The Valley of Heart's Delight

THEOPHILUS KIRK -Fruit Grower, Santa Clara County Pioneer


   Conspicuous among the extensive and successful fruit growers of Santa Clara county, Theophilus Kirk was both prominent and influential, and his demise was regretted by his neighbors and a host of friends.  He was owner of one of the finest orchards and one of the most attractive home estates to be found in the valley.  A man of keen intelligence and superior business attainments, he was actively identified with the agricultural and horticultural developments and interests of Santa Clara County since the early '50s.  He was born in Jefferson County, Ohio, a son of Theophilus and Elizabeth (Lowe) Kirk, and in that state his father died, his mother passing away at the Kirk home place on Hicks Avenue, Santa Clara County.

   Theophilus Kirk was educated in the public schools of Iowa and Illinois, whither his parents had moved.  In the early years of his life, he crossed the plains in 1853, bringing with him a drove of cattle and consuming about six months in the journey from the Missouri River to the Coast.  He and his brother, S. Kirk, located in Santa Clara County, where they purchased a large tract of land and began farming; but Mr. Kirk soon saw the future for the successful growing of fruit and so was one of the first to set out orchards, becoming one of the pioneers in the dried fruit industry, which has made this valley so famous.  He was also one of the pioneers of irrigation in the county, and at his passing he was the last of the six original owners of the Kirk Ditch Company, organized in 1859 for irrigating purposes.  Mr. Kirk made a practical study of horticulture and found both pleasure and profit from this interesting side of country life.  All the improvements he made were of a substantial and modern nature and the methods he employed in the culture of his orchards were those of the earnest and interested student of science.

   Mr. Kirk's marriage, at Stockton, united him with Miss Elizabeth Chesnutwood, also a native of Jefferson County, Ohio, who came to California with her parents.  Mr. and Mrs. Kirk were the parents of two daughters--Ethel, now the wife of S. D. Farrington, and Edith L., the wife of J. P. Dorrance--both residing on the Kirk estate.  There are two grandchildren, Theo Kirk Farrington and John Kirk Dorrance.  Politically Mr. Kirk was a firm supporter of the principles of the Republican party, but was never an aspirant for official honors.  He was a devout Methodist and was for many years an active and official member of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of San Jose.  Liberal in the support of all measures looking toward the prosperity and advancement of his community, his conscientious and upright life and business career won for him the honor and esteem of his fellowmen, and his passing on June 30, 1915, deeply mourned by his family and friends, was a distinct loss to the county.

Transcribed by Joseph Kral, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 379