GEORGE BISSELL POLHEMUS
Surnames: DONAHUE, NEWHALL, MURPHY, HART, BURROWS, RYDER
Mourned by many who had come to recognize in him one of
the most representative Californians, as he was certainly one of the
foremost, influential citizens of Santa Clara County, George Bissell
Polhemus, the well known orchardist, passed away on July 26, 1914, at
his residence on Stockton Avenue, San Jose, following a short illness,
although he had been in failing health for over a year. He was born in
a San Francisco on January 21, 1857, the son of the late Charles B. Polhmeus, a native of New
Jersey, who made off to South America when he was seventeen years of
age. He pitched his tent at various points on the West Coast in
Chile and Peru; but when the gold fever broke out in California, he
hurried north and established a branch of Alsop & Company, then one
of those largest Yankee houses in South America. In 1864 he
became interested with Messrs. Donahue, Newhall & Polhemus in the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad, which
they guaranteed and subsequently owned; they worked the railroad up to
1867, and in the meantime built a branch to Gilroy, and then sold out
to Stanford, Huntington and other pioneer railroad builders.
This venture had one particularly interesting result.
Through investing in this railroad, Mr. Polhemus was compelled to
purchase the Commodore Stockton ranch of 2,000 acres, which was later
subdivided, and he thus came to acquire the old Stockton ranch house on
Stockton Avenue, which was brought from new York City by Commodore
Stockton in 1849 or 1850, with eighteen other houses, around Cape
Horn. In 1867 Mr. Polhemus negotiated for himself and three
associates the purchase of 180,000 acres of land in Los Angeles and San
Bernadino County, which they bought at the almost fabulously low price,
viewed in the light of later valuations, of $1.50 an acre--although at
that time the land was more or less of a drug on the market.
In 1852, Charles Polhemus was married to Miss Matilda
Murphy, a native of new York, who is now deceased; and three children
blessed their union. One died in infancy; a daughter, Mary
Josephine, now residing in Italy; while the other child was the subject
of this review. Charles Polhemus was a member of Lodge No. 14. F.
& A. M., of Mt. Holly, N. J., founded, in part, by his father,
Montgomery Polhemus, a merchant and a landowner in New Jersey, and the
son of Major John Polhemus, a soldier in the Revolutionary Army.
The mention of his name and status recalls one of the prized heirlooms
of the Polhemus family, a steel-engraving of the Major, a fine looking
old gentleman, in the dress of the time. It bears the following
Major John Polhemus, U. S. A., Commis-
sioned as a Captain by order of Congress,
Nov. 22, 1775; Promoted to a Majority at
Valley Forge. The "Jersey Bleu,"
by his father-in-law, John Hart (a signer
of the Declaration of Indepencence), found
a patriotic commander in him.
Born May 25, A. D. 1738. Died on the 94th
anniversary of that day.
George Bissell Polhemus received his early education in San Francisco
under the Rev. George Burrows, who took twelve students to prepare for
a college course at Cambridge; but after devoting some years in the
pursuit of that ambition, Mr. Polhemus decided to give up his college
course, in which he had, as far as he went, laid the foundation, broad
and deep, of an education which time and experience brought to a ripe
fruition. In 1887, Mr. Polhemus was married to Miss Jennie Ryder,the daughter of George W.
Ryder, of the Santa Clara Valley, a gifted lady who shared his
popularity. One son, Charles Polhemus, sprang from this fortunate
mating, and bids fair to perpetuate the renown of the family
From Eugene T. Sawyers' History of
Santa Clara County,California, published by Historic Record Co. ,
1922. page 365
Transcribed by Joseph Kral
SANTA CLARA COUNTY
SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's