The Valley of Heart's Delight

Farmers Union

Bio- Pen Pictures

dealer in groceries and provisions, and commission merchant, Nos. 68 and 70 Santa Clara Street, San Jose, has been a resident of California, and the Santa Clara Valley, since 1852. Born in New York State, in Bovina, Delaware County, in 1829, he was there educated, graduating at the Hobart Seminary in 1847; followed the profession of school-teaching for several years; then went to Schenectady, devoting two years to an apprenticeship in mercantile life, after which he started West, intending to reach St. Louis, but stopped in Paris, Illinois, where he taught school for one year. In the spring of 1852 he started with a party for California, crossing the plains in the orthodox way, with this addition: that while they had ox teams and wagons for transportation, they used saddle-horses to carry themselves.  After reaching a distance out on the plains, they were joined by a number of small parties, forming one large emigrant train, of which Mr. Erkson was elected captain. After the usual incidents of such a trip they arrived in Sacramento in September. He had some mining experience that fall, as well as about two years later, with the usual varying success of miners and mining operations, meanwhile making his home in Santa Clara Valley. In 1857 he purchased a farm of 200 acres, five miles from San Jose, of which he still holds 140 acres. He has now planted on this place ten acres of prunes, in partial bearing. Mr. Erkson has devoted much of this place, and his time, to growing strawberries and other small fruits, cultivating at one time as high as forty acres of strawberries. He is still in that line of cultivation to some extent, having now about ten acres in strawberries, ten acres in asparagus, and four acres in raspberries.

        Mr. Erkson's son, William L., attends to the ranch. Mr. Erkson has always taken an active interest in the various political questions which have agitated the country, especially those occurring between 1856 and 1870. He was originally a Whig, but took an active part in organizing the Republican party in California, and has been prominent in its councils in this State. He was elected a delegate to the first Republican State Convention in California, which met in Sacramento in the spring of 1856, and voiced the sentiment of the men and women on this coast who would put a limit to the spread of human chattel-holding in the United States, and sent delegates to the National Convention which flung the banner of Fremont, free soil, and free speech to the winds. He was elected to the State Legislature in 1863, taking part in the work of the fifteenth session. In 1874, up to which time his occupation had been exclusively farming, he was active in the organization of the corporation known as the Farmers' Union, and became its President, retaining that position for four years. Soon after resigning this position, he, in 1878, opened the grocery and produce business in the same location in which he now conducts it, in the Pfister Block. Mr. Erkson owns a very handsome property on the corner of Julian and Third Streets, in improving which he has expended much time and money. He has recently been re-elected School Trustee, a position he has held for eight consecutive years, most of which time he has been President of the Board. Previous to his coming to reside permanently in San Jose, in 1878, he occupied the same position at Alviso for about twelve years, making more than one-half of his adult life devoted as a member of Boards of Education, and interested in that cause.

        He was married, in 1859, to Miss Laura A. Derby, a native of Massachusetts, who came to California with her parents in the early '50s. They have two sons : William Lewis, now managing the home ranch, called the Maverne Farm ; Charles Millard, now associated with his father in business.

        Mr. Erkson is a member of Triumph Lodge, Knights of Pythias, of San Jose, also member of the Uniform Rank of that organization.

        His parents were William and Eliza (Millard) Erkson, natives of New York State. His mother's is an old New England family of English descent. His father's family dates back to the time of the Revolution, being of the Mohawk Dutch stock, originally from Holland.

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.

Pg. 639-640


The Pioneer, published San Jose, California, Saturday, January 28, 1882
Surnames: Erkson, Derby

contritubed by jchavnar


Born in Delaware county, New York, June 25, 1829, where he was educated. At a tender age he was left an orphan, and the shaping of his own career left to himself, but he was prepared to meet the "whips and scorns of time" single-handed. His first employment was teaching school at the age of sixteen, and afterwards was, for three years, in a merchantile establishment in Schenectady, New York; he afterwards moved to Paris, Edgar county, Illinois, where he taught school for two years; thence crossed he crossed the plains to the Pacifica coast, leaving St. Joseph, Missouri, May 22, 1852, and arriving in Sacramento, September 13th, to the mines he went for a short time; and in the Winter of that year came to Alviso township, Santa Clara county, where he settled on a farm, with his uncle, A.C. Erkson, near the Lick Mill, now owned by Mrs. Fenton. Here he remained until he purchased two hundred acres of the Alviso Ranch, in 1857, where he made the first improvements attempted on it, and which he occupied until his removal to the city of San Jose, in July, 1874, whither he came to take charge of the store of the Farmers' Union, of which corporation he had been elected President. This position Mr. Erkson held for four years, when he resigned, and, in the month of August 1878, entered into partnership with F.J. Brandon and E.C. Smith, in the grocery and provision trade, their place of business being then, as it is now, Nos. 352-4 Pfister's Block, Santa Clara street. Married, June 4, 1859, Laura A. Derby a native of Massachusetts, and has: William Lewis, and Charles Willard. In the Winter of 1854, Mr. Erkson served in the Assembly, Fifteenth session, and has ever been a staunch Republican, and taken an active part in the Party, having been on several occasions Chairman of the County Committee, and a member of the State Central Committee.


SANTA CLARA COUNTY- The Valley of Heart's Delight