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


Geography. - Alviso township is bounded on the north by the San Francisco bay and a portion of Alameda county; on the east by Milpitas and Santa Clara townships; on the south by Santa Clara and San Jose townships, and on the west by Fremont township.

Topography. - The topography of this township bears an unvarying sameness of level country, it being the commencement of the great Santa Clara valley. Its fore shores comprise a large extent of marsh land, intersected with creeks and sloughs, the larger of which are navigable for sailing craft and steamboats of light draught.

Soil. - In Alviso township the soil is as good as in any other portion of the county, as the immense crops of cereals, fruits and vegetables will bear witness. It comprises principally the rich adobe lands so conducive to heavy crops and quick vegetation.

Products. - The products of the township have no variety over these of any other portion of the county. Grain is grown in. large quantities, s are also pulses, tubers, fruits and vegetables, there being a large export trade in these during the season.

Climate. - Being in such close proximity to the Bay of San Francisco, the climate of this township is affected by the tradewinds which sweep that sheet of water. Otherwise it has its share of pleasant days, as well as the discomforts of muddy Winters, but in no manner to a greater extent than is the fate of other districts in Santa Clara county.

Early Settlement. - The boundaries of this township have so frequently changed since the organization of the county that but a small portion of its original area is left to it; indeed, save within the town limits, the locate of the old settlers have all been embraced within Santa Clara township.

Somewhere about the year 1840 three adobe buildings were erected by the three grantees of land in the section. The first of these was the family of Alviso, who had the grant known by their name; then the Berreyessas, of the Rincon de los Esteros grant, and Julio Valencia, the possessor of a large tract. Ignacio Alvisu, the first of the family, and his wife; who was a Bernal, were both natives of Spain, and were among the first Spanish pioneers of civilization in California. After a residence of some years in San Francisco he removed to the Santa Clara Mission, where he became administrator to that establishment; his grandson was elected to the State Legislature from Alameda county at the presidential election held in November, 1880.

The earliest resident with whom we have been able to hold converse is A. T. Gallagher, who came to the township in the month of September, 1819. He says at that time the Alviso adobe, then occupied by the widow of Domingo Alviso, stood on the eastern bank of the Guadalupe river, about one mile southeast from the town; near it was the residence of Guadalupe Berreyessa, now on the land of A. Richard, while four hundred yards below there lived Julio Valencia, on what is now the property of William Shields; and near the Lick Mills dwelt a son of Ignacio Alviso, named Jose Maria. These buildings still stand.

At this period the place was known as the Embarcadero de Santa Clara, the landing itself being situated about half a mile above the site of the town of Alviso on the Guadalupe. Here came to reside in the year 1843 a Scotchman named John Martin, who owned the Embarcadero Rancho, and erected the house in which his son-in-law, Charles W. Love, now lives. Mr. Martin was the first foreign resident in the section, we may say, although the tract on which his house now stands is a part of Santa Clara township, and was the only dwelling between Alviso and the town of Santa Clara.

To this point came the hides, tallow, and other native products, with quicksilver from the New Almaden mine as well, where they were stored and shipped in sailing craft to San Francisco, the imports being distributed to the different parts of the country by the primitive wagon and ox teams of the period.

The first American settler came to the township in the year 1817, in the person of Leo Norris, who farmed on the property of Jose Maria Alviso, known as the Cherro Rancho, thus named on account of the curly hair of the proprietor; while, in 1849, a man named John White, resided with his father-in-law, Julio Valencia.

Where now stands the town, in September, 1849, a Frenchman named Claro pitched his tent on the plot of ground afterwards known as the plaza, which is near the present residence of Harry Wade, while in the following month, October, A. T. Gallagher put up a forty by sixty canvas warehouse, in a position back from the creek, and not far from the site just mentioned. Mr. Gallagher paid for his lumber at the rate of six hundred dollars per thousand feet, and for canvas twenty one dollars and twenty five cents per yard.

Thus it was that the township now under consideration commenced to be populated. At the time of the location of these pioneers, the country was naught but a wild, wide plain, with much marsh land, covered with a growth of mustard unbroken for miles. Save the very limited cultivation practiced by the few settlers, no semblance of agricultural pursuit was visible; wild animals and game held sway over the land, while the creeks and marshes re-echoed with the sounds of wild fowl of various kinds. These, however, were soon to be disturbed by the unrelenting hand of progress, which had become a watchword on the discovery of gold, and immigration to the shores of the great Pacific.

In the Winter of 1849-50, probably in December '49, steam was first used on the Guadalupe river. An engine and machinery was placed in an old scow, the name of Sacramento given to her, and in due time she was placed on the route between San Francisco and Alviso. True, she took ten hours, sometimes more, to compass the distance, but her presence was a sign of the times, as was also the tariff for passengers, the fare from San Francisco to Alviso being forty, and to San Jose, connected by a stage, fifty dollars.

In this Winter, 1849-50, a town site was surveyed by C. S. Lyman, for Jacob D. Hoppe, Charles B. Marvin, Kimball H. Dimmick, and Robert B. Neligh, who obtained a tract of land for that purpose from John Martin and Guadalupe Berreyessa. Afterwards, Governor Peter H. Burnett acquired Marvin's interest, and, in 1850, erected a house where Charles Young resides. Here lots were put up for sale at the upset price of six hundred dollars; preparations were made for a large commercial center, and the possibility of a canal to San Jose occupied public attention. In the course of a few months, the expected mercantile activity came not, and the price of lots dwindled into a phantom. Finding such to be the case, and land speculations being rife in Sacramento, Governor Burnett determined to transfer his domicile from Alviso He therefore sent to Sacramento for the tradesmen that had constructed his dwelling, who tore it down, removed it to San Jose and there erected it where it now stands, next to the residence of his son-in-law, the Hon. C. T. Ryland.

At this period that vast horde of immigrants, who had left their homes in the Atlantic and other States to the potent shibboleth of gold, commenced to find their way into the fertile valleys and metal producing gorges of California. Nearly all took a turn at the mines, some to amass Wealth, others to be plunged into irretrievable ruin of mind and body. Happily, among all these, there were some with home instincts still left in their bosoms. who sought out the valleys pregnant, too, with wealth, but of a different nature, and fixed their abodes in what was then a solitude, but which, by their own industry, and the unremitting labor of others, has, today, become a fruitful and populous country, still holding out promise of future productiveness.

In the Spring of 1850, the steamer Firefly, commanded by Captain Moran, was put on the line, and another boat, named the New Star, Whitmore, Master, also commenced to ply. With this augmentation of trade, more warehouses were constructed to supply the demand for increased storage, while farmers commenced to settle in the district. Among those whose names we have been able to gather are: James Whalen, who farmed for one season on the tract of Jose Maria Alviso; Charles Ingles, and John J. Ordley, who commanded a sailing vessel in the trade.

In 1851, Warren Pomeroy, and three others, named Sherman, Reed, and Morse who had, the previous season, farmed on the land now owned by A. T. Gallagher, in Santa Clara township, took up a tract of land near the Coyote creek, now rented by William Boots, of James F. Reed, administrator of the Berreyessa estate. In the Fall of the same year, a man, called Butler, located on what is at present the property of William Boas, there also came Messrs. Joy and Day, who occupied part of the Domingo Alviso tract, now belonging to Peter Ogier; Pedro de Sessais, at this time, purchased the tract on which resides John Meads; at the corner of the Alviso and Milpitas road; Steven Bloomfield was farming, at this period, on the land now occupied by Isaac Leitch; while among the others to arrive, and who were residents, were: Dwight Burnett, a son of the Governor, and his two brothers, Thomas and White Burnett, A. C. Erk son, now of San Jose, Robert Hutchinson, A. J. Wilson, Harry Wade, his son C. E. Wale, Moses Parsons, John N. Appleton, the Dana Brothers, Marchand, Christian Baptiste, Arnold, Rand, Snyder, Clark, and Richard Carr, who opened the first store in the township. It was in this year discovered, by the merest accident, that, besides the Guadalupe river, there existed other and shorter water communication with the Bay. This fact being proven, advantage was taken to test the value of the new route, by a Chileno, who brought his sloop, the Salodonia, by that way - the first vessel to come to Alviso by that means. The first steamboat to come up by the new route, was the Boston, while the first to ply regularly was the ill fated Jenny Lind. We may mention in this place without much disturbing the chronological order of events that the two streams - the Guadalupe river, and that which afterwards received the name of Steamboat slough - were connected by a canal, in 1858, thus giving a greater depth of water in an around the town of Alviso.

From the foregoing remarks it will be seen the progress that the first years of American occupation brought upon this township. It will be readily, appreciated by the reader how impossible it is for us to record fact for fact as it occurred, and name for name as their possessors arrived to locate. The memory at all times is but a frail reed whereon to bear the weight of one's information, yet to it alone do we trust, and such names as may be recollected by the pioneers whom we consult are the only ones that we dare mention.

In 1852, John Karr came to the township and entered the store of Richard Carr, while in this year, too, the town of Alviso was incorporated by a special Act of the Legislature. William Erkson, of San Jose, joined his uncle, A. C. Erkson, in the Winter of this year, on the farm now owned by Mrs. Fenton. In 1853 there arrived, among others, William Boots and Thomas Pogue, the present proprietor of the Alviso Hotel, besides many more whose names we have been unable to gather.

From the above date the settlement of the township was rapid, the broad acres, hitherto unreclaimed, being put under contribution by the horny handed sons of toil who had established themselves on its fertile bosom. In an almost incredible short space of time, handsome homesteads commenced to rise from the chaparral and the plain began to assume an air of true civilization, with what result it is unnecessary for us here to state; these efforts speak for themselves; let the prosperous fields, orchards and gardens tell their own story.

ALVISO. - It is unnecessary here to recapitulate the first steps taken towards the establishment of this town, suffice it to say that it was laid out in 1810, and every provision made for a large city. Docks were projected, squares arranged for, a plaza set apart, streets with high sounding names an at right angles to each other indeed, on paper, in a Pickwickian sense, Alviso was a metropolis worthy of a better fate than has been its hard lot. The thoroughfares, some of which still carry their appellations, were planned from west to east, and south to north, the first being called Washington, Moffat, Hoppe, Dimmick, Catharine, and Elizabeth streets, and the latter, Bay, Hope, El Dorado, Liberty, Victoria, and Bernice streets.

That the town did make a start will be gathered from the following information received from Mr. and Mrs. Harry Wade, who arrived in September, 1851, and have since dwelt there. At this time there stood at the corner of Hoppe and El Dorado streets, a store kept by an Englishman named Richard Carr; the premises still stand and is the last house near the bridge crossing the Guadalupe river on the road to Santa Clara. Next door to it was the American House, a hotel conducted by Moses Parsons, but which soon after got into the hands of John N. Appleton. Dana Brothers, of San Francisco, at that period had a store here; a French hotel named "The Four Musketeers" was kept by Marchand, it stood on the site of the hostelry now managed by Jules Pelle, while next door to where Mr. Wade resides, a man called Prince had a general mercantile establishment which was destroyed by fire in 1860. Contiguous to it Christian Baptiste had a tavern which was too burnt in the conflagration above mentioned. There was also Mr. Wade's residence, which he purchased from Pierre Duclos; the dwelling in which Robert Hutchinson now resides; and next to it was the workshop of a blacksmith named Arnold. Near Mr. Hutchinson's dwelling aforesaid there was the store of Rand, Snyder & Clark, while a man called Ricketts had a two story dwelling close to the position now occupied by the hotel of Thomas Pogue. Such, or nearly so, was the town of Alviso in the latter part of 1851.

In this year there existed a wharf built by the Whitmore Brothers, the proprieters of the New Star, on the piece of ground originally intended for the plaza, where their boat used to ship and discharge cargo. The builders constructed it, we are informed, under the conditions that free use of it was to be accorded them, and at the end of eighteen months it should become the property of the corporation. Besides the quay alluded to, there was another landing constructed by a man named Merrill, about half a mile from town, on the Guadalupe, where he used a ship's galley for a dwelling house.

As might be expected, with the accession of trade, more ample facilities for the storage of goods was necessary. To this end a number of warehouses were constructed. The first to be put up, we have said, was that of A. T. Gallagher, built in 1849. In 1850, Frank Barrows and ____ Ricketts erected one on the bank of the Guadalupe, precisely over the line where the canal connecting the slough and the river has since been cut; while Clark, Rand & Snyder, built another on the site of the present Union Warehouse. In the following year Flenoy and Pierce put up a warehouse on the south side of the Guadalupe on the neck of land formed by the confluence of that stream with the slough, and at about the same time Captain Ham erected the warehouse which long went by his name. In 1851 there stood above the Guadalupe bridge another building of this class, but to whom it belonged cannot now be recalled. Here, before it fell into decay, was wont to be stored quicksilver from the New Almaden mine for export to San Francisco. In the Fall of 1851 Robert Hutchinson and his partner, A. J. Wilson, constructed a wharf on the slough, near its head, whither, on its completion, the warehouse of Burnett & Barrows was removed. To this point did the steamer Boston make her trips.

An Act to incorporate the Town of Alviso was approved March 26, 1852, when its limits were defined as follows: "The limits of the Town of Alviso shall include all the lands embraced within the limits of the several tracts of land conveyed by Berreyessa and wife, and by John Martin and wife, to Charles B. Marvin and Jacob D. Hoppe, and by James Alexander Forbes to K. H. Dimmick, Peter H. Burnett, R. B. Neligh and Jacob D. Hoppe." Power to levy and collect a wharfage tax, upon all vessels, of sixteen cents per ton, was invested in the Trustees; the annual tax levied and collected by the Board upon town property should not exceed twenty five cents on every hundred dollars of the assessed value thereof; while an election for said Board of Trustees was called for the first Monday in May of that year.

Unfortunately there are no records extant wherefrom we could cull the names of the first officers of the newly incorporated town; we have, however, been informed that Thomas West and Robert Hutchinson were among the Trustees, and J. Snyder and A. T. Gallagher were respectively Treasurer and Marshal.

Affairs in the town remained in statu, quo for several years, indeed, until an attempt was made to acquire the right over certain swamp lands within the incorporated limits, by A. M. Thompson. This action caused the Trustees to seek and obtain legal advice on the subject, the purport of which was that, though no municipal officers had been elected for several years, the incorporation had not lapsed; and all the swamp and overflowed lands within the prescribed limits were, by the Act of April 21, 1858, excluded from being considered as the property of the State. However, to set the vexed question at rest, the Legislature passed, March 22, 1862, "An Act to authorize the Governor of the State to convey certain lands." The first section granted to Albanus B. Rowley and Robert 'Hutchinson, as Trustees of the town of Alviso, all that tract of land described as follows: "Beginning at a point on the southwestern bank of Steamboat slough, one hundred and sixteen and six hundredths chains south, and twenty chains west, from the points where sections thirty three and thirty four of township five south, of range one west, and sections three and four of township six south, of range one west, corner, and running thence south to the north eastern or right bank of the Guadalupe river; thence down the said bank of the said river to a canal connecting said river with an arm of said slough; thence along the said canal to the said arm of said slough; thence down the northeastern bank of said arm of said slough, to the junction thereof with said Steamboat slough; thence up the southwestern bank of said slough to the place of beginning, containing sixty acres more or less." In accordance with the second section of the Act, Messrs. Rowley and Hutchinson paid into the office of the County Treasurer, April 19, 1862, the sum of sixty dollars, as the purchase money, and a patent therefor was issued to them under the great seal of the State, May 1, 1862. The Act also directed the said Rowley and Hutchinson, and the survivor of them, to forthwith grant, bargain, sell, and convey, the lot, or part of the lot, according to the plot of said Town of Alviso, which is included within the boundaries of the aforesaid tract of land, to the person having, holding, or claiming, the same, by himself or his tenant, under title, or claim of title, derived from, under, or through, the grantee of the Rancho "Rincon de los Esteros," upon such persons paying to said Trustees, said Rowley and Hutchinson, or the survivor of them, the sum of six dollars, for the expenses of the execution of each conveyance, and the further sum at the rate of twenty dollars per lot for the purchase money thereof. These conditions were not altered in the case of the Trustees themselves, section four making it a sine qua non that they shall account in the same manner as in case of conveyance to another person. Sections five and six authorized the sale of lots and directed that the streets and alleys should remain untouched, while seven, directed the application of the purchase money as follows: "First - They shall retain for their own use the sum of sixty dollars, for the amount paid by them to the County Treasurer of said county. Second - They shall retain the amount necessarily expended by them in procuring the title to said tract of land, and in surveying the same, if they shall have the same surveyed. Third - The remainder of the purchase money shall be paid by them to the Trustees of the school district which includes the Town of Alviso, for the support of common schools in said district. The said Rowley and Hutchinson, or the survivor of them, shall once each year render an account to the Trustecs of said school district of the money received and paid out by them, and shall, at the same time, pay over to the said Trustees the money herein provided to be paid to them."

At the present time, the town of Alviso is a quiet place, In the Summer months, a considerable trade is done by means of several sailing vessels and one or more steamboats. It contains several handsome warehouses, and the famous flour mill, a history of which will be found below, while through its center passes the line of the South Pacific Coast Railroad, but owing to some difficulty between the Company and the citizens, no depot has been erected, time being barely given to drop the mail, or take up passengers.

There are some residents who are still sanguine, and predict a great future for the little town. We, unhappily, are under the impression that the true legend is Ichabod! Ichabod The glory is departed:

Like every town of pretensions, Alviso has its lodge. It has no church - it never had any - but its only secret society is in a most prosperous condition.

Alviso Lodge, No. 77, A. O. U. T. - This lodge was instituted January 15, 1879, with the following charter members: S. F. Ayer, P. Borden, H. Carter, O. P. Emerson. M. D. French, A. T. Gallagher, Jr., I. B. Hart, C. H. Harker, J. Karr, A. W. Mills, H. W. French, J. W. Meads, F. Martin, J. Pelle, W. Shields, C. W. Vandegrift, F. Wells, M. Wagner, W. Zanker. The original officers were: C. W. Vandegrift, P. M. W.; M. D. French, M. W.; John Karr, F.; F. Wells, O.; W. H. Woods, Recd.; J. Pelle, Fin.; J. W. Meads, Recr.; O. P. Emerson, G.; C. H. Harker, I. W.; W. Zanker, O. W. The lodge meets every Tuesday evening, has a present membership of twenty six, and the officers for the current term are: F. Wells, P. M. W.; J. R. Billings, M. W.; M. D. French, F.; C. W. Love, O.; W. H. French, Recd.; John Karr, Finan.; J. W. Meads, Recr.; C. L. McComas, G.; Peter Borden, I. W.; A. Jones, O. W.

Besides the several large warehouses mentioned before, which do not precisely come under the head of what we mean by "industries," Alviso possesses but one manufactory of importance, viz., its flour mill.

Alviso Mills. - This enterprise was started in the year 1853, by Colonel A. B. Rowley and George Adams, the edifice being at that time constructed under the superintendence of George H. Lewis. The mill is at present the property of Frank Bray; is run by a one hundred and fifty horse power engine; has a capacity of three hundred and fifty barrels of flour in the twenty four hours; supplied with six run of stones; and is the largest establishment of the kind in the county. Connected with it is the large warehouse with a storage of five thousand five hundred tons, while every facility exists for the shipping, storing, and discharging of grain.

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