Bio- Pen Pictures


CHARLES B. POLHEMUS was born in Burlington County, New Jersey, in 1818. He attended school until twelve years of age, when he began to learn the drug business, at which he served four years, receiving his diploma as a pharmacist. In February, 1836, at the age of seventeen, he went to South America, and lived in Valparaiso, Guayaquil, Lima, and Payta, at the latter place being United States Consul for four years. He was in the commission buiness in these different places as clerk, book-keeper, and at Payta as principal of an establishment. When the gold fever broke out in California, Mr. Polhemus came here and established a branch of Alsop & Co., of New York and South America, one of the largest American houses in South America. In this house he continued fourteen years, doing a commission and banking business. In 1864 he became interested with Donahue, Newhall & Polhemus, in the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad, which they guaranteed and subsequently owned. This they worked up to 1867 (in the meantime building a branch to Gilroy), when they sold out to Stanford, Huntington, Hopkins & Co., now the Southern Pacific Railroad. In becoming interested in this road, he had to purchase the ranch of Commodore Stockton, comprising about 2,000 acres, of which he still owns 110 acres, half of it being in the city of San Jose. He has several ranches in the county, aggregating about 1,000 acres of the most valuable land in the county, much of it being in San Jose. Between 1850 and 1860 Mr. Polhemus was Consul in San Francisco for Chili, and also for Peru.

Mr. Polhemus lives on Stockton Avenue, in a house brought from New York city, in 1849 or 1850, with sixteen other houses brought at the same time around Cape Horn by Commodore Stockton. They were built of first-class material, in sections, and set up on their arrival in California.

Mr. Polhemus was married, in 1852, to Miss Matilda Murphy, a native of New York, now dead. To this marriage three children were born, one of whom in infancy. Those living are: Mary Josephine and George B. Mr. Polhemus is a member of Lodge No. 14, F.&A.M. of Mount Holly, New Jersey, a lodge of which his father was one of the founders. His father was Montgomery Polhemus, a merchant and land-owner in New Jersy, son of Major John Polhemus, a soldier of the Revolutionary Army. In Mr. Polhemus’ drawing-room hangs a steel engraving of his grandfather, a fine-looking old gentleman in the dress of that time, with the following inscription: “Major John Polhemus, U.S.A., Commissioned as a Captain by Order of Congree, Nov. 22, 1775; promoted to Majority at Valley Forge. The Jersey Blues, organized by his father-in-law, John Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, found a patriotic commander in him.” He was born May 25, 1738, and died on the ninety-fourth anniversary of that day! Mr. Polhemus’ mother was Miss Ann Van Zant, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, who died in 1842.

In 1867, Mr. Polhemus negotiated for himself and three associates the purchase of 180,000 acres of land in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, at $1.50 per acre, of which they have sold 20,000 acres. They are still selling this land in bodies at from $20 to $50 per acre.
From: Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. Edited by H.S. Foote, Published, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company 1888. Page 357 
transcribed by jch


SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight