Arriving in California in 1852



  ARCHIE McDONALD--Those forces which have contributed most to the development, improvement and benefit of San Jose received impetus from the labors of Archie McDonald, whose life record is a credit and honor to his city and state.  He is distinctively a man of affairs and one who wielded a wide influence and his name is indelibly engraven upon the pages of San Jose's history.  He was born in Ireland on December 15, 1830, and when he was but a few months old his parents came to the United States, settling in Saxonville, Mass.  On March 3, 1852, when a young man of twenty-two years, he sailed from Boston Harbor on a small brig and made the trip around the Horn to California.  He was one of a party of about seventy persons and they were eight months in completing the voyage, landing at the wharf in San Francisco on the 21st of October, 1852.  Of the original company he and Mrs. William Erkson, of San Jose, are the only survivors.  Soon after reaching San Francisco Mr. McDonald went to Auburn, Cal., where for a short time he engaged in mining, but not meeting success he came to the Santa Clara Valley and for several years devoted his attention to the raising of grain, his farm being situated near Mountain View.  Subsequently he became interested in the lumber business in the mountains back of Santa Cruz and it was during this period that he had the first glimpse of San Jose, which at that time consisted of a small group of adobe houses with strings of chili peppers hanging over the doors.  The village was situated in the center of a vast sea of waving grain fields, with rough wagon roads and horse trails as its only means of communication with the outside world.  There were no orchards in the valley, merely a few fruit trees scattered here and there.  While engaged in logging, cutting and hauling timber to the mills in Blackburn Gulch, Mr. McDonald became acquainted with the late Duncan McPherson, later editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, whose father at that time owned and operated one of the large logging mills.

  In 1856, with ox team and wagon, Mr. McDonald started for the gold fields along the Kern River, going by way of the Pacheco Pass, which his team was the first to cross, this being a very rough and hazardous route.  From San Luis Hacienda, near the beginning of the pass, to Visalia, there was not a single house in sight, Visalia itself, now a thriving and prosperous city, consisted of but seven houses made out of shakes.  He did not remain long in those unprofitable fields, however, and in the following year returned to Massachusetts to visit his parents, who were still residing in Saxonville.  The trip was made both going and coming by way of the Isthmus of Panama, but when he revisited the East ten years later, he traveled by rail.

  After completing his lumbering operations at Santa Cruz, Mr. McDonald went to San Francisco, where he entered the employ of the Pioneer Woolen Mills, there remaining until 1872, when he came to San Jose as general manager of the old San Jose Woolen Mills, which were located at the corner of Hobson and San Pedro Streets.  He remained at the head of this business for about twenty years and soon after his resignation the mills were discontinued.  In August, 1887, in association with other public-spirited citizens of San Jose, Mr. McDonald became a member of a stock company, and for years president, which purchased the old homestead property of Josiah Belden, which at that time was owned by C. H. Maddox.  This consisted of eleven acres, for which they paid the sum of $60,000, erecting thereon the Hotel Vendome at a cost of about $400,000.  This became one of the most famous hostelries in the state, for a number of years ranking next to the Del Monte in popularity.  Mr. McDonald next became interested in the Garden City Bank & Trust Company, of which he remained a director for over a quarter of a century, resigning his position owing to impaired hearing, caused by a paralytic stroke.  His progressive spirit led him into important relations and his cooperation ever proved an impetus for renewed and intelligently directed effort and no business concern with which he was connected failed to advance to success.  He was a member of the State Hospital Board for Stockton and Agnew, appointed three times by Republican governors and once by a Democratic.

  In 1862 Mr. McDonald was united in marriage to Miss Jeanette Jamieson, of San Mateo, Cal., but a native of New Zealand of Scotch parentage, who came to California in March, 1852, and their two sons, George K. and John A. McDonald, are both residents of San Jose, the former a director in the Garden City Bank and the latter a contractor and builder.  The character of the work which Mr. McDonald did and the importance of the place which he attained are evidenced in the deep and widespread esteem in which he is held.  He is a man of high ideals and exalted standards of citizenship whose irreproachable character and incorruptible integrity fully entitle him to the esteem he is accorded by all who knew him, and his name is written high on the roll of those who are among the builders and promoters of California.

  Mr. McDonald remembers San Jose when it was a straggling village; where stands the First National Bank was a saloon, north of where now stands the Bank of San Jose building was the stage office of Hedges, Dillon & Hall, who ran a line of stages to and from San Francisco, stages leaving each place at 9 A. M. and arriving at their destination at 4 P. M., too late for the business man to transact his business that day, and he was required to spend an entire day at an expense of $25 or $30.  Now that same journey can be made, business transacted and dinner eaten at home and the expense only a quarter of the amount stated above. The present site of the Bank of Italy was a lot overgrown with wild mustard.

Transcribed by Joseph Kral, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 400