Bio-Pen Pictures

one of the pioneers of California, now resides in the city of San Jose. Mr. McWilliams dates his birth in Henry County, Kentucky, July 3. 1823. He is the son of William and Charlotte (Smith) McWilliams, both of whom were born in the "Blue Grass State."

He was orphaned at the early age of eighteen months. Almost of necessity, he developed an independent spirit, and with it, a love of adventure. This led him, soon after the discovery of gold, to come to this State. Leaving his home in 1849, he passed, en route, through Independence, Missouri, Santa Fe, El Paso, Chihuahua, and Durango to Mazatlan, thence to San Francisco, by water. After spending nearly two years in mining and prospecting on the Middle Feather River, and Deer Creek near Nevada, Mr. McWilliams returned East, and, on the fifteenth of March, 1851, was united in marriage with Mrs. Melcena (Strode) Thompson, widow of Dr. Thompson, of Arrow Rock, Missouri. She was a native of St. Louis, and was reared and educated in that city. She left a home of refinement and a circle of loving friends, to face with her husband the dangers and hardships of a life on the frontier, for life in Napa County (where they were among the earliest settlers) was then far in advance of churches, schools, and the companionship of neighbors. Bravely and cheerfully she acted her part, and lovingly is her memory cherished by all who knew her.

Mr. and Mrs. McWilliams returned at once to California, and settled in Polk Valley, Napa County, where Mr. McWilliams engaged extensively in stock business. He owned a ranch of 160 acres, and his range extended over thousands of acres. Wild animals were abundant, and it required the greatest vigilance to protect his sheep and other stock. Mr. McWilliams, during his residence in the valley, killed seven grizzly bears, five California lions, and many wild-cats.

At one time his wife, while at the creek near the house, was attacked by a wild-cat and was barely rescued from her perilous position, by her husband, who fortunately was within hearing.

During the seven years in which they made this valley their home, there was probably not a night that wild animals did not visit their corral.

Mr. McWilliams' home was open to all new-corners and visitors to the valley, and many a settler has cause to remember with gratitude the hearty welcome given them by him and his wife.

In 1858 Mr. McWilliams moved to Clear Lake, Lake County, which was then sparsely settled. Here, in the following year, he was bereaved by the death of his wife, at the early age of twenty-six years.

She was the mother of three children. Their first­born, George Y., was born January 8, 1852. He was the first white child born west of Howell Mountain, in Napa County, and the first student from that county who advanced to the Sophomore Class of Barker College. He is now a cattle-raiser in Texas. The second child, Volney, died in infancy. The third, John, is now a wealthy stock-owner of Texas.

Mr. McWilliams lived two years in Lake County, keeping from 5,000 to 10,000 sheep, which it required a constant fight to protect from the devouring beasts. He then drove his stock to Colusa County, where he lived until 1872.

He had returned to Missouri, in 1866, and married Miss Sue Withers, who was born of one of the oldest families of Kentucky. She is a lineal descendant of Charles Carroll, one of the immortal signers of the Declaration of Independence.

In Colusa County Mr. McWilliams owned 5,000 head of sheep, partly Merinoes, for a few of which he paid from $100 to $500 each. He says that they often grazed on the same ground with herds of wild antelopes.

Since 1874 Mr. McWilliams has made his home at 344 South Third Street, San Jose, although much of his time has been spent in looking after his large stock interests in distant States and Territories.

Since engaging in stock-raising he has wintered stock (depending entirely upon grazing) in nearly every State and Territory in the stock belt,—California, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Utah. To illustrate the changes made in grazing grounds he speaks of 1,000 wethers, dropped in Colusa County, driven to Oregon, thence to Nevada, and wintered, thence to Utah, and wintered, thence to Colorado, thence to New Mexico, and then shipped to Lexington, Missouri, fattened, shipped back to Denver, and slaughtered. At one time Mr. McWilliams owned nearly 19,000 sheep in New Mexico and Nevada. In 1873 he had 4,000 head driven from Colusa County to New Mexico. He was the first to introduce fine-bred Merinoes into that Territory.

On the sixth of July, 1876, his four herders, in New Mexico, were killed by the Indians, he himself fortunately being temporarily absent from the ranch. His horses and some other stock were run off.

Mr. McWilliams owns a $10,000 residence in San Jose, and a splendid fruit ranch of forty acres in the Willow District, originally containing sixty acres, and planted by himself to but few peaches and apricots, but mostly French prunes. In addition, he owns, adjoin­ing Colusa, Colusa County, a large farm of 250 acres, sixty acres of which he has planted to peaches and apricots. This fine property is bounded on one side by the Sacramento River, and on the other by the railroad, thus making a good location for the drying establishment which he has erected there.

            He is a Director of the Colusa County Horticult­ural Society, which has been organized during the present year, largely through his efforts. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity, and his wife be­longs to the sister organization, "Eastern Star."

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.

Pg. 413-414


SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight