The Valley of Heart's Delight


In 1849, enthused by the thrilling tales spread broadcast throughout the land of the rich discovery of gold on the Pacific coast, Hon. William A. January joined the tide of immigration surging westward, and became numbered among the early pioneers of California. In the prime of a vigorous manhood, clear headed, full of activity and energy, he was one of the foremost in advancing the cause of civilization, and from the first was an important factor in promoting the industrial and business progress of the state. During the long years of his residence in San Jose, as a man of stability, integrity and financial wisdom he was ever prominently identified with the best interests of city and county. A son of Dr. Peter Thomas January, he was born February 16, 1826, in Marysville, Ky. The January family trace their origin to Alsatia, France, where their name was spelled Janvier. In 1685, on the revocation of the edict of Nantes, two members of this Huguenot family, Thomas and Pierre Janvier, immigrated to this country, settling in Pennsylvania, where the name was anglicized to its present form, January. Peter January, one of the principal descendants of Thomas Janvier, was the great grandfather of William A. January. He was a man of prominence in colonial times, serving as provincial armorer at Philadelphia, and taking an active part in the Revolutionary war.

Samuel January, the grandfather of William A. January, was born and reared in Pennsylvania, but was subsequently engaged in mercantile pursuits in Maysville, Ky., until his death. He married Elizabeth Marshall, who was a cousin of John Marshall, chief justice of the supreme court of the United States from his appointment in 1801 until his death, in 1835. A native of Kentucky, Peter Thomas January inherited the spirit of patriotism that animated his ancestors, and during the War of 1812 enlisted under Governor Shelby, and was an active participant in the battle of the Thames, where Tecumseh, the Indian brave, was killed. He afterwards enlisted in the United States army, and as first lieutenant in the First United States Regiment of Infantry was stationed for awhile at Fort Mcakinaw, where he became acquainted with the young lady who afterwards became his wife.

Resigning from the army, he took up the study of medicine, and having received the degree of M. D. was engaged in practice of his profession in different states, including Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. He spent his last years in Kentucky, dying at the age of seventy-four years. He married Isabelle J. Aitken, who was born in Montreal, Canada. Her father, Capt. William Aitken, a native of Scotland, married Miss McDonald, also of Scotland, and was subsequently, as an officer in the British army, stationed in Montreal, Canada. She died in 1849.

One of seven children, William E. January spent his boyhood days in different places, being in Galena, Ill., during the time of the Blackhawk war. His early education was principally obtained in the schools of Kentucky, after which he resided in Indiana, and in Stoddard County, Mo. In Cocydon and New Albany, Ind., he learned the printer's trade, and subsequently completed his studies in Kentucky. With a party of twenty-one adventurous and ambitious companions he started in 1849 for the Pacific coast, coming across the plains with ox teams, via Forts Kearney, Laramie and Bridger to Bear River, and then by the Lawson route to the Feather River. Arriving in Sacramento, Cal., he remained there until December, but was afterwards engaged in mining on Feather River and in different localities until 1853. Settling then in Eldorado county, Mr. January worked at the printer's trade in Coloma and Placerville. Is 1854, in partnership with Dan Gelwicks, he established the Mountain Democrat. In 1866 Mr. January located in San Jose, and established the Santa Clara Argus, which he published as a weekly for ten years, and then as a daily for two years. In 1878 he sold the paper and the plant, and the Argus was united with the Herald.

Mr. January took an active and intelligent interest in public matter, and served with great acceptability in different official capacities. In 1875 he was elected county treasurer of Santa Clara county, and in 1882 was elected state treasurer on the Democratic ticket. In 1892 he was elected tax collector of Santa Clara County, and was subsequently three time re-elected to the same position, in 1894, 1898 and 1902. He was a stanch Democrat in his political views, and for a number of years was a member of the State Democratic committee.

In 1855, in Placerville, Cal., Mr. January married Mary Helen Murgotten, a native of Indiana. Her father, Henry C. Murgotten, came to California with the gold seekers of 1849, and was joined by his wife and children in 1852. Nine children blessed the union of Mr. and Mrs. January, Arthur, William H., Samuel Garrett Wall, John James, Peter Thomas, Dan Gelwicks, Frank Bethel, Clementina Marshall, and Susan Aitken. Fraternally Mr. January was very prominent in the Masonic order, and did much to promote the good of the organization. January 8, 1855, in Placerville, he joined Eldorado Lodge No. 26, F. & A. M., which he served as master, and while in Placerville was a member of high priest of st. James Chapter No. 16, R.A.M. He was past master of San Jose Lodge No. 10, F.& A.M.; and past thrice illustrious master of Sacramento Council No. 1, R.& S.M.; was made a Knight Templar in Placerville in 1859, and was past commander of San Jose Commandery No. 10, K.T.; past grand high priest of the Grand Chapter of California; past grand illustrious master of the Grand Council of California; past patron of San Jose Chapter, Eastern Star; and past president. Mr. January belonged to the Santa Clara Pioneers' Association, and was a faithful and active member of the Christian Church.

Transcribed by Marie Clayton, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 1687


SANTA CLARA COUNTY HISTORY -The Valey of Heart's Delight