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HARD WON – Cowboy Wisdom

coe_brothers_smallPeter Coe Verbica carries many torches of tradition that are uniquely Evergreen in nature.  Mr. Peter Verbica is a member of the Revolutionary War fighting, Valley of Heart’s Delight rumor creating, dried apricot perfecting, cattle ranching, beautiful poetry writing, longtime Evergreen family, the Coes.  Today, Mr. Peter Coe Verbica is a successful businessman and a Silicon Valley author and poet, deriving inspiration from his long held family traditions.

P1310184Don’t worry if you feel a little confused about where the Coes actually come from.  You did see the Coe name in Willow Glen.  Coe Avenue runs right past Henry W. Coe’s home in “the Willows”, a town which became Willow Glen some time later.  Henry Coe, Sr., would move out to Evergreen in the 1860’s as the Yerba Buena land disputes starting settling.  After a poor year of farming in Willow Glen, Henry W. Coe would move the homestead to Evergreen, buying large tracks in Halls Valley and San Felipe Valley.  His sons would extend the grazing land further.  This cattle ranching track stretched all the way out to Morgan Hill, to Henry W. Coe State Park.

Winnifred Coe Verbica, who died on March 31, 2013, in the early 1950sP1300723This large Evergreen ranching property raised not just cattle, but generations of ranchers, or more specifically Cowboys.  It’s been rumored that Peter’s mother, Winnifred Coe Verbica, was bitten by a rattle snake as a baby on the Evergreen Ranch.  San Felipe Ranch, the main homestead, would be located at the Southern tip of Rancho Yerba Buena.  Various other homes and outposts are dotted throughout the ranching property because you’d be miles and miles away from home on a cattle run with men, dogs and horses to feed.  Mr. Verbica would be born on San Felipe Ranch, like his mother before him.  Cowboy Wisdom is something Mr. Verbica is well-versed in.

1888616_10152084007824902_1583107476_nMr. Verbica obtained his BA in English at Santa Clara University, and received his JD from Santa Clara University’s School of Law.  Though clearly well versed in city life, Peter Coe Verbica spent some time disseminating pearls in his book HARD-WON: Cowboy Wisdom.  This latest book from Peter Coe Verbica is short bursts of common sense uncommon to city-slickers.  Because of the brevity of the clips, it’s a perfect read for a busy person on the go to pick up in spare minutes.  Some of his passages made me laugh out loud in a crowded, busy place.  His snippets are in no particular order.  Mr. Verbica gives tips on cattle running, hunting, and ranch owning.  A simple kind of intelligence from self-sufficient, hardworking farmers can be gleamed throughout HARD-WON.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever daydreamt about being a cowboy and lassoing their little brothers.

image1Here are some of my favorite snippets from HARD-WON: Cowboy Wisdom:

“15.  Don’t wear too big of a buckle unless you’ve earned it.”

“60.  Rides your fences.”

“78.   If someone doesn’t believe in his heart that the West is the Best, don’t trust him.”

“137.  When in rattle snake country, wear high boots.”

“193.  Don’t make fun of a ‘C’ student.  You may have to work for them someday.”

“213.  Unfenced mine shafts are the bane deer and curious children.”

“252.  Finish what you can start, but think first about what you’re starting.”

“292.  Give a horse’s hind end an appropriate distance so that you don’t get kicked.”

“300.  Eat the game you kill.”

“305.  Don’t be too proud to copy what you neighbor does, but try to make it better. – Courtesy of Barry Swenson

“370.  Don’t pen horses with barbed wire.”

“449.  There are lots of ways to skin a cat, but the easiest way is to let someone else do it.”

“476.  Think twice before trying to save your dog from a grizzly.”



Apricot Town

Apricots jpg In discussing what makes Evergreen what it is today, I kept being asked about the variety of fruit shown in the proposed artwork.  Almost every interviewee asked me why I was showing love to all the fruit picked here.  We have vineyards associated with Evergreen, for sure.  My parents kept telling us that they moved in across from apricot orchards and the houses were built when we were too young to remember.  The majority of orchards in Evergreen were apricots.

240px-Fruit_exchange_labelBarry Swenson, Evergreen Native and Downtown Developer, recalls the school schedule coinciding with harvest schedules.  “Cot” Season would be from July to August, prune harvest following that before school would resume.  Prunes were a big business in the Valley of Heart’s Delight with 80,000 acres of prune trees.  Apricots would come in second with some 7,000 acres of trees.  Farming families would raise huge farms and huge families to cultivate the rich Evergreen soil.  Harvest time was a community event.  Families, companies and neighbors all pitched in to pick fruit and harvest grain.

