Santa Clara County History

History of Santa Clara County


The Early Churches of San Jose and Their Vicissitudes--History of the San Jose Library--Its Growth from Small Beginnings--The County Free Library and Its Work.

The religious environment of San Jose is thus described by the late Rev. John W. Dinsmore, D. D., L. L. D. "Among the advantages and attractions which the city possesses there is not one which has precedence over its churches and religious institutions. We have here, and at its best, almost every type of religious faith and fellowship--Hebrew, Catholic and Protestant. People of every known creed and communion may find here those who share their views and follow their discipline.

"The Roman Catholic Church is much the oldest communion in the county. Its priests and parishes, its schools and convents and its charitable institutions are numerous, strongly sustained. Nearly all types of religion classed under the name of Protestant are represented here: Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Congregationalists, Baptists, Christians, Episcopalians, Friends, Christian Scientists, and other denominations of almost every name and variety. Many congregations are very strong, and some of them are large and have a powerful influence in the community. The oldest Protestant Church in the county, and one of the oldest in the state, is the First Presbyterian. It was organized October 12, 1849, and has been sustained ever since. The Methodist and Baptist associations came in a little later. Others came rapidly as time passed by. Into the economic and social life of the county all good and upright people are welcomed on precisely equal terms. Here people of almost every religious persuasion may find those of kindred sympathies and of like faith and fellowship."

Following is the list of the San Jose churches and religious denominations: Protestant--Methodist Episcopal Church (2), St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church South, German Methodist Episcopal Church, Presbyterian (2), Baptist, Grace Baptist, Trinity (Episcopal), Christian, Grace Lutheran, Second Day Adventists, Home of Truth, Unitarian, Bethel Pentecostal, Universal Brotherhood of Spiritualists, First Spiritual Union, Mormon (2), Nazarene, A. M. E. (Zion) Church, Christ Church Mission, Upper Room Mission, Emmanuel Baptist, Swedish Mission, Congregation Bikur Cholim, First Church of Christ, Scientist; Bethel, American Lutheran, United Presbyterian, and Free Methodist. Catholic--St. Joseph's, St. Patrick's, St. Mary's, Holy Family, Sacred Heart, Precious Blood, Five Wounds.

The pioneer churches of San Jose were St. Joseph's (Catholic), Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, First Baptist Church, Trinity Church, Christian Church, Society of Friends, German Methodist Episcopal Church, Unitarian Church, United Presbyterian Church, Congregation Bikur Cholim, and First Congregational Churches.

St. Joseph's Church dates back to 1803. In 1835 improvements were made, adobe mud being used in the construction. This building was afterwards encased in brick. It was finally destroyed by fire. The present building, a large, handsome and commodious structure, was completed in 1887. Additions were afterwards made, so that now it lacks in nothing essential to the convenience of the priests and their followers. It stands on the site of the original church of 1803.

The First Presbyterian Church, as Dr. Dinsmore has stated, was organized in 1849. Rev. Mr. Douglas, James Mathers and wife, Sarah Warren Dutton, S. W. Hopkins, Oliver Crane, Austin Arnold, and Dr. J. C. Cobb were the organizers. The first services were held in the Juzgado, or Justice Hall, of the alcalde's court, on Market Street. The first sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered in a blue tent made by "Grandma" Bascom. Up to this time the state house had been used, in conjunction with the Baptists, as a place of worship. In the latter part of 1850 a neat building of wood was erected on a fifty-vara lot situated on the east side of Second Street, between Santa Clara and St. John Streets. The building cost $3000, and was dedicated February 9, 1851, by Rev. S. H. Wiley. On account of damages done by an earthquake, October 10, 1868, services for a time were held in the Young Men's Christian Association building. In April 1906, another quake wrecked the building. The church then purchased another lot on Third Street, near St. John, and upon it erected the present church.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, organized in 1849, has met with many vicissitudes. A church building was constructed in 1850 on Third Street, near the corner of Santa Clara. In 1853 the church was moved to the southwest corner of Second and Santa Clara Streets. On February 22, 1868, the building was burned to the ground. Another building was erected on the site of the old one and for over twenty years services were held there. Then a new and larger church was erected on North Second Street, near the Santa Clara corner. This was used until the earthquake of 1906. The building did not fall, but was considerably damaged. It was afterward repaired and for many years was used as a motion picture house. The property was sold by the Methodist corporation and in 1910 a new, up-to-date, reinforced concrete building was erected on the northeast corner of Fifth and Santa Clara Streets.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was organized in May, 1851. The first building of brick was erected on the northeast corner of Second and San Fernando Streets. In 1871 the building was removed to give place to a large wooden structure, which was used until the fire of 1892 destroyed it. After, the erection of a new business block on the site of the old church, services for awhile were held in a room in the second story. Now services are held in an ornate building at the corner of Second and San Carlos Streets.

The First Baptist Church was organized May 19, 1850, by Rev. O. C. Wheeler, of San Francisco, who was the first Baptist minister on the Pacific Coast. It had only eight members at the beginning. This small membership could not afford to engage a permanent pastor, so arrangements were made by which monthly meetings, conducted by Mr. Wheeler, were held. In November of that year a lot was purchased at the corner of Third and Santa Clara Streets. Here Rev. L. O. Grenell, from the Baptist Home Missionary Society, took charge and in the following February was elected permanent pastor. The place of meeting was afterward moved to the corner of Second and San Antonio Street, where a brick building for church purposes, had been erected. In 1877 a new and commodious structure was erected. It was burned in 1882 and the present structure took its place.

Rev. S. S. Etheridge began the regular services of the Trinity (Episcopal) Church in November, 1860, occupying the old city hall. The first organization of the parish was made in February, 1861. Trinity Church, on the corner of Second and St. John Streets, was built in 1863. Rev. Mr. Etheridge continued in charge of the parish until his death in February, 1864. In 1876 the church was enlarged to nearly double its former capacity. During Dr. Wakefield's incumbency--he was appointed in 1884--a tower and a spire and a building for a chapel and guild rooms at the rear of the church, were erected.

The Christian Church, or Disciples of Christ, was first organized in 1870. The members met in a little hall over the Home Mutual Fire Insurance Company's office on Santa Clara Street, Rev. Cary, minister. Afterwards meetings were held for several years in Champion Hall, Rev. W. D. Pollard, officiating. In March, 1883, Rev. J. W. Ingram came to San Jose from Omaha, Nebr., and was appointed minister. The members then moved to the California Theater, where they held their meetings until January, 1885, when they moved into their new church, erected on Second Street, between San Fernando and San Antonio Streets.

The first religious meeting of the Society of Friends, otherwise known as Quakers, was held in June, 1866, in a building on the corner of Ninth and St. James Streets. The lot was donated by Jesse and David Hobson. In 1873 these meetings were regularly organized under the authority and discipline of the Iowa yearly meeting of the Society of Friends. Jane F. M. Canney and Adonijah Gregory were the regularly appointed ministers. In 1886, the society purchased a lot on Stockton Avenue, near the Alameda, where services were afterwards held.

The German Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1861 by Rev. A. Kellner. The first regular pastor was Rev. G. K. Bollinger. After the lapse of several years, Rev. Hermann Brueck arrived and preached to the German residents in the old city hall. A Sunday school was organized and Mr. Brueck's term of service lasted until 1871. He was succeeded by Rev. C. H. Afflerbach. During the term of his administration the valuable church property on Third Street between Santa Clara and San Fernando Streets was acquired.

The First Congregational Church was organized April 11, 1875, Rev. Theodore T. Munger, acting pastor, who officiated until the appointment of Rev. M. Williams. The church building was first erected on San Antonio Street between Second and Third. In 1887 the building was moved to the corner of Second and San Antonio Streets, and a large addition built to it. The new building was dedicated December 27, 1887.

The Unitarian Church was first organized as Unity Society in 1867, and the first minister was Rev. Chas. G. Ames. After him came J. L. Hatch, D. Cronyn, W. W. McKaig and Mr. Fowler. In April, 1888, the Unity Society dissolved and the Unitarian Church was organized with N. A. Haskell as minister. After a few years the society purchased from Mrs. Martha J. Moody her residence property on North Third Street, opposite St. James Park. On this lot a large, handsome building was erected. Rev. Charles Pease is the present minister, succeeding Rev. O. P. Shrout, who died in July, 1920.

The First United Presbyterian Church was organized November 6, 1874, twenty-eight members united at the time. Rev. A. Calhoun, by appointment of the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church of North America, commenced missionary work in San Jose in the fall of 1874 and remained in charge of the church work until 1879, when he was chosen pastor and regularly installed. The organization occupied a little hall over the San Jose Savings Bank for four years. In the fall of 1878 the congregation erected a church on the corner of Fifth and Santa Clara Streets, the lot and church costing $12,000.

The synagogue of the Congregation Bikur Cholim was erected in 1861 at the corner of Second and San Antonio Streets. Among the early members were Jacob Rich, M. Blumenthal, H. Rich, Meyer Levy, Felix Feist, L. Linoberg, M. Isaacs, J. Feist, and H. Levy. The congregation organized before the erection of the synagogue and for a time held services in Armory Hall on Santa Clara Street, between Second and Third Streets. For several years the congregation had no rabbi, but on July 17, 1920, steps were taken for a reorganization in a meeting of a reorganized San Jose Independent Order of B'nai B'rith. The order, according to the preamble of the constitution, has taken upon itself the mission of uniting Israelites in the work of promoting their highest interests and those of humanity; of developing and elevating the mental and moral character of the people of the Jewish faith; of inculcating the purest principles of philanthropy, honor and patriotism; of supporting science and art; alleviating the wants of the poor and needy; coming to the rescue of victims of persecution; providing for, protecting and assisting the widow and orphan on the broadest principles of humanity. The present rabbi is Harvey B. Franklin.

The order started with a roster of over eighty members. The officers are: president, Leon Jacobs; vice-president, I. Marcus; secretary, Meyer Brecker; treasurer, L. Richards; inside guardan, D, Lavin; outside guardian, Max Mendahlson; trustees, E. N. Rosenthal, Max Blum, L. J. Marymont.

Santa Clara County Free Library

In California the county board of supervisors may establish a county free library for that part of the county lying outside of incorporated cities and towns having free public libraries. In this way the people living in the country may have just as good a library to draw from as their town cousins. County library service has proved so satisfactory that forty-three out of the fifty-eight counties in California now have county libraries. The county library serves the people living in the country and the small towns just as the large city libraries serve the people of the cities.

The end and aim of the county library is to supply all the people in the county with books. To accomplish this branches are started in the community centers, in the post office or a local store preferably. A collection of books is placed here and they are changed often. The size of the collection depends wholly on the demand, as many books are sent as can be used.

The Santa Clara County Free Library began work July l, 1914, in the Hall of Justice, corner Market and St. James Streets, San Jose. Beginning with three rooms the library now uses seven rooms in the same building and is still asking for more room.

During the six years since the library was started twenty-four community branches have been opened at: Agnew, Alma, Alviso, Berryessa, Burbank, Campbell, College of the Pacific, Coyote, Cupertino, Evergreen, Gilroy, Los Altos, Mayfield, Milpitas, Moreland, Morgan Hill, Mount Hamilton, New Almaden, Santa Clara County Branch, Saratoga, Shannon, Stanford, Sunnyvale, Wrights.

In 1915 it was found necessary to open a branch at the Hall of justice to serve the people who lived just outside the city limits of San Jose. The branch began with one small room, but has grown to seven rooms. There is a pleasant reading room with magazines and a good supply of books.

The State Lihrary supplements the service of the County Library. If a book is wanted that is not in the County Library and the demand will not justfy its purchase it is borrowed from the State Library, and the service is free to the borrower.

Under the County Library law of California the school districts may join the County Library and receive library service. This means that the district transfers its library fund for the year to the County Library. The advantages are many: the school receives in books many times the value of the money invested, an expert buys the books and better prices are secured, the school has access to all the books on the shelves of the County Library.

The service to the schools began in 1914 when four districts joined. Now seventy-one of the seventy-eight public schools of the county have joined the County Library, also two of the high schools. About 35,000 books were sent out to the schools this year. If a school has a phonograph music records are also sent to the schools and these are exchanged just the same way as books.

Beginning with nothing at all in the way of equipment in 1914 the library now has over 48,000 books and over 14,000 borrowers. With twenty-five community branches, seventy-one school branches and two high schools, there are ninety-eight branch libraries in the county where the people may draw books. Many of the school branches serve the grown people as well as the children. Miss Stella Huntington is the county librarian.

The Carnegie Library

The honor of being the father of the San Jose Public Library belongs by right to I. F. Thomas, a carriage maker, who tried to arouse public interest in the project in the spring of 1872. He did not succeed, but after he had ceased agitation, another effort was made by a number of prominent citizens, this time with success. In the summer of 1872 an organization was perfected in the office of Judge D. S. Payne and incorporation soon followed, the name chosen being "The San Jose Library Association." The following officers were elected for one years: D. S. Payne, president; A. Pfister, vice-president; C. D. Wright, recording secretary; C. C. Stephens, corresponding secretary, and Henry Philip, treasurer. The object of the association was the establishment of a library and reading room; the collection of a cabinet, scientific apparatus, works of art, etc. The constitution provided that the association should not be conducted or controlled in the interest of or by any denominational, sectarian or political party, but should be controlled and managed in the same broad and liberal spirit that actuated the founding. By this wise provision the cooperation of all classes, sects and creeds, was secured, and success was achieved almost at the outset. Mayor Pfister set the ball rolling by donating $1612.62, his salary, and citizens followed him on a smaller scale. The old books of the Y. M. C. A., which practically ceased to exist some time prior to this incorporation of the Library Association, were purchased at a nominal rate and on September 1, the rooms were formally opened. Twenty life members (fee $25) were secured and also over 300 annual and monthly members. In a few years, the library had a fine museum and over 2000 hooks. The first rooms were in the second story of the Knox Block, corner of First and Santa Clara Streets, and at first were supposed to be of sufficient size to meet all requirements; but the growing popularity of the institution and the rapid increase of membership, necessitated an addition, and in order that the same might be made as soon as possible the ladies of San Jose rallied in countless numbers and made arrangements for two public entertainments in Music Hall in aid of the library. The first was a tea party and the second a character and fancy dress party. They were successful and quite a large sum was netted and turned over to the Library Association.

The library continued as a private institution until February, 1878, when it was turned over to the city and became a free institution. The rooms were then changed to the new city hall building on Market Plaza, and were used until 1903, when the Carnegie Library building of brick and sandstone at the southeast corner of Washington Square was completed. In 1892 Andrew Carnegie, the multi-millionaire, offered to donate $50,000 for the erection of a library building in San Jose, if the city would agree to maintain the library in the new quarters. The offer was accepted and the agreement made.

The names of the librarians from the organization to the present time are: Geo. W. Fontress, William Redding, Miss A. Barry, Miss Nellie Egan, Miss Mary Barmby, Miss Nell McGinley, Chas. F. Woods. After the installation of the library in the new building, the name was changed to The Carnegie Library. There are four rooms upstairs and five in the basement. There are 30,000 books in the library and the average monthly circulation is 8000. Since Mr. Woods' administraton, registration and circulation have both increased. Mr. Woods became librarian July 1, 1917. His library experience was gained in the library of the State University and the Mechanics Library, or Institute, San Francisco. During his incumbency he has done much to popularize the institution by readings, talks and newspaper articles. In 1908 a Carnegie Library, was erected at an expediture of $6,893.71 in East San Jose.

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

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