This village lies four miles northeast of San Jose, close to the eastern foothills. It is a populous fruit section and the trees are large and thrifty. Apricots, prunes, peaches, walnuts and cherries are grown in the vicinity of Berryessa Corners, where Capital Avenue and the Berryessa road come together. There is a general merchandising store, a Methodist church, a grammar school and an improvement club. The climate is similar to that over the floor of the valley. The elevation is at least 100 feet greater than that of San Jose and because of this fact the village has become an important apricot district. The electric cars from San Joes to Alum Rock pass through the village. There are telephones, rural delivery and electric power for pumping.
The most important industry is the Flickinger Fruit Cannery. Only extras are packed. There are 250 acres in the tract and buildings of all kinds for handling the fruit. About 200 men and women are employed during the busy season. The business was started in 1886 by J. H. Flickinger. When he bought the land in 1880 for his orchard and cannery it was in pasture, grain and mustard, and honeycombed by squirrels and gophers. He immediately inaugurated a revolution. He planted his orchard, fought squirrels and gophers, spent money lavishly until as a result of his efforts, in 1887, he turned out orchard products that sold over $100,000. Mr. Flickinger died in 1898, and the establishment has since been conducted by the Flickinger family. L. F. Graham is the president and manager; Chas. T. Flickinger is treasurer; Miss F. Flickinger is secretary, and W. R. Leland is superintendent. Of late years the equipment has been so improved that the cannery is able to perform more and better work than formerly. Cherries, apricots, peaches and tomatoes are handled.
For many years J. F. Pyle, a pioneer of 1846, conducted a cannery on his ranch of eighty-four acres at the corner of the King and Maybury roads. In 1907 the cannery business was removed to the corner of Fifth and Martha Streets, San Jose. About 300 people are employed during the busy season. The manager is Harry Pyle; superintendent, E. G. Pyle, both sons of J. F. Pyle.
In the month of December, 1877, the settlers of Berryessa were wrought up to the highest pitch of enthusiasm over the cheering news from Washington that the suit involving the title to the lands they occupied had been finally decided in their favor by the Supreme Court of the United States. The event was celebrated on December 22 by a grand barbecue in the school house enclosure. When the hour of noon arrived the place was thronged with people. Berryessa turned out every man, woman and child, while San Jose, Santa Clara, Mountain View, Mayfield, Milipitas, Alviso and Evergreen were represented by large delegations, the total number of participants exceeding 1500. Uncle Ike Branham, assisted by the ladies of the village, superintended the arrangements for the barbecue proper. Besides all the attractive essentials of the meat feast, there was an array of succulent extras fit for a kingly epicure. The festivities opened with a mass meeting in the school house, which failed to accommodate more than one-third of those who desired to listen. Congratulatory addresses were delivered by Hon. S. O. Houghton, Hon. C. T. Ryland, Judge Lawrence Archer, Hon. Thomas Bodley, J. R. Hall and J. H. M. Townsend, after which the attack on the tables commenced. After the feast Bronson & Daggett's band summoned the people to the school, where dancing was kept up until after midnight.
The history of the suit is as follows: The disputed tract, which covered the village of Berryessa, contained over 15,000 acres. In 1852 Nicolas Berryessa filed a claim on the land before the United States land commissioner, under a permit from the alcalde of San Jose. The evidence to support the claim was lacking and afterward an amended petition was filed. This petition set up a grant from the Mexican government, which, however, had been lost or mislaid. To support his
claim Berryessa filed what in Spanish is called a diseno, which is a topographical sketch or chart, showing a tract of land comprising 15,000 acres. It was alleged that this chart was attached to the petition upon which the grant was originally issued. In 1853 the claim was declared a fraud on its face. Many of the topographical features delineated had no existence prior to 1852, while the assertion was made that the grant was issued in 1835. But the most glaring defect was this: It showed the Aguaze Creek as running from the hills straight to the Coyote, while, as a matter of fact, the Aguaze turned to the north abut half a mile east of the Coyote, the waters finding their way through the willow thickets to form Penetencia Creek. This was prior to 1852.
In that year a settler dug a ditch and built fences, and in the fall the creek sent down its waters, which entered the dictch and continued on, cutting a channel through which the waters were afterward discharged. Still another defect in the diseno was the representation of a two-story house in the north corner of the rancho, known to have been built in 1850, while the diseno was alleged to have been made in 1835. In consequence of these defects the Berryessa claim was rejected by the land commissioners.
Afterwards Horace W. Carpentier, of Oakland, acquired possession of nearly all of Berryessa's claim and prosecuted it in the courts. He had been unable, however, to present any archive testimony. Similar cases had gone before the Supreme Court and the rule had been laid down that land claims could not be confirmed which did not have archive testimony in support of them. Defeated in all his proceedings, Carpentier, in 1865, suddenly alleged that he found a book of record in the surveyor general's office in which was a copy of a grant to Nicolas Berryessa. It was on a loose sheet of the book and subsequent investigations showed that it was not a part of the original record but had been placed in the book long after the original entries had been made. The claimants were routed again and no evidence has been found in either Mexican or California archives to show that such a grant ever existed.
The Berryessa settlers bought of the city of San Jose under the belief that Berryessa had no grant and that the territory was pueblo land. The Supreme Court of the United States at last confirmed their title and the long litigation was over. S. O. Houghton and Montgomery Blair argued the case for the settlers. E. R. Carpentier and Judge Phillips, of Washington, appeared for Carpentier.
Transcribed by Linda Gretty, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California, published by Historic Record Co. , 1922.
RETURN TO SANTA CLARA- THE VALLEY OF HEART's DELIGHT
July 16, 2005