Santa Clara County History

History of Santa Clara County


The Public Utilities of San Jose--The Early Service of the Gas and Electric Companies--The San Jose Water Company and Its Sure and Steady Progress--The Street Railways In and Out of the City--The Post Office.

In 1860 San Jose was large enough to warrant the introduction of illuminating gas. On October 6 of that year James K. Prior, Thomas Anderson and James Hagan formed the San Jose Gas Company. This corporation had a capital stock of $21,000 and the period of existence was fixed at forty years from the date of the filing of the certificate. Gas was first lighted in the city on January 21, 1861. It was supplied to eighty-four customers. There were seven street lights. The price of gas was ten dollars per 1000 cubic feet. The sales of gas for the first year amounted to 165,000 cubic feet. Railroad communication between San Francisco and San Jose was not established until 1864. Before that date coal was brought to Alviso in sailing vessels or in barges and from Alviso landing to San Jose, a distance of nine miles, over roads which were in bad condition at all seasons of the year and during wet weather were impassable owing to the overflow of streams which enter the bay at or near Alviso. During the periods of overflow the coal used for gas making was carried from Alviso on pack mules. It is recorded that often these mules with their burden of coal would be swept away by the torrent while fording some stream and both mule and coal lost beyond recovery. So there is probably quite a deposit of coal and mules somewhere in the Alviso flats.

The first gas holder built in San Jose had a capacity of 8000 cubic feet. The material used in the construction of its tank was redwood planks three inches thick. This gas holder was in continuous use for twenty-eight years. When torn out in 1888 the redwood tank was found to be in as good condition as when it was built. Some of these very redwood planks were used in the construction of buildings about the gas works.

In 1865 a special committee of the city council made an investigation of the business and profits of the San Jose Gas Company. The report showed that the original investment in 1860 was $21,000; that during the first five years of its existence the total expenditure for betterments, materials and labor was $53,637.93; that the receipts from gas sales during that period amounted to $75,617: that the founders of the Company had divided in dividends $19,979.52, or about the equivalent of the original investment. Amended certificate of the incorporation of the San Jose Gas Company was filed February 25, 1879. The capital stock was increased to $600,000, divided into 6000 shares of $10 each. The company had no liabilities.

On February 25, 1882, the San Jose Brush Electric Light Company was organized. Term, fifty years; capital stock, $100,000. Directors, James A. Clayton, Pedro de Saisset, Thomas Rea, T. S. Whipple, San Jose; Geo. H. Roe, San Francisco.

The articles of incorporation of the San Jose Brush Electric Light Company were amended May 16, 1887. Power was given to purchase, lease and sell lands, tenements and hereditaments.

The incorporation of the Electric Improvement Company took place on March 30, 1887. Place of business, San Francisco; capital stock, $5,000,000, divided into 50,000 shares of $100 each. Directors, Frank Butterworth, August J. Bowie, Jr., Louis T. Haggin, San Francisco; W. H. Howard, San Mateo: Frederic Sharon, Belmont; Henry C. Dreger. As an offshoot of the above named company, the Electric Improvement Company of San Jose was incorporated, March 29, 1889, with a capital stock of $100,000, divided into 5000 shares of $20 each. The directors were C. W. McAfie, T. C. Van Ness. A. J.. Bowie, San Francisco; and H. J. Edwards and James W. Rea, of San Jose.

The San Jose Light & Power Company was incorporated June 20, 1889. Term, fifty years: capital stock, $1,000,000, divided into 10,000 shares of $100 each. Directors, Chas. Otter, H. H. Kooser, E. W. Clayton, Chas. A. Hagan, H. J. Edwards, C. T. Ryland, Amasa Eaton.

The San Jose Lighting Company was incorporated June 3, 1895. Term, fifty years; capital stock, $250,000. Directors, Chas. F. Wilcox, Joseph R. Patton, W. H. Sumner, R. L. Stock and J. J. Sontheimer. On February 1, 1904, the place of business was changed from San Jose to San Francisco.

July 1, 1902, the Electric Improvement Company and the San Jose Light and Power Company were acquired by the United Gas and Electric Company. In merging these two companies, a lease of the building on Market Street, formerly occupied by the Evening Herald, was acquired. There was also a concentration of all the gas interests of the new corporation on San Augustin Street on the former site of the San Jose Light and Power Company. At that time the intention was to build a high-pressure pipe line up the peninsula as far as San Mateo, but the project was never undertaken.

Many names familiar to the gas men of the Pacific slope were connected with the business of gas lighting in San Jose. The late Chas. W. Quilty, who was the second vice-president of the Pacific Coast Gas Association, was for many years president of the San Jose Light and Power Company; and the late Harry J. Edwards, affectionately spoken of by his friends as "genial Harry Edwards," was intimately connected with the lighting interests of San Jose almost from the inception of the business. He was the manager of the Electric Improvement Company and afterwards manager of the United Gas and Imprbvement Company, and the district manager of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company until his death in 1909. James K. Prior remained in the gas business in San Jose until March, 1899.

After a few years of business the United Gas and Electric changed its name to that of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. In 1909 the company moved into new and more commodious quarters at the southwest corner of Second and San Antonio Streets.

In February, 1917, the Jones improved oil generator, a vast improvement on the old equipment of generators was installed at the gas works. The superintendent of the gas works is Robert E. Hargreaves, who has occupied that position since 1904. John D. Kuster, a man of force and an extremely popular citizen, succeeded Harry Edwards as manager of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. He was formerly manager of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company's branch at Fresno.

San Jose Water Works

The San Jose Water Company, afterwards the San Jose Water Works, was organized November 26, 1866, by Donald Mackenzie and John Bonner, of San Jose, and R. Chabot, of Oakland, with a capital stock of $100,000. The city of San Jose and the town of Santa Clara granted the company exclusive privileges for the term of twenty-five years. To carry out the plan of the owners, tanks were constructed, engines built, and the city of San Jose was supplied with water from artesian wells. At the end of two years the supply thus obtained was found insufficient for thegrowing wants of the community, therefore the right to use the water of Los Gatos Creek was obtained. A new company was formed in 1868 with the capital increased to $300,000. The officers were: N. H. A. Mason, president; D. Mackenzie, vice-president; W. B. Rankin, secretary; C. X. Hobbs, superintendent, and E. McLaughlin, treasurer.

On the formation of the new company, work to bring the waters of Los Gatos Creek to San Jose was begun. Reservoirs were made and pipes laid throughout the city, thus affording, for those times, a generous supply of water. Since that time other water rights have been acquired.

The equipment consists of the water from Los Gatos Creek and its tributaries, and Campbell Creek, besides a number of reservoirs, and is placed in divisions. The main surface supply of Los Gatos Creek is used for the San Jose division. The Los Gatos town system derives its main surface supply from Beardsley Creek and Cavanagh Creek. The Saratoga system depends on the high-line system operating on the hill sides between Los Gatos and Saratoga. In case of emergency Saratoga can draw on Beckwith Springs for surface supply. The stored water consists of the Lake Ranch reservoir, Howell reservoirs (2) for San Jose and Los Gatos; for supplementary supply to San Jose there are five pumping stations as follows; main station in the rear of the local office on Santa Clara Street, between the two bridges, with a capacity of from 6,000,000 to 9,000,000 gallons per day; station No. 2 on Monte Vista Avenue, near the O'Connor Sanitarium, with a capacity of from 5,000,000 to 7,000,000 gallons per day; station No. 3, at Seventeenth and Santa Clara Streets, with a capacity of from 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 gallons per day; station No. 4, on Bascom Avenue, with a capacity of from 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 gallons per day, and station No. 5, at Cottage Grove, with a capacity of 1,500,000 gallons per day. The supplementary supply of Los Gatos consists of two pumping stations, one at the Tisdale residence, capacity 800,000 gallons per day, and the other, called the hill well, with a capacity of 100,000 gallons per day. There is also the Alum Rock station, which has a capacity of 100,000 gallons per clay.

The company has about 14,000 subscribers. All the surface water is filtered through sand, then treated to a weak solution of chlorine--two parts to a million gallons of water--so as to kill typhoid and other disease germs. No case of typhoid or other contagious disease has ever been caused by water supplied by the San Jose Water Company. The water, therefore, which is used by the consumers, is absolutely pure. The company maintains its own laboratory and after tests have been made, samples of the water are sent to the State University as a check upon the San Jose analysis.

The annual report of the president for 1919 shows that the year closed with a surplus of revenue over expenses and dividends of $11,950.60. In addition to this increase there was carried to the reserve known as premium on capital stock, $7,725,000, thus making a total of $19,675.60 increase in these accounts. As on December 31, 1919, the company had no accounts payable on its books, and as all outstanding notes had been paid from sales of stock, the San Jose Water Works was then and now is, out of debt. The present officers are: Joseph R. Ryland, president; Paul S. Williams, vice-president; H. S. Kittredge, secretary, and J. B. Harmon, assistant secretary.

During 1919 the total revenue amounted to $256,460.16; total expense, $134,511.09. Profit for the year from operation, $121,619.07; dividends for year, $111,276.00; interest, $6,162.75; total, $117,438.75. Increase in surplus from operation, $4,180.32. The assets and liabilities for the year were: assets, $2,243,626.61; liabilities, $2,243,626.61. Under the head of liabilities is placed the capital stock, $1,009,100.00. The net assets are given as $2,089,810.34, showing that surplus of assets over par value of stock, is $80,710.34.

The Street Railroads

The Legislature of California in March, 1868, granted a franchise to S. A. Bishop, Charles Silent, Daniel Murphy, D. B. Moody and their associates to construct a horse railroad along the Alameda from San Jose to Santa Clara. Messrs. Moody and Murphy, having declined to avail themselves of the franchise a new directorate was organized. S. A. Bishop was elected president, John H. Moore, treasurer, and Charles Silent, secretary. Work was first started August 31, and the cars made their initial trip on November 1. In 1869 the line was extended eastward along Santa Clara Street to the Coyote bridge and afterward across the bridge to McLaughlin Avenue. In 1887 the company obtained a franchise from the city and constructed San Jose's first electric road.

The First Street Railroad was built in 1870 by S. A. Bishop, and was the first narrow gauge street railroad track laid in the United States. Its original route was from the San Pedro Street depot, along San Pedro, Julian and First Streets, to Reed Street. Bishop sold his interest to F. C. Bethel, who sold to Geo. F. Baker, and he to Jacob Rich. Under Rich's management the route was changed to conform to the general system of street railroads so as to run from the Market Street depot along First Street, Willow Street and Lincoln and Minnesota Avenues in The Willows.

On February 11, 1876, the board of supervisors and the mayor and common council of San Jose granted a franchise to C. T. Bird, Chas. B. Hensley, John Auzerais, F. J. Sauffrignon, J. C. Bland, Oliver Cottle, Isaac Bird, F. Brassy, T. W. Spring, James R. Lowe, R. C. Sivan and S. Newhall, to establish a street railroad. The enterprise developed into the Market and Willow Glen Railroad Company and was incorporated February 23, 1876, with J. J. Denny, John Auzerais, Isaac Bird, F. J. Sauffrignon and C. T. Bird as directors. C. T. Bird was president, John Auzerais, treasurer, and F. Brassy, secretary. The route originally authorized was from the intersection of Julian and Market Streets, along Market, San Fernando, San Salvador and Bird Avenue to Willow Street. When the First Street Railroad extended its line down Willow Street, the road was discontinued from the corner of Delmas southerly. The route was afterwards changed so that it ran from the depot at Market Street along Market, San Fernando and Delmas Avenues. This action was taken after the road had passed to the control of Jacob Rich.

The mayor and common council of the city of San Jose granted to the Southeast Side Horse Railroad Company on February 26, 1877, a franchise for a narrow gauge road, to Jacob Rich, C. G. Harrison, W. S. McMurtry, J. G. McMillan and S. W. Boring. The officers were: Jacob Rich, president, and S. W. Boring, secretary. The same parties afterwards procured a franchise for a narrow gauge road, taking for its starting point the corner of Second and San Fernando Streets and running thence to Market and Santa Clara Streets; on Santa Clara street to the Alameda, and thence to the town of Santa Clara. The Southeast Side Company deeded all its franchises to the new corporation, named the People's Horse Railroad Company. The road is no longer in operation as originally laid out. After a short service it was taken over by Jacob Rich.

In the '90s all the roads in San Jose and running out of it were controlled by Jacob Rich and J. H. Henry, the latter succeeding S. A. Bishop, who had passed from earth. Bishop was a man without enemies. Everybody liked and respected him. He radiated good humor and was greeted with smiles whenever his short, roly poly figure waddled up Santa Clara Street. Before coming to San Jose he had been manager of the great Beale ranch, with headquarters at Fort Tejon. Indians were numerous and hostile during the last few years of his management, and he had many exciting experiences with them. One story of thrilling adventure he was never tired of telling. As the historian remembers it, he said that while he was one day looking for stray cattle, a band of Indians suddenly appeared on the trail in front of him. In attempting to escape, his horse was shot and killed. "I had a rifle," he went on, "but after I had dropped a dozen of the redskins my ammunition gave out. I cast aside the rifle and occupied myself in dodging arrows until a section of my ear was nipped off. Then I turned tail and ran like a whitehead. But I didn't start running until I had picked from the ground the section of ear clipped off by an arrow. I had the presence of mind to do that, for if I came out of the rumpus alive I knew I could get one of the boys at the fort to sew the piece on again. Well, I hot-footed it for a near by canyon, hoping to find there a cave or some rocky shelter. No such luck, for I soon bumped up against a wall and found myself in a regular cul-de-sac. No thoroughfare beyond, high rocky wall in front and on one side, and on the other side a vertical precipice half a mile in depth. I knew I was up against it, so I proceeded to say my prayers. As I prayed the Indians approached cautiously, but when they saw how I was fixed they let out a series of yells that actually froze the blood in my veins. Then they made a rush for me, each Indian with a big carving knife in his hand. I believed I was looking death in the face, so I shut my eyes and waited for the end. Yes, I shut my eyes--" Bishop would always stop at this point and shiver. "Well," an excited listener would ask, "how did you escape? What did the Indians do?" "They killed me," would come the calm reply and then Bishop would laugh until the tears came.

After operating his road for many years, Jacob Rich got into financial difficulties. The German Savings Bank of San Francisco took over the First Street and Willows road and J. B. Harmon for a time tried to operate the horse railway in the second ward. Finally L. J. Hanchett secured control of all the city roads, uniting them under the Peninsular system. In the meantime, the old horse railway line which ran along Fifth Street to Empire, along Empire to Fourteenth and thence to Mission Street was discontinued and standard gauge electric roads had been extended along Julian Street to the Coyote. Hanchett sold to the stockholders of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, and they named the San Jose system, the San Jose Railroads. These stockholders also purchased the out-of-town interests of all the street railway companies, incorporating under the name of the Peninsular Railroad Company, with Frank E. Chapin as superintendent. Now, San Jose has street railways in every direction and country railways running to Berryessa and Alum Rock Park, and along Santa Clara Avenue, and an intersecting street to Toyon station, on the east; to the Willows, Los Gatos, Campbell and Saratoga on the south; to Cupertino on the west, and to Santa Clara, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mayfield and Stanford University on the northwest.

San Jose is connected with practically every town and resort in the county with railway service. The Santa Clara Valley has a network of railway tracks, lines radiating from San Jose in every direction. The San Jose Railroads System has nearly one hundred miles of track.

The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company has its offices in a new two-story concrete building on Market Street, near San Fernando. It has over 14,000 subscribers and its wires reach every city, town and village in the county. H. Winkle is the manager.

San Jose Post Office

The first mail communication established in the United States between San Jose and the outside world was in April, 1847, when Assistant Quartermaster-General J. L. Folsom established a weekly mail between San Francisco and Monterey by way of San Jose. Prior to this time, under Mexican and Spanish rule, the only means of communication had been by mounted messenger.

Under the postal system established by the military authorities, Jacob D. Hoppe acted as postmaster. Mr. Hoppe was a native of Maryland, and came to San Jose from Missouri in 1846. He was a member of the firm of Hoppe, Hawkins & Company, who kept a general merchandise store in a small frame building on South Market Street. In 1850 the firm built a new two-story adobe building on the northeast corner of Market and Santa Clara Streets. The post office was moved to a room on North Market, in the rear of the store. John R. Wilson, S. A. Clark, V. Staley and Judge R. B. Buckner were employed in the store and assisted with the mails. Hoppe was a prominent figure in the early history of San Jose, and his place of business was headquarters for the local politicians. Besides being postmaster he held the office of town councilman before San Jose had arisen to the dignity of a city government. He was also a member of the Constitutional Convention and of the second city council in 1851. It is said that he decided the destiny of San Jose. When he was about to build his new adobe block he took a fifty-cent piece from his pocket, threw it in the air, and said: "Heads, San Jose; tails, Santa Clara." The coin came down heads and the block was built in San Jose. So great was his popularity that an old pioneer said that the whole town would have followed him to Santa Clara if the coin had shown tails. He was killed in April, 1853, in the explosion of the steamboat Jenny Lind, about four miles from Aiviso.

John R. Wilson was the second postmaster of San Jose, having been appointed by President Fillmore, August 7, 1851. S. A. Clark was Wilson's deputy. At the time of Wilson's appointment postage was forty cents per half ounce, prepayment being optional with the sender. Shortly after his appointment the pony express was established and overland postage was reduced to ten cents. Wilson resigned in 1852, and removed to Alviso, where he was engaged for several years in the warehouse business. Then he returned to San Jose, his death occurring a number of years ago.

In the latter part of 1852 Arthur Shearer was appointed postmaster, holding the office about one year. The office was removed to a building on Santa Clara Street, where the Auzerais House now stands. At this time there was a monthly overland mail and a weekly mail from San Francisco and Monterey. The next postmaster was Major John Patrick, a native of Arkansas and a veteran of the Mexican War. He died in 1869. During his term the office was moved to South First Street, opposite El Dorado Street.

Gen. Charles E. Allen was appointed postmaster July 15, 1856, and chose Ralph Lowe as his deputy. The office was again moved, this time to West Santa Clara Street, near Market. Allen was a pioneer of 1849. He was the first county assessor, afterwards county judge, and in 1855 was commissioned brigader general of the First Brigade, Second Division of the California Militia. He declined the reappointment as postmaster tendered him by President Buchanan, but remained in charge of the office until his successor was appointed by President Lincoln in 1861.

Simon M. Cutler succeeded General Allen in July, 1861. He was the first postmaster of the new Republican party. He removed the post office to South Market Street. He died in 1868 and his brother, James M. Cutler, acted as postmaster until 1869. Judge Chas. G. Thomas was the next appointee. The office was moved to South First Street, opposite El Dorado Street. The business of the office increased until it became necessary to employ four clerks. Judge Thomas, who had been justice of the peace prior to his appointment as postmaster, died in 1875.

President Grant appointed Dr. E. A. Clark  postmaster in May, 1873. The increase in the business of the office made it necessary to secure more commodious quarters. The office was moved to the corner of Santa Clara and Market Streets, in the Hensley, afterward the Rea. building, where it remained until July, 1888. Dr. Clark was a native of Ohio and came to California in 1850, settling in Santa Clara County. He had served as deputy assessor of internal revenue, deputy county recorder and city superintendent of schools, resigning the last position to become postmaster. He died in 1894.

S. B. Anderson was appointed postmaster by President Hayes April 4, 1877. He had served as deputy postmaster for ten years. When the office was removed to the Hensley block, the merchants of that vicinity subscribed a sufficient sum to pay the rent of the building. The money appropriated by the government for rent was used entirely in the payment of clerk hire and incidental expenses. The department did not approve of the postmaster's action, and he was removed from office. Anderson was a veteran of the Civil War, and has been dead for more than twenty years.

Daniel C. Bailey succeeded Anderson, taking office in April, 1878. He was reappointed by President Arthur, August 1, 1882, and served until July 1, 1886. After repeated attempts Bailey succeeded in having a free delivery established October 1, 1885. The principal objection of the department to the establishing of free delivery was the poor system of street numbering then in vogue. Bailey immediately took steps to have the houses and business buildings renumbered, and finally secured the adoption of the present system. The carriers were then granted him. Bailey was a native of Maine and came to California in 1851. He was in the grain business untl 1871 when he was elected county recorder. He died several years ago.

Samuel H. Wagener came after Bailey, his appointment by President Cleveland being made in April, 1886. He had never taken an active part in politics and his appointment displeased the politicians and bettered the service. He retained efficient clerks and carriers and all his appointments were made on merit. During his term the office was removed to the corner of First and San Antonio Streets. Wagener was a druggist. He came to San Jose in 1877, after haying served as treasurer and mayor of Muskegon, Mich. He has been dead many years.

Dr. Thomas Kelly was commissioned as postmaster by President Harrison May 1, 1890. During his term the office became first class and the civil service rules were extended to all free delivery offices. Dr. Kelly was a veteran of the Civil War, and died a few years after the expiration of his term of office.

John W. Ryland, appointed postmaster August 24, 1895, died in 1922. He was a native San Josean, was educated in Santa Clara College and Hastings Law School, and was admitted to the bar in 1879. He was a Democrat and was a candidate for state senator in 1886, running in a Republican district and losing by only six votes. In 1892 he was defeated for Congress, although he carried his own county against a usual Republican majority of five hundred. The appointment as postmaster came to him without solicitation. Few postmasters have met with so many difficulties as did Mr. Ryland. Before his time much of the clerical work had been done by carriers, while the eight-hour law governing carriers' time, had never been strictly enforced. The Post Office Department issued orders that this law must be enforced; also that carriers must not perform any clerical work. To provide for the performance of this work and at the same time maintain the efficiency of the local service, Mr. Ryland found it necessary to reorganize his office and also rearrange his carrier routes. In doing this he made many improvements, the most important of which was the delivery of the afternoon mails from San Francisco nearly an hour earlier than had been the custom.

Maj. W. G. Hawley was the next postmaster. He received his appointment from President McKinlev in 1898 and served until his death, September 4, 1912. From that date until October 16, 1912, I. A. Ball was the acting postmaster. On October 16 John R. Chace received a recess appointment, which lasted until July, 1913, when Byron Millard, postmaster until June, 1922, received a regular appointment front President Wilson. Mr. Millard made a most efficient officer. He carried through many improvements and the office for nine years was one of the best appointed and best managed in the state. The receipts for the calendar year 1921 were $233,048.79. In 1920 the receipts for the year were $214,647.44; in 1899, $49,201.57. I. A. Ball, a veteran in the service, is the assistant post master. In April, 1922, Millard was succeeded by John R. Chace, who took charge in June.

The post office is now located at the southeast corner of Market and San Fernando Streets, on the site of old Chinatown, destroyed by fire in 1887. During the ongressional campaign of 1888 Hon. Thomas J. Clunie promised the voters of San Jose that if they would send him to Congress he would secure an appropriation for a post office building for the city. He was elected and kept his promise, securing with the aid of Senator Hearst and Hon. W. M. Markham, an appropriation of $200,000. The ground cost $39,454.67. The cost of the building, which is built of sandstone, was $138,852.21, leaving a balance of 2$21,693.12.

The basement of the building is used for the heating and ventilating apparatus. In the south end is a room where the bulky articles of the parcels post are routed and distributed. The first floor is used entirely by the post office and consists of one large room, money order and registry rooms and departments for general delivery and parcels post. The two large rooms on the second floor are for the use of the internal revenue officers and the Government Weather Bureau, the latter directed for many years by Maurice Connell, one of the survivors of the Greely Arctic Expedition. He died in 1921 and was succeeded by E. S. Nichols.

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

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