The pride of California is in her pioneer citizens, men who braved the toils and dangers of the early days, and out of their labors and sufferings builded on a foundation broad and deep the unparalleled prosperity of the State. One of these is Cuthbert Burrell, who resides on the corner of Third and William Streets, in this city, San Jose. He crossed the plains at the early date of 1846, from Joliet, Illinois, and has led a stirring and eventful life.
Born in Clyde, Wayne County, New York, in 1824, he was raised on his father's farm, in that settlement, until eleven years old. In 1835, after the close of the Sauk (Indian) War, his father removed to Illinois, and purchased a farm in Will County, near Plainfield. There Mr. Burrell remained until 1842, attending school and performing the various duties of a prosperous farmer's son, when, at eighteen years of age, he rented the farm from his father, worked it for himself for two years, and then purchased a farm which, after working it for one year, he sold, in 1846, to his father. Previously to this, a pamphlet describing California, written by a Mr. Hastings, who had visited the State two years previously, fell into his hands, and being dissatisfied with Illinois, on account of the prevalence of malarial fevers, he decided to make a trip to the Pacific Coast. Proceeding to Peru, Illinois, at the foot of the Illinois Canal, he shipped his wagon and outfit upon a steamboat, and went down to St. Louis, and thence up the Missouri River to Weston, Missouri. There they bought oxen, and, organizing a wagon train, over which they elected Stephen A. Cooper captain, started to cross the continent. Soon after leaving the Missouri River, while passing through the Pawnee country, they were in great danger of a conflict with the Indians. One of their company, named Matthews (the father of Carolan Matthews, both of whom have lived in San Jose), had lived amongst the Indians previously, and had killed one of their chiefs. His surrender was demanded. The company decided not to give him up, however, and prepared for a fight. When the Indians found that the company were determined not to give up Matthews, and that a fight was imminent, and as the people of the train were quite numerous, they relinquished their purpose, and the train passed through their country unmolested.
At the Green River, in Utah, Mr. Burrell, with their captain and a number of others, separated from the party and came to California, by way of Fort Hall and the Humboldt River, reaching this State in October. War had been declared between the United States and Mexico while the party were crossing the plains, and Mr. Burrell, with many others who had just come, enlisted under General Fremont. Under him Mr. Burrell served on the expedition to Santa Barbara in search of horses, and made the overland trip from Monterey to Los Angeles, seeing six months' service there, and then receiving his discharge. Returning to Sutter's Fort he found only his wagon and oxen remaining of his outfit. He carried one of the orphaned Donner children (her who afterward married S. O. Houghton, of San Jose) to Napa, where he left her with the Yountz family, and sought employment in building, under contract, for Salvador Vallejo, and later cutting hay for Stevenson's regiment in the Suisun Valley. In 1848, on the outbreak of the gold excitement, he started for the mines with his companions so hastily as even to leave their implements in the hay-field. For three years he was engaged in mining, quitting it, in 1852, with about $3,000 on hand. He squatted on a piece of land in Solano County, believing it to be government land, but afterward purchased it from General Vallejo, the owner. In 1860 he engaged in farming and stock-raising with Matt. Harbin and W. P. Durbin, purchasing 640 acres of land. This interest he shortly after sold to John Stilts, a brother-in-law of his partners, receiving cattle in payment. With his cattle he moved to Fresno County, making his headquarters at Elkhorn, a stage station between Gilroy and Visalia. There he had unlimited range, and held his cattle until 1869, when he sold out for $103,000. During this time he purchased 18,000 acres of swamp and overflow lands, and also a ranch of 2,000 acres near Visalia, all of which he still owns. In 1872 he returned to the stock business, intrusting his interests now to a nephew. Mr. Burrell is also a large stockholder and a director in the First National Bank of San Jose, and of the Bank of Visalia.
He was married in 1874 to Mrs. Addie Adams, the widow of Frank Adams, of San Jose. They have three children living, Varena J., May, and Luella. Mrs. Burrell is a native of Three Rivers, Canada, and a member of a prominent and highly respected family. Mr. Burrell's parents were both natives of Northumberland County, England. His father died in Illinois, and his mother in California.
Mr. Burrell is a
Republican in politics, but has never taken an active part as a politician, his
time having been fully occupied in looking after his various interests.
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.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIOGRAPHY PROJECT