Bio-Coast Counties

Photo of the Fosgate Seed Ranch

In the county of Santa Clara, where he is now extensively engaged in the seed and fruit business, Mr. Fosgate was born June 24, 1856, being a son of William N. and Margaret Jane (Rush) Fosgate, natives of Rochester, N. Y., and Bath, Me.  His father, who was a typical pioneer in temperament, visited Mexico as early as 1848 and the following year landed in California.  During 1850 he settled in Santa Clara, where he worked as a contractor and builder, and many of the buildings that he erected still stand at this writing.  While for some years he met with encouraging success, later in life reverses overtook him and from these he never wholly recovered.  After the death of his first wife he married Kate Donnelly, a native of Ireland and now a resident of Santa Clara.  In his home here he passed away in 1883, leaving a daughter, wife of Maurice Casey, of San Francisco, and a son, William J., another son having died in early life.

After completing public school studies, in 1868 William J. Fosgate was sent to Santa Clara College, where he continued as a pupil for three years, and was then obliged to leave on account of the family's financial reverses.  For a time he worked with his father, who owned what has since been known as the Pacific Manufacturing Company.  Later he secured a clerkship with J. B. O'Brien in a dry-goods establishment, of which, in recognition of his executive ability, he was soon made manager.  For twenty-five years he engaged in the dry goods business.  He has also been interested in gold mining in Trinity county, Cal., where he opened and managed the Morrision gulch mine and other properties.  In 1898 he retired from the mining business and the following year leased five hundred acres adjoining San Jose, at one time owned by Colonel Stockton and usually known as the Stockton ranch.  His first crop, that of 1900, was so encouraging that he at once took a place among the successful men of his locality. His specialty has been the growing of seeds, and in the interests of that business he makes a trip each year to all of the large cities of our country.  For a time he had only one hundred acres in seeds but his success was so remarkable that he has increased that acreage three fold.  In addition to the three hundred acres in seeds, he has seventy-five acres in strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, and also raises string beans, cucumbers and tomatoes for the San Francisco markets.  Since settling upon his present place he has made a study of the seed business. Having no previous experience in the occupation, he realized the need of careful study and observation, and hence made the most diligent use of every opportunity to gain practical knowledge, the result being that he is now one of the best-informed seedsmen on the Pacific coast.

The marriage of Mr. Fosgate occurred in Santa Clara and united him with Margaret Lucretia Cleneay, a native of Missouri.  Her father, F. W. Cleneay, who was born in Kentucky and resided in Missouri for some years, removed to California in 1876 and settled in Santa Clara, where for years he held the office of justice of the peace.  Widely known and universally liked, he left at his death a large circle of friends in his hoe town and county.  He was married in Kentucky to Caroline Bland, a daughter of Benjamin and Mary Bland, natives of Kentucky, but who removed to Missouri where in Canton they became people of influence and large land owners.  Three children were born of the union of Mr. and Mrs. Fosgate, but the only son, W. H., was taken from them by death when only six years of age.  The daughters, Carrie C. and Marguerite, reside with their parents in Santa Clara.  His political views are in accord with the platform of the Republican party and he alwasys supports its ticket both in local and general elections. As a rule he has refused offers of political  nominations, but consented at one time to fill the office of city treasurer and served in that capacity for three years, but with that exception he has confined his attention to private matters, toward which his tastes incline more strongly than toward public affairs.

History of the State of California of Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California- Guinn, 1904, page 1138
transcribed- cdf