck disappeared from sight and the longest sounding line was unable to discover the whereabouts of the missing improvements. This indicated that the supply was a lake and not an ordinary stream. In 1887 flowing artesian water was found at Gilroy and the neighborhood was afterward successfully developed. With all these facts understood, there can be no doubt that artesian water can he found at any point in the valley, not excepting the higher grounds near the foothills.

The Farm Owners and Operators' Association was organized in 1919 for the purpose of becoming a part of a state organization. A constitution has already been prepared and when in operation the various branches in the state will become as units. The object of the association is to protect the farmers and orchardists and at the same time promote their interests. The officers are: J. J. McDonald, chairman; T. D. Landels, vice-chairman; Mary P. Richter, secretary; B. T. McCurdy, treasurer. Board of trustees--Robert Britton, Morgan Hill; Frank Stevens, Coyote; Luther Cunningham, Saratoga; J. H. Harkness, Morgan Hill; J. H. Fair, San Jose; John Hassler, San Jose; A. R. McClay, San Jose; H. F. Curry, San Jose; Albert M. Foster, San Jose; John W. Shaw, San Jose; Arthur P. Freeman, Lawrence; A. W. Greathead, San Jose; T. J. Herndon, Campbell; S. T. Johnson, Cupertino; E. K. Clendenning, Campbell; J. K. Durst, Sunnyvale; E. L. Fellow, Santa Clara; R. T. Van Orden, Mountain View; Lewis H. Britton, Morgan Hill; V. T. McCurdy, Santa Clara; F. C. Willson, Sunnyvale. Although organized but three years, the association has done considerable work. It has been instrumental in equalizing fruit tree assessments. It has also materially assisted in the movement for conserving the water of the valley. In 1920 it took up the county season labor problem and is now receiving the hearty support of the canneries and packing houses.

The Fruit Growers of California Association, Inc., was organized in 1919 and is a sort of detached auxiliary of the California Prune and Apricot Growers, Inc. It handles green fruit only and sells to canners and ships to Eastern buyers. It does for the green fruit what the dried fruit operators do for dried fruit. R. P. Van Orden of Mountain View is president, and J. U. Porter is acting secretary. The directors and I. O. Rhodes, C. C. Spaulding, A. C. Gordon, James Mills, H. N. Schroeder, Herman A. Clark, W. E. Moore, L. E. Walker and E. R. Clendenning. Every fruit section of the county is represented in the directorate. Mr. Bone, who was the first secretary, was one of the leaders in the organization of the California Prune and Apricot Growers, Inc., and for two years was its secretary.

The California Prune and Apricot Growers, Inc., have organized growers', packing and warehouse associations with plants in Santa Clara County as follows: Plant No. 1, Campbell; No. 2, Morgan Hill; No. 3, Gilroy; No. 4, San Jose, Fourth and Lewis streets; No. 6, San Jose; No. 7, Vasona, Los Gatos; No. 8, Mountain View; No. 10, San Jose; No. 11, San Jose, Cinnebar and Senter streets; No. 13, Los Gatos; No. 14, Lincoln Avenue, San Jose. They also have plants in various sections of the state, and the list extended to forty in 1921.

The following packers of the county are affiliated with the association: Plant No. 14. J. W. Chilton & Co., San Jose; No. 15, J. B. Inderrieden Co., San Jose; No. 16, Pacific Fruit Products Co., San Jose; No. 17, Warren Dried Fruit Co., San Jose; No. 22, Geo. E. Hyde & Co., Campbell; No. 37, Warren E. Hyde, S. E. Johnson, Cupertino; No. 38, West Side Fruit Growers' Association, Cupertino. In addition to the above, there will be established at numerous points in the state receiving stations. Growers' Packing and Warehousing Association, Inc., has already negotiated the purchase of several properties necessary for these plants.

Contracts for handling fruit have been made with the green fruit buyers of the county. The independent packers of the county are as follows: San Jose--C. H. Anderson, J. K. Armsby, Castle Bros., California Fruit Canners' Association, California Packing Corporation plants Nos. 50, 51 and 52; Earl Fruit Company, Golden Gate Packing Company, J. C. Moore, Guggenheim Packing Company, Richmond-Chase Company, Polak Packing Company, Wayne Packing Company. Campbell--Ainsley Packing Company. Saratoga--Sorosis Fruit Company. Santa Clara--Block & Company, Sunnyvale--J. K. Armsby.

Following are the fruit and vegetable canneries of Santa Clara County: Alviso-Bayside Canning Company. Campbell--Ainsley Canning Company, California Canneries, Geo. E. Hyde & Company, Gilroy--H. A. Baker Cannery, Felice & Perelli Canning Company. Los Gatos--Hunt Brothers. Mayfield--Foon Canning Company. Milpitas--California Packing Corporation. Mountain View--Concentrated Tomatoes Company, John W. McCarthy, Jr., & Co. Santa Clara--Pratt-Low Preserving Company. Sunnyvale--California Supplies Company, Libby, McNeil & Libby, Sunnyvale Canneries. San Jose--Alba Canning Company, Beechnut Company of California, Bisceglia Brothers & Company, California Growers' Assocation, California Prune and Apricot Growers, Inc.; California Packing Corporation (two plants), Contadina Canning Company, Di Fiore Canning Company, Flickinger & Company, Greco Canning Company, Golden Gate Packing Company, Herbert Packing Company, Italian Canning Company, J. F. Pyle & Son, Richmond-Chase Company, Salsina Canning Company, San Jose Canning Company, Shaw Family, Inc.; Sunlight Packing Company, Wool Canning Company, Dehydrating Plant, Spolster & Company; Banks' Evaporator.

Following are Santa Clara County statistics up to December, 1921:

Area, acres......................... 867,200
County area, square miles...........   1,355
Number of farms and orchards........  23,900
Number of acres assessed............ 743,822

Tax Rates

County tax rate (outside incorporated cities).... $ 2.15
San Jose tax rate--City, $1.52; county (inside cities), $1.72; schools, $1.15;
total.............................................. 4.48

County Assessment

County real estate.............. $ 31,932,740
Improvements on same............   13,169,670
Imp'ts on property not assessed
to owners.......................       26,795
City and town lots................ 18,436,405
Improvements on same.............. 15,569,400
Improvements on property not
assessed to owners.................... 20,800
Total value..................... $ 79,155,810

Personal Property

Inside...............................  $ 4,687,550
Outside..............................    4,412,495
Collected by Assessor, inside........    2,713,125
Collected by Assessor, outside.......      322,230
\loney and solvent credits, inside...      281,160
1loney and solvent credits, outside..      137,345
Total personal....................... $ 12,553,905
Total of all non-operative prop...... $ 91,709,715

Operative Roll

Real estate........................... $ 2,144,060
Improvements .........................     297,955
Personal property, money, solvent
  credits.............................   6,921,045
  Total operative property............ $ 9,363,060
  Grand total of all property......... 101,072,775

Exempt Property

Veterans. 605 exempt: value of
exemption...........................   $ 533,255
College of Notre Dame...............     220,860
University of Santa Clara...........     155,880
Stanford University.................     411,560
College of Pacific..................      48,400
Total exemptions.................... $ 1,369,955
Total property, non-operative,
operative and exempt................ 102,442,730

Property in Road Districts

Road District No. 1................ $ 8,295,525
              No. 2................   4,750,410
              No. 3................   6,379,905
              No. 4................  16,591,160
              No. 5................  13,796,950

Valuation Incorporated Cities

San Jose.................. $ 27,411,825
Gilroy....................    1,064,225
Morgan Hill...............      284,495
Santa Clara...............    2,574,435
Los Gatos.................    1,343,470
Sunnyvale.................      446,795
Mavfield..................      484,175
Mountain View.............      746,905
Palo Alto.................    4,347,675
Alviso....................      270,515

Source: Sawyers, Eugene T. History of Santa Clara County, Los Angeles, Calif; Historic Record Company, 1922.

Return to Santa Clara County History
Return to Santa Clara County Genealogy
© Copyright  2006  Ron Filion and Pamela Storm.  All rights reserved.