Bio-SawyersRETURN TO SANTA CLARA COUNTY FAMILY CHRONICLES
SURNAMES: PENNINGTON, SMITH, GOULD, WATTS,
It is almost impossible to imagine what would be the condition of the country without the development of its great agricultural resources, and valuable indeed has been the contribution which John R. Pennington has made toward the cultivation and irrigation of vast areas of arid lands with a hydraulic well-drilling machine which he had perfected. He was born November 29, 1871, in a rural district near Brenham, Texas, a son of Asa Pennington, who migrated with his family from Galesburg, Ill., to Texas in 1849. His paternal great-grandfather, Sir Richard Pennington, a native of Lancashire, England, came from that country and settled near Galesburg, Ill. His paternal grandfather, Elijah Pennington, brought his family to Texas and engaged in stock-raising, and there Asa Pennington, his father, became an extensive cattleman and landowner, the present townsite of Brenham being located on property formerly owned by him. In the early pioneer days of Brenham, wild horses roamed the prairies and were a pest to the farmers. He became prominent in the cattle business, controlling at one time about 34,000 acres of choice land.
John R. Pennington's education was obtained in the grammar and high schools of Brenham, later attending the Agricultural College at Bryan, Texas, and graduating in 1894 from the department of mechanical arts with the degree of M. E. He then entered the office of his uncle, Robert E. Pennington, a prominent attorney of Brenham, and spent a year and a half reading law, but was not satisfied to make the practice of law his life's work, so early in 1899 he was employed by the American Cotton Company at Houston, as a buyer of cotton. Very soon he was placed in the position of mechanical superintendent of their mills and the "round bale" was perfected and brought into use, which revolutionized the cotton industry. He then accepted a position as chief engineer for the Gravity Canal Company of Bay City, Tex., a company which constructed immense flumes for the transportation of water for the irrigation of the vast areas of uncultivated lands. In 1901 the whole state was aroused by the striking of oil at "Spindle Top," the first gusher in Texas. Mr. Pennington was a witness •to this event, and for the next few years he was interested in oil and oil lands at Beaumont, Texas, making and losing a fortune several times over. While a resident of Texas, he served as a first lieutenant in Company C of the Second Regiment of the Texas National Guard. In 1906 he resigned his position with the Gravity Canal Company and began to develop 300 acres of rice land, and his crop in 1907 amounted to 2480 bags.
The marriage of Mr. Pennington occurred May 14. 1896, at Paris, Texas, and united him with Miss Effie Smith, a daughter of R. L. Smith, a prominent merchant of Paris. Mr. Smith served as councilman for Paris for twenty-one years, was also active and prominent as a member of the Methodist Church, a strong personality and an influence for good in the community in which he resided. He passed away in September, 1912. Mrs. Pennington is a graduate of the Female College in Paris, majoring in music.
During the year of 1908 the family removed to Houston, Texas, and there Mr. Pennington became associated with the Layne & Bowler Pump Company, doing an extensive business throughout Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Arkansas. Later the family removed to Stuttgart, Arkansas, and in 1914 they came to the Santa Clara Valley, purchasing a residence at 97 Randol Avenue, an exclusive residence section of San Jose. Mr. Pennington also owns an orchard property of ninety acres near Morgan Hill devoted to the cultivation of prunes and walnuts; and is a member of the California Prune and Apricot Growers, Inc.
Mr. and Mrs. Pennington are the parents of five children. On April 9, 1917, Richard L. left his studies at the College of the Pacific to enlist in the Aviation Corps. going to Angel Island, and thence to Kelly Field Ground School for three months. He also received private instruction at Stinson Flying School at San Antonio, Texas. On the first of August, 1917, he reached England and became instructor of flying of the Fifty-sixth Royal Flying Corps, just fifteen miles from London. He witnessed the bombing at night of London by the enemy. At the time of the signing of the armistice he was ready to receive his promotion to captaincy, but was discharged before this could take place, on June 26, 1919. In partnership with E. T. Todd, he conducted a flying school at Santa Clara, which they operated for six months. He is married to Miss Emily Gould and they have a daughter—Elizabeth. At present he is interested with his father in the operation of the hydraulic well-drilling machines. Evelyn, now Mrs. Watts, has one son and resides at Burlingame; Thelma is a student at the State Normal school in San Jose; Dorothy at Notre Dame College; Rex is deceased.
While residing in Texas, Mr. Pennington in 1907 perfected his hydraulic rotary well-drilling machine for drilling oil and water wells, and was actively engaged in drilling oil wells. Since coming to Santa Clara County he has made and built improvements to fit the conditions for drilling water wells in the valley and has drilled over 200 wells for irrigating purposes, thus demonstrating his success in obtaining water, and has made a specialty of drilling large and deep wells by the use of the hydraulic rotary system. The business has grown so he now uses three different outfits for the drilling of deep wells, each outfit costing about $12,000. Mr. Pennington's work here cannot be overestimated, for on plenty of water for irrigation depends the • future success of the horticultural and agricultural interests of the county.
Politically Mr. Pennington is a Democrat in his convictions. Fraternally he is affiliated with the San Jose Lodge No. 522, B. P. 0. E; Observatory Lodge No. 23, I. 0. 0. F., and Friendship Lodge No. 210, F. & A. M. He is an active member of the Chamber of Commerce and the 100 Per Cent Club of San Jose. He has led an active and useful life, and has the respect of his fellowmen.
Transcribed from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California, published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 1246
SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight