The Valley of Heart's Delight

Santa Clara County Supervisor

SURNAMES:  McKean, Wood

A figure prominent in county circles and the community life of San Jose for half a century and a man esteemed and respected by those early pioneers, many of them his business and social friends, John M. Battee passed away in this city October 30, 1921, at the age of ninety-three. He was one of the oldest members of the Garden City Lodge, I.O.O.F. His life was one of usefulness and energy, which left its imprint in many ways upon the Santa Clara Valley. The records of the events of the supervisors' meetings of 1870 show how active Mr. Battee was in that period. He was elected and assumed the office of county supervisor on March 7, 1870, and continued as a member and chairman of the board until March 4, 1878. This was a time when San Jose was growing steadily and beginning to assume proportions other than the center of an agricultural district. On June 2, 1874, James Lick executed his first trust deed setting aside his estate for charitable and educational work, among the provisions of that document being those giving $25,000 for the purpose of establishing an orphan asylum in San Jose and appropriating $700,000 for the observatory on land belonging to him near Lake Tahoe, in Placer County.

Gratitude for the former gift, in resolutions prepared by Judge Belden, of San Jose, was so deeply acknowledged that Mr. Lick changed the location for the observatory and in August, 1875, with Hon.B.D. Murphy, then mayor of San Jose, visited Mount Hamilton. An offer was made to locate the observatory on Mount Hamilton if the county would construct the road to the summit. On January 9, 1877, the Lick board of trustees and county supervisors made an official inspection. The following is quoted from H. S. Foote's "Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World:"

"Probably the most earnest and untiring friend of the road was Supervisor J. M. Battee. To his devotion to the cause is due, more than to any other one man, the successful termination of the great work that has attracted the attention of the scientific world to the summit of Mount Hamilton."

Mr. Battee was a man who was modest and plain in manner and speech, determined, honest in all his dealing and one of the most far-sighted and efficient county officials of the closing quarter of the past century. Many obstacles faced the supervisors in building the road. Mr. Battee stood determinedly through them all. The valuation of the county at the time was about forty millions. To build a road costing approximately $135,000 was considered quite a bite from the tax levy. Under the guidance of John M. Battee the road was built without a bond issue, excepting for a small portion, totaling about $12,000 at the mountain end.

 Mr. Battee was a native of Maryland, born on November 3, 1827. He came via Panama to California in the early fifties, and here he was married to Miss Clarissa McKean, a native of Ohio, who died many years ago. For years the family resided at their home on Sunol Street, San Jose, but in recent years Mr. Battee lived with a son at Los Gatos. He is survived by two daughters and three sons; Mrs. Terry McKean, Mrs. Louis E. Wood, Albert J., Fred and Phillip Battee. In his later years Mr. Battee was actively engaged in horticulture, although in the early days he was a grain farmer, owning large ranches here as well as in the Salinas Valley. He developed a large prune orchard at Los Gatos, which still belongs to the family. He was one of the founders and for many years a director in the Farmers' Union at San Jose.

Transcribed by Marie Clayton, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,
 published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 530


SANTA CLARA COUNTY HISTORY-The Valley of Heart's Delight