The Valley of Heart's Delight

ALEXANDER MONTGOMERY



HISTORY OF SANTA CLARA COUNTY 554

SURNAMES:  THOMPSON, McILRATH
Among the pioneers of Cupertino, whose influence for advance ment has been felt throughout the country, is Alexander Montgomery. He was born at Wern Point, County Down, Ireland, in 1840, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Thompson) Montgomery, natives of Ireland of Scotch parents.

 Alexander received his education in the schools of Ireland and in 1859 embarked for the United States. He came first to Pittsburgh, Pa., and remained there until 1865, when he landed in Santa Clara County. His brother John had preceded him to California as early as 1852 and was engaged in mining. When Alexander left Pittsburgh, he came via the Isthmus route to San Francisco, and from there he went to Virginia City, Nev., walking all the way from Sacramento. He was engaged in various occupations, working in a mill for a time, then for two years worked in the strawberry industry.

 In 1867, he purchased forty acres near the Lincoln schoolhouse on the Mountain View Road at ten dollars per acre. The next four years he was occupied in clearing this land and in 1870 he had a place and went to work for Thomas Kerwin west of Hollister.

Upon arriving in California he tried to locate his brother, who had been lost track of, as there had been no letters to the mother in Ireland for several years. Alexander finally found his brother's old partner, who said that John, with a partner, had gone to the mines near Boise City and had been killed by the Indians. The mother would not believe the sad news, saying that she knew that he was still alive. While at Hollister on a hunting trip he ran across a man who asked Alexander if he had a brother in British Columbia, saying: "There is a mining man at Kootenay that looks just like you and his name is John Montgomery." Alexander wrote and in due time received a reply enterprise. Alexander made his way there, a very hard trip, being stranded in the snow and without food for four days. It was a pleasant reunion and after that there were regular remittances to the mother in Ireland.

After eighteen months Alexander decided he did not like the cold winters of British Columbia and returning to California, he purchased 160 acres near Cupertino on Stevens Creek Road for $5,000. It was raw land, thick with brush and trees, but he cleared it and began raising wheat. In about two years he received a letter from his brother that he was sick and dying, so Alexander immediately went to Walla Walla where he purchased a horse, and started on the 800-mile trip to Kootenay. On the way he met his brother coming out with a pack train, just able to travel after recovering from pneumonia, but far from well. John told Alexander to go on and take charge of things and he would go on to Walla Walla, then on to San Francisco, but he died about a week after arriving in San Francisco.

Mr. Montgomery arriving in Kootenay, took charge of affairs and ran the store until he could sell out the entire holdings, sending his mother the money his brother left, which was sufficient to make her independent and comfortable her remaining days. He then returned to his farm at Cupertino after two summers and a winter in the North, and resumed ranching. He was the first man to grow wheat on this kind of land in this section, and it was such a novelty that people came from different parts of the county to see his wheat crop. He was ever willing to give his neighbors the benefit of his experience and assisted them in the clearing of their land. He was successful in having an abundant yield from his acres, and as a stimulation to greater activity along agricultural lines, he made a wager that his particular ranch could beat anything in Santa Clara County in producing wheat. His yield was one and one-half tons of clean wheat to the acre. He also engaged in dairying , bringing the first fine Jersey cows to this section. He set out a sixty-acre vineyard, built a winery and a distillery, manufactured cream of tartar and made the first prune brandy, thus making a market for small and unsaleable prunes. After the prune brandy was introduced in the eastern states, he received orders for car load lots and the revenue paid the Government was over $18,000 a year.

He closed the winery and distillery some years ago and devotes his time to horticulture, having set out orchards of prunes and apricots and built a large, fine residence with well-kept, attractive premises. He built a store on the corner of his ranch and established a merchandise business, and when the railroad came he offered them $1,000 if they would put it on the other side of the road, but to no avail; he then bought five acres across the road and laid it out in lots and moved the store to the new corner location and built an addition to it. It was run by the Home Union for ten years, then by Dixon & Wilson. Archibald Wilson being Mr. Montgomery's nephew; later the store was incorporated as the Cupertino Store, Inc., of which Mr. Wilson is president and manager and the business has grown very large and successful, being now one of the largest mercantile establishments in Santa Clara County, outside of San Jose.


In the early days, Mr. Montgomery was a member of the Presbyterian Church in San Jose and there he met a young lady, Miss Mary Jane McIlrath, who was born about five miles from his birthplace in Scotland and had come to San Jose to visit her brother, the acquaintance thus formed resulted in their marriage. She was a splendid woman and an able helpmate, aiding him in his dairying and horticultural enterprises. Mr. Montgomery gave the site for the Presbyterian Church and was the largest contributor to its building and he has been the mainstay of the church.

 His wife, who was also a devout member, passed away September 6, 1919, at the family home. Mr. Montgomery is an adherent of the principles of the Republican party, and served as postmaster of Cupertino for several years. It is most interesting to converse with
him of the early days when this was a frontier region and he can well be proud of his part in the growth and prosperity of the Santa Clara Valley.

Transcribed by Marie Clayton, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,
 published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 554


SANTA CLARA COUNTY -The Valley of Heart;s Delight


June 19, 2005