The Valley of Heart's Delight

Captain John P. Crossley

BIO Pen-pictures,

CAPTAIN JOHN P. CROSSLEY was born near Middletown, Connecticut, April 9, 1882. His father, David Crossley, was an Englishman who came to the United States when about fifteen years of age. He married Maria L. Chamberlin, a native of Connecticut, and they made their home in that State, and both died there. He was a weaver, and was connected with the Crossleys, manufacturers of the celebrated Crossley carpets, of English and American manufacture. There were nine children in the family who grew to maturity, of whom four sons followed the sea. One of the daughters, Mary Ann Crossley, married Charles Van Pelt, a nephew of C. C. Vanderbilt, on his mother's side. They came to California in 1848 or 1849, in the schooner James L. Day, with the steamer Confidence in frame on board. Charles Van Pelt and his brother John were pioneer steamboat-men in California. They put the Confidence together in San Francisco, and ran her on the Sacramento River, which is said to have been the first steamboat to run on that river.

John P. Crossley was reared in Connecticut, and there received his early schooling. When eight years of age he began taking his first lessons as a seaman or steward on the rivers and Long Island Sound. He then went before the mast and served in this capacity on different vessels for nine or ten years. When seventeen years old he was mate of a vessel, and at nineteen years of age was master of one. From that age he was master of seventeen or eighteen different sailing vessels and steamers. During the late war he was in the transport service, and carried the first cargo of mules for General McClellan's army about the time he was moving his troops to Fortress Monroe. He was in Butler's expedition up the James River, as master of a transport, carrying supplies. At the point where General Grant crossed the James River with his army after the battle of the Wilderness, the pontoon bridge was lashed to Captain Crossley's vessel, which was anchored in the river. Seventy-two hours was consumed in effecting the crossing. During the whole war he was more or less connected with the Government service.

He then continued sea voyages, engaging in the merchant service, visiting most of the continental ports of Europe, the West and East Indies, China, Japan, and African India. He has had an interest in the different vessels he commanded. In October, 1885, he concluded to abandon the sea, and in April, 1886, bought his present place of forty acres in the Cupertino District in Santa Clara County. He has built a handsome residence and other buildings. When he purchased the place it was all in vines, but the following winter he planted 400 trees, principally French and silver prunes and almonds, besides a few other varieties. In 1887 he had thirty-five tons of grapes, from which he made 5,300 gallons of wine which he sold the following spring.

Captain Crossley was married in 1857 to Nancy Jane Mason, daughter of Nathaniel Mason, of Somerset, Massachusetts. They have four sons and one daughter, viz.: Clearance S., a steel-plate engraver and pen sketcher, of Providence, Rhode Island; John P., Jr., Mabel B., W. Ernest, and Nathaniel M. They lost two children in infancy, also a son, the eldest, Herbert C., who was lost at sea July 31, 1883, being at the time a mate on his father's ship. he went out in a small vessel with two seamen and a passenger to visit the reefs on the shore of Agincourt Island, thirty miles north of Formosa, to see if there were any out-lying dangers. The small boat was in sight of the large vessel until the current carried the large ship out of sight. The small boat and its crew were never seen after that, although search was instituted by his father, who spent thirty days there, and other small steamers searched along the shore at the same time and also several United States and Chinese war vessels; and although the sea was smooth and weather fine at the time and for several days, still no tidings have ever been heard from them!

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 274-275 Transcribed by Carol Lackey