The Valley of Heart's Delight


BIO- Pen Pictures

THOMAS B. KEESLING, one of our most successful fruit-growers, has a beautiful home in the Willows, on Willow Street opposite Cherry Avenue. The place has an area of about twenty acres, planted mostly in cherries and apricots,
with about an acre of grapes near his house, and cost him in 1873 $10,000, or $500 an acre. In 1887 he had about seven tons of grapes, which sold for an average of $15 a ton. The cherries produced about seven and one-half tons to
the acre, and apricots also bore a very full crop. Mr. Keesling has two ranches in Santa Clara County, one a mountain ranch of fifty acres planted in grapes and prunes, and forty acres about three miles west from his residence in
various kinds of fruit.

Born in Preble County, Ohio, in May, 1824, his grandparents, John Keesling,a native of Wythe County, Virginia, and Melinda (Bulls) Keesling, a native of North Carolina, having moved into Ohio in its earlier settlement. The family removed to a point near New Castle, Indiana, where the subject of this sketch went to school and worked on his father's farm. Commissioned Postmaster of Mechanicsburg, Indiana, in 1848, by President Taylor, he held that position
for eight years, meanwhile conducting a general store and steam saw-mill, the post-office being in his store. His old sign, painted by himself, still hangs over this store.

His father's farm having been on the wagon road between Cincinnati and Chicago, he had heard as a boy many and wonderful stories of the great West beyond. These did not decrease as to the great development of that section while
he was merchant and Postmaster of Mechanicsburg, so that in 1856 he resolved to cast his fortune toward the setting sun. Selling out his interests in Indiana, he took his family and settled where Minneapolis now is. At that time
there were but few shanties on the west side of the river, although on the east side was the town of St. Anthony's Falls. He bought twelve acres of land now in the center of Minneapolis, and remained there for sixteen years, during
which time he worked in the saw-mills and at gardening. This land, for which he paid $1,400, appreciated so much in value that he sold off $35,000 worth, and has been offered $50,000 for what he still holds! Having always had a
fondness for horticulture, which he undertook in Minnesota with unsatisfactory results, owing to the intense cold, he made a trip to California, settling in the Santa Clara Valley in 1872. Here he worked during the first year for
James Lick, purchasing at the end of the year the home place in the Willows.

He was married, in 1884, to Miss Elizabeth Hasty, a native of Preble County, Ohio, her parents also removing into Indiana during its early settlement. Her parents were Thomas Hasty, a native of Kentucky, and Anna Raper, a native
of Virginia. This union has been blessed with a numerous progeny, numbering eleven: Martha Ann, now the wife of George W. Hanson, a resident of the Willows; Francis M., connected with Wells, Fargo & Co.'s Express in San Jose; Leander B., residing near Glenwood, in the Santa Cruz Mountains; Horace G., now a fruit-grower in the Willows; Alva C., a fruit-grower in Santa Clara County; Oliver M., fruit-grower in the Willows; Carrie E., George C., Thomas C., Emma E., and Edwin E., the five latter still attending school and occupying the paternal home.

Mr. Keesling has been always a believer in the principles from which the Republican party sprang, and which carried it on in its successful career. In these he but followed in the footsteps of his father, as he has been followed
by his sons. His father was in favor of the abolition of slavery, and helped every slave who escaped from thralldom and came within his reach. Death called the old gentleman before the day of Emancipation, but his spirit battled
for liberty and union in the persons of a son and nephew, who gave up their lives that their country might be saved. The son, Isaac B., died at Vicksburg, and the nephew was killed at Richmond. Other relatives also lost their
lives during the war.

SOURCE:  Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- page 517
Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.