HON. ISAIAH A. WILCOX
Bio- Pen Pictures- 1888
SURNAMES NICHOLS, ORTLEY,
Hon. Isaiah A. Wilcox owns and resides upon a farm containing sixty-one and a half acres of very productive land, situated in the Jefferson School District, two miles northwest of Santa Clara. These lands are in good cultivation, and bear witness to the intelligent care bestowed upon them. The orchard contains 6,000 trees, being chiefly Bartlett pears and French prunes. Among these trees, onions and strawberries are extensively cultivated, while thirty acres are devoted exclusively to the culture of strawberries, of the most approved and productive varieties. In this connection it is worthy of mention that Mr. Wilcox is one of the pioneers of the small-fruit producers of the State of California. The years of labor and study and the unlimited means which he has devoted to this industry justly entitle his beautiful lands to the name of “Experimental Gardens.” There are also six acres of alfalfa on the place, from which the yield is very bountiful, five crops of hay being taken from the land annually.
Mr. Wilcox dates his birth in Herkimer County, New York, September 16, 1822. His parents, Asa and Clarissa (Nichols) Wilcox, were natives and residents of the county of his birth. His father was a farmer, but was also engaged in a general mercantile and other business enterprises, and in these pursuits the subject of this sketch was schooled. He received as good an education as the institutions of learning of that day afforded, and at the age of twenty years engaged as a teacher in the public schools. In this work he was most successful, as was proven by the fact that he was twice elected Superintendent of Schools in his native county. When twenty-four years of age, he entered the office of Judges Loomis & Nolton, attorneys at law, in Little Falls, New York, and commenced the study of law. Being an ardent and ambitious student, a too close attention to his studies caused a failure of health, and he was compelled to abandon this pursuit. From this period until 1852 he was engaged in various occupations, but partly of a class that would enable him to travel more or less, and among them was a cod-fishing voyage to the banks of Newfoundland in 1849, for the improvement of his health. Soon afterward he resumed his law studies, but, his health not being restored, he was compelled finally to give up all thought of his cherished ambition, and in 1852 he started for California via the Isthmus route.
Arriving in San Francisco, and unable to engage in work congenial to his tastes and education, he started on foot for the mines, and aided in opening up new districts in Nevada County, known as Little York, Wauloupe, and Red Dog. He followed mining with varying success for about one year, when want of strength compelled him to change his employment, and he returned to San Francisco. Thence he went to Alameda, where he worked for Chipman & Aughenbough, the founders of that town, and became their foreman. While there, he assisted in making the first survey of town lots in the place. He also spent some time in the redwoods north of Oakland, making shingles, posts, and rails. Although hampered by ill health and defective eyesight, nothing daunted, with indomitable courage and persistent industry he engaged in several enterprises in Alameda County, among which was the establishment of a nursery in Alameda, in partnership with Henderson Luelling, who brought the first fruit-trees to this coast. They purchased 500 acres of land, embracing the district now known as Fruit Vale, for orchard purposes. The title of these lands becoming involved in litigation, they were not fully improved, as intended.
After engaging in farming and some other pioneer enterprises in Alameda County, Mr. Wilcox, in 1856, located in San Francisco, where, in connection with E. J. Loomis, he opened a commission produce business. The Fraser River mining excitement of 1858 caused such general depression in the business of that city that he, with many of the leading business men, was induced to embark in business enterprises in British Columbia, and, in connection with Loomis & Harper and Parker & Greenwood, he established stores in Victoria, Vancouver’s Island. But the failure of the mines, and the collapse of the latter town, brought about his return to this State. He then commenced the business of fruit culture in Fruit Vale, and conducted it with success until 1867, when he came to Santa Clara County and took possession of the estate heretofore described.
In 1859 Mr. Wilcox was united in marriage with Miss Mary Frances Abbott, daughter of Stephen Abbott, of Fruit Vale, a pioneer of the State of California. To them have been born the following named children: Frank A., who with his wife (formerly Miss Mary Ortley, of Alviso), resides on the old homestead; Harry W., now a resident of San Jose; Walter I., Emily A., and Irving A., who are members of their parents’ household.
The subject of this
sketch is one of the best known men in this district. An active, well-informed
and public-spirited citizen, he is always to be found at the head of such
movements as tend to advance the prosperity of the county. In 1884, while a
member of the State Horticultural Society, he was chosen to attend the World’s
Industrial Exhibition at New Orleans, and did more to advertise California and
her wonderful products than any other representative from the Pacific Coast.
While in attendance at this fair, Mr. Wilcox assisted in organizing the American
Horticultural Society. He was one of the founders of the Horticultural Hall
Association of San Jose, and one of its first Directors. Mr. Wilcox is a strong
Republican, and was elected by his district to represent it in the present State
Legislature of 1887-88, a position which his education and business knowledge
enable him to fill to the entire satisfaction of his constituents. He has held
several positions of trust, having been an early Director of the Bank of Santa
Clara County; one of the founders and organizers of the Grangers’ Bank of
California, and also a stockholder in the Farmers’ Union Store in San Jose; was
also one of the founders and stockholders in the Santa Clara Cheese Factory, and
Lawrence Hall Association, both institutions being in his immediate
neighborhood. He is connected with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, being
a member of Santa Clara Lodge, No. 52. He was one of the charter members of
Santa Clara Grange, Patrons of Husbandry, which he twice represented in the
State Grange of California. He afterward assisted in reorganizing the San Jose
Grange, and was elected the first Worthy Master under the new organization. It
has been the height of Mr. Wilcox’s ambition, during the last half of his life,
to build up a comfortable home in the country, and enjoy rural life, and he has
fully realized his hopes in the beautiful and productive Santa Clara Valley,
where he expects to spend the remainder of his days under his own vine and
Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler
Proofread by Betty Vickroy
SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight