The Valley of Heart's Delight

JOHN C. MENKER -Businessman- San Jose History


   After a long, active and useful career John C. Menker is now living retired in San Jose at the age of seventy-four years, his capable management of his business affairs having brought him a substantial competence which now enables him to spend his days in ease and comfort.  He was born in Mecklenburg, Germany, December 30, 1847, and he was left an orphan at the tender age of five years; his father died on the ocean while en route to the United States and soon afterward the mother brought the family of four children to Buffalo, N. Y., but soon fell a victim to that dread disease--cholera.

   The second in a family of four children, two sons and two daughters, three of whom grew up, John C. Menker, in his youth lived on a farm working his own way and acquired his education in the district schools, which he attended for but three months in the year, as he was obliged to spend the remaining months in providing for a livelihood.  He had first been bound to a family in Buffalo, N. Y., but was treated so badly he ran away and obtained a place on a place in the country.  Later he was able to pursue a course in Bryant & Stratton's business college of that city where he graduated in 1869, following which he went to Chicago, Ill., securing a position as shipping clerk with a large wholesale confectionery house, whose products were sent to the largest cities in the south as well as throughout the west as far as San Francisco, Cal. He was in Chicago during the great fire, 1871 and immediately afterward returned to New York, working on a farm in Cattaraugus County for a year.  In the fall of 1872 he came to California and for five years was employed on a dairy near the old mission at Carmel, Monterey County, returning to Buffalo in 1878.  There he entered the confectionery business as a member of the firm of Menker & Barnes, catering to the wholesale and retail trade, but at the end of five years disposed of his interest to his partner and in association with his brother, Henry A. Menker, established a similar enterprise in the city of Buffalo, N. Y., as H. A. & J. C. Menker.  Three years afterward failing health obliged him to seek a milder climate, and selling his interest to his brother, he returned to California, bringing with him his wife and children. Locating near Berryessa, Santa Clara County, he purchased a twenty-five acre ranch, on a portion of which was a prune, apricot and peach orchard, but at the end of a year sold that place and bought a ranch of twenty-five acres near Watsonville.  This he operated for nine years, engaging in raising berries.  He also purchased ten acres in the city of Watsonville, which he finally subdivided into city lots, a street being named in his honor.

   At this time, at the request of his brother Henry, who had become president of a bank at Buffalo, Mr. Menker returned to the east to assist in conducting his brother's confectionery business, which he successfully managed for five years.  He then made his way back to San Jose and bought a thirty-three acre ranch near Agnew which he operated for some years until it was disposed of.  With a partner he bought twenty-five acres on the Stevens Creek Road, which they subdivided into 150 city lots and placed them on the market.  In the early part of 1921 the last of these lots was sold and the tract has now become a fine residential section, adorned with attractive homes, one of the avenues bearing the name of Menker.  Some years ago Mr. Menker bought eighty acres of land near Cypress, Orange County, in the southern part of the state, and is still the owner of forty acres thereof.  His land is well irrigated, being provided with a 600 foot, twelve-inch well and a Dixon pump, and is one of the valuable and highly improved ranches in that part of California.  Mr. Menker is a stockholder and director in the Anderson-Barngrover Manufacturing Company of San Jose, manufacturers of machinery, making a specialty of building cannery machinery.  This company also developed a 512-acre walnut ranch located near Stockton.

   In Buffalo, N. Y., on April 21, 1881, Mr. Menker married Miss Jennie Mitchell, who was born in England and was left an orphan during her childhood.  She acquired her education in the schools of Buffalo and to their union three children have been born; Raymond C., who is a minister of the Methodist Church and is now residing in Plumas County, having charge of three pastorates; Earl L., who is private secretary to Mr. Edwards of the Southern Pacific Railroad; and Edith M., the wife of Charles P. Smith, the latter being a teacher in the San Jose high school.  Mr. Menker was bereaved of his faithful wife February, 1917, a devoted Christian woman and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

   In his political views Mr. Menker is a Republican and he has been a worker in behalf of the Prohibition cause.  He is a faithful and earnest member of the Centella Methodist Church, San Jose, in the work of which he takes an active and helpful interest, serving as one of its stewards and trustees.  A self-made man, he has never selfishly centered his activities upon his own interests, but has steadily progressed in general usefulness as well as individual success.

Transcribed by Joseph Kral, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 376