History of Santa Clara County
San Jose as the Capital of the State--Meeting of the First Legislature--The Removal to Vallejo--Land Grants and Suertes--A Trumped-up Robbery--Settlers' War--Fourth of July Celebration.
Between the years 1846 and 1849 California remained under the control of the United States military forces. A military commander controlled affairs, but there was no real government. As long as the war lasted it was only natural to expect that such would be the case and the people made no protest, but after peace was declared and the military rule continued much dissatisfaction was aroused. With the changed views of the people, General Riley, the military commander, entirely sympathized. When it was found that Congress had adjourned without effecting anything for California, he issued a proclamation--June 3, 1849,--calling for a convention. The proclamation stated the number of delegates which each district should elect and also announced that appointments to judicial offices would be made after being voted for. The delegates from the Santa Clara Valley district were Joseph Aram, Kimball H. Dimmick, Antonio M. Pico, Elam Brown, Julian Hanks and Pedro Sainsevain.
On September 1, 1849, the Convention met at Monterey, Robert Semple, of Benicia, of the district of Sonoma, being chosen president. The session lasted six weeks and notwithstanding an awkward scarcity of books of reference and other necessary aids, much labor was performed, while the debaters exhibited a marked degree of ability. In framing the original constitution of California, slavery was forever prohibited within the jurisdiction of the state; the boundary question between the United States and Mexico was set at rest; provision for the morals and education of the people was made; a seal of state, with the motto Eureka was adopted and many other pertinent subjects were discussed. The constitution was duly framed, submitted to the people and at the election on November 13 was ratified and adopted by a vote of 12,064 for and eleven against it; there being besides over 1,200 ballots that were treated as blanks because of an informality in the printing. On the occasion the vote of the district of San Jose was 567 for and none against its adoption, while 517 votes were cast for Peter H. Burnett for governor and thirty-six votes for W. S. Sherwood. The popular voice also made San Jose the capital.
During the session of the Convention, the residents of San Jose in public meeting, elected Charles White and James F. Reed a committee to proceed to Monterey and use their utmost endeavors to have San Jose named in the constitution as the state capital. They found a staunch opponent in Dr. Semple, the president, who coveted the honor for his home town, Benicia. But the San Joseans were not discouraged by this opposition. They promised to have ready a suitable building by the 15th of December, about the time when the Legislature would be ready to sit--a rash promise when is considered the fact that such an edifice had not been completed in the town. San Jose was selected as the capital and it was now up to the residents to provide a building for the sessions. In that year there stood on the south half of lot six--the east side of Market Plaza--a large adobe structure, erected by Sainsevain and Rochon, which was meant for a hotel. This structure the town council tried to rent for the legislative session, but the price was so exorbitant--$4,000 per month--that is was deemed best to purchase the building outright: but here the proprietors declined to take the pueblo authorities as security. Now it was that the residents of means stepped in and saved the day. Nineteen of them executed a note for the price asked, $34,000, with interest at the rate of eight per cent per month. The nineteen were R. W. May, James F. Reed, Peter Davidson, William McCutchen, Joseph Aram, David Hickey, Charles White, Frank Lightston, J. D. Hoppe, Peter Quincy, R. C. Keyes, W. H. Eddy, Benjamin Cory, K. H. Dimmick, J. C. Cobb, P. Sainsevain, Josiah Belden, Isaac Branham and J. C. Cook. A conveyance was made to Belden, Reed and Aram, to hold the premises in trust for the purchasers. An appropriation of $50,000, purchase money for the building, was made by the Legislature, and bonds bearing interest at the rate of two and one-half per cent per month, were issued. Unfortunately the credit of the territory was below par and the bonds were sacrificed at the rate of forty cents on the dollar. The amount received by the sale was used in partial liquidation of the debt, the indebtedness remaining being subsequently the cause of vexatious and protracted legislation.
First Legislature Convenes
On Saturday, December 15, 1849, the first Legislature of California met at San Jose. E. Kirby Chamberlain was elected president pro tem of the Senate and Thomas J. White, speaker of the Assembly, which august body occupied the second story of the State House. The lower portion, intended for use of the Senate, not being ready for occupancy, the senators were taken, for a short period, to the house of Isaac Branham, located on the southwest corner of Market Plaza. On the opening day there were only six senators present. The following day Governor Riley and his secretary, H. W. Halleck, afterward a distinguished general in the U. S. Army, arrived and on Monday nearly all the members were in their places.
At the start considerable dissatisfaction over the poor accommodations at the State House was manifested and only four days after opening for business George B. Tingley, a member from Sacramento, introduced a bill to move the capital to Monterey. It passed its first reading and then died a natural death.
On the twentieth of December, 1849, Governor Riley turned over his office to Governor Peter H. Burnett and on the same date Secretary Halleck was relieved of his duties and K. H. Dimmick was appointed judge of the Court of First Instance.
The personnel of the first Legislature of California was as follows: Senators--David F. Douglass, M. G. Vallejo, Elcan Heydenfeldt, Pablo de la Guerra, S. E. Woodworth, Thomas L. Vermeule, W. D. Fair, Elisha O. Crosby, D. C. Broderick, E. Kirby Chamberlain, J. Bidwell, H. C. Robinson, B. J. Lippincott.
Assemblymen--Elam Brown, J. S. K. Ogier, E. B. Bateman, Edmund Randolph, E. P. Baldwin, A. P. Crittenden, Alfred Wheeler, James A. Gray, Joseph Aram, Joseph C. Morehead, Benjamin Cory, Thomas J. Henley, Jose M. Corvarrubias, Elisha W. McKinstry, Geo. B. Tingley.
On the twentieth of December two United States senators were elected, the lucky ones being Col. John C. Fremont and Dr. William M. Givin. On the following day Governor Burnett delivered his message.
Removal of Capital
The next legislative move of importance was the attempt to remove the capital. Gen. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, senator from the District of Sonoma, and owning lordly acres to the north of San Francisco Bay, addressed a memorial to the Senate, dated April 3, 1850, pointing out the advantages possessed by the site of the town of Vallejo over San Jose and the other places bidding for the state capital. To secure the boon the General offered to grant to the state, free of cost, twenty acres for a capitol and grounds, with 136 acres added for outer state buildings; and in addition to this he agreed to donate and pay over to the state, within two years, the large sum of $370,000, to be devoted to the construction of buildings and their furnishing. San Jose strove hard to retain the prize. The citizens did everything in their power to make things pleasant for the legislators. Their pay, sixteen dollars a day, was received in state scrip, by no means at par value in the market. To propitiate them the hotel keepers and tradesmen consented to take the scrip at its face value. This offer created a good impression but was not sufficient in force to offset the offer of Vallejo. Seeing that the tide was turning against them, the San Joseans, through James F. Reed, offered four blocks of land and 160 lots, the lots to be sold to raise money for the building of the capitol. Another bid was that of Charles White, who tendered one and one-half square miles of land, upon the condition that the state should lay it out in lots for sale, reserving a portion sufficient for buildings and that one-third of the sum so realized should be paid to him and the balance given to the state for building purposes. A third offer, of 200 acres, made by John Townsend carried the stipulation that all the state buildings, save the penitentiary, should be placed thereon.
On receipt of Gen. Vallejo's memorial to the senate, a committee was appointed, with instructions to consider all the offers made and report. On April 2, 1850, the report was made. It concluded with these words: "Your Committee cannot dwell with too much warmth upon the magnificent propositions contained in the memorial of General Vallejo. They breathe throughout the spirit of an enlarged mind and a sincere public benefactor, for which he deserves the thanks of his countrymen and the admiration of the world. Such a proposition looks more like the legacy of a mighty emperor to his people than the free donation of a private planter to a great state, yet poor in public finance but soon to be among the first of the earth." The report, which was presented by Senator David C. Broderick (who was killed by Judge Terry in a duel in 1859) of San Francisco, goes on to point out the necessities that should govern the site for California's capital, recapitulates the advantages pointed out in the memorial and finally recommends the acceptance of General Vallejo's offer.
The acceptance did not pass the Senate without some opposition and considerable delay. On September 9, 1850, California was admitted into the Union and on February 14, 1851, during the last session of the Legislature in San Jose, the Act of Removal was passed, and on May 1 of that year the Legislature adjourned, but the archives were not removed to Vallejo until later. The third Legislature convened at Vallejo January 5, 1852; seven days later it was transferred to Sacramento; January 3, 1853, it met again at Vallejo; it was removed to Benicia on February 11 of the same year, where it remained until the end of the session, and then by enactment the capital was permanently located at Sacramento, where it has since remained.
The question of the legality of the removal was brought up in 1854 before the Supreme Court, when a majority of the justices, Heydenfeldt and Wells, held that according to law San Jose was the capital of the state. Thereupon the following order was made:
"It is ordered that the sheriff of Santa Clara County procure in the town of San Jose and properly arrange and furnish a courtroom, clerk's office and consultation room, for the use of the court. It is further ordered that the clerk of this court forthwith remove the records of this court to the town of San Jose. It is further ordered that the court will meet to deliver opinions at San Jose, on the 1st Monday in April, and on that day will appoint some future day of the term for the argument of cases.
"Attest: D. H. Woodside, Clerk."
A writ of mandamus on the strength of the foregoing was issued from the Third District Court against all the state officers, commanding that they remove their offices to San Jose or show cause why they should not do so. The argument was heard and the theory maintained that San Jose was the proper capital of the state. An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court. In the meantime Justice Wells had died, his place being filled by Justice Bryant. In the appeal the Supreme Court decided that San Jose was not the state capital, from which decision Justice Heydenfeldt dissented.
The first Legislature passed an act that gave San Jose its first legal incorporation under United States rule. The act was passed in March, 1850, and on April 11 the Ayuntamiento held its last meeting. The new common council held its first meeting under the charter on the 13th.
First July 4th Celebration
The anniversary of American Independence was patriotically remembered in the first year of civil administration in California. San Jose held a grand celebration and much more interest was felt than on such occasions in the eastern states. Fred Hall, in his history, says: "The isolation from the other states made the feeling of national pride increase. We felt as though we were in a foreign land and the tendency was to vivify and brighten the love of the whole country in every American. On that occasion the Hon. William Voorhies delivered the oration: James M. Jones also delivered one in Spanish for the benefit of the Mexicans present. Mr. Sanford, a lawyer from Georgia, read the Declaration. of Independence. Thirteen young ladies dressed in blue spencers and white skirts rode on horseback, followed by the Eagle Guards, commanded by Capt. Thomas White; also 500 citizens, some on horseback, some in carriages and some afoot, made up the national pageant that wound its way to the south of town, a mile or more, in the grove near the Almaden road; and there the ceremony was performed to the great pleasure and pride of the American settlers in the new country."
Boundaries of Santa Clara County
While the Legislature was in session in San Jose the boundaries of Santa Clara County were defined. The county originally included the township of Washington, of Alameda County, but this was cut off and the county reduced to its present limits, as follows: Beginning at a point opposite the mouth of the San Francisquito, being the common corner of Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties; thence easterly to a point at the head of a slough which is an arm of San Francisco Bay at its head, making into the mainland in front of the Gegara rancho; thence easterly to a lone sycamore tree that stands in a ravine between the dwellings of Flujencia and Valentine Gegara; thence easterly up said ravine to the top of the mountains as surveyed by Horace A. Higley; thence in a direct line easterly to the common corner of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Alameda and Santa Clara counties on the summit of the Coast Range; thence southeasterly, following the summit of the Coast Range to the northeast corner of Monterey County; thence westerly, following the northern boundary of Monterey County to the southeast corner of Santa Cruz County; thence northwesterly, following the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the head of San Francisquito Creek; thence down said creek to its mouth; thence in a direct line to the place of beginning. Containing about 1,300 square miles.
The county government was first administered by the court of sessions, which held jurisdiction until 1852, when the board of supervisors was created. In 1854 the government again went into the hands of the court of sessions, where it remained until the next year, when the board of supervisors was revived to administer the affairs of the county ever since. Following is a list of those who have administered the county government from the date of organization to the present time:
On the 1st day of June, 1850, the court of sessions was organized with J. W. Redman president, and Caswell Davis and H. C. Smith associate justices.
July 5, 1850--J. W. Redman, president; John Gilroy,
Caswell Davis, associates.
August 18, 1850--J. W. Redman, president; Charles Clayton and Caswell Davis, associates.
October 6, 1851--J. W. Redman, president; R. B. Buckner and Marcus Williams, associates.
December, 1851--J. W. Redman, president; Cyrus G. Sanders and Marcus Williams, associates.
May 14, 1852--J. W. Redman, president; Peleg Rush and Cyrus G. Sanders, associates.
An election for supervisors was held June 3, 1852, and the new board was organized as follows: Isaac N. Senter, chairman; Fred E. Whitney, William E. Taylor, Jacob Gruwell, associates.
December 6,1852--L. H. Bascom, chairman; John
B. Allen, A. M. Church, Levi Goodrich, Joseph C. Boyd, associates.
September 7, 1853--George Peck, chairman; Daniel Murphy, R. G. Moody, William Daniels, W. Gallimore, associates.
In April, 1854, the court of sessions again took charge. It was composed as follows: R. B. Buckner, president; Caswell Davis, Thomas Vermuele, associates.
October 1, 1854--R B. Buckner, president; Caswell Davis, C. G. Thomas, associates.
On April 9, 1855, another board of supervisors was elected. The organization of the board from that time has been as follows:
April 1, 1855 to November, 1855--Samuel Henderson,
W. R. Bassham, Daniel Murphy.
November, 1855, to November, 1856--W. R. Bassham, W. R. Bane, Samuel Morrison.
November, 1856, to October, 1857--Cary Peebels, China Smith, D. R. Douglas.
October, 1857, to October, 1858--Joseph H. Kincaid, Samuel A. Ballard, Albert Warthen.
October, 1858, to November, 1859--John M. Swinford, H. D. Coon, Eli Jones; Isaac Branham served vice Jones.
November, 1859, to December, 1860--H. D. Coon, H. J. Bradley, Isaac Branham.
December, 1860, to October, 1861--H. J. Bradley, W. M. Williamson, H. D. Coon.
October, 1861, to November, 1862--H. J. Bradley, W. M. Williamson, J. H. Adams.
November, 1862, to March, 1864--W. M. Williamson, J. H. Adams, S. S. Johnson.
March, 1864, to March, 1866--John A. Quinby, Chapman Yates, L. Robinson, J. A. Perkins, Frank Sleeper.
March, 1866, to March, 1868--John A. Quinby, Frank Sleeper, John A. Perkins, J. Q. A. Ballou, Frank Cook.
March, 1868, to March, 1870--David Campbell, John Cook, William H. Hall, W. H. Patton, Oliver Cottle. (Cottle served vice Ballo, who resigned.)
March, 1870, to March, 1872--David Campbell, W. H. Hall, W. H. Patton, J. M. Battee, Samuel I. Jamison.
March, 1872, to March, 1874--J. M. Battee, William Paul, W. N. Furlong, S. 1. Jamison, J. W. Boulware.
March, 1874, to March, 1876--J. M. Battee, W. N. Furlong, J. W. Boulware, Alfred Chew, William Paul, A. King, H. M. Leonard.
March, 1876, to March 1878--S. F. Ayer, W. H. Rogers, J. M. Battee, Alfred Chew, W. N. Furlong, A. King, H. M. Leonard.
March, 1878, to March, 1880--S. F. Ayer, W. H. Rogers, W. N. Furlong, John Weathers, J. H. M. Townsend, M. D. Kell, H. M. Leonard. (Townsend resigned in December, 1879, and was succeeded by James Snow.)
March, 1880, to February, 1883--S. F. Ayer. John Weathers, James Snow, M. D. Kell, H. M. Leonard, H. H. Main, Samuel Rea.
February, 1883-1885--W. E. Ward, H. Tillotson, W. O. Watson, H. McCleary, Peter Donnelly, H. H. Main, S. A. Blythe.
March, 1885, to March, 1887--S. F. Ayer, W. A. Z. Edwards, A. Greeninger, W. O. Watson, Peter Donnelly.
March, 1887, to March, 1891--S. F. Ayer, W. A. Z. Edwards, A. Greeninger, W. O. Watson, James Phegley.
1891-1895--P. Donnelly, A. Greeninger, W. A. Z. Edwards, J. S. Whitehurst, William Erkson, S. F. Ayer.
1895-1897--A. Greeninger, George E. Rea, J. S. Selby, John Roll, S. F. Ayer.
1897-1899--Geo. E. Rea, Paul P. Austin, F. M. Stern, John Roll, S. F. Ayer.
1899-1904--F. W. Knowles, Geo. E. Rea, F. L. Cottle, John Roll, S. F. Ayer.
1904-1907--F. E. Mitchell, Ayer, Roll, Rea and A. L. Hubbard.
1907-1911--H. S. Hersman, H. M. Ayer, A. L. Hubbard, John Roll, F. E. Mitchell.
From the last named date the following have held office continuously: Henry Hecker, A. L. Hubbard, H. M. Ayer, F. E. Mitchell, John Roll.
Settling Titles of Land Grants
At the time of the cession of California there was probably not a perfect title in the whole territory of Alta California. Under the terms of the treaty, however, the holders of these incomplete titles were to be permitted to go on and complete them under the laws of the United States. After the acquisition of California and after ascertaining the incomplete condition of the land grants and the importance of having them segregated from the public domain, and for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, an act was passed by the Congress of the United States on March 3, 1851, providing for commissioners to be appointed by the President for the purpose of ascertaining and settling private land grants in California, with a right of appeal, by either the government or the claimant, to the U. S. District Court for the State of California, or to the U. S. Supreme Court. To this commission all claimants were required to present their petitions for the confirmation of their claims. Failure to so present them within a specified time after the passage of the act worked a forfeiture of the claim, which was afterward treated as a part of the public domain. Upon the confirmation of these claims surveys were made by the surveyor general and patents issued thereon.
Those lands which had not been granted by the Mexican Government were subject to the laws of the United States governing the disposition of the public domain. Besides these two classes of land there was a third--the land granted to pueblos.
Under the plan of Tepic, Mexico, on the formation of each new pueblo in the New World, it was entitled, for its own use, for building purposes and for cultivation and pasturage, to a square of land extending one league in each direction from the center of the plaza, making in all four square leagues. Where the topography of the country, either by reason of the juxtaposition of the sea or of mountain barriers, prevented the land being taken in the form of a square, the four leagues were taken in some other form so as to include the pueblo.
On the settlement of the pueblo of San Jose, the Mission of Santa Clara having been established to the west, the Mission of San Jose to the north and east, and the Mission of San Juan to the south, it became necessary to designate the boundaries so that the jurisdiction of the pueblo and the adjoining Missions should not conflict. From year to year the old inhabitants of the pueblo, in company with the younger persons in the community, were accustomed to go out and visit the monuments erected to designate these lines, and to cast additional stones upon them to keep them intact. The delimiting line between the pueblo and the Mission of San Jose ran from the mountains to the bay, about midway between Warm Springs and the present town of Milpitas. On the west the Guadalupe River was fixed as the boundary, while the line between the pueblo and the Mission of San Juan was fixed across the valley to the south in the vicinity of Las Llagas Creek.
San Jose Land Company
San Jose, before the admission of California to the Union, was one of the few populous settlements in California and was known at the time, and before, as the "Upper Pueblo." The city becoming involved and unable to pay the debt incurred to provide suitable accommodations for the Legislature and the officers of the state, a judgment was obtained against her and her creditors. An execution was issued on the judgment and all the pueblo lands were sold at sheriff's sale and bought in by a syndicate styling itself the "San Jose Land Company." This syndicate soon became known locally as "The Forty Thieves," although the number of its members was less than forty and they were, by no means, thieves. But the title they claimed under became popularly known as the "Forty Thieves Title."
The San Jose Land Company, after acquiring its sheriff's deed to lands belonging to the city, claiming to be the successor in interest to the pueblo, presented its claim to the United States Land Commission, sitting in San Francisco, praying for confirmation to it of the lands contained within the established boundaries, asserting that there had been a concession by the Spanish Crown of that large tract to the pueblo. A mass of documentary evidence, correspondence, etc., was introduced, also the testimony of witnessee [sic] to the fact that the monuments had been placed there years before and had been recognized by the citizens. Although no formal concession or grant had ever been found or produced, it was asserted that those acts indicated that one had actually been made. The board and the U. S. District Court confirmed the grant to these exterior boundaries.
In the meantime settlers had located on lands included in this tract under the impression that they belonged either to the Government or to private parties from whom they had purchased. They had made improvements and established homes. By this decision extending the limits of the pueblo, their property was absorbed, and they united, some fourteen of them, in securing an appeal to the Supreme Court.
At that time there was in existence a body known as the commissioners of the funded debt of the City of San Jose. Judge F. E. Spencer, who was a member of this board, was anxious to have the decision of the District Court sustained, believing that the land company had no valid claim, and that if the title to this large tract was confirmed to the city it could be maintained. He succeeded in effecting a compromise, by which the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the lower court, except as to the tracts claimed by the fourteen settlers. A final decree to this effect was made. Afterward this body of land was sold in tracts to actual settlers at the price fixed by the United States Government for its public lands. With the proceeds of these sales the debt of the City of San Jose was extinguished and up to 1887 the city had no debt whatever. In due time the pueblo was surveyed and in 1884 a patent was issued.
The claim of the City Land Company was the subject of more or less litigation and trouble from time to time until 1869. It came up in the case of Branham et al. vs. the City of San Jose, where it was held by the Supreme Court that the city's lands were not subject to execution and sale under a judgment against her. A number of years later, upon the adoption of a charter by the city, a clause was inserted which, it was claimed, confirmed the land company's title. Upon that claim an action was brought in the United States Circuit Court for the District of California to recover possession of the large body of land within the corporate limits which had not passed by legal grants. The case was Leroy vs. Chaboya et al., some 600 defendants being named, and involving the title to a very large portion of land within the city limits. F. E. Spencer, who was counsel for the defendants, obtained a ruling from the District Court to the effect that the provisions of the charter referred to did not amount to a confirmation in favor of the land company or its successor, thus ending a case of great importance to the city and surrounding territory, and which went far to settle land titles in the vicinity.
Grants, of rather an indefinite character, were claimed to have been made to the various Missions, both in Northern and Southern California. When the Missions were secularized, these grants reverted to the state. Notwithstanding this act of secularization, several of the Missions retained more or less landed property, such as church edifices, orchards, etc., and these, in most instances, were afterwards confirmed to the church. But a large body of grazing land passed into the general domain and was re-granted to private individuals. There was quite an extended legal warfare before these lands were confirmed to the church. It was claimed that when the Missions were secularized all property reverted to the Mexican Government, and as it had never been re-granted it became the public domain of the United States on the cession of California, and was therefore subject to preemption. The orchard property at Santa Clara was particularly valuable and was settled upon by several sets of squatters. J. W. Redman, county judge for several years, held the orchard, selling the fruit at enormous prices. It went through several hands, but was finally confirmed to Archbishop Alemany, representing the church.
While the Mexicans held California, Lieutenant Moraga, under the direction of the Spanish Government, partitioned to the original settlers the lands of the new pueblo of San Jose. The allotments were made in accordance with a rule adopted by the government by which all pueblos or towns were to be laid out and established under the plan of the city of Tepic. The tracts of land were divided into three classes: solares, or building lots; suertes, or lots for cultivation, and egidos, or lots for pasturage and wood. By the Tepic method, each family was given four suertes and one solar.
Though there is no record evidence that an allotment was made after the pueblo was moved from its first location, Judge Spencer said that in 1852, and even later, there remained landmarks that showed something of the general plan of the location. Among these were the stumps of hedge-rows forming alleys leading to the Guadalupe River--evidently roads used by women going to the creek to do their washing. At that time, and until the willows and other vegetation had disappeared, the Guadalupe was a perennial stream, supplied in the summer time from the springs in the lower ground south of town, while from the Guadalupe were the remains, tolerably defined, of ditches leading into Canoas Creek. This word "canoas," besides meaning "canal," also signifies a "trough," and it was probably for this latter meaning that the Mexicans applied it to this stream, as they evidently used it for the purpose of conveying water to their suertes, or planting lands.
There were also the remains of branch ditches, or acequias. One went out and crossed the plaza near the site of the city hall and continued on, crossing First Street near San Fernando, as if to irrigate the land sloping to the north and east. Another one was a little west of Market Street, crossing Santa Clara Street diagonally, going through the grounds now occupied by the Sisters of Notre Dame and continuing to the present site of the Hotel Vendome. From this was irrigated the lands between it and the Guadalupe River. In one of the suits regarding the land claimed as suertes, old Pedro Chaboya and other old Mexican witnesses testified that all the alkali land in the northeast portion of the city was, in very early days, fine land for crops; but the Coyote Creek having overflowed its banks and rushed down across the country, the top-soil was washed off and when the water receded it was converted into an alkali sink.
With the Americans came land speculators, and as the pueblo grew in importance and its lands in value, suits were started to obtain possession of some of the most valuable portions of the city under suerte title. None of them, however, were successful, but they formed a chapter of the most important and sharpest litigation in the history of the county. There being no record of the original allotment of suertes, their existence could be proved only by parol testimony, and for this purpose the "oldest inhabitant" was in constant demand. There stood a few old landmarks with all the dignity due to their antiquity, but neither these nor the imperfect family traditions of the oldest poblanos were sufficient to warrant a judgment to favor of the claimants.
The methods used by the Americans to measure and mark out the boundaries of their grants were very crude and resulted in much inaccuracy. Many of them, when surveyed by the United States, shrank or expanded in dimension to the extent of many hundreds of acres. Persons who had settled on what was thought to be Government land would, after some years of labor, find their property included within the boundaries of a neighboring grant and would be forced to lose their homes or purchase them again of another owner. Some persons were compelled to purchase their farms several times before their title became assured. This state of affairs caused great dissatisfaction among the settlers and societies were formed to meet adverse claims and prevent eviction.
These societies, though very determined in the expression of their rights, generally avoided violent measures. In fact, with one exception, they confined their efforts to the raising of funds for the purpose of defending their claims in the courts. The exception referred to occurred in 1861 and is thus recorded by Frederic Hall: "The greatest excitement and demonstration that was ever exhibited in this county upon the question of land titles took place this year. The grant of Antonio Chabolla for the tract of land known as the Yerba Buena Rancho, lying east or southeast of town, had been confirmed to the claimants thereof under the Chabolla title by the United States courts. There were many settlers on the land, some of whom had occupied the same for quite a lengthy period under the belief that it was public land. They seemed to be of the opinion that the grant was a fraudulent one, notwithstanding the fact that the land had been patented by the United States in accordance with the decree of confirmation. The advice which had been given the settlers was evidently not of that kind which had a tendency to better them, or to cause them to view the matter in a proper light. They were induced to spend money in the way of lawyers' fees that was as useless as throwing money into the sea. The Government had conveyed, in fee simple, the land to the claimants, and no party but the United States could move to set aside that patent upon the ground of fraud or any other ground. Suits in ejectment had been instituted against some of the settlers on said land and judgment rendered against them for the possession of certain tracts by the Third Judicial Court, in and for the County of Santa Clara. William Matthews, Esq., of counsel for plaintiff in those cases, caused writs of execution for possession to be issued to the sheriff that the plaintiff might have possession in accordance with his judgments.
"The sheriff summoned a posse of 600 men to go with and to aid him in executing the writ. When the posse assembled at the Court House they were asked if they were armed, to which they replied in the negative; then being asked if they would arm themselves, likewise replied in the negative. They were then dismissed. About one o'clock in the afternoon about a thousand settlers paraded through the town, some on horses, some in wagons, some on foot, and nearly all armed. They had one small cannon. All the settlers' leagues of the county and some from adjoining counties were said to have been present. Toward the close of day they went to their respective homes without doing any damage, save that of disobeying the writ."
Until 1847 there had not been much certainty as to the location of, or titles to, lots in the pueblo of San Jose. It seems to have been taken for granted that the laws regulating the establishment of Mexican towns had been complied with and that those in possession had valid titles. Whether the title was good or not seemed to be of little consequence under the then existing condition of affairs. There were no regularly laid-out streets. The center of the town was the Juzgado, or the plaza, and the houses were scattered north and south on irregular lines with a roadway between. The roadway is now Market Street. After the defeat of Sanchez at the battle of Santa Clara, and the certainty that the arms of the United States would be victorious in Mexico, the foreigners became impressed with the conviction that Alta California would be ceded to the victors and a permanent government established. Viewed in this light, the solares and suertes of the pueblo became of more importance and an attempt was made to settle the question of their ownership.
Early in 1847 the Ayuntamiento and the alcalde directed William Campbell to survey a plat of land a mile square to be laid out in building lots. Assisted by his brother Thomas, he did this work, the tract so surveyed lying between the following boundaries: On the north by Julian Street, on the east by Eighth Street, south by Reed Street and west by Market. This tract was intended to exclude all questions relating to suerte claims. John Burton, who was then alcalde and had resided in San Jose for twenty years, stated that the result of his investigation was that no suerte claims, except the Gongora claim, extended farther south than Julian Street, or farther east than Market Street. This is the original plat of San Jose and from this survey may be dated the existence of the city. The streets were located through this tract, making nine blocks from Julian to Reed and eight blocks from Market to Eighth. The exact course of the streets running north and south was at 45 deg. west, magnetic variation, 15 deg. 22 min. east. The length of these streets was 5,607 feet. The cross streets were laid out at right angles to these.
The survey having been completed and a map filed, the alcalde gave notice to all persons claiming land within the limits of the survey to present them to him for investigation, and, if found valid, he would issue them a new title. Burton, who was no lawyer, seemed to possess a remarkably level head. Notwithstanding persistent litigation on the part of contesting claimants, all the alcalde grants under the Campbell survey have been held by the Supreme Court to be valid. In Campbell's survey four blocks were reserved for a public square. This was named Washington Square and is the present location of the State Teachers' College, the high school and the Carnegie Library.
The pueblo having been thus located, its limits and boundaries of its blocks and lots defined, the settlers from the states resolved to secure a portion of the outside lands belonging to the pueblo. A meeting was called, the proposition to make the survey into lots of 500 acres each was adopted and J. D. Hutton appointed to make the survey. This was done in July of the same year. The lots were numbered consecutively and corresponding numbers placed in a hat. The head of each family was permitted to draw one number, this entitling him to choose a lot, his choice being in the order of the numbers drawn--that is, the person drawing number one was entitled to first choice, and so on. After the drawing the alcalde gave to each party a certificate of title. These alcalde titles were afterwards declared invalid by the Supreme Court.
In May, 1848, another survey of the town was made, this time by C. S. Lyman. He was a practical surveyor and possessed all the necessary implements for practical work. By this survey the limits were extended easterly to Eleventh Street. He enlarged Washington Square to its present dimensions, 1,160 by 1,005 feet. He laid out St. James Square, which is 610 by 550 feet Market Square, the site of the city hall, he fixed at 1,160 by 259 feet. Market, Santa Clara and Fifth streets were made each 100 feet wide, and all the streets running north and south, except Fifth, were made 80 feet wide. The system adopted by the survey is the one now in use. San Fernando Street is the base line and the ranges are counted easterly from Market Street. Other surveys have been made as additional territory was taken into the city limits.
The tract of land lying west of Market Street and along the Guadalupe River, was used for cultivation and was not surveyed into town lots for several years after the admission of California into the Union. It was held as suertes and was watered by an acequia, or ditch, leading from the Canoas Creek south of town. This ditch furnished water to the people for some time after California became a state; but gradually the foreigners acquired this land from the Mexicans and streets were opened from time to, time as the population increased.
Public Treasury Robbed
Before the first month of the year 1853 had been brought to a close, the entire county was startled by the news that the public treasury had been robbed. The treasurer, William Aikenhead, declared that he had been knocked down in the darkness of night and robbed of his keys, and that the unexpectedness of the attack prevented him from recognizing the robber. His story of the assault was this: Hearing a noise in the rear of the building about eight o'clock in the evening, and not long afterward a step on the front porch and a calling of his name, he opened the door to ascertain who it was. Instantly he received a blow on the head that laid him prostrate; he was then choked, his pockets emptied and the key of the safe taken. The office was then entered and several thousand dollars were carried away. The board of supervisors placed full credence in Aikenhead's story, and after investigation made a report exonerating him from neglect or blame. In the month of February, Aikenhead disappeared. A committee of three, in company with the district attorney, was appointed to examine all the books and papers in the treasurer's office and file a report with the clerk. The committee was composed of J. M. Murphy, W. R. Bassham and W. L. Smith, and their report made Aikenhead a defaulter in an amount approximating $20.000.
Following is the list of the various tracts of land in Santa Clara County to which title was granted by the Spanish and Mexican governments:
Arroyo de los Pilarcitos, one square league, to
Candelario Miramontes. Canada del Corte de Madera, to Domingo Peralta.
Canada de San Felipe Las Animas, two square leagues, to Charles M. Weber;
patented August 9, 1866. Canada de Pala, 8,000 by 1,200 varas, to Jose
de Jesus Bernal et al.; patented August 9, 1863. Canada de los Capitancillos,
to Guadalupe Mining Company. El Corte de Madera, two square leagues, to
Maximo Martinez; patented June 14, 1858. El Pasito de las Animas, 3,042
acres, to Robert Walkenshaw. Embarcadero de Santa Clara, 1,000 varas, to
Barcelia Bernal. Juristae, one square league, to Antonio and Fausten German.
La Polka, one square league, to Bernard Murphy; patented March 3, 1860.
La Purissima Conception, one square league, to Juana Briones. Los Tularcitos,
to Antonio Hignora et al., heirs of Jose Hignora; patented July 8, 1870.
Las Animas, or Sitio de la Brea, to Jose Maria Sanchez. Las Coches, one-half
square league, to Antonio Sunol et al.; patented December 31, 1857. La
Laguna Seca, four square leagues, to Liberata Cesena Bull et al.; patented
November 24, 1865. Los Capitancillos, three-quarters of a square league,
to Charles Fosset; patented February 3, 1865. Las Animas to Frederic E.
Whiting. Milpitas, one square league, to Jose Maria Alviso. Mission of
Santa Clara to James C. Galindo. Mission of Santa Clara, 13.13 acres, church
property; patented March 3, 1858. Ojo de Agua de la Coche, two square leagues,
to Bernard Murphy; patented January 4, 1860. Potrero de Santa Clara, one
square league, to Robert F. Stockton. Pastoria de las Borregas, 3207 1/4
acres, to Martin Murphy; patented December 15, 1865. Pueblo de San Jose,
to Mayor and Common Council; confirmed October 8, 1866. Pala, one square
league, to Ellen White et al., widow and heirs of Charles White. Quito,
three square leagues, to Manuel Alviso; patented May 14, 1866. Rincon de
San Francisquito, one-half square league, to Maria Antonia Mesa, widow
of Rafael Soto. Rancho de Refugio, or Pastoria de las Borregas, three square
leagues, to Tomas Pacheco and Augustin Alviso. Rincon de los Esteros to
Francisco Berryessa et al., heirs of G. Berryessa. Rincon de los Esteros
to Rafael Alviso et al. Rincon de los Esteros, two thousand acres, to Ellen
E. White. Rinconada de los Gatos, one and one-half square leagues, to Sebastian
Peralta and Jose Hernandez; patented March 19, 1860. Santa Ana y Quien
Sabe, seven square leagues, to Juan Miguel Angas and Manuel Larios; patented
May 1, 1860. San Ysidro, one square league, to Quentin Ortega et al.; patented
September 27, 1869. San Francisco de las Llagas, six square leagues, to
Bernard, Daniel, James and Martin Murphy; patented March 19, 1868.