(see bio of brother Dr. H A Spencer below)

 Bio- Pen Pictures

Hon. Francis E. Spencer was born at Ticonderoga, Essex County, New York, September 25, 1834. During his infancy his parents removed to Saratoga, and thence, in 1846, to Will County, Illinois.  Here Mr. Spencer attended the common schools, finally graduating at the academy at Joliet.  In 1852, when the subject of his sketch was eighteen years of age, he removed with his parents to California, settling at San Jose.  Here Mr. Spencer went to work on a farm, raising sheep and cattle, and general agricultural work.  In a short time, however, he abandoned the hills and grain-fields, and commenced the study of medicine.  His father  was an eminent physician, and this fact influenced the son in the choice of a profession.  He soon, however, became dissatisfied with his choice.  His mind was eminently logical, and would be content with nothing but exact results.  He would accept no proposition that could not be reduced to a mathematical certainty.  The exquisite logic of the law suited him better, and he became a student in the office of Messrs. Archer & Voorhies, then a leading law firm of San Jose.  He was a quiet student, and attracted no particular attention until he was examined for admission to the Bar of the Supreme Court; in 1858, where he displayed such thorough knowledge as to excite comment.  In 1863 he was appointed city attorney for the city of San Jose, and served as such for seventeen years.  Soon after his appointment as city attorney he was made a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Funded Debt.  Here he made a record that established his reputation for legal learning, and as a man of great resources.  He found that the San Jose Land Company, popularly known as the “Forty Thieves,” claiming title to all of the pueblo lands by virtue of a clause in the city charter, which they construed as a confirmation of their claim, had secured a decree of confirmation by the United States District Court to the pueblo of a vast tract of land, as is more particularly described in our chapter on land titles.  From this decree an appeal, prosecuted by certain ranch owners was pending in the United States Supreme Court.  If he resisted the claim of the Land Company, or contested the appeal of the ranch owners, his intelligence told him that, instead of many thousand acres of land, the pueblo would get but a very small tract.  He resolved to aid the appeal and fight the Land Company afterwards.  He brought about a compromise by which the pueblo secured the whole tract, except that claimed by the ranch owners, and then in a subsequent case defeated the claim of the Land Company.  Then by selling a portion of the remaining land at the government price, the commissioners were enabled to pay off the entire debt of the city.

These two suits, so successfully conducted by Mr. Spencer, not only relieved the city from indebtedness of every character, but removed the last cloud from the title of every foot of land within the limits of the pueblo.  As city attorney he watched with an untiring vigilance over the interests of the city.  He successfully prosecuted the case of the city against the bondsmen of the defaulting treasurer, Jasper E. Gunn, and in other cases secured the city against loss.  His sound advice to the city officials secured the effective and prompt administration of municipal affairs.  While studying law he had made himself familiar with the Spanish language, the Spanish customs, and the Spanish and Mexican laws affecting land grants and titles, and on this subject he soon became an authority.  His opinion that there was no valid suerte titles east of Market Street, in the new pueblo, has been confirmed by the highest courts in many cases.  In the famous suerte suits of Toro versus versus Maldonado, and Luco versus Hare, this opinion was fiercely attacked by some of the best lawyers in the State, and fought out to the last ditch, but was never seriously disturbed. Beach, Beach

As attorney for defendants in the case of Hart versus Chaboya et al., Mr. Spencer succeeded in establishing an important doctrine.  As the law then stood, upon the death of a wife her heirs inherited one-half of the common property.  Upon that statute the heirs of Jesse B. Hart brought suit against a large number of purchasers from the husband involving a large tract of land on the Yerba Buena Rancho, in the Evergreen District.  He was successful in having the Supreme Court hold that, although the descent was cast upon her heirs for a moiety of the common property, yet, as the husband had the control and disposition of the common property during coverture, he had a right to wind up the estate after the death of the wife, and that conveyances made by him in furtherance of that object were valid.  This decision saved the homes to a large number of farmers, and established a rule that prevented a large amount of litigation in favor of speculators.

In these important cases, coming as he did in contact with many of the ablest lawyers of the nation, Mr. Spencer won a reputation for legal ability that commanded profound respect from the Bar everywhere, and his calendar contained important cases in all the courts of the State.  His services were in especial demand in actions affecting the title to land, and much of his time was occupied in responding to calls from other counties. In fact, the permanent settlement of land titles in California is due to the efforts of Judge Spencer as much as to any other one man.

As early as 1861 he was elected district attorney, which office he held for two terms, refusing a nomination for the third.  During his incumbency of this office he did much valuable work for the county, among which was the recovery of large sums of money on forfeited bonds. In 1871 he was elected a member of the Assembly and was made chairman of the judiciary committee of that body.  It was during this session that the legislation was had in regard to the then new codes.  Mr. Spencer’s legal training and clear mind enabled the committee to make its reports promptly and clearly on the large amount of business referred to it, the largest and most complicated, perhaps, that has ever been met by any committee of the Legislature since the organization of the State.  How well this work was performed the statute books show for themselves.  During this session, also, a desperate attempt was made to remove the State Normal School from San Jose.  He had much to do in frustrating these efforts.  When the judicial system of the State was reorganized Mr. Spencer was elected one of the superior judges for Santa Clara, which position he has ever since held.  One very noticeable peculiarity of Mr. Spencer’s work as an attorney was the care with which he prepared his cases for trial.  No point was too insignificant to be thoroughly investigated, and the law and authorities thoroughly collated.  His wide practice led him to the study of many specialties, and thus no opposing expert testimony found him unprepared.  His critical knowledge of anatomy, engineering, geology, metallurgy, and mechanical appliances, with all the new theories developed by the recent progress in the department of microscopy and spectrum analysis, gave him high standing in scientific circles.  All this knowledge and these habits of painstaking labor he carried with him to the Bench.  As his services as an attorney were in demand throughout the State, so it has continued since he donned the ermine.  At the request of local judges he has presided at the trial of important cases in many different counties.  In San Bernardino County he tried the great case of Stockman et al., versus Riverside Land and Irrigation Company, involving the lands and the canal system of the famous Riverside Colony.  He presided at the trial of Huse et al., versus Den et al., in which vast landed interests in Santa Barbara County were at stake.  Also in important contested election cases in Sacramento.  Also in the great mining case of White versus Merrill et al., in Department 1 of the Superior Court of San Francisco.  Besides his great learning and sound judgment, two other qualities stand out prominently in Judge Spencer’s administration of justice, i.e., the firmness and dignity with which the affairs of his tribunal were conducted, and the uniform courtesy which was extended from the Bench to the Bar, and to all others who appeared in his court.  Outside of his profession, also, Judge Spencer has ever been a progressive citizen, liberally subscribing to all enterprises having in view the moral, educational, or material advancement of the community.  He was selected as one of the Board of Trustees of the great Leland Stanford, Jr., University, which, being an institution devoted to practical education, cannot but receive great benefit from Judge Spencer’s learning and experience.

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. p. 86-88

Transcribed by Kathy Sedler


 Bio-Pen Pictures

is the younger of the two sons of Doctor Alexander J. Spencer, one of the pioneer physicians of San Jose, having crossed the plains and settled here in 1852. He has spent his life from early boyhood in Santa Clara County.
        After completing a course in the city schools, his father had marked out for him a career in the legal profession, and desired him to study law with his brother, Judge F. E. Spencer{above}. The son's taste did not incline in that direction, but rather toward medicine, with which he was somewhat familiar through access of his father's library. At twenty years of age he married, and, wishing to be self-supporting, he learned the printer's trade, and started a small job office in partnership with a Mr. Yates, under the firm name of Yates & Spencer. The establishment was conducted with indifferent success two years, when they sold it.  Mr. Spencer then turned his attention to stock-raising, and carried on a horse and cattle ranch in the foot‑hills southeast of the city. Some difficulty arising over the title of the lands, he removed his stock to Tulare County, and a few months later sold his stock and retired from the business. Upon returning to San Jose, in 1873, his father presented him with twenty acres of land, just outside of the northern city limits on the Berryessa road, on which he erected his present home. Having studied veterinary surgery during his ranching experience, Dr. Spencer divided his attention for about nine years between farming and veterinary practice. In 1881 he formed a partnership with J. N. Ewing, and built the Occidental Stables, on Second Street, and combined the livery business with veterinary surgery.

        In the course of three years his professional practice had so increased that he found it necessary to devote his entire time to it. Then, in company with P. P. Parnet, Dr. Spencer established the first veterinary infirmary opened in this county, leasing for that purpose a large barn on the corner of Sixth and Santa Clara Streets. A year later he sold his interest in the livery business. At the expiration of the partnership of three years with Mr. Parnet, Dr. Spencer formed a second copartnership with Dr. J. D. Fitzgerald, M. R. C. V. S., from London, England, which continued until 1887, when Dr. Spencer purchased the lot at the intersection of Sixth and St. John Streets, and erected the veterinary hospital he now owns, and where he has an extensive practice. In the early part of May, 1888, the County Board of Supervisors elected Dr. Spencer to the office of County Veterinarian. Dr. Spencer is a member of the State Veterinary Association of California.

 In October, 1867, he married Millie McKean, a native of Oregon. They have a family of two daughters and a son.

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. 620-621



SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight