The Valley of Heart's Delight

WILLIAM C. OVERFELT -Dairy and Stockman,
Santa Clara County Pioneer

Surnames: PYLE, HATCH

  On the pages of California's pioneer history appears the name of William C. Overfelt, and although many years have elapsed since Mr. Overfelt passed away, his memory is still green in the hearts of his family and friends, and as a pioneer of 1846 his name still lives in the annals of the state. His was a life of toil, beginning early in life, but he was fortunate in that he had established himself upon an independent basis by the time he arrived at middle age.  Had his life been prolonged, no doubt he would have reaped a larger success, for his resourceful mind and keen judgment won the confidence of associates and were the factors in his growing prosperity.

  A native of Virginia, he was born in 1827, and was descended from German ancestry.  At the early age of five he was deprived of his mother.  His father, Michael Overfelt, a native of the Old Dominion, and a pioneer of Missouri, followed the wagonmaker's trade in addition to that of being a farmer.  At the age of fourteen, being obliged to earn his living, William was bound out to a farmer, with whom he remained until he was twenty-one.  With an older brother, John, he then embarked in the flour milling business in Callaway County.  However, before their enterprise had been placed upon a substantial foundation, a desire for adventure came over him and with a party of seventeen young men he made preparation to come to the coast. 

The journey across the plains, begun in the spring of 1846, was made with pack mules and oxen and contained the usual dangers and hardships.. The greatest peril they encountered was at Kings River, where the waters had overflowed the bed of the river and formed an angry sea, imperiling the lives of those who attempted to cross.

  Like almost every pioneer, Mr. Overfelt tried his luck in the mines, being engaged principally in Mariposa County.  About 1852 he came to Santa Clara County and with others bought and settled on Government land, on which he engaged in farming and stock raising.  The marriage of Mr. Overfelt occurred December 27, 1854, uniting him with Miss Mary Pyle, a sister of John F. Pyle.  Her father, Thomas Pyle, was a son of Edward G. Pyle, a very early pioneer of California, and mentioned in history as one of the party who returned to Donner Lake in March, 1847, hoping to arrive there in time to relieve the ill-fated Donner party.

Mrs. Overfelt was born in Illinois and accompanied her father's family to California, where she attended a subscription school and also had the the advantage of study, for some years, with a private tutor engaged by her father.  After her marriage she settled with her husband on a tract of 160 acres, located on Penetencia Creek, one-half mile from Berryessa. After almost four years on that place they sold and removed to a part of the Pyle homestead, where Mr. Overfelt conducted a dairy and stock raising business until his death, May 26, 1876, when only forty-nine years of age.

 Both he and his wife were from an early age identified with the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and contributed generously to charitable and religious movements.  After the death of her husband she continued the management of the farm.  Mr. and Mrs. Overfelt were the parents of two sons and three daughters, Charles F. and E. J. being engaged in stock raising and farming.  The oldest daughter, Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Hatch, resides in San Jose.  Martha Ellen is deceased, and Mildred L. resides with her mother on the home ranch.


Transcribed by Joseph Kral, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 384

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