Horticulturist - Alameda and Santa Clara County Pioneer


 Bio- Pen Pictures- 1888

            Hon. Isaiah A. Wilcox owns and resides upon a farm containing sixty-one and a half acres of very productive land, situated in the Jefferson School District, two miles northwest of Santa Clara.  These lands are in good cultivation, and bear witness to the intelligent care bestowed upon them.  The orchard contains 6,000 trees, being chiefly Bartlett pears and French prunes.  Among these trees, onions and strawberries are extensively cultivated, while thirty acres are devoted exclusively to the culture of strawberries, of the most approved and productive varieties.  In this connection it is worthy of mention that Mr. Wilcox is one of the pioneers of the small-fruit producers of the State of California.  The years of labor and study and the unlimited means which he has devoted to this industry justly entitle his beautiful lands to the name of “Experimental Gardens.”  There are also six acres of alfalfa on the place, from which the yield is very bountiful, five crops of hay being taken from the land annually.

            Mr. Wilcox dates his birth in Herkimer County, New York, September 16, 1822.  His parents, Asa and Clarissa (Nichols) Wilcox, were natives and residents of the county of his birth.  His father was a farmer, but was also engaged in a general mercantile and other business enterprises, and in these pursuits the subject of this sketch was schooled.  He received as good an education as the institutions of learning of that day afforded, and at the age of twenty years engaged as a teacher in the public schools.  In this work he was most successful, as was proven by the fact that he was twice elected Superintendent of Schools in his native county.  When twenty-four years of age, he entered the office of Judges Loomis & Nolton, attorneys at law, in Little Falls, New York, and commenced the study of law.  Being an ardent and ambitious student, a too close attention to his studies caused a failure of health, and he was compelled to abandon this pursuit.  From this period until 1852 he was engaged in various occupations, but partly of a class that would enable him to travel more or less, and among them was a cod-fishing voyage to the banks of Newfoundland in 1849, for the improvement of his health.  Soon afterward he resumed his law studies, but, his health not being restored, he was compelled finally to give up all thought of his cherished ambition, and in 1852 he started for California via the Isthmus route.

            Arriving in San Francisco, and unable to engage in work congenial to his tastes and education, he started on foot for the mines, and aided in opening up new districts in Nevada County, known as Little York, Wauloupe, and Red Dog.  He followed mining with varying success for about one year, when want of strength compelled him to change his employment, and he returned to San Francisco.  Thence he went to Alameda, where he worked for Chipman & Aughenbough, the founders of that town, and became their foreman.  While there, he assisted in making the first survey of town lots in the place.  He also spent some time in the redwoods north of Oakland, making shingles, posts, and rails.  Although hampered by ill health and defective eyesight, nothing daunted, with indomitable courage and persistent industry he engaged in several enterprises in Alameda County, among which was the establishment of a nursery in Alameda, in partnership with Henderson Luelling, who brought the first fruit-trees to this coast.  They purchased 500 acres of land, embracing the district now known as Fruit Vale, for orchard purposes.  The title of these lands becoming involved in litigation, they were not fully improved, as intended. 

            After engaging in farming and some other pioneer enterprises in Alameda County, Mr. Wilcox, in 1856, located in San Francisco, where, in connection with E. J. Loomis, he opened a commission produce business.  The Fraser River mining excitement of 1858 caused such general depression in the business of that city that he, with many of the leading business men, was induced to embark in business enterprises in British Columbia, and, in connection with Loomis & Harper and Parker & Greenwood, he established stores in Victoria, Vancouver’s Island.  But the failure of the mines, and the collapse of the latter town, brought about his return to this State.  He then commenced the business of fruit culture in Fruit Vale, and conducted it with success until 1867, when he came to Santa Clara County and took possession of the estate heretofore described.

            In 1859 Mr. Wilcox was united in marriage with Miss Mary Frances Abbott, daughter of Stephen Abbott, of Fruit Vale, a pioneer of the State of California.  To them have been born the following named children:  Frank A., who with his wife (formerly Miss Mary Ortley, of Alviso), resides on the old homestead; Harry W., now a resident of San Jose; Walter I., Emily A., and Irving A., who are members of their parents’ household.

            The subject of this sketch is one of the best known men in this district.  An active, well-informed and public-spirited citizen, he is always to be found at the head of such movements as tend to advance the prosperity of the county.  In 1884, while a member of the State Horticultural Society, he was chosen to attend the World’s Industrial Exhibition at New Orleans, and did more to advertise California and her wonderful products than any other representative from the Pacific Coast.  While in attendance at this fair, Mr. Wilcox assisted in organizing the American Horticultural Society.  He was one of the founders of the Horticultural Hall Association of San Jose, and one of its first Directors.  Mr. Wilcox is a strong Republican, and was elected by his district to represent it in the present State Legislature of 1887-88, a position which his education and business knowledge enable him to fill to the entire satisfaction of his constituents.  He has held several positions of trust, having been an early Director of the Bank of Santa Clara County; one of the founders and organizers of the Grangers’ Bank of California, and also a stockholder in the Farmers’ Union Store in San Jose; was also one of the founders and stockholders in the Santa Clara Cheese Factory, and Lawrence Hall Association, both institutions being in his immediate neighborhood.  He is connected with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, being a member of Santa Clara Lodge, No. 52.  He was one of the charter members of Santa Clara Grange, Patrons of Husbandry, which he twice represented in the State Grange of California.  He afterward assisted in reorganizing the San Jose Grange, and was elected the first Worthy Master under the new organization.  It has been the height of Mr. Wilcox’s ambition, during the last half of his life, to build up a comfortable home in the country, and enjoy rural life, and he has fully realized his hopes in the beautiful and productive Santa Clara Valley, where he expects to spend the remainder of his days under his own vine and fig-tree.

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. 329-331
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler

Proofread by Betty Vickroy

Bio-Sawyers- 1922
SURNAMES: Nichols, Abbott, Henry

A grateful posterity such as makes up the rank and file of California citizenship today will always gladly honor such patriot pioneers as the late Hon. Isaiah Alonzo Wilcox who for years participated in the direction of public affairs, while he enjoyed distinction as one of the foremost settlers who had contributed substantially toward the scientific and practical development of the varied fruit interest of Santa Clara County.  A native of the great Empire State, he was born in Herkimer County on September 16, 1822, the son of Asa and and Clarissa (Nichols) Wilcox, also natives of that county. His father both followed agricultural pursuits and conducted a well-stocked store, besides looking after other business interests, and thus it happened that Isaiah, during his attendance at the local schools, not only received such an education as is possible to obtain from books, but he imbibed much else of great benefit to him in after years.  He progressed so well, indeed, that at twenty he understood to teach school, and in that field  he asserted his powers and leadership qualities to the extent that the authorities induced him twice to accept the office of superintendent of schools.  He was far from satisfied with pedagory, however, and at the age of twenty-four began to study law, partly under the distinguished Judge Loomis.  Unfortunately, too close application to his study impaired his health, and he was forced to seek outdoor activity.  He took up various occupations, even trying his luck at cod-fishing off the Banks of Newfoundland, in 1849; and having decided that he must make a still greater change, he turned his attention to the genial climate of the Pacific Coast, about which everybody was then talking , on account of the excitement following the discovery of gold.

Making his way via the Isthmus of Panama, he at length arrived in San Francisco in 1852; and  although he had almost an aversion to mining, he accompanied others in search of gold.  He worked for a while at Little York, Waulope and Red Dog, but, discouraged on account of his continued poor health, he returned to San Francisco, and soon made his way to the new town of Alameda.  Messrs. Chipman and Augenbough, founders of the proposed city, made him foreman of the survey, and he then wet to work in the redwood district north of Oakland.  In partnership with Henderson Llewelling, who had been a pioneer in importing fruit trees to the Western Coast, he bought 500 acres of land, later laid out as Fruitvale, but owing to trouble on account of the title, their plans with the property were never made use of.  In 1856 he went to San Francisco, and there, with E. J. Loomis, he established a commission and produce house that was soon known for its enterprise and dependability. Tow years later, when the excitement as to gold spread along the Fraser River, he established stores at Victoria, on Vancouver Island, but the failure of the mines and the consequent departures of the miners forced him to close the shop again.

Concentrating his attention upon the advantages offered by Alameda County, Mr. Wilcox engaged actively in fruit culture there; and in 1867, convinced that Santa Clara County offered still greater opportunities, he removed hither, settling on Olive Avenue, three miles north west of Santa Clara, where he continued his fruit planting and cultivating on about sixty acres.  He had some 6,000 trees, mostly Bartlett pears and French prunes, and between the trees he cultivated onions and strawberries, evolving with the latter a very profitable industry.  He had six acres of alfalfa, and managed that corner of his busy ranch so well that he gathered six crops a year form the rich land.

Mr. Wilcox was married in 1859 to Miss Mary Frances Abbott, the daughter of the California pioneer, Stephen Abbott, a charming lady, who first saw the light at Wilton, N. H., and bade adieu to the scenes of this world on Mary 13, 1891, at the age of fifty three.  The worthy couple were blessed with four sons and one daughter; Frank Asa is the subject of a review on another page; Harry W. is deceased, survived by a widow, who resides in he East; Emily A. Wilcox married  Francis J. Henry who is engaged in mercantile pursuits at Glendale, where they reside; Walter I. is a dentist and enjoys a lucrative practice in San Francisco; he resides on a part of the premises of the Wilcox Fruit Company  and is that company's secretary and treasurer.  Irving A. Wilcox, who is married and also lives on a part ot the fruit company's property is the manager.

Isaiah Alonzo Wilcox's prominence in the Western fruit industry is attested by the fact that the California State Horticultural Society selected him as its representative a the Industrial Exposition in New Orleans, where he accomplished much  to arouse a live interest in the soil, climate and products of California, and the fruits of his intelligent and conscientious labors were apparent in the large number of desirable settlers who afterwards located in the state.  He assisted effectual in organizing  the American Horticultural Society, and was one of the founders of the Horticultural Hall Association of San  Jose, a member of the first board of directors.  He was also one of the first directors in the Bank of Santa Clara County, and he assisted in founding the Grangers Bank of California.  He was a stock-holder in the Farmers' Union store in San Jose, and also in the Santa Clara Cheese Factory. On the organization of the Santa Clara Grange,  Patrons of Husbandry, he became a charter member, and he was twice honored as this body's representative in the San Jose Grange, and became its first worth master.  He was a standpat Republican, and was a member of the State Legislature for 1886-88, rendering great service to his constituency.  After a very busy and unquestionably useful career, "crowned by prosperity and blessed by many warm friendships," as a earlier writer has said of him, "he entered into rest April 1, 1897, mourned by the pioneers who had labored by his side in the early days of Santa Clara County, and followed ot his grave by innumerable tokens of respect on the part of his former associates and companions."

Transcribed by Carolyn Feroben, from Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County, California, published 1922, Historic Record Co. page-775


SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight