A noted apiarist whose fame has extended far beyond the confines of Santa Clara County is James T. Dunn, a native son, born at La Fayette, Contra Costa County, on December 28, 1876, the son of Edward B. and Anna B. (Walker) Dunn. A great uncle on the Walker side came to California far back in 1792, is buried in the family plot at Martinez. Cal., and Walker's Pass, leading to the Yosemite Valley is named after him. Edward B. Dunn is a native of Kentucky. and he crossed the plains on foot driving an ox-team in 1850. Having arrived safely at Sacramento, he pushed on in the spring of 1851 to San Jose. Three generations ago. the Dunns came from Ireland; while Mrs. Walker's family came originally from Missouri. The Walkers were large stockmen and owned the west side of Mt. Diablo into the valley.
Edward B. Dunn spent some four years hauling quicksilver ore from the
New Almaden mines, and then he moved to Contra Costa County and near La
Fayette engaged extensively in grain, stockraising and dairying. He had
two ranches, and for many years he ran a threshing machine, with
old-fashioned horse power, in the days prior to the "Old Minnesota
Chief" threshing machine. In connection with his farm land, Mr. Dunn
also had considerable hill land for range. He ran a stock farm and
cheese factory and resided there for thirty years, or until a short
time before his death; he lived to be seventy-two years and ten months
old. Mrs. Dunn died at the age of fifty-four, and both are buried in
Martinez. They had eight children, among whom our subject is the
youngest living; and he and a sister, Mrs. Hannah Young, of Oakland,
are all that survive.
James T. Dunn attended the grammar school at La Fayette and at the completion of school he served an apprenticeship in the hardware trade under Rittingstein, of Oakland; and at the end of the three years he went to work for the Hawley Bros. Hardware Company, of San Francisco, with which concern he remained until he became of age. He also attended evening school in Oakland for a couple of years. As soon as he attained his majority, however, he took up the bee business, for which he had always had a fancy, and he commenced with two colonies of bees in the fall of 1882 at La Fayette. He spent several years in Fresno and Butte counties and gradually increased his holdings; and while living in Fresno, he served for several years as county bee inspector. In Butte County he had a large apiary on the Phelan ranch, and he was also bee inspector of that county.
For the past seventeen years, Mr. Dunn has made San Jose his home, and while here he has taken up the "queenery business," and has also branched out into extensive shipping of bees, and as one of the authorities on bees along the Pacific Coast, he has naturally come to enjoy a very enviable prosperity. His queenery he started in 1900 from almost nothing; and yet in 1919 he raised and shipped 8,000 queen-bees to all parts of the world, all raised in Santa Clara Valley. He breeds only the Italian bees, as they are the least susceptible to the various diseases the California beekeeper has to deal with.
In 1917 Mr. Dunn took up the shipping of bees from California to
distant points in the United States, and also abroad, and he uses small
boxes, each one containing two pounds of bees; and while they are
enroute, the bees are fed by a solution of sugar water, until they
arrive at their destination. As an illustration of how this interesting
industry, under the farsightedness and experience of Mr. Dunn, has
grown, it may be stated that in 1917 he shipped only 400 of these
two-pound boxes, while in 1920 his volume of exports exceeded five
tons. He also buys many bees in Monterey County, Salinas Valley and at
Carmel, purchasing hundreds of colonies; he does much of the shaking of
the bees at Salinas, and from that point they are hauled by way of
auto-trucks to San Jose, where they are packed and sent off by express.
San Jose is the logical shipping point, and among apiarists San Jose is
regarded as the greatest bee-producing town in the world, just as Santa
Clara County is regarded as the center of the queen-bee producing
industry—a fact not generally known and appreciated. Mr. Dunn's
shipments alone of two-pound boxes to the Western Honey Corporation of
Reno, Nev., will also give an idea of the extent of his growing trade
in bees. On June 10, 1921, he sent sixty packages; on the twelfth,
seventy-one; the next day, seventy-seven; on the sevententh, 250; on
the twenty-first, 231; on the twenty-fourth, 122; on the twenty-fifth,
118; on the twenty-eighth, sixty-five; on July 9, 120; on the tenth,
forty; on the twelfth, eighty-five; on the thirteenth, 150; and on the
fourteenth, 100. During the war, the price of bees soared to $2,000 a
ton; but at present it is $1,500. Mr. Dunn has two queeneriesone in San
Jose, and one at Lathrop, on the San Joaquin River. When the season's
nectar gives out in the Santa Clara Valley, he moves his queenery to
Lathrop, where the bees feed on the alfalfa nectar. Mr. Dunn is also
general field inspector for the Western Honey Corporation, with his
headquarters in the Claus Spreckels Building, San Francisco, and
travels all over the west and Mexico. To show the rapid growth of the
production of honey in California, the estimate of the honey crop for
1922 by the Western Honey Corporation is 1,000,000 pounds of honey. Mr.
Dunn is a member of the California State Beekeepers Association.
On November 25, 1896, Mr. Dunn was married at Walnut Creek, in Contra
Costa County, to Miss Ethel M. Godfrey, a native of Beaver, Minn., and
the daughter of George and Emerette (Clark) Godfrey. Mr. Godfrey came
to California in 1889, as a farmer; and he is still living at the age
From Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California, published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 1020
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SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight