(see 1888 Bio-Pen Pictures)

Bio- Sawyers

-Business enterprise found a stalwart exponent in James M. Pitman, whose progressive spirit and determination have been manifested in all that he undertook, and by his individual effort, intelligently directed, he has gained a prominent position in the business circles of San Jose, and is well and favorably known throughout the State of California for his uprightness and integrity of character. He is one of the organizers and was elected the first president of the Western Title Insurance Company of San Jose.

A native of California, Mr. Pitman was born near Marysville, Yuba County, January 30, 1851, a son of Andrew Jackson and Armenia A. (Lewis) Pitman, both natives of Missouri. His father was among the early settlers who crossed the plains in 1849. After a short experience in the mines, he decided that California was a good country in which to settle permanently, so, returning to his home in Missouri by way of the Isthmus of Panama, he made the trip back across the plains the following year; this time accompanied by his wife. His first residence was on the Yuba River, where he followed the occupation of mining, with the historic "rocker," continuing there until 1852.

In that year he removed to the Santa Clara Valley, settling temporarily near the town of old Mountain View. In the fall of 1852 he purchased a ranch just north of Mayfield, which he owned until 1861, and which later became a part of the Palo Alto Ranch, now the site of Leland Stanford, Jr., University, the new Stanford Stadium being located on part of the old Pitman farm. There Mr. Pitman devoted himself to farming and dairying, which business he continued on the ranch he purchased in 1861, adjoining the town of Palo Alto on the northeast. Mr. and Mrs. Pitman eventually removed to San Jose, where they spent the remainder of their lives, both passing away in 1896. Of their eight children, one of whom died in infancy, James M. is the eldest; Marion L. is a farmer and truck grower living near Palo Alto on part of the old homestead; Cornelius Y. is county assessor of Santa Clara County; William A. resides in San Francisco; Bernard, commonly called Berry, passed away at the age of thirty-five, leaving a wife and child; Belle M. is married and resides in St. Helena; Ernest resides in San Jose and is a sign and screen painter of note.

James M. Pitman obtained his early education in the schools of Mayfield and Santa Clara, supplementing this with a course in the Pacific Business College at San Francisco. He particularly excelled in mathematics, and at the early age of fourteen he had gone as far as trigonometry. He was always an excellent penman, and this, coupled with his mathematical ability, served to make him a valuable county officer. In 1869 he engaged in farming near Mayfield, continuing there until 1874. During this year he was elected secretary of the State Grange, but resigned the office in January, 1875, later removing to Quincy, Ill., where he went into business with an uncle. His stay there was of short duration, however, and in 1876 he returned to California and became deputy county recorder under W. B. Hardy, retaining that position for four years. He then engaged in the dairy business at San Jose for two years.

Always actively identified with political matters, Mr. Pitman was unanimously nominated for the office of county recorder on the Democratic ticket, but a labor ticket was put in the field at the same time, lessening the Democratic vote, and his opponent, W. H. Stephens, was elected on the Republican ticket. He again entered the race at the next general election in 1882 and was elected county recorder, in which capacity he served for four years. At the end of his term in office, he went into the abstract business, uniting forces with T. C. Edwards, the firm being known as Edwards & Pitman, continuing thus until 1891, when they formed a partnership with Pomeroy & Howes, organizing the San Jose Abstract Company, of which Mr. Pitman became president, serving for twenty-seven years. He mapped every piece of property in the county, and among other notable things, he made a plat of the city of Los Gatos. He is a stockholder of the First National Bank of San Jose, the Garden City Bank & Trust Company, and for many years served as president, and is now vice-president, of the San Jose Building and Loan Association. He has been actively interested in orange growing for a number of years, owning and operating a large and productive property known as Overlook Groves, near Terra Bella, Tulare County. Since 1909 he has been secretary of the Grand View Heights Citrus Company, having 1700 acres in Tulare County.

In 1876 Mr. Pitman was married to Miss Carrie I. Fletcher, a native of Massachusetts, who came to California with her parents at an early age. They are the parents of three children: Florence V.; Blanche, their second child, died aged seven years; and Homer F. Homer is engaged in ranching and is manager of the Overlook Orange Grove. He married Miss Victoria Cuka and they have three children: Martha, Marjorie and Barbara. Florence V. is now Mrs. Howard W. Cowell and the mother of two children: James P. and Geraldine. Mr. Cowell is engaged in the auto business in San Jose and is secretary of the Western Title Insurance Company.

In fraternal circles, Mr. Pitman is a member of Garden City Lodge, I.O.O.F., and for years was a member of the Native Sons of the Golden West, of which he is past president. He is a stanch supporter of the Democratic party and is an active and conscientious member of the First Presbyterian Church of San Jose. He has always been a prominent figure in the business circles of San Jose, ever ready to serve the community in which he has resided for so many years. He served as a member of the board of education of the San Jose schools for four years, and was appointed on the board of trustees of the San Jose State Normal School by Governor James M. Budd. His has been an upright, honorable and useful life, in which he has ever displayed unfaltering loyalty to high standards of citizenship and he has labored effectively and earnestly to uphold those interests which make for public improvement.

From Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California, published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page  799
transcribed by Joseph Kral



SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight