The Valley of Heart's Delight


MRS. ELIZABETH McCRACKEN



HISTORY OF SANTA CLARA COUNTY 435
SURNAMES:  Pyle, Whiteman, Brady, Bohlman

MRS. ELIZABETH McCRACKEN.--A California pioneer of exceptional interest, her long, fruitful years of industry and sacrifice entitling her to the esteem and gratitude of both those contemporary with her and those who will come after and share the benefits of her toil and good works, Mrs. Elizabeth McCracken was born in Indiana on July 2, 1836, the daughter of William and Rosana (Pyle) Whiteman, and the granddaughter of Edward J. Pyle, who was a lad when the American Revolution broke forth, and who fought with the Continental Army. He came to California with the Pyle-Whiteman party in 1846, and although he was an old man, he was very active and supple, hale and hearty to the time of his death.

William Whiteman was a native of Ohio; who came to Indiana in the great Westward movement when a young man, and married there. When Elizabeth was four years old, her parents moved to Missouri, where they acquired two farms about three miles west of the site of St. Joseph; and there Mr. Whiteman built two homes a frame house and a brick house, then among the best residences in that vicinity, and he lived with his family upon one of his farms until he came to California. The Pyle family also moved to Missouri.

In the spring of 1846 the Pyle-Whiteman party crossed the Missouri River well supplied with provisions, for Edward Pyle is said to have been such a splendid provider that his party never wanted for provisions; on the floor of one of the wagons he packed a layer of bacon, and then placed a solid layer of bacon, and then more boards. He had plenty of bacon and flour, and he drove several head of cattle with oxen. He killed three head of cattle en route for beef, and arrived in California still having twelve head.

The Pyle party came ahead of the Donner party, by the same route, and had an interesting, indirect association with the latter. When the American soldiers recovered from the Indians and cattle stolen from the Donner party, they handed them over to the Pyles; and when the advance guard of the dooner party rode up to take possession of the cattle, the Donner party were only three days' journey to the rear. Not many persons were included in the Pyle party. Edward Pyle, the grandfather, had two wagons; William Whiteman had two wagons; John Laird had one wagon; and Tom Pyle had one wagon, and this small number was due to the policy pursued of not having too large an amount of stock for which feed had to be provided. Hence, the party was made up of about twenty-five persons in all.

 William Whiteman agreed to give John Laird one of the cows in payment for his help along the way, and this trouble from the Indians. In the mountains, the Donner party decided to take the Cut-off, or make a short cut, while the Pyles continued to stick to the old route; and it was through this unfortunate decision by the Donner party that they were snow bound, while the others arrived safely and on time at their destination.

The Pyles reached Sacramento in September, 1846, just when Fremont was setting out for Southern California, to fight the Indians; and as he took with him every able-bodied man he could persuade to enlist, he drew upon the Pyle party for some of his recruits. William Whiteman, however, did not go, for he was suffering severely from asthma; and he and Edward Pyle came on to San Jose, where they arrived in October. They purchased land from the Spaniards; but soon afterwards the Americans and Spaniards had to fight the Digger Indians. William Whiteman bought a tract of twelve acres from the Spaniards, and built a frame house, the first in this vicinity;and this piece of the land is now directly at the purchased 500 acres south of san Jose on the present Monterey road,and farmed that for a couple of years. In 1848, however, the home was locked up and the Whiteman family went to the mines. On the way to Placerville William Whiteman, who had brought the family and their provisions successfully across the San Joaquin River, was drowned in attempting the passage of an ordinary marsh. The party continued to Placerville and took up mining at Webber Creek; and Mrs. Whiteman herself washed out as much as sixteen dollars worth of gold in a single pan. After her return to San Jose in 1849, Mrs. Whiteman was swindled out of her 50-acre farm; but she was a good manager and soon acquired additional property, and having more than recovered, she provided bountifully for her family.

Some idea of what those sturdy pioneers were able to do for those dependent upon them may be gathered from the fact that William Whiteman had built a home from logs that the house was spacious enough to allow for a square. Later, Mrs. Whiteman went to Hollister and lived there for many years; and only when she became an old lady did she return to San Jose, where she died at Mrs. McCracken's home.

In May, 1850, Elizabeth Whiteman was married to James  Monroe Brady, a noted horseman who had brought five race horses to  California. In 1851, he took the horses to Los Angeles, and drove them in the races; and he had the record of never losing a race. He returned north in 1852, and Mr. and Mrs. Brady then went to Los Angeles on a steamship, which was a rare thing in the Pacific waters. The fare from San Francisco to Los Angeles was $1,000 for each passenger, and the trip was advertised as possible in a day and a night; but on this occasion, the ship was disabled and for five days was out of sight on the ocean finally drifting into Santa Barbara, where it was repaired; when it went on it's way, and the passengers completed the trip. Mr. Brady was a native of Tennessee, who had moved into Arkansas, and from there had come to California. He died at Los Angeles in 1857, the father of two children--William, who died at the age of four, and Rose, who after teaching school for years, died aged twenty-eight. Mr. Brady was a prominent Mason, and the Masons took care of her and her babe, and assisted her to settle her husband's estate.

When Mrs. Brady remarried, at San Jose, she chose for her husband Dr. George McCracken, a native of Ohio, and a graduate of Sterling College, at Columbus. He had come to San Jose in the '50's, and had intended to practice here; but his health required him to discontinue all professional work. He then accepted a position with James A. Clayton, the pioneer real estate dealer of San Jose, and for twenty years he was with this firm. Prior to coming to San Jose, Dr. McCracken had practised, first in Oregon and then at Ukiah, in Mendocino County. During the last four years of his life, Mrs. McCracken accompanied her husband in wide travels, in an attempt to prolong his life; but despite all that affection and means might offer, he finally passed away. Five children sprang from this union; DeWitt Clinton, William Henry, Lydia May, Margaret Rebecca, and George. Mrs. McCracken died in 1921.

DeWitt Clinton, the first-born, joined the family circle on December 21, 1859, and attended the San Jose public school that stood on St. James' Square--the park there then having a picket fence around it, and when he was a boy, he lived on the ranch just back of the present Hotel Vendome. One of his chores was to take the cows to a twenty-acre pasture north of the town; and many a time, as he well recalls, James Lick, the miller and capitalist, coming along the road, beckoned to the lad to ride in the carriage with him back to his house. For a while, DeWitt worked at odd jobs, and then for four years he clerked for Durby & Lowe in the Almaden store. He next formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, Mr. Bohlman, and ran a stage from San Jose to Almaden, carrying also the United States mail, and after some years he sold out, went to Colorado and there engaged in the hotel business at Mount Rose. He sold his hotel, returned to San Jose, and for five years worked in the butcher shop at the Almaden mines; and then for three years he engaged in the livery stable business in San Jose. Selling out, he took a position with Mr. Blanchard in the hay and fee business, and for the last fifteen years he was with F. Mattenberger in the same business, at the same location. A Democrat in his bias as to national affairs, Mr. McCracken is too good a citizen to his affairs, Mr. McCracken is too good a citizen to allow partisan politics to interfere with his "boosting" his home locality. His marriage united him with Miss Ada Bohlman; they have one daughter, Miss Cola McCracken, who graduated from the State Normal school at San Jose, and is one of the teachers at the Gardner School.

Transcribed by Marie Clayton, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 435

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SANTA CLARA COUNTY HISTORY