The Valley of Heart's Delight



Bio- Pen Pictures

CAPT. JOSEPH ARAM. This gentleman is well known to the people o f Santa Clara County. No man living today within its limits had more to do with clearing Northern California from Mexican domination, or of laying, broad and deep , the foundation of the new State, born of war amid the turmoil of sectional strife, and admitted into the constellation of States, to become its brightest jewel. As Captain in the war that led to the acquisition of the State, as a member of the first Constitutional Convention, and as a member of the first State Legislature Captain Aram is well known to all early men, and indeed to all familiar with the history of the State.

A brief history of his life gives the following facts; He was born in Oneida County, New York, March 24, 1810. His Boyhood was spent on his father’s farm, and his education was received n the common schools, supplemented by instruction received at the Lima (New York) Seminary. He was married, in 1835 to Miss Mahala Birdsall. She died about a year afterward, leaving an infant daughter, Sarah M., who is now Mrs. S. M. Cool, of Los Angeles. In 1836 he wedded Miss Sarah Ann Wright. For the next four years he lived the quiet life of a New York farmer. The tales of a life in the then far Western State of Illinois, of the ease with which the prairie soil was worked, and of its bountiful returns, induced him to leave the familiar scenes of his youth. On reaching Illinois, the Captain settled in Jo Daviess County, and there,  with his family, lived from 1840 to 1846, engaged in farming and lead- mining. But the soil produced ague and malarial disease as well as good crops of cereals, and failing health induced the Captain to join an overland train and come to the then Mexican Province of California. At that early day it needed brave, hardy men- men strong both physically and mentally- to undertake the long journey, and still more to make a successful career in the new country in its unsettled, turbulent condition. All these requisite qualifications Captain Aram possessed in a large degree.

Of the incidents connected with the journey made by this party of about twelve families, with as many wagons, across the plains deserts, and mountains, we will not speak, except to say that no untoward event-trouble with the Indians, or sickness-delayed or interrupted them. Leaving Illinois about the middle of April, 1846, and reaching Johnson’s Ranch, on Bear River, on the first of October, they did not spend more time enroute than was usual in that early day, with its primitive mode of traveling. Having determined, before leaving home, that he would settle in Santa Clara Valley, Captain Aram, after the briefest of rests, proceeded on his way. Where Sacramento now stands he met Colonel Fremont. The county was in the tumult of war, and with heart and soul our subject entered into the cause. Receiving instructions and advice from Colonel Fremont, he pushed on with the party, and reached Santa Clara safely. In the operations which followed in Santa Clara Valley (and here were enacted the closing scenes of the war in Northern California) Captain Aram played well his part-how well let the history of the war in this valley tell.

When Fremont left the valley to sweep the southern part of the province clear of Mexican soldiery, Captain Aram, with his company, was left in command of the fortified camp at Santa Clara Mission. There many families, occupying the old mission buildings with their ground floors, were gathered for protection. Much sickness followed during the winter, and among other deaths was that of one of Captain Aram’s children.

The spring opening, the unorganized condition of the county left great responsibility upon its leading men, and in all efforts in this direction Captain Aram bore an active part. War had passed away, but preparation for its renewal at any time was part of the business of the day. The Captain removed his family to Monterey, and there helped to build a fort. He was also engaged in furnishing supplies to the troops and navy. Two years later, in 1849, he returned to Santa Clara Valley and established his home at San Jose. As before stated, he was a member of the first Constitutional Convention, and of the first Legislature, which convened at San Jose, in December 1849.

The pioneer nursery of the county was established by the subject of this sketch, commencing in 1853, with stock brought from Ohio. On ground now occupied by the Woolen Mills at San Jose, he built up what was in those days an enterprise of great importance. Until 1862 Mr. Aram was one of the active public-spirited citizens of San Jose. Never idle, never uninterested in public good, never laggard in duty as a citizen, never unwilling to do any work assigned him, he served several years in the City Council.

In 1862 his present residence, situated on the west bank of the Coyote River, near the crossing of the Milpitas road, and about three miles north of the San Jose Court House, was established. His nursery stock was removed to the homestead, which contains about fifty acres, of which forty acres are devoted to tree culture. The fine residence which Mr. Aram now occupies was erected in 1882, and here, in his large, well-appointed, well-furnished home, shaded and embowered with flowers, ornamental trees, and rare plants, enjoying the respect, confidence, and esteem of all who know him (and their name is legion), the Captain, in hale, hearty old age, still resides. Many a man, possessed of health, and who has passed but two-thirds of the mile stones of the Captain’s life, looks older than the Captain, and if obliged to come to a test of strength, would feel that he was more advanced in age.

Captain Aram did not bring large means to this valley, and what he had was exhausted before the close of the war. He has never given his life merely to money-getting or to money-saving. His home has always been the abode of hospitality, and we are happy to add that he has plenty of this world’s goods to provide every comfort for advancing years. The good wife, who shared the dangers of the overland journey and the hardships of pioneer life in this valley, died in 1873, at the age of sixty years. Of her four children but one is now living, Eugene W., of Woodland, Yolo County, this State. In 1876 Captain Aram married Mrs. Grace Gray, who came to this State from Michigan in 1871.

It is natural and appropriate that the captain should be an honored member, as he is, of the Pioneer Association, and also of the society of the Mexican Veterans. In religious affairs he is connected with the Methodist Church. He is a strong Republican, thoroughly in accord with the principles of the party.


SOURCE:  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. - page 553-554 - Transcribed by Carolyn Feroben