Santa Clara County History

History of Santa Clara County


Los Gatos, the Gem City of the Foothills and Its Lovely Environs--The Gateway of the Valley--Gilroy, the Thriving Little City at the Southern End of the County--Attractions and Advantages

Los Gatos, the "Gem City of the Foothills," is in the most delightful part of the most delightful California County--Santa Clara. The position of the town is rich in commanding views, is sheltered from winds and fog and is surrounded by fertile lands. It is a peerless city for homes, just the place for those who want to withdraw from the heat and glamour of city life, either permanently or at the end of the week, to enjoy the witchery of entrancing surroundings.

Los Gatos has a rare asset in its comfortable and exhilarating climate, which is in every way, conducive to health and longevity. The thermometer rarely goes below the freezing point, or above eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit, although there have been a few days of record-breaking heat. By record-breaking heat some such figure as ninety-eight is meant, but the dryness of the atmosphere and the ever-present coolness of the shade and the night prevent sunstroke or other discomforts such as characterize Eastern summers. The absence of extreme temperature and excessive moisture, the prevalence of cool nights and the absence of malaria, render the air healthful and exhilarating the year round. While mean temperatures are often misleading it may be said that the mean of Los Gatos, made-up from a long series of equable days, is fifty-eight the year through.

The rainy season usually begins in October and ends in May, but during this season the bright and cheerful days outnumber those of cloudiness and rain. There is an absence of lightning and violent winds. From June to October there is seldom even a shower. There are usually more than 250 sunny days in a year.

The Federal Weather Bureau reports the following facts: The altitude of Los Gatos is 600 feet. The average temperature during twenty-four years was fifty-eight and one-tenth. The lowest temperature during that period was twenty-eight. The total number of rainy days in 1910 was forty-five. The average temperature for January was forty-five and one-tenth; July, sixty-six and six-tenths. The coldest day of the year showed twenty-nine degrees, and the last serious frost was on February 2. The date shows that a long growing season, free from frost, is the heritage of the valley. The rainfall at Los Gatos from 1886 to 1915 averaged thirty inches a year, being ample for all purposes of health and agriculture. The average annual velocity of the wind is only seven miles an hour.

Besides the superb advantage of being in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Los Gatos is situated at the mouth of a beautiful canyon, part of the town lying on one side, part on the other, of Los Gatos Creek. The knolls are favorite building places and most of the lots lie at an elevation of from 400 to 800 feet above sea level, while some of the elevations in the background run as high as 2,000 feet, these being near the summits, past which modern highways have been and are being constructed to afford motor parties some of the grandest views in California. The foothills and the mountains form a delightful ampitheater about the town, opening out to the floor of the valley on the north. These foothills shelter the town from winds and fogs, prevent the frosts of the lowlands and make the nights of summer a delight. Los Gatos is ten miles from San Jose and the distance to the ocean at Santa Cruz is only twenty-five miles.

Los Gatos is peculiarly favored in the matter of good roads. A branch of the $18,000,000 State Highway, entering Santa Clara County at the Alameda County line and passing through Milpitas and San Jose, proceeds from the latter city to Los Gatos, thence up the Los Gatos Canyon and across the county line to Santa Cruz. This roadway offers a highway between San Francisco and Oakland of almost 140 miles. The branch of the State Highway is of the greatest importance to Los Gatos. It is a fine road of easy grade, well maintained by state funds. It gives access to the Santa Cruz Mountains in general, and carries the great bulk of the travel to Santa Cruz. It is also the favorite route for visitors to the Big Basin and California Redwood Park.

Los Gatos is within easy reach of a number of points of interest to tourists and residents as well. San Jose, as has been stated, is only ten miles away and is reached by the Southern Pacific system of steam cars and also by the excellent electric service of the Peninsular Railway Company. Stanford University is only sixteen miles away and is reached over the electric system and by the Southern Pacific. The New Almaden Quicksilver Mines are twelve miles distant, while the Guadalupe Quicksilver Mine is half that far. Congress Springs is reached by the electric line and is six miles from Los Gatos.

The following points are also of interest: Alma Soda Spring--four miles, drive; Big Trees, Redwoods--nineteen miles, steam railway or drive; Big Basin Park--about thirty miles, steam railway and stage; Lick Observatory, Mount Hamilton--thirty-six miles, stage from San Jose; Alum Rock Park--eighteen miles, electric railways; Santa Cruz, or Monterey Bay--twenty-five miles by steam railway; seaside resorts all around the bay, including Monterey and Pacific Grove. Los Gatos is the starting point and finish of the famous Twenty-seven Mile Drive, one of the grandest scenic mountain drives in the world.

Excellent lands, fit for a wide variety of uses, are adjacent and within easy reach of Los Gatos, for good roads make every part of the territory accessible to the husbandman. More than three hundred miles of the county's roads are either sprinkled or oiled every summer. Almost every kind of fruit will grow in the fertile areas adjacent to the town, the wide range including apples, pears, apricots, cherries, peaches, olives, plums, prunes, almonds, walnuts, limes, oranges, lemons, pomelos and nectarines. The grape product is large. Both table and wine grapes thrive everywhere in the vicinity. Bee-keeping, the poultry business, and dairying are important industries.

Fruit-raising is the prime industry of this part of the state. To care for the crops there are many large drying plants and the Hunt Brothers' up-to-date cannery. This establishment turns out almost 3,000,000 quarts of canned fruit each year. When running under normal conditions, in the summer, it employs from 350 to 400 persons. It turns out about 40,000 cases of apricots and the same number of peaches each year. There are also a number of well-equipped drying-plants. Those of Hume Company, H. D. Curtis, the Los Gatos Cured Fruit Company, and Gem City Packing Company, all heavy operators.

The famous Glen Una prune ranch is an example of what can be done on a large scale. This superb property is close to Los Gatos, lying seven hundred feet above sea-level, far above the frost belt. It consists of 700 acres, about half of which is orchard, principally prunes. J. D. Farwell, manager of the ranch, says it has yielded as high as 1,100 tons of prunes in one season. Since it was planted, some years ago, it has produced prunes to the value of $750,000.

Within the last decade miles of cement sidewalks have been put in, also an efficient sewer system and an up-to-date gas and electric plant. Educational interests are well represented in Los Gatos. There is a fine high school and a well-equipped grammar school. Students can pass from the senior year at the high school to any of the universities close at hand.

The Montezuma Home Ranch school in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Los Gatos is unique. It is a school for boys and the management takes special pains in ministering to the physiological needs of the growing child. It provides shops, gardens, outdoor advantages, an agricultural course and one in engineering. The Novitiate of the Sacred Heart is far-famed for its beauty and equipment. It is a training and boarding school where young men are trained for the priesthood.

Religious denominations are well represented. The churches are numerous, well appointed, and well attended. Visiting ministers of note are often heard in the local pulpits. Most of the secret and fraternal orders that thrive throughout the United States have lodges in Los Gatos. The women of the town maintain a number of useful clubs, both social and educative. The Los Gatos History Club owns its building. Another interesting organization is the Foothill Club. The Trail Club travels over the mountains. It already boasts of six trails to Loma Prieta.

The financial interests of Los Gatos are looked after and represented by the Bank of Los Gatos, which has a commercial and a savings department, and by the First National Bank of Los Gatos. One weekly newspaper--The Mail-News--ministers to the local news field, and its owner takes pride in fostering every interest and enterprise that makes for the upbuilding of the community.

It was a wonderful tribute to Los Gatos when the Odd Fellows of the state selected a site on a sightly eminence for their great Odd Fellows' Home. More than eighty eligible sites were carefully examined before this selection was made. Los Gatos won by reason of general desirability from a scenic and climatic point of view, also because of transportation facilities, proximity to markets, and healthfulness.

The same reason has led a number of wealthy men and women from many parts of the world to select Los Gatos for their home: either permanently or for certain seasons. The names of many wealthy persons might be cited, persons able to go anywhere their fancies might direct, but they wisely chose Los Gatos.

