The Valley of Heart's Delight


Bio-Pen Pictures

Zeri Hamilton, deceased.  The subject of this sketch was born in Massachusetts, in 1813.  He was the son of Luther Hamilton and the grandson of Eliakim Hamilton, who was of English birth, and an officer in the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War.  Zeri Hamilton grew to manhood I the old Bay State, living on his father’s farm and learning the carpenter’s trade.  Later he worked for some years in the State of New York.  Thence he went to Michigan, and, after a few years’ residence in that State to Terre Haute, Indiana, where he married, in 1840, Miss Jane Blackford.  Two years afterward they removed to Chariton County, Missouri, and, opening a farm, made it their home until the spring of 1848. 

Failing health compelled Mr. Hamilton to seek a radical change of climate, and he joined a train of emigrants bound for California.  He crossed the Missouri River at St. Joseph, with his family and a  few household goods.  Their route was by way of Salt Lake City, and upon the desert this side of that place Mr. Hamilton had the misfortune to lose most of his stock.  His cows and one yoke of oxen were driven and killed by Indians.  A kind-hearted Christian gentleman, afterward known as “Methodist Bennett,” allowed Mr. Hamilton to harness a yoke of Texas steers to his wagon, and also to use a part of the wagon.  After abandoning his own wagon and several articles of value, among them a trunk containing many keepsakes, which, for temporary safety, had been buried and its whereabouts unknown, the family, without further mishap, concluded the long journey.

A word as to Mr. and Mrs. Bennett: They settled at Santa Cruz, where they reared a large family, to become worthy members of society.  They were beloved by all who knew them.  After lives well-spent they sleep the sleep of the just.

Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton made their first home at the mines on Weaver Creek.  Under a large oak tree, two sheets sewed together and stretched over a pole, with a buffalo robe for the floor, formed their rude habitation for several weeks.  Mr. Hamilton was an invalid and unable to work.  His wife baked bread to sell to miners, and did other work with indomitable energy, thus providing for all necessities.  The winter following was spent in Coloma in a rude log cabin.  The following summer of 1849 was spent at Sutter’s Fort; and the following winter at Georgetown.  Mrs. Hamilton relates that while she was a “Hangtown” (Coloma) she paid $10 per pound for ten pounds of beads brought by a miner from Oregon, and sold them to the Indians for an aggregate of $1,500!  She paid $5.00 per pound for butter, and $6.00 per dozen for eggs!  In moving to Sutter’s Fort, a man and team were hired for one day, and paid the modest sum of $300 in gold-dust.  While at Coloma Mr. Hamilton undertook to carry some blankets to prospecters employed by a firm of merchants , for which service he was to be paid $16.  Meantime Mrs. Hamilton purchased a package of needles, without paying for them at the time.  In settlement they paid Mr. Hamilton $2.00, charge $14 for the needles.  Mrs. Hamilton, not disputing the account, sent her husband to the merchant’s tent, with a bill of $14 for a loaf of bread, for which she had not intended to make any charge.  The merchant was possessed of enough consistency to pay the bill.

In March, 1850, the family took possession of the present homestead, on what is now known as the Meridian road, near the eastern terminus of Hamilton Avenue, two and one-half miles southwest of San Jose.  Mr. Hamilton bought a “squatter’s right,” paying $300 for the possessory right to 160 acres, and later, $5.00 per acre for the “Golinda” title.  The house, which was purchased in San Francisco, was framed, fitted, and numbered for putting together, in the State of Maine, and shipped around Cape Horn.  The old house, nearly intact, yet stands, and is the home of Mrs. Hamilton and a part of her family.  Long years of litigation followed their settlement, spent in fighting claimants under shadowy titles of different kinds; but finally, after buying off some of them, and being the victims of attorneys for many years, they claimed the land under the pre-emption laws of the United States Government, only to find other parties on all sides claiming it under the same laws.  Only since the death of her husband was Mrs. Hamilton, by a decree of the Secretary of the Interior, enabled to get the title to the property confirmed to her children.

The death of her husband, 1871, left Mrs. Hamilton the care of a large family.  That she was fully able to meet the emergency, her untiring energy at the present time (seventeen years later) clearly proves.  She is the daughter of Samuel Blackford, and was born near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  She was but six years of age when her parents removed to Knox County, Ohio, and ten years of age when they again removed, this time to Erie, Pennsylvania.  Later they made Terre Haute, Indiana, their home, where as before stated, she met and married Mr. Hamilton.  She is the mother of nine children, five sons and four daughters.  Seven of her children were born at her present home.

The names of all in the order of their birth, are as follows: Mrs. Mary J. Vanderwart, of San Francisco; Samuel B., of San Jose; Luther, of Umatilla County, Oregon; Mrs. Hattie E. Kennedy, of Fossil, Oregon; David, of Umatilla county, Oregon; Mrs. Laura Whittle, of Santa Cruz County; Mrs. Angie Sanderson, of Marion County, Oregon; and George and Zeri, who reside at the old homestead with their mother.  Mr. Hamilton, after settling in this county, became quite a robust man, and was never until his last illness prostrated with sickness.

Mrs. Hamilton is a lady of culture, having received a good education in her youth, and having been somewhat of a student all of her life.  To her belongs the distinction of having taught the first school in Hamilton District.  Both herself and her husband were ever ready to do all in their power to promote the cause of religion.  The first church services of the first Sunday-school were held at their home.  Their residence was also opened to the first debating society held in their neighborhood.  Although not in the possession of the health and strength of former years, Mrs. Hamilton is sustained by an indomitable will and a strong, courageous heart, and wherever known she is respected.

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.p. 463,464

Transcribed by Debbie Combs.


SANTA CLARA COUNTY -The Valley of Heart's Delight