SURNAMES: HUTSINPILLER, JONES, MONTGOMERY, STRANGE, LOUPE, HANNA, PYLE
But few of those men who came to Gilroy when it was a mere stage
station yet remain to note the great development which has been shown
by the little hamlet of that day, and by the country surrounding.
Perhaps no other name has been so intimately associated with that
progress from the first as that of Thomas Rea.
Mr. Rea is a native of Gallia County, Ohio, where he was born November
22, 1820. His father, James Rea, was born in Greenbriar County,
Virginia, of Welsh-Irish extraction. He was reared in his native State,
and there married Hannah Hutsinpiller, whose parents were
Pennsylvanians. He served his country in the war with Mexico, being in
the command of Col. E. D. Baker, afterward Senator from Oregon. In his
politics, he was identified with the old Whig party, and became a
Republican when the political lines were re-drawn and that party
formed. He was a man of remarkable memory, which he retained unimpaired
until his death, in 1879, after he had reached his eightieth year. Even
in the latter years of his life, he could vividly recall the lessons
from the history of his country learned in early youth, while the
happenings of later days and the movements in battles, campaigns, and
marches, during the Mexican War were indelibly imprinted on his mind.
His wife preceded him to the grave, her death having occurred in 1871.
They rest side by side in the cemetery at San Jose.
Thomas Rea, whose name heads this sketch, was the second in order of
birth of their twelve children. He grew up amid the primitive
surroundings of his native county in Ohio, and Hancock County in the
same State, whither the family removed in 1833. He received the usual
education afforded by a pioneer community, which was, of course,
limited. In 1838 the family removed to Macon County, Illinois, and
there he continued his studies, having for a tutor an uncle of his
father, a well-educated man. Attaining his majority, Mr. Rea, filled
with the spirit of adventure, was not at all satisfied with the idea of
settling down to the quiet life of an Illinois farmer. Accordingly, in
1842, he went to Grant County, Wisconsin, where he engaged in lead
mining, continuing in that occupation until November 1849. At that time
stories of the new El Dorado led him to become one of the gold seekers
of California. En route, he passed down the Mississippi to New
Orleans, thence via steamer and Isthmus route to Panama, where he
embarked on the old whale-ship Norman, which had been converted into a
passenger boat by the necessities of emigration. He reached San
Francisco February 22, 1850, thence, a few days later, passed on to
Sacramento, and directly to the placer mines at Auburn. There and at
other points the season was spent in mining and in prospecting. Before
winter set in, he was engaged in mining operations at Downieville,
where he remained until March 1852. On the fifteenth of the next month,
Mr. Rea embarked for Panama, and returned to Illinois. Looking after
his interest in the lead mines and visiting friends, occupied a few
months. Meantime he arranged for his return to California, in which
State he had determined to establish his future home. The important
preliminary preparations were consummated April 11, 1853, the day he
wedded Miss Mary Ann Jones. Mr. Rea, with his wife, his brother-in-law,
Mr. G. B. Montgomery, and others, left Illinois the same month, and,
crossing the plains, deserts, and mountains, made the overland trip to
California. Late in August, in company with his brother-in-law, he
reached San Jose. Resting a few days, they reached Gilroy September 3.
But little promise of the present was then to be seen. One store,
conducted by L. C. Everitt, three residences, and a school-house made
the Gilroy of that date. The post-office and hotel were in the same
building, which is yet standing near the present residence of Mr. A.
Mr. Rea first settled on the Solis Ranch, and established a dairy
business, this becoming one of the pioneers of the county in that
industry. He expended about $2,000 in improving that property, but in June 1857, not
being fully satisfied with his location, he bought 160 acres out of the
Los Animas Ranch. Year by year he added to his purchase until he
owned and yet owns about 935 acres of the Los Animas Ranch. His
residence was about three miles from Gilroy, although the boundary of
his land was but a little more than a mile from the city. Constantly
increasing, his dairy industry was successfully prosecuted, until
1871, when, desiring a life more retired, Mr. Rea removed to Gilroy.
His present fine residence, on Commodious shaded grounds, was erected
by himself with regard to comfort and convenience, rather than to cost,
and was taken possession of in June, 1873.
Mr. Rea was one of the incorporators and principal stockholders of the
Gilroy Bank, and until January, 1874, when he sold out his interests,
he was one of the Board of Directory and President of that institution.
Upon his retirement, he was presented by the stockholders with a
handsome clock, as a testimonial of their respect and esteem.
Mr. Rea is prominent in political as well as in business and social
circles. A Whig until the organization of the Republican party, he
needed no schooling to fit him for leading in the new organization.
Under the teaching of Henry Clay, he had learned to oppose the
extension of slavery, and had adopted the doctrine of protection to
American industries. In the General Assembly of the State, he
represented his district in 1873 and ' 74, serving with credit on the
Committees on Corporations and Counties, County Boundaries, and several
special committees. From 1872 to 1876 he served Gilroy in its City
Council, and from 1886 to 1888 as its Mayor. Although a member of no
religious organization, Mr. Rea recognizes the power exerted by all for
good, and while devoting more of his means to the upbuilding of the
Congregational Church, of which he is one of the Trustees, he helps all
Mrs. Rea was born in Palestine, in Vermillion County, Illinois. Her
father, Wm. A. Jones, died in 1854, and her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth
Jones, in 1868. Mr. and Mrs. Rea are the parents of the following
children: James W., who resides on the Alameda road between San Jose
and Santa Clara, and is one of the State Railroad Commissioners of
California; Addie, who is the wife of E. W. Strange, of San Francisco;
Emma, who is the wife of Louis Loupe, of Gilroy; Carrie, who has her
home with her parents; Clara, who is the wife of Jacob Hanna, of
Livermore; and Geore Elmer, who lives on his father's ranch; and one
adopted daughter, Mary, is now the wife of D. M. Pyle, of Bakersfield.
The parents of Mr. Rea naturally followed him to California, coming one
year later, in 1854. They lived near the Seven Mile House, on the road
from San Jose to Gilroy, until about 1865, when they removed to Gilroy
Township, where they spent the rest of their lives.
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 336-337 Transcribed by Roena
SANTA CLARA COUNTY -The Valley of Heart's Delight
SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIOGRAPHY PROJECT