The Western Granite and
one of the representative industries of San Jose, and of the Santa Clara Valley, was organized in May, 1888, with C. T. Ryland as President, John W. Combs, Vice-President; D. B. Murphy, Treasurer; T. P. Ryland, Secretary; W. W. Blanchard, Manager, and T. O'Neil, Superintendent. Their office, yard, and works are situated on North First Street, at the crossing of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and are supplied with steam polishers, and the other requisite machinery to expedite the business. The company owns its own granite quarries at Yuba Pass, California, known as the Crystal Lake Quarries, the stones from which have no superior in the world. The marble used is chiefly from Vermont. The company employ from forty to fifty skilled workmen, including a special artist in designing. Besides the finest and most elaborate monumental and tombstone work, the company makes a specialty of building material in any style of finish. They have a branch house in Oakland for the exhibition and sale of manufactured goods. Their trade extends over California, and the contiguous States and Territories, and will reach $100,000 during the year 1888.
Although this company was but recently incorporated, the history of its origin and business dates back over a period of years. J. W. Combs established the marble business in San Jose in 1870; and in 1878 W. W. Blanchard and T. O'Neil opened the first permanent granite manufactory in the city. In 1883 a partnership was formed between the three men, and the two interests combined under the firm title of Combs, Blanchard & O'Neil. The combination comprised men of brains, energy, and ability, and its business prospered from the start, growing to such proportions that in order to own and operate their own quarries, and meet other requirements, it was thought best to merge the concern into an incorporated company, with larger capital, which was consummated as above stated.
John W. Combs was born in New York State, October 17, 1836. His father, who was noted for his skill as a mechanic, died in Mr. Comb's boyhood, and having a blind mother to support, he never attended school but fourteen months. He started in life as a butcher boy, which led him to study the forms and structure of animals; and having natural taste for art, he one day asked a marble cutter for a block of marble, and taking it to his room, he procured an old chisel and mallet, and while sitting up with his sick mother, cut the figure of a lamb out of it. In this first effort the young tyro was so successful and caused so much favorable comment, that it determined the current of young Combs' life. He started in to learn the trade of marble cutter at seventeen years of age, and soon became very expert in figure carving. Although he never took a lesson in art, he has made many pieces, busts, and faces in basso-rilievo from photographs, which have been pronounced fine likenesses. One of his pieces was a basso-rilievo of Pope Leo which sold at a Catholic fair for $150. Other pieces have been valued much higher; among them a bust of ex-Senator Henry C. McEwen, of Dixon, Salina County, which was presented to the Senator by a company of friends with appropriate ceremonies. His figure work has taken numerous first prizes at fairs and exhibitions wherever shown. He came to San Jose in 1870, and has been in the marble business ever since, in the relation of proprietor or joint partner
Mr. Combs was married in Ogdensburg, New York. He lost his wife in 1865, who died leaving two sons and a daughter. Mr. Combs married his present wife in the same city on January 19, 1867. His two sons are both superior workmen in marble. He is vice-president of the Western Granite and Marble Company.
W. W. Blanchard is a native of Maine, born in 1853. He attended school, learning his trade, and carried on a granite quarry in his native State, shipping dimension stock to Boston. In 1876 he sold out his business and came to California, working at his trade for a time in San Francisco and Oakland; came to San Jose and opened the granite, monument, and building-stone business, in partnership with T. O'Neil, in 1878.
In 1884 Mr. Blanchard married Miss Lulu K. Baker, daughter of Rev. G. R. Baker, a prominent Methodist clergyman, who was prominent in establishing the University of the Pacific, and laying the foundation for its present flourishing career. Mr. Blanchard is now manager of the Western Granite and Marble Company,
Timothy O'Neil, superintendent of the Western Granite and
Marble Works, was born in Connecticut, thirty-five years ago, and learned the
trade of stonecutter in the city of Hartford. He worked at it at several points
in the East: did some of the work on the Centennial buildings in Philadelphia.
He came to California near the close of 1875, and worked at his trade until
starting in business with Mr. Blanchard in San Jose, in 1878. Mr. O'Neil married
Mary Frances Devine, in 1886. She is the daughter of J. J. Devine, a pioneer who
came to this State in 1850.
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.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIOGRAPHY PROJECT