In 1918 a pageant given out of doors was the means of attracting thousands of people the the Gem City. In 1920 there was another pageant produced on a larger scale than the first one. It was in the form of a play, "The Californian," and was written by Wilbur Hall, a noted short-story writer, who has made his home in Los Gatos. There was a prologue and an epilogue and eight episodes and the play was given before an immense crowd of spectators on each of the two evenings. June 18 and 19. Among the notables present were Gov. William D. Stephens, Gertrude Atherton, Mrs. Ruth Comfort Mitchell Young, Helen Hoyt, John D. Barry and Mrs. Fremont Older. After witnessing the first performance Gov. Stephens said: "As an illustration of history the pageant was the finest thing I have ever witnessed. The entertainment as a whole was well worth going any distance to see. The story is well told, well staged and is a tribute to Mr. Hall."

The pageant is in eight episodes, divided by a festival interlude into two movements. The San Jose Mercury in its report says: "It presents in dramatic spectacle the vital moments in the history of the commonwealth. The acoustics in the natural amphitheater where the pageant was given are remarkable, every word of the actors being plainly audible to the last rows of seats. And with a dusky canopy overhead, brilliant with a million stars, the rugged setting and faithful costuming of the players went to make up a vivid glimpse into the past, reflecting credit both on Mr. Hall and on the city of Los Gatos."

The following persons appeared in the cast: Prologue--The Californian, J. M. Church Walker. Episode one--Musonotoma, Stella Allampress; Tokkoko, Vincent Duffey; William Markham, Charles J. Mickelson; Onalik, Willis Hubbell; Sir Francis Drake, Eugene Rounds; Finley, J. G. Hobbie; Wininu, the chief, Gleen Curtis, Drake's soldiers and sailors, Wiwok Indians.

Episode two--Captain Vincente Markham, John Clark; Figueroa, Arthur Bassett; Gaspar de Portola, E. L. Thomas; Father Crespi, H. E. Pearson, Jose, a boy, Joseph Barbano; Captain Perez, A. L. Erickson; Father Junipero Serra, R. B. Newbre; Dona Ysabel Markham, Eleanor Ham. Spanish soldiers and sailors; priests: Indians.

Episode three--Governor Pablo de Sola, Fred F. Wells; Senor Mateo Markham. Martin Le Fevre; Senorita Juana, Thelma Springer; her duenna, Mrs. C. C. Lasley: Don Rosenda Peralta, W. A. Platt; Don Felix Verdugo, J. C. Wakefield; Commandante. Neal McGrady; Canon Augustin de San Vincente, R. D. Hartman.

Episode four--Mrs. Markham, Mrs. W. A. Platt; Luke Markham, Henry Crall; General Guadalupe Vallejo, E. M. Barton; Ezekiel Merrill, E. E. Gessler; Dr. Semple, William M. Bolstad, William B. Ide, O. H. Thomas; army
lieutenant, E. H. Melvin.

Episode five--Kelsey, an immigrant, J. E. Norton; Mrs. Tucker, Miss Ella Shove; Captain Tucker, George H. White: Mary Tucker, Georgia Edwards; John Tucker, Walter Edwards; Captain John Sutter, A. E. Yoder; Doctor, Dr. L. A. Frary; Elizabeth Jordon, Rachel Riggs.

Episode six--Peter Wimmer, Jesse O'Neil; Jas. W. Marshall, Louis Fetsch; Jennie Wimmer, Mrs. Egan C. Wells; Jim Brodie, Dell Linz.

Episode seven--Sam Brannan, Dr. Louis Boonshaft; John C. Hays, sheriff, J. M. Gorman; James D. Farwell. vice-chairman of Vigilantes, James D. Farwell, Jr.; clerk, Herbert Roberts; prosecutor, Fred Berryman, Sr.; defender, N. I. Wilder.

Episode eight--watchman, E. H. Norton; Judge Nathaniel Bennett, J. S. Troxell. Epilogue--The Gloria, Blanche M. Lidley.


Gilroy, one of the most thriving and beautiful little cities of Santa Clara County, is located at the southern end of the valley, about thirty miles from San Jose. It is on the State Highway, which runs through the southern coast counties to Los Angeles. The first settler was John Gilroy, who arrived at Monterey about 1813. He struck a midshipman, and upon being reprimanded, he escaped punishment by fleeing to the Santa Clara Valley, settling in San Ysidro. In 1821 he marrid a daughter of Ignacio Ortega and upon Ortega's death received a large portion of the San Ysidro Rancho. He served many years as alcalde of the district and in 1846 was made a justice of the peace by Commodore Stockton. In his last years he was in want. He died in July, 1869, aged 76 years.

The second settler was Philip Doak, who was a block and tackle maker on a whaler. He came into the valley in 1821.

Matthew Fellom was the third settler. He landed from a whaler at a Russian settlement in 1822 and finding his way to the Santa Clara Valley in 1823, acquired a portion of the San Ysidro tract. He died in 1873 and was the grandfather of James Fellom, the popular novelist, who resides in San Jose. The first house was erected by James Houck in 1850. It was a small roadside inn and stable, intended for accommodations of travelers between San Jose and Monterey. It was built of split redwood and was situated to the north of Lewis Street. The next building was on Lewis Street, near Monterey Street and was used as a store by Lucian Everett. This was soon followed by a house built by John Eigelberry. The first hotel in the town was built by David Holloway in the winter of 1853-54. It was quite a pretentious structure and stood between Lewis Street and Martin's Lane. About the same time David Holloway opened a blacksmith shop and Eli Reynolds put up a building for a saddler's shop. In 1851 a postoffice was established with James Houck as postmaster. In 1852 the first school was opened. It continued one season. In 1853 a school building was erected by subscription. The teacher was Mr. Jackson and the trustees were W. R. Bane and Dempsey Jackson.

The first Protestant religious services were held in 1852 at the residence of W. R. Bane. They were conducted by Rev. Mr. Anthony of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1853 Rev. J. T. Cox of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, organized a congregation and held services in the schoolhouse. In 1854 a church was built at a cost of $1,000. Both the schoolhouse, and the church have been replaced by handsome modern buildings.

In 1867, F. S. Rogers, a dentist, opened an office, and in 1868 James C. Zuck established the first lawyer's office in the town. Zuck and Rogers formed a partnership for conducting a real estate business. They purchased five acres in the northwestern part of town and sold it quickly as town lots. Twenty acres more on Monterey Street, near the center of town, were purchased from John Eigelberry and sold in the same manner. W. L. Hoover then came into the firm and thirty acres more land, on the east side of Monterey Street, were purchased from L. F. Bell, cut up into lots and sold.

On February 18, 1868, the town was incorporated under the laws of the state and named Gilroy. On March 7 of the same year an election for town officers was held and the following were chosen: Trustees, John C. Looser, William Hanna, Frank Oldham, Jacob Einstein, Jacob Reither; treasurer, H. Wangenheim; assessor, James Angel; marshal, A. W. Hubbard. The assessor failed to qualify and H. D. Coon was appointed in his stead. J. M. Keith was appointed town clerk. In March, 1870, an act was passed by the legislature incorporating Gilroy as a city, with the government vested in a mayor, city marshal and ex-officio tax collector, a city clerk and ex-officio assessor, and a city treasurer. At the first regular election in May, 1870, the following officers were elected: J. M. Browne, mayor; M. Einstein, treasurer; Geo. T. Clark, clerk; M. Gray, marshal; councilmen, William Hanna, Jacob Reither, J. B. Morey, C. K. Farley, William Isaac, Volney Howard.

A great obstacle to the prosperity of the city was the question of title to the land on which it was situated. The ownership of the land was an undivided interest in the Los Animas Rancho, an early Spanish grant. The rancho had never been partitioned and there was an uncertainty as to where any particular holder might be located when the different interests were set off. This state of affairs was a source of great annoyance, as it practically clouded all the titles in the city and vicinity. Many meetings for consultation were held. The matter culminated January 3, 1879, when Henry Miller, the largest owner in the rancho, filed a complaint in partition. The defendants were all the other owners and numbered over one thousand. The court, after hearing, appointed County Surveyor Herrmann, J. M. Battee and H. M. Leonard as commissioners to survey and set off to each owner his interest in the tract. It required several years to accomplish this work and it was not until June, 1886, that the final decree was filed. This settled for ever the question of title and each owner of property in Gilroy has now a claim to his property that is indisputable.

Since the settlement of title Gilroy has grown rapidly. Within the municipal limits the population is over 3,000, but more than 7,000 people make use of it as a business center of a rich and productive territory. The country about is devoted to the production of prunes and other fruits, berries, vegetables and alfalfa, to dairying, cattle, hog and chicken raising, and to large seed farms.

Excellent schools, good stores, churches, lodges, clubs, beautiful shady streets and the advantages of a live town are afforded Gilroy. Its water and lighting systems are municipally owned. It is the commercial center of the southern end of the valley and has a fine future for development. It has many up-to-date buildings, including too banks, a fine city hall and a new high school. There is a strong and efficient fire department, several good hotels and a fine public library. The Chamber of Commerce has been a most active agency in the upbuilding of that section and is regarded as one of the most energetic organizations in the county. Gilroy's streets are broad, lined with shade trees and bordered with cement walks and well-kept lawns with flowers and shrubbery in profusion. The high school occupies a building which cost $40,000 and has ten acres of land for playgrounds and agricultural purposes. Adjoining the school tract is a city park. There is a good sewer system with septic tanks and filter beds. The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs Orphans' Home is located here. There is a large cannery, two packing houses, a strawberry plant (established in 1918), a dehydrating plant, natural ice plant, a creamery, planing and feed mills, two newspapers, the Advocate and the Gazette, seven churches, machine shops and garages.

A building boom was inaugurated in 1921. First, an I. O. O. F. Orphans' Home was erected at a cost of $250,000. It replaced a wooden structure erected in 1897. At the dedicatory exercises, October 19, 1921, a bronze tablet to the memory of the late Mrs. Mary Donaho, who lost her life in a San Francisco fire, was unveiled. Mrs. Donaho left a fund for the furnishing of the assembly hall. Then followed the building of a new theater, the Strand, at a cost of $100,000, two large hotels, a Masonic Temple, costing $125,000, and a number of costly business houses.

The climate of Gilroy and vicinity cannot be excelled anywhere. The average temperature in July is sixty-five degrees and in January fifty degrees. This slight difference between summer and winter insures fresh vegetables and flowers every month in the year and fresh strawberries for ten months. Nearly three-fourths of the days throughout the year are clear and sunshiny, making the section a natural sanitarium as well as an ideal place for ranch and residence purposes. The soil is diversified from a light gravelly loam to a heavy, deep black sediment. The annual rainfall is about twenty inches, and is ample for everything except alfalfa, berries, vegetables and lawns.

Prunes are the staple crop, a very large part of the valley being in prune orchards and more being planted every year. Excellent table grapes are produced here in abundance, and a large acreage is planted to blackberries, loganberries, raspberries and strawberries, all of which grow luxuriantly and produce most profitable crops. Considerable general farming is still done, although most of the valley has been made into orchards, vineyards and dairies. Artesian water is found over a large section youth and east of Gilroy, nearly all of which is given over to dairying and nearly every dairy has a large acreage of alfalfa and its own cheese factory. A few large farms are devoted entirely to raising garden, vegetable and flower seeds. Excellent tobacco is produced near Gilroy. At the Panama-Pacific International Exposition a gold medal was awarded for leaf tobacco and cigars made from tobacco grown in this section of the valley. Poultry and egg raising pay well and stock raising is an extensive and very profitable industry. From 400 to 450 carloads of live stock are shipped from Gilroy every year.

On either side of the valley, which at Gilroy is five miles wide, are a series of foothills, practically free from frost, these areas being devoted to the raising of apricots and other early fruits and lemons, which do remarkably well. Higher up on the west side are low mountains covered with beautiful redwoods. All through these mountains, in the canyons, are excellent camping places. Redwood Retreat, a popular summer resort, also Magic Springs and the summer homes of Lloyd Osborne, Henry Miller, and others, are located in these mountains. Through these mountains, in a direct line, it is only fifteen miles from Gilroy to the coast. In the mountains on the east side of the valley are located the Gilroy Hot Springs, noted as a health resort, and a short distance farther north are the Madrone Springs.

Other small villages in the southern end of the county are San Ysidro (Old Gilroy), devoted to dairying and vegetable raising; San Felipe, where tobacco raising was for years successfully pursued; Rucker, a station on the Southern Pacific, where fruit culture is a specialty; Sargent's Station, six miles south of Gilroy, and a favorite picnic resort. and Solis, an agricultural and fruit district in the western foothills.

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

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