There is no county in California so rich in material, romantic, progressive and adventurous, as the County of Santa Clara. It absorbs about the whole of the Santa Clara Valley, rightly proclaimed the richest valley in the state, and in respect of size, the richest in the world. It is located at the southern end of San Francisco Bay and the county, itself, embraces 1304 square miles. This book tells the story of this exceedingly beautiful piece of earth from the first settlements to the early 20th century.
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History of Santa Clara County
EUGENE T. SAWYER
History of Santa Clara County, Eugene T. Sawyer
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Unrivaled Climate and Situation — Story of the Early Days — The Founding and Growth of the Missions — Founding of San Jose — Secularization of the Missions — Life on the Early Ranchos — Early Government — The First Americans — The Ill-Fated Donner Party.
THERE is no county in California so rich in material, romantic, progressive and adventurous, as the County of Santa Clara. It absorbs about the whole of the Santa Clara Valley, rightly proclaimed the richest valley in the state, and in respect of size, the richest in the world. It is located at the southern end of San Francisco Bay and the county, itself, embraces 1355 square miles.
The climate is famed for its evenness and salubrity. The Mt. Hamilton Range on the east and the Santa Cruz Mountains on the west protect the valley from the heat of the San Joaquin plains and direct coast influences. The Bay has a modifying effect, its cool breezes which sweep through the valley, making the summers cooler and the winters warmer. The mean summer temperature is seventy-five degrees; winter, about sixty degrees. The average rainfall is sixteen inches for the valley and nearly twice that amount for the mountains. There is an alternation of storm and sunshine between October and May. During this period there are from thirty to forty days in which more or less rain falls; from sixty to seventy that are cloudy; the rest are bright and pleasant. These estimates vary with particular seasons, but taking the average of a series of years, it will be found that from October to May one-half the days are cloudless and fully three-fourths such that any outdoor vocation can be carried on without discomfort or inconvenience.
Cyclones and terrific windstorms are unknown and thunder is heard only at rare intervals. With the month of March the rains are practically over though showers are expected and hoped for in April. Summarizing, it may be said that in any part of the year, days too hot or too cold for the comfort of those engaged in ordinary occupations are rare. It may be added that the fears and forebodings with which the seasons are elsewhere greeted, are here unheard of. Coming with no rigors, they bring no terrors and are alike welcomed as a change. In these conditions health and comfort are largely subserved and also in them the great horticultural possibilities, and these, the elements of present and prospective prosperity, are as constant as the ocean currents in which they have their origin, as permanent as the mountain ranges which bound the field of their exhibition.
Santa Clara County is the banner fruit section of the state. In 1919 there were 98,152 acres planted in fruit trees and 2,850 acres in vines. The total acreage of cereals, vegetables and berries was 86,695 acres. The livestock numbered 62,248; value $1,288,175. It is the prune center of America. More prunes are raised in the valley than are raised in the whole United States outside. In 1919 the orchardists of the county received $45,000,000 from the product of their trees. This was irrespective of the money received from the packers and canners. In the season ending in the winter of 1919 the Southern Pacific Railway handled about 153,000,000 pounds of prunes in the territory between Hollister and San Francisco. The crop was by far the largest ever raised in the Santa Clara Valley. In 1921 the canneries of the valley paid out nearly $50,000,000 for orchard products.
Though called the "garden spot of California," this phrase should not be interpreted to make gardening more important than fruit raising, for fruit raising is the prime industry. Timber, cattle raising, dairying and sundry industries have played and still play an important part in the business life of the population, though the days of wheat raising, grazing and timber culture are passing rapidly. Lands so fertile and so adaptable to fruits and vegetables cannot, in a section that is being rapidly populated, be given over to any industry other than one that is intensive. Within the limits of the county there is practically no waste land. It is interesting to bear in mind that much of the poorer and rougher land compares more than favorably with some of the best acreage in the Eastern states.
A graphic and beautiful picture of the valley appeared in the April (1920) issue of the Southern Pacific Bulletin. It was from the pen of R. F. Wilson and is here reproduced:
"One of California's great out-of-doors treats is a trip through any of the orchard regions around the Bay of San Francisco during blossom time — the end of March and the beginning of April. The visitor to San Francisco or Oakland during this period should devote a day at least to seeing one of these mountain-rimmed fruit valleys nestling among their rounded, oak-clad foothills. The beautiful valley of Santa Clara — Queen of Blossom Festivals — lies directly south of San Francisco, its northern gateway being at Palo Alto, twenty miles distant. It is fifty miles in length and from five to twenty miles in width, its level floors inlaid with a thousand tinted squares and rectangles of orchards, dotted with country homes and interlaced with hundreds of miles of auto roads, electric lines and railways. It is a veritable Eden, a gorgeous garden of fruit and flowers, walled in on the east by the Mt. Hamilton Range, on the south and west by the Coast Range and the Santa Cruz Mountains. This garden wall is two to three thousand feet high and 'over the garden wall' is all California, a natural setting for this wonderful valley, one of the thousand wonders on the Southern Pacific lines. In early spring you can here behold over 100 square miles of trees in snow-white blossoms — prune, plum, cherry, olive, almond and with a dash of pink and red for the peach and apricot. Over 8,000,000 with billions of blossoms — Santa Clara County's great White Milky Way, twinkling in the California sunlight like myriad heavenly constellations, with honey bees buzzing in the perfumed air. Have you ever seen such a sight? You may hear the Song of Spring all over the world but nowhere on earth can you duplicate the Santa Clara Valley in blossom time. You cannot match this wealth of brilliant blossom even in Japan, and Japan's cherry blossom trees are barren while California's trees bring forth luscious fruit. In late March and early April the Santa Clara Valley is a dazzling, billowy sea of foaming white caps rolling toward us from the faraway horizon. From June to November this ocean of blossom is formed into a tempting basket of assorted fruits. The valley then puts on a regal mantle, purple with prunes and plums, bright yellow with the colorful peach and apricot giving it full right to the happy title, 'The Field of the Cloth of Gold'."
The origin of the name which the county bears is thus described in a report made to the Senate under date of April 16, 1856, by Gen. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, then senator from the district of Sonoma entitled, "Report of Mr. Vallejo on the Derivation and Definition of Names of the Several Counties in California." In that report, he says of Santa Clara: "According to the Roman Book of Martyrs, or Martyrology, as Hortalana, the pious mother of Santa Clara, was once kneeling before a crucifix, praying earnestly that being with child she might be happily delivered, she heard a voice whispering: 'Fear not, woman, thou shalt safely bring forth'; whereupon a brilliant light suddenly illumed the place and the mother, inspired by the mysterious prediction, baptized her child Clara, which is the feminine of clear or bright. Clara was afterward sanctified, on account of her many eminent virtues and accordingly venerated by the Catholics in all Roman Catholic churches. The Mission of Santa Clara, from which the county derives its name, was founded on the twelfth day of January, 1777."
The people who inhabited the Santa Clara Valley prior to its occupancy by the whites were a race of mild-mannered, ignorant and generally inoffensive Indians. They were sometimes called Diggers and subsisted on the spontaneous fruits of the soil and the small game which they killed or captured with their rude weapons. Like nearly all the natives of the Pacific Coast they worshiped the sun. They believed in an evil spirit and their religious rites and ceremonies were devoted, principally, to its propitiation rather than to the adoration of a Supreme Being with power to protect them from the anger of their evil god. They had no villages, but at certain seasons of the year they would herd at certain fixed places which the Spaniards called rancherias. They had no prominent men or noted chiefs whose names survive. Their existence in the county served as a motive for the establishing of the Mission of Santa Clara, which was the beginning of civilization in the valley.
Founding of the Missions
In 1768 Franciscan friars, under the guidance of Father Junipero Serra, left Lower California for the conquest and conversion of Upper or Alta California. The first mission was established in San Diego on July 16, 1769. In September 1776, the Viceroy of Mexico penned a communication to Don Fernando Rivera, the officer commanding at San Diego, informing him that he had received the intelligence that two missions had been founded in the vicinity of the Bay of San Francisco and as the Commandante had been provided with military guards for these he would be pleased to have his report. On the arrival of the message Don Fernando, without loss of time, made arrangements for visiting the places designated and placing the guards in their proper places. After a journey, covering many days, he, with his twelve soldiers, arrived at Monterey, where he learned that only the mission at San Francisco had been founded. Accompanied by Father Tomas de la Pena, who with another priest, had been appointed to perform the religious duties of the expedition, he started north. On their journey they came to the spot afterwards occupied by the Santa Clara Mission and being captivated by its many charms and advantages resolved to locate a mission there.
Toward the last days of the year, 1776, the soldiers and their families, who were to take part in the establishing of the new mission, arrived in San Francisco, and on January 6, 1777, Father Pena, the soldiers and their families, took up the march for the chosen location. Their first duty on reaching their destination was to erect a cross, which, with all solemnity, was blessed and adored. On January 12, 1777, an altar was raised and the first mass ever celebrated in the valley was said by Father Pena. In a few days Father Murguia joined them, with the necessary paraphernalia for a settlement, and on January 18, 1777, the formal ceremony of founding Santa Clara Mission took place. This was the first white settlement in the county. From this time the valley, which had hitherto been known as San Bernardino, became the Valley of Santa Clara. A general description of the settlement is thus given by Father Gleeson in his work entitled "The History of the Catholic Church in California": "The buildings were generally quadrilaterals, inclosing a court ornamented with flowers and trees, the whole containing the church, the fathers' apartments, storehouses, barracks, etc. The entire management of each establishment was in the hands of two religieux: the elder attended to the interior, the younger to the exterior administration. One portion of the building which was called the 'monastery' was inhabited by the young Indian girls. There, under the care of approved matrons, they were carefully instructed and trained in those branches necessary for their condition in life. They were not permitted to leave till of an age to be married — this with a view of preserving their morality.
"In the schools those who exhibited more talent than their companions were taught vocal and instrumental music, the latter consisting of flute, horn and violin. In the mechanical departments the most apt were promoted to the positions of foremen. The better to preserve the morals of all, none of the whites, except those absolutely necessary, were employed at the Mission. The daily routine was as follows: At sunrise they arose and proceeded to the church, where, after morning prayer, they assisted at the Holy Sacrament of the mass. Breakfast next followed, after which they proceeded to their respective employments. Toward noon they returned to the Mission and spent the time from then on till 2 o'clock between dinner and repose, after which they repaired to their work and remained engaged until evening angelus, about an hour before sundown. All then betook themselves to the church for evening devotions, which consisted of the ordinary family prayers and the rosary, except on special occasions, when other devotional exercises were added. After supper, which immediately followed. they amused themselves in divers sports, games and dancing until the hour of repose. Their diet consisted of an abundance of beef and mutton, with vegetables in season. Wheaten cakes and puddings or porridges. called atole and pinole, also formed a portion of the repast. The dress was, for the males, linen shirts and pants and a blanket to be used as an overcoat. The women received each, annually, two undergarments, a gown and a blanket. In years of plenty, after the Missions became rich, the Fathers distributed all the surplus money among them in clothing and trinkets."
The natives were teachable, willing to learn and reasonably industrious. The land was fertile and each year saw a gratifying increase in the numbers of those who relinquished heathenism for Christianity and habits of savagery for the arts of civilization. Having a care over the temporal as well as the spiritual welfare of their charges the Fathers soon saw the Santa Clara Mission become a flourishing institution.
About seven years after the foregoing events, Father Junipero Serra, president of the Missions of California, feeling that old age was overtaking him. and. having some spare time, resolved to visit some of the missions and hold last confirmation. He had also been invited to dedicate the Santa Clara Mission. About the first of May he visited the selected spot, and then went on to San Francisco. He had been in that place but a few days when he received the distressing news of the serious illness of Father Murguia. On May 11, 1784, the illness terminated fatally. Father Serra was too enfeebled to attend the funeral. He was able, however, to go to the Mission for the dedicatory ceremonies, which took place on May 16, 1784. Assembled to witness the imposing scene were the troops, many citizens and a large number of unchristianized Indians. On the succeeding Sunday mass was chanted by the aged priest in a solemn and impressive manner. On that day he held his confirmation.
Founding of San Jose
Don Felipe de Neve, the third Spanish governor of California, was in office from December, 1774, to September, 1782. On June 3, 1777, he suggested to the central government in Mexico the establishment of three settlements, one of them being on the banks of the Guadalupe River, seventy-eight miles from Monterey, forty-eight from the presidio at San Francisco and two and a quarter miles from the Mission of Santa Clara. At that time, Lieutenant Don Jose de Moraga, commanding at San Francisco, was directed to detach nine soldiers of known agricultural skill, two settlers and three laborers to form a settlement on the margin of the Guadalupe, which they effected on November 29, 1777. The name they gave it was San Jose de Guadalupe, the approval from Spain being dated March 6, 1789.
On December 24, 1782, Lieutenant Moraga was directed to partition off the land to the settlers, a duty he effected between the thirteenth and nineteenth of May, 1783, the recipients of the land being Ignacio Archeluta, Manuel Gonzales, Jose Tiburcio Vasquez, Manuel Amesquita, Antonio Romero, Bernardo Rosales, Francisco Avila, Sebastian Al-vitre and Claudio Alvires.
The first location was made nearly a mile and a quarter from the center of the present city of San Jose, about where a bridge spanned a little stream on the road to Alviso. The ground was too low at this point and the first settlers were the victims of yearly recurring floods and thieving Indians; therefore, permission was asked to remove to higher land and a more advantageous site. It takes long, however, to move the wheels of official machinery. In the year 1785, the question of the transfer was mooted, but it was not until 1797 that the removal was accomplished — the center of the new site being near the corner of Market and San Fernando streets.
Captain Vancouver, who visited Santa Clara Valley in 1792, thus describes it: "We considered our course from San Francisco parallel to the sea coast, between which and our path the ridge of mountains extended to the southeastward. As we advanced, their sides and summits exhibited a high degree of fertility, interspersed with copses of various forms and magnitudinous and verdant open spaces encircled with stately fruit trees of various descriptions. About noon we arrived at a very pleasant and enchanting lawn, situated amid a grove of trees at the foot of a small hill, by which flowed a very fine stream of excellent water. We had not proceeded far from this delightful spot when we entered a country I little expected to find in these regions. For almost twenty miles it could be compared to a park which had originally been planted with true old English oak. The underwood, which had probably attained its early growth, had the appearance of having been cleared away and had left the stately lords of the forest in complete possession of the soil, which was covered with magnificent foliage and beautifully diversified with pleasing eminences and valleys, which, with the lofty ranges of mountains, that bounded the prospect, required only to be adorned with neat habitations of an industrious people to produce a scene not inferior to the most studied effect of taste in the disposal of grounds."
Frederic Hall, a pioneer lawyer of San Jose, says in his history that nearly all the Indians in the region described by Captain Vancouver were in the habit of visiting the hill on which the New Almaden mine was first opened and worked to obtain the red paint to adorn their faces and bodies. The cinnabar is of a reddish hue, and easily produces a red pigment when moistened and rubbed. While the color of the pigment was pleasing to the eyes of the Indians its effect on their system was by no means agreeable. It salivated them — a result as mysterious and unexplainable to them as the setting of the sun. Although a little painful, they seemed to forget their illness as they witnessed the luster of their skins, for they were as resolute in their pride of dress as the proud damsel groaning in tight corsets and tight shoes.
The Alameda, that renowned avenue that links San Jose with Santa Clara, is known and admired the world over. The planting of the trees was started in 1799 by Father Maguin de Catala, for the benefit of the wayfarer journeying between the two towns. Two hundred Indians were employed to do the work. The eastern limit of the grove was at the Guadalupe River, but in time the march of progress necessitated the removal of many of the trees to make way for houses and streets.
The original Mission of Santa Clara stood near where now are seen the structures of the Southern Pacific Railway station. Its walls were cracked by an earthquake in 1812, but no portion of it fell at that time. In 1822, however, another and more severe shock caused so much injury to the building that it became necessary to take it down rather than attempt to repair it. A site for a new Mission was chosen a short distance to the southwest, and in 1825-26 the new Mission Church was completed. In later years, so great was the decay that it was found advisable to encase the walls, remodel the facade and erect two towers; each served for the purpose of a lookout. The face of the structure was painted in a rude fashion with biblical scenes intended to attract the eye of the aboriginal, while within were tableaux and allegorical pictures. In 1884, as a sanitary measure, the old Mission was torn down under the supervision of Father Robert E. Kenna, president of Santa Clara College. One adobe wall was left standing to show the original construction and a number of pictures and relics were allowed to remain.
Secularization of the Missions
In the year 1767 the property possessed by the Jesuits, then known as the Pious Fund, was taken charge of by the Government and used for the benefit of the Missions. At that time the possession yielded- an annual revenue of $50,000, $25,000 of which were expended in the stipends of the Franciscan and Dominican missionaries and the balance for the maintenance of the missions generally. Father Glee-son says: "The first inroads made upon these pious donations was about the year 1806, when to relieve the national wants caused by the wars of 1801 and 1804 between Portugal on the one hand and Great Britain on the other, His Majesty's fiscal at Mexico scrupled not to confiscate and remit to the authorities in Spain as much as $200,000 of the Pious Fund." By this means the Missions were deprived of most substantial aid and the Fathers left upon their own resources. Two years after Mexico had been formed into a republic the government authorities began to interfere with the rights of the Fathers and the existing state of affairs. In 1826 instructions were forwarded by the Federal Government to the authorities in California for the liberation of the Indians. This was followed a few years later by another act ordering the whole of the missions to be secularized and the religieux to withdraw. The ostensible object assigned by the authors of the measure was the execution of the original plan formed by the government. The Missions, it was alleged, were never intended to be permanent establishments; they were to give way in the course of some years to the regular ecclesiastical system when the people would be formed into parishes attended by a secular clergy.
"Beneath these specious pretexts," says Dwindle in his Colonial History, "was undoubtedly a perfect understanding between the government at Mexico and the leading men of California, and in such a condition of things the Supreme Government might absorb the Pious Fund under the pretense that it was no longer necessary for missionary purposes, and thus had reverted to the state as a quasi escheat, while the co-actors in California should appropriate the local wealth of the Missions by the rapid and sure process of administering their temporalities." And again: "These laws whose ostensible purpose was to convert the missionary establishments into Indian pueblos, their churches into parish churches, and to elevate the Christianized Indians to the rank of citizens, were, after all, executed in such a manner that the so-called secularization of the missions resulted only in their plunder and complete ruin, and in the demoralization and dispersion of the Christianized Indians."
Immediately upon the receipt of the decree the then-acting Governor of California, Don Jose Figueroa, commenced the carrying out of its provisions to which he added certain rules and in accordance therewith the alteration in the missionary system was begun, to be immediately followed by the absolute ruin of both Missions and country. Within a very few years the work of the Fathers was entirely destroyed; the lands which had hitherto teemed with abundance were handed over to the Indians to be by them neglected and permitted to return to their primitive wildness, while the thousands of cattle were divided among the people and the administrators.
In 1836 the number of Indians cared for in the missions amounted to over 30,000. They were peaceful, happy and contented, strangers to those cares, troubles and anxieties common to higher and more civilized conditions of life. At the same time that their religious condition was one of thankfulness and grateful satisfaction to the Fathers, their worldly position was one of abundance and prosperity. Divided among the different missions from San Lucas to San Francisco close upon one million head of livestock belonged to the people. The united annual return of the cereals, consisting of wheat, maize, beans and the like, was upwards of 120,000 bushels, while at the same time throughout the different missions the preparation and manufacture of soap, leather, wine, brandy, hides, wool, oil, cotton, hemp, linen, tobacco, salt and soda was extensively pursued. And to such perfection were these articles brought that some of them were eagerly sought for and purchased in the principal cities of Europe.
Such was the happy and prosperous condition of the country under missionary rule. What resulted after the transfer of power to the secular authorities was disastrous. In 1834 at the time of the secularization of the missions there were 1,800 Indians belonging to the Mission of Santa Clara. In 1842 the number had been reduced to four hundred.
Life on the Early Ranchos
Prior to the American occupation of California the natives were a half-caste race, between the half Castilian and the native Indian, very few of the families retaining the pure blood of old Castile. They were of all shades of color and developed into a handsome and vigorous race. Their wants were few and easily supplied; they were contented and happy; the women were virtuous and devoted to their church and religion, while the men, in normal condition, were kind and hospitable, but when excited became rash, fearless, even cruel, with no dread of knife or pistol. Their generosity was great, everything they had being at the disposal of friend or stranger. Socially they loved pleasure, spending most of their time in music and dancing; indeed such was their passion for the latter that their horses were trained to curvet in time to the tunes of the guitar. When not sleeping, eating or dancing the men spent much time in the saddle and naturally became expert equestrians. Horse racing was with them almost a daily occurrence, not from the gain it might bring but from the amusement to be derived therefrom. To throw a dollar upon the ground, ride by at a full gallop and pick it up was a feat that most of them could perform.
Horses and cattle gave them their chief occupation. They could use the riata or lasso with the utmost dexterity; whenever thrown at a bullock, horseman or bear, it rarely missed its mark. The riata in the hands of a Californian was a more dangerous weapon than gun or pistol, while to catch a wild cow with it, throw and tie her, without dismounting, was most common, and to go through the same performance with a bear was not considered extraordinary. Their only articles of export were hides and tallow, the value of the former being a dollar and a half in cash and two dollars in goods and the latter three cents per pound in barter. Young heifers, two years old, for breeding purposes were worth three dollars; a fat steer delivered in the Pueblo San Jose brought fifty cents more, while it was neither trespass nor larceny to kill a beeve, use the flesh and hang the hide with tallow on a tree, secure from coyotes, where it could be found by the owner.
Lands outside of the town were valuable only for grazing purposes. For this use every citizen of good character having cattle, could, for the asking, and by paying a fee to the officials and a tax upon the written paper, get a grant upon a grazing tract of from one to eleven square leagues of land. These domains were called ranchos, the only improvements on them being a house and a corral. They were never enclosed, they were never surveyed, but extended from one well defined landmark to another, and whether they contained two or three leagues more or less, was regarded as a matter of no consequence, for the land itself was of no. value to the government. It was not necessary for a man to keep cattle on his own land. They were ear-marked and these marks established the ownership. The stock roamed at will, the rancher sometimes finding his animals fifty or sixty miles away from his grounds. About the middle of March the rodeo season opened, the time was fixed in advance by the ranchero who would send notice to his neighbors for leagues around. All these ranchers with their vaqueros, would attend and participate. It was the gathering in one locality of all the cattle on the rancho. When this task was accomplished, the next operation was for each ranchero present to part out from the general herd all animals having his brand and earmark and drive them off to his own rancho. In doing this they were allowed to take all calves that followed their mothers. What was left in the rodeo belonged to the owner of the rancho, who then marked them as his property. On some of the ranchos the number of calves branded and marked each year was enormous, Joaquin Bernal, who owned the Santa Teresa Rancho, eight miles south of San Jose, having been in the habit of branding not less than 5,000 head yearly. In this work a great many horses were employed. Fifty head was a small number for a ranchero to own.
By the time the rodeo season was over — about the middle of May — the matanza or killing season commenced. The number of cattle killed each year was commensurate with the number of calves marked and the amount of herbage for the year, for it was the rule that no more should be kept alive than the pasture on the rancho could support. After the butchering the hides were taken off and dried, the fattest portions of the flesh were made into soap, while some of the best portions of the meat were cut, pulled into thin shreds and dried in the sun. The residue was thrown away to be eaten by the buzzards and the dogs. Young dogs were never destroyed and it was no infrequent occurrence to see a ranchero ride into town with a string of dogs at his horse's heels.
The habitations of these people were marked by simplicity. The walls were fashioned of sun dried bricks, made of that black loam known to settlers as adobe soil. The adobe was mixed with straw, each brick, about eighteen inches square, three inches thick, being cemented with mud and whitewashed when finished. The rafters and joists were of rough timber, with the bark simply peeled off, and placed in the required position. The thatch was of rushes or chapparal fastened down with thongs of bullocks' hide. When completed these dwellings were capable of standing the brunt and wear and tear of many decades, as can be evidenced by the number now standing in the Valley. The furniture consisted of a few cooking utensils, a rude bench or two, sometimes a table and the never-failing camphor-wood trunk. This trunk, or chest, contained the extra clothes of the women — the men wore theirs on their backs — and if a visit abroad of more than a few days' duration was made the box was taken along. The women were cleanly in their persons and clothing, the common dress being a calico gown of plain colors, blue grounds with small figures being those most fancied. The fashionable ball dress of the young lady was a scarlet flannel petticoat covered with a white lawn skirt. Bonnets there were none, the head-dress consisting of a long, narrow shawl or scarf.
The dress of the men was a cotton shirt, cotton drawers, calzonazos, sash, serape and hat. The calzonazos took the place of pantaloons, but differed from these by being open down the side, or rather the seams on the sides were not sewed up as in pantaloons but were laced together from the waist band to the hips by means of a ribbon run through eyelets and fastened with large silver bell-buttons. In wearing them they were left open from the knee down. The best of these garments were made of broadcloth, the inside and outside seams being faced with cotton velvet. The serape was a blanket with a hole through its center, through which the head was inserted. These cloaks were invariably of brilliant colors and varied in price from four to one hundred and fifty dollars. The calzonazos were held in place by a pink sash worn around the waist; while the serape served as a coat by day and a covering by night.
The courtship of these people was peculiar. No flirting or love-making was permitted. When a young man of marriageable age saw a girl that suited his eye, he had first to make his wishes known to his own father, in whose house the eligibility of the selected one was gravely discussed. If the son's wish was regarded with favor, the father addressed a letter to the father of the girl asking for his daughter in marriage for his son. The matter was then freely discussed between the parents of the girl and if an adverse decision was arrived at, the father of the young man was by letter so informed and the matter was at an end. But if the decision of the parents was favorable to the young man then the girl's inclinations were consulted and her decision, if favorable, was communicated in the same manner and the affair of the engagement became a matter of public notoriety. The girl might then visit the young man to be received as a member of the family, and when the time for the marriage came there ensued feasting and dancing, the celebration continuing for three or four days. When there was a refusal of marriage the girl was said to have given her lover the pumpkin — se dio la cabala.
The principal articles of food were beef and beans, in the cooking and preparing of which they were unsurpassed, though they cultivated to a certain extent maize, melons and pumpkins. The bread used was the tortilla, a wafer in the shape of Jewish unleavened bread, made generally with wheat, but sometimes with corn. When prepared it was first boiled in a weak lye made of wood ashes and then by hand ground between two stones into a paste. This process completed, a small portion of the dough was taken out and by dexterous throwing from the back of one hand to the back of the other the shape was formed. Then it was placed upon a flat iron and baked over the fire.
The mill in which the grain was ground was made of two stones as nearly round as possible, of about thirty inches in diameter, each being dressed on one side to a smooth surface. One was set upon a frame about two feet high with the smooth face upward; the other was placed on this with the even facet downward while through an inch hole in the center the wheat was fed by hand. Two holes drilled partly through each stone admitted an iron bolt, to which a long pole was attached. To its end was harnessed a horse, mule or donkey and the animal being driven around in a circle caused the stone to revolve. These mills were capable of grinding a bushel of wheat in about twelve hours.
The vehicles and agricultural implements were quite as primitive, the cart in common use being formed in the following manner: the two wheels were sections of a log with a hole drilled or bored in the center, the axle a pole sharpened at each end for spindles, with a pin to prevent the wheels from slipping off. Another pole fastened to the middle of the axle served as a tongue. Upon this framework was fastened a kind of wicker-work framed of sticks bound together with strips of hide. The beasts of burden were oxen. They were yoked with a stick across the forehead. The stick was notched and crooked so as to fit the head closely and the whole was tied with rawhide. The plow was a still more quaint affair. It consisted of a long piece of timber which served the purpose of a beam. To the end was fastened a handle. A mortise was next chiseled in order to admit the plow which was a short stick with a natural crook, with a small piece of iron fastened to the end of it. With this crude implement was the soil upturned, while the branch of a tree served as a harrow. There were no fences to protect the crops. To take their place ditches were dug, the top of the soil, being covered with branches of trees to keep away the numerous bands of cattle and horses. When the crops were ripe they were cut with a sickle or any other convenient utensil. Next came the threshing. The floor of the corral in which the cattle and horses were penned had become hardened. Into this enclosure the grain would be piled and upon it the mares would be turned loose to tramp out the seed. The wildest of these animals, many of them colts that had never been branded, would tackle the grain. They were urged to the work by the yelling of vaqueros and the cracking of whips until nothing was left but the grain and the chaff. The difficult part was the separating of the two. Owing to the length of the dry season there was no haste to effect this. Therefore when the wind was high enough the trampled mass would be tossed into the air with large wooden forks. The wind would carry away the chaff, leaving the heavier grain on the ground. With a favorable breeze several bushels of wheat could be winnowed in a day. Strange as it may appear it is claimed that grain so sifted was much cleaner than is the wheat of today.
The government of the native Californian was as primitive as the people. There were neither law books nor lawyers, while laws were mostly to be found in the traditions of the people. The head officer in each village or town was the alcalde, in whom was vested the judicial function. On the enactment of a new law a manuscript copy, called the bando, was sent around by a person beating a snare drum. This was the signal for the assembling of the people at the alcalde's office where the act was read and forthwith had the force of law. When a native had cause for action against another he went to the alcalde, stated his case and asked that the defendant be summoned. On making his appearance the defendant was asked what he had to say about the complaint. This brought about a wordy altercation between the two parties during which the alcalde was able to arrive at the facts. Sometimes judgment was immediately rendered, the trial not occupying more than two hours. In important cases three "good men" would be called in to act as co-justices. A learned American judge has said that the native Californians were, in the presence of courts, eminently truthful. They were all Roman Catholics, and their priests were of the Franciscan order. They were great church-goers, yet Sunday was not the only day set apart for their devotions. Nearly every day in the calendar was devoted to the memory of some saint. Those dedicated to the principal ones were observed as holidays. The front door of their churches was always open and every person passing, whether on foot or on horseback, doffed his hat. Not to have done this was regarded as almost a crime. During the holding of services within the church it was customary to station a number of men without, who at appointed intervals interrupted the services by the ringing of bells and firing of pistols, creating a noise resembling the irregular fire of a company of infantry.
In every church was kept a number of pictures of the saints and a triumphal arch profusely decorated with artificial flowers, while on a holiday devoted to some particular saint, after the performance of the mass, a picture of the saint deposited in the arch would be carried out of the church on the shoulders of four men, followed by the whole congregation in double file with a priest at the head, book in hand. The procession would march all around town and at every few rods the participants would kneel on the ground while the priest read a prayer or performed some religious ceremony. After the circuit of the town had been made, the procession returned to the church. With the termination of these-ceremonies the natives gave themselves over to pleasure, engaging in horse racing, cock-fighting, dancing and other forms of merrymaking. A favorite amusement of these festivals was for thirty or forty men on horseback, generally two and sometimes three on one horse, with their guitars, to parade the town, their horses capering and keeping time to the music which was accompanied with songs. Residences and places of business were visited and it was considered no breach of decorum for the mounted men to ride into stores and dwellings.
Some of the religious ceremonies were grotesque and amusing, the personification of "The Wise Men of the East" being of this character. At the date agreed upon for the anniversary of the visit of the Wise Men to Bethlehem, seven or eight men would be found dressed in most fantastic styles and on their way to find the infant Savior. They went from house to house and were always accompanied by one representing the devil and garbed like a Franciscan friar. He carried a rosary of beads and a cross and a long rawhide whip and woe to the man who came within reach of that whip — it was far from fun for him but very amusing to the rest of the company. The chief of these ceremonies was the punishment of Judas for the betrayal of his Master. On the reputed anniversary of this event, after the people had retired to rest a company would go out and prepare for the ceremonies. A cart was procured and placed in the public square in front of the church. Against the cart was placed an effigy of Judas made by stuffing an old suit of clothes with straw. The houses were then visited and a collection of pots, pans, kettles, dishes and farming implements was assembled and piled around the effigy to represent Judas' worldly effects. Then the last will and testament of Judas had to be prepared, the work being given to the best scribe and the greatest wit in the community. Every article of property had to be disposed of and something like an equal distribution made, each request being accompanied by some very pointed and witty reason for the donation. Among a more sensitive people some of these reasons would be regarded as libelous. The will, when completed and properly attested, was posted on a bulletin board near the effigy and the night's work was over. As soon as it was sufficiently light the entire population, men, women and children, congregated to see Judas and his wealth and to hear, read and discuss the merits of the will and the appropriateness of its provisions. Nothing else was talked of, nothing else was thought of until the church bell summoned them to mass, after which a wild, unbroken mare was procured, on the back of which Judas was firmly strapped. A string of firecrackers was then tied to her tail, they were lighted, the animal was turned loose and the ultimate fate of the figurative Judas was not unlike that of his perfidious prototype.
The native Californians were a temperate people, intoxication being almost unknown, but there was one vice common to all, namely the passion of gambling. Their favorite game was monte, probably the first of all banking games. So passionately were they addicted to this that on a Sunday about the church, while the women were inside and the priest at the altar, crowds of men would have their blankets spread upon the ground with their cards and money, playing monte. They seemed to have no idea that gambling was a sin. This predilection was early discovered by the Americans, who soon established banks and carried on games. The passion soon became so developed that the natives would bet and lose their horses and cattle, while to procure money to gratify this urge they would borrow from the Americans, paying twelve and one half per cent interest per day; and they would mortgage and sell land and stock, sometimes their wives' clothing, to obtain the wherewithal to play.
Before leaving these people mention should be made of their bull and bear fights. Sunday or some prominent holiday was generally chosen for the holding of these exhibitions, to prepare for which a large corral was erected in the plaza in front of the church. In the afternoon after divine service, two or three good bulls (if a bull fight was in order) would be caught and driven into the enclosure. If there is anything that will make a bull furious it is the sight of a red blanket. Surrounded by the entire population, the fighters would enter the arena, each with a red blanket in one hand and a knife in the other. They would flaunt the blankets before the infuriated beasts, with knives ready for defense or assault. A bull would dash at its enemy, who with a dexterous side spring would evade the onslaught, allowing the animal to strike the blanket and permit a quick slash with the knife. Whoever by his quickness could stick a knife into a bull's neck, severing the spinal cord, received the plaudits of the admiring throng. The interest taken in these exhibitions was intense. The killing or wounding of a bull-fighter only added zest to the sport.
When a grizzly bear could be procured the fight was then between bull and bear. Both were taken into the corral, each being made fast to the opposite end of a rope of sufficient length to permit free action and then left alone. The first move was usually made by the bull in an attempt to part company with the bear, who, as a result, received the first "knock down." On finding that he could not get clear of bruin, the bull then charged, but was met half-way. The fight was intensely interesting to the spectators, and was kept up until one or the other was killed, or both refused to continue the combat. As a rule the bull was victorious. This custom of bull and bear fighting was continued until 1854 when the Legislature interposed by an "Act to prevent noisy and barbarous amusements on the Sabbath."
The late Judge R. F. Peckham, one of the pioneer lawyers of Santa Clara County, often narrated the following incident in regard to this Legislative act. Shortly after it became a law great preparations were made for having a bull-fight, on the Sabbath as usual, at the old Mission of San Juan Bautista at the southern end of the Santa Clara Valley. The promoters were notified by the officers of the existence of the new law and told that they must desist from the undertaking. Dr. Wiggins, a mission pioneer of 1842, was then residing at San Juan. He spoke Spanish fluently and was looked upon by the native Californians as a good friend. He never smiled nor appeared to jest, yet he was one of the greatest of the tale-tellers, jokers and punsters on the Pacific slope. In their perplexity over the new law, the Californians took counsel with the Doctor. He examined the title of the act with great seriousness and wisdom. "Go on with your fight," was the Doctor's advice, "they can do nothing with you. This is an Act to prevent noisy and barbarous amusements on the Sabbath. If they arrest you there will be a trial by jury of Americans. To convict, the prosecution must find three things, first that a bull fight is noisy. This they will find against you. Second, that it is barbarous. This also they will find against you, but an American jury will never find that it is an amusement of Christ's time. Go on with your bull fights." They did go on and were arrested to find that the Doctor had been jesting. They were sentenced, each to pay a fine, and this was the last of the bull-fights in California.
First American Settlers
The first enumeration of the inhabitants of the pueblo of San Jose was taken in 1831 and showed 166 men, 145 women, 103 boys and 110 girls, making a total of 524. Overland travel to California did not commence until the forties. The first foreigner to locate in this valley was John Gilroy, who was a sailor on board a vessel belonging to the Hudson Bay Company that touched at Monterey in 1814. He was a Scotchman and the causes for his abandoning his ship are differently stated. One report was that he had a quarrel with one of the officers and deserted, while it is just as positively stated that he had a severe attack of scurvy and was left on shore to be cured. However that might have been it is well authenticated that in the same year, he found his way into the Santa Clara Valley, locating at San Ysidro, afterward named Gilroy. He was hospitably entertained and finally married into the wealthy family of the Ortegas. He was a man of great force of character and accumulated a large property in lands and cattle but died poor in 1869.
In 1818 there came to San Jose a man whose name is historic in this community, Don Antonio Sunol. He was a native of Barcelona, Spain, but had served in the French navy under the First Empire. He was an officer of distinction and was present when Napoleon surrendered after Waterloo. He then sought the New World and settled in Santa Clara Valley where he achieved distinction, wealth and respect. He died in San Jose in 1865.
The first citizen of the United States to settle in Santa Clara Valley was Philip Doak. He was a block and tackle maker employed on a whaling vessel. Leaving salt water at Monterey in 1822 he journeyed northward to settle near Gilroy. His home was on the ranch of Mariano Castro, one of whose daughters he afterward married. Matthew Fellom came to the valley the same year and located near San Ysidro, or old Gilroy as it was afterward called. Fellom was a Dane and like Doak was a whaler. He left his vessel at one of the northern ports and made his way overland to the Santa Clara Valley. He died in 1873.
These are the only foreigners, of which there is record, who were living in the valley up to 1830, if William Willis, an Englishman, is excepted. He was known to be in the pueblo in 1828, but his subsequent history is not known. It has been estimated that in 1830 there were not more than 100 foreigners in the whole of California. John Burton came to San Jose in 1830. He was afterward alcalde of the pueblo. Harry Bee, who died in San Jose in 1897 as the oldest pioneer in the county, came to the Valley in 1833. He had been in the state seven years, having landed at Monterey as an English sailor in 1827. He was born in 1808 and during the Mexican War acted as scout and courier for Commodore Sloat. In the same year came William Gulnac, James Alexander Forbes, James Weekes, Nicolas Dodero, John Price, William Smith, George Ferguson, Thomas Pepper, a man called "Blind Tom," William Welsh, Charles Brown and "Moche Dan." Thomas Brown and William Daily came in 1834. Of these several were prominent either in the early days or in the later history of California. Gulnac was for many years major domo at the Mission of San Jose in Alameda County. He married a daughter of the Cesenas. Forbes was vice-consul for Great Britain. Weekes served as Alcalde in 1847. In 1838 Henry Woods and Lawrence Carmichael arrived.
These people all came by vessel and chance decided their location. They affiliated with the Spanish population, in many cases marrying into their families, and adopting, to a great extent, the Spanish customs and modes of living. Overland travel commenced about 1841. Even before this time settlements had been made in Oregon, and that country was much better known than California. For this reason, and because California was a foreign country, all the overland trains were pointed to Oregon. Some of these trains having reached the Sierras and hearing something of California, came here instead. In 1841 Josiah Belden, Charles M. Weber and Grove C. Cook came overland, as did Henry Pitts, Peter Springer, William Wiggins and James Rock. In 1843 Major S. J. Hensley, Julius Martin, Thomas J. Shadden and Winston Bennett made the trip across the plains. The advent of this party was an important incident, as with it came three women, wives of Martin, Shadden and Bennett, the first foreign women to settle in this district. In 1844 came the Murphy party and Captain Stephens. The Murphy party consisted of Martin Murphy, Sr., his wife, five sons and two daughters; James Miller, afterwards an honored resident of Marin County; Dr. John Townsend and wife, Moses Schallenberger, father of Margaret Schallenberger McNaught, now State Commissioner of Education; Joseph Foster, Mr. Hitchcock and family; Thomas Hudson, Clemente Columbet and Martin Corcoran. Dr. Townsend and his wife died of cholera in 1850; and Martin Murphy, Sr., passed away in 1865. In 1845 Frank Lightston, J. Washburn, William O'Connor, W. C. Wilson, John Daubenbiss and James Stokes came to the county. In 1846 the arrivals were Isaac Branham, Jacob D. Hoppe, Charles White, Joseph Aram, Zachariah Jones, James F. Reed, George Donner and his two sisters; Arthur Caldwell, William Daniels, Samuel Young, A. A. Hecox, William Haun, William Fisher, Edward Pyle and their families; Wesley Hoover and John W. Whisman and wives; William and Thomas Campbell and their families; Peter Quincy and family; Thomas Kell, Thomas West and four sons; John Snyder, S. R. Moultrie, William J. Parr, Joseph A. Lard, Mrs. W. H. Lowe, Mrs. E. Markham, L. C. Young, R. J. Young, M. D. Young, S. C. Young, Samuel Q. Broughton, R. F. Peckham, Z. Rochon, Joseph Stillwell, George Cross, Ramon S. Cesena, M. Holloway, Edward Johnson, Mrs. Martha J. Lewis and James Enright. Of course there were many more arrivals but their names cannot be obtained from the records and the personal recollections of the pioneers who are living at the present time.
The Donner Party
Nearly all the surviving members of the ill-fated Donner party located in San Jose and vicinity. The terrible experiences of that party are given in Tuthill's history of California, from which we quote: "Of the overland emigration to California in 1846 about eighty wagons took a new route, from Fort Bridger around the south end of Great Salt Lake. The pioneers of the party arrived in good season over the mountains, but Mr. Reed's and Mr. Donner's companies opened a new route through the desert, lost a month's time by their explorations and reached the foot of the Truckee Pass, in the Sierras, on October 31, instead of the first as intended. The snow began to fall two or three weeks earlier than usual that year and was already so piled up in the pass that they could not proceed. They attempted it repeatedly but were as often forced to return. One party built their cabins near Truckee, afterward Donner Lake, killed their cattle and went into winter quarters. The other (Donner's party), still believed they could thread the pass and so failed to build their cabins before more snow came and buried their cattle alive. Of course they were soon destitute of food, for they could not tell where the cattle were buried and there was no hope of game on a desert so piled with snow that nothing without wings could move. The number of those who were thus storm-stayed at the very threshold of a land whose winters are one long spring, was eighty, of whom thirty were women and children. The Mr. Donner who had charge of one company was a native of Illinois, sixty years of age and a man of high respectability and abundant means. His wife was a woman of education and refinement and much younger than he.
"During November it snowed thirteen days; during December and January, eight days each. Much of the time the tops of the cabins were below the snow level. It was six weeks after the halt was made that a party of fifteen, including five women and two Indians, who acted as guides, set out on snow shoes to cross the mountains and give notice to the people of California settlements of the condition of their friends. At first the snow was so light and feathery that even with snow shoes they sank nearly a foot at every step. On the second day they crossed the 'divide', finding the snow at the summit twelve feet deep. Pushing forward with the courage of despair they made from four to eight miles a day.
"Within a week they were entirely out of provisions, and three of them, succumbing to cold, weariness and starvation, had died. Then a heavy snow storm came on which compelled them to lie still, buried beneath their blankets under the snow for thirty-six hours. By evening of the tenth day three more had died and the living had been four days without food. The horrid alternative was accepted — they took flesh from the bones of their dead, remained in camp two days to dry it and then pushed on.
"On New Year's, the sixteenth day since leaving Truckee Lake, they were toiling up a steep mountain. Their feet were frozen. Every step was marked with blood. On the second of January their food again gave out. On the third day they had nothing to eat but the strings of their snow shoes. On the fourth the Indians deserted, suspicious that they might be sacrificed for food. On the fifth one of the party shot a deer and that day there was another death. Soon after three others died and every death served to prolong the existence of the survivors. On the seventh all but one gave out, concluding that their wanderings were useless. This one, guided by two friendly Indians dragged himself on until he reached a settlement on Bear River. By midnight the settlers had found and were treating with all Christian kindness what remained of the little company that after a month of most terrible sufferings, had halted to die.
"The story that there were emigrants perishing on the other side of the snowy barrier ran swiftly down the Sacramento Valley to New Helvetia, and Captain Sutter, at his own expense, fitted out an expedition of men and of mules laden with provisions, to cross the mountains and relieve them. The story ran to San Francisco and the people, rallying in public meeting, raised $1500 and with it fitted out another expedition. The naval commandant of the port fitted out others.
"The first of the relief parties reached Truckee Lake on the nineteenth of February. Ten of the people in the nearest camp were dead. For four days those still alive had fed on bullocks' hides. At Donner's camp but one hide remained. The visitors left a small supply of provisions with the twenty-nine whom they could not take with them and started back with the remainder. Four of the children they carried on their backs.
"Another of the relief parties reached the lake about the first of March. They at once started back with seventeen of the sufferers, but a heavy snow storm overtaking them, they left all, except three of the children, on the road. Another party went after those left on the way, found three of them dead and the rest sustaining life by eating the flesh of the dead.
"The last relief party reached Donner's camp late in April when the snows had melted so much that the earth appeared in spots. The main cabin was empty, but some miles distant they found the last survivor of all lying on the cabin floor smoking a pipe. He was ferocious in aspect, savage and repulsive in manner. His camp kettle was over the fire and in it his meal of human flesh preparing. The stripped bones of his fellow sufferers lay around him. He refused to return with the party and only consented when he saw there was no escape. Mrs. Jacob Donner was the last to die. Her husband's body was found at his tent. Circumstances led to the suspicion that the survivor had killed Mrs. Donner for the flesh and money, and when he was threatened with hanging he produced $500, which he had probably appropriated from her store."
Many books have been written on the subject, no two giving the same facts. One of the most interesting accounts is that of James F. Reed, who for years was one of the prominent and reputable citizens of San Jose. He left Springfield, Ill., in the middle of 1846 and was accompanied by George and Jacob Donner and their families. George Donner was elected captain. At Fort Bridger, William McCutchen, wife and family joined the party. Leaving the fort they unfortunately took a new route, and had many vicissitudes, not the least being the loss of cattle. Other would-be settlers joined them before they reached California. The narrative now continues in Mr. Reed's own words:
"After crossing the desert it became known that some families had not enough provisions to carry them through. As a member of the company I advised them to make an estimate of the .provisions on hand and what amount each family would need. After receiving the estimate I then suggested that if two gentlemen of the company would volunteer to go in advance to Sutter's Fort, near Sacramento, I would write a letter to the captain for the whole amount of provisions wanted, also stating that I would become personally responsible to him for the amount. I thought that from the generous character of Captain Sutter the provisions would be sent. Mr. McCutchen came forward and said that if they would take care of his family he would go. This the company agreed to. Mr. Stanton, a single man, volunteered to go with McCutchen if they would furnish him with a horse. McCutchen, having a horse and mule, generously gave the mule. Taking blankets and provisions, the two men started for California. After their leaving us we traveled for weeks, none of us knowing how far we were from California and soon all became anxious to know what had become of McCutchen and Stanton. It was now suggested that I go in advance to California and hurry up the supplies. This was agreed to and I started, taking with me three days' provisions, expecting to kill game on the way. The Messrs. Donner were two days in advance of the party when I overtook them. With George Donner there was a young man named Walter Herren, who joined me. With all the economy I could use our provisions gave out in a few days, so I supplied our wants by shooting wild geese and other game. The day after I was joined by Herren I proposed, as I had the only horse, that he would ride half the time. The proposition was joyfully accepted. Soon no game was to be seen, hunger began to be felt and for days we traveled without hope or help. We reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I believed I could have made a stop here, hunted and found game. But as this would have delayed our progress and success might not have rewarded my hunting efforts, I kept on. The second day before we found relief Herren wanted to kill the horse. I persuaded him from the deed, promising if relief did not come soon I would kill the horse myself. Soon afterward he became delirious. That afternoon I found a bean and gave it to him and then never was road examined more closely than this one. We found in all five beans. Herren's share was three of them. We camped that night in a patch of grass a short distance off the road. Next morning after traveling a few miles we saw some deserted wagons.
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