12314282_198416020500512_5584157587879954674_oI bet you’re asking: “What’s the prune got that the apricot doesn’t?”

Luis Pellier’s small Agen prune / plum cions would make him famous once successfully grafted or implanted onto a natural wild California plum tree.  He’s often called the father of the “California Fruit Industry.”  The prune was successfully marketed as “Fine to Dry”, though the prune would need to be hastened through a boiling or dipping process.  Prunes as a crop were much easier to harvest than apricots, so they were an attractive investment.  Santa Clara County would grow up around prune orchards and packing factory all thanks to Pellier.  The Apricot didn’t have a fancy PR campaign and wasn’t so easily dried and exported.

l_19778052Canned apricots are totally cool and were popular.  I certainly remember eating them as a kid.  They would still play second fiddle in the Santa Clara Valley to the prune.  In the later half of the 1800’s though, that dried prune had the country captivated.  Dried fruit to export was a new thing.  Canned fruit had been around for a little while as the primary way of exporting fruit long distances.  In fact, there weren’t can openers when Evergreen fruit started going into cans.  Railroads would be the only way to get fresh fruit out of the Santa Clara Valley.  Into the 1900’s, Evergreen Packer, Edmund N. Richmond and the Richmond-Chase Company would be one of those canners using Evergreen harvested apricots.

istockphoto_5513085-dried-apricots-on-whiteNot until San Felipe Ranch owner, Henry W. Coe for which the largest State Park is named, changed the drying process did apricots take off.  Apricots sun-dried and pitted without any treatment get really sweet but black in color.  That’s a difficult product to get to sell.  Henry W. Coe perfected the apricot drying system with a sulfur smoke which preserved the color and the golden apricot embraced as a fine dried fruit.  Coe was a business man using his back East, New York connections.  His exports and products may have inspired the “Heart’s Delight” knick name by the rest of the Country.  Importing and exporting was Henry Coe’s strength and he was first to market with the dried apricot.

apricotsIt turns out that back East, people loved golden apricots and may have gotten over the whole prune fad.  The dried ‘cot was new and hip.  The farmers across the Town of Evergreen would be blanketed with thousands of acres of apricot orchards.  In 1914, 600,000 apricot trees were recorded in Santa Clara County, most of those planted in Evergreen.  In the early 1900’s, the apricot industry would improve in Evergreen.  German-American farmer, Mr. Emil Farhner, would figure out that cutting the apricot in half, not just pit them, would hasten drying as well as prevent blackening and reduce drying error.

dried-apricot-2The dried golden apricot technique was perfected here in Evergreen.  The delicious snack quickly became a big hit across the country.  Tons of the dried fruit were sent around the world, over 25,000 tons exported a year from Santa Clara County.  Apricots became especially big business for the Evergreen orchardists.  Eastside San Jose Fruit Growers Association would operate out of McLaughlin Road and Tully Road Headquarters until 1899 when it was acquired by California Prune and Apricot Growers, which eventually became SunSweet.

CAM10101The dried ‘cot was so popular, the methods of harvest also needed to innovate to keep up with the demand.  Prunes fell to the ground for harvest, where apricots had to be picked off the trees while on ladders.  That can be a balancing act.  An Evergreen Native would own the patent on the apricot picking bucket in 1920.  Evergreen Native and youngest son of Gerhard Kettmann, for whom Kettmann Road is named, would invent a bucket that hung over the ladder rung, where tying the bucket would eventually dump the bucket or limit how many you could pick at a time.  The apricot industry would really develop in Evergreen soil.

books1Back to that PR campaign the dried prune had, the apricot cions were brought with Spanish colonists through the El Camino Real and raised on the Mission lands.  Mission of Santa Clara and Pueblo de San Jose were founded in 1777.  Mission of San Jose would open its doors in 1797.  That would date the apricots’ roots back in California before 1800.

booksOE4IRI16The apricots were already here before the European immigrants and California Statehood.  Spanish “Mission Grapes”, too, were also already around and probably the vines French cions would be grafted on to by Pellier. There were no printing presses to spread agricultural trends in the mid 1800’s.  Some Santa Clara Valley farmers would witness the Industrial Revolution very personally and learn to adapt their machinery and techniques, like Andrew Kettmann.

A little trivia: When a apricot and a plum/prune have a baby, it’s called a pluot.

Another bit of trivia: All prunes are plums, but not all plums are prunes.

a 1945 - ApricotsWhen people think of Evergreen, they think specifically of Apricots.  I think that’s because of the frequency of “Cot” orchards in and around town.  It’s not misplaced association, however.  I don’t think people know how Evergreen apricots really are.  The apricot was made perfect here by forward thinking farmers.  The “Cot” is definitely an Evergreