History of Almaden Township, California
From: History of Santa Clara County, California
Alley, Bowen & Co. Publishers
San Francisco, California, 1881


Geography. - Almaden township is bounded on the north by Santa Clara township; on the east by San Jose and Burnett townships; on the south by Gilroy township, and on the west by Redwood township.

Topography. - Save a very small belt of land lying along the base of the foot hills, the entire township is mountainous, the peaks of which rise to a great altitude. Two of these, one named by the Indians Choual, and the other Oumouhum (since called Mount Bache), are three thousand live hundred and thirty, and three thousand seven hundred and eighty feet respectively.

Soil. - The soil of Almaden township is various. A strip of land at the base of the foot hills, and on their sides is adobe, while farther out in the valley it is gravelly reddish clay, and requires more moisture than in many other districts nearer the bay.

Products. - Much of the township is laid out in vineyards, and fruit of other kinds is not much cultivated. The grape being especially adapted to the gravelly soil reaches much perfection, yet cereals also find great attention.

Timber. - At an early day the timber, principally live and white ooaks, extended into the valley as far as the Los Gatos creek, but the ground having been since reclaimed, enough of trees is only now left to give the appearance to the country of a well wooded park.

Climate. - Situated as Almaden township is, within the Warm Belt, the climate is most enjoyable. Heavy frosts are unknown in Winter; copious showers obtain throughout the season, while the nights during the hottest weather are cool, and the days inoppressive.

Early Settlement - The New Almaden Quicksilver mine, the most productive of its kind in the world, excepting only its older namesake on the frontier of Estremadura, in Old Spain, was very long ago known to the Indians who were wont to resort thither to procure red paint wherewith to adorn their nude bodies. They were unaware, however, of the presence of quicksilver, and were soon salivated to such an extent that every physical comfort was quickly sacrificed. Noticing the natives thus bedaubed, a Spaniard named Castillero inquired of them whence it came; thus he discovered the mine, located it and filed his claim therefor. He lost his title to it, however, by not complying with certain prescribed conditions, thus it passed out of his hands and into those of the Quicksilver Mining Company. A full history of the mine and its concurrent litigation will be found on page 32 of this work. In the year 1845 the mine was first worked for quicksilver, but on a small scale, but no record exists of its yield until the year 1850.

It is presumably correct to give to James Dwyer the credit of being the first American settler in Almaden township, where he located in October, 1852. At the time, between the mines and the land which he then and still occupies, there were no habitations save an adobe or two occupied by Spaniards, while towards Los Gatos there was no house at all. In the course of a week, however, a man named Ebenezer Dodge, a veteran of nearly eighty years of age, had a claim on a portion of the ranch of Joseph McCarthy. The next to arrive was Zadok A. Riggs, who coining to the State in September, 1850, mined a little, and on November 30, 1852, came to Almaden township and located where he now resides, which he afterwards purchased when the survey was completed, and some five thousand acres discovered to belong to the Government instead of being the property of two Spanish grants - Narvaez and Hernandez. About this time William A. Morrison located on Frank Hamilton's place; early in the following year, 18.53, Henry Phelps settled on the Schoefield place, and George B. Jameson on the farm now occupied by William La Montagne, while John Cooney took up his abode on the ranch where now resides George H. Bose. In the Fall of 1853 William D. Brown went upon the place now the property of the widow Wheeler, and with him there came Frank Anerich alias Richmond, who married one of his daughters and now resides on the adjoining farm. There was also present on the vineyard which he now owns, Mr. DeFrank, who had already laid out his vines. In the month of August, 1854, Michael Norton settled on the farm now occupied by his widow and son, John R., while further up the valley, there settled in the same year D. E. Skinner.

In the month of May, 1853, Joseph McCarthy located that tract of land now the property of the Lone Hill Vineyard, but continued his residence in the City of San Jose. In the Fail of 1855 he purchased from Ebenezer Dodge his present farm, known as St. Patrick's Ranch, where he established a domicile, and labored until, in 1875, he was enabled to erect a handsome dwelling, at a cost of eight thousand dollars, which, three years later, fell a prey to the fiery fiend. On a portion of his property, not far distant, Mr. McCarthy had another frame residence, which. too, was destroyed by fire on the morning of General U. S. Grant's visit to San Jose. Both these conflagrations are supposed to have been the work of an incendiary. In 1855, to the west of Mr. Rigg's land, there established themselves a few Italians, among whom was C. Piatti, but remaining only a short time they sold out to W. W. Pratt, of San Jose. The next settler to come to the township we believe to have been Lewis F. Parker, who located on the land he now occupies, August 26, 1856, it being then a squatter's claim. Shortly afterwards the Lone Hill Vineyard was planted by D. M. Harwood, while, in the following month, Frank Hamilton came and pitched his camp on the ranch now occupied by the widow Howes.

At this period a large proportion of the cultivable lands were lying wild, and occupied by large quantities of timber. There were no roads, nor fences, while all commodities were procured from San Jose. However, this state of affairs was not to be for long, for magnificent roads were soon to penetrate over hill and through dale; with these conveniences of travel the settlement was rapid, and with the impetus given by the quick development of the mines, the township today is one of the most populous in the county. It is believed that the first frame house within its limits was constructed by either Messrs. Riggs or Brown, but there is the probability of there both king built at the same time. The first to get married was Joseph McCarthy, and in the natural sequence of events, the first birth in the township is credited to his wife, on New Year's day, 1856 - twins.

The first school house, in the township, was that of the Pioneer district, erected in 1850. The original building has long since given place to a new one. Who the teacher was we cannot learn. In the year 1857, another school house was erected on land belonging to Frank Hamilton, and was taught by W. F. Sturgis. It was afterwards moved across the road to Pratt's land; from there it was taken to a site on the property of F. Bose, it was burned in 1872, and the present elegant building, of the Union district, constructed in 1873, on a portion of the ranch of C. Schoefield.

On January 26, 1865, a riot occurred at the Almaden mines, as the exorbitant demands of the miners would not be acceded to by the agent of the company. It was found necessary to apply for military assistance, which had the effect of causing the disaffected to look at things with a calmer eye

There are no towns nor villages in the section save at the mines, therefore records of these will be found elsewhere. Only about one fourth of the township is under cultivation, but its value lies not so much in this as in the undeveloped wealth which lies concealed within its picturesque mountains.

Goodrich's Free Stone Quarry. - Levi Goodrich, proprietor. Was first opened in 1875, and is situated in Almaden township, about eight miles south from San Jose. It covers an area of about five hundred acres, which is owned and controlled by the proprietor. The supply is, comparatively speaking, inexhaustible, and the quality, for building purposes, good. Mr. Goodrich has worked it continuously since 1875, and the stone work for the Court House in San Jose, State Normal School, San Francisco City Hall, and Masonic Temple in Oakland, came from this quarry. The shipping is done at San Jose, and gives employment to from fifteen to forty men. Office, room twenty, Knox Block, San Jose.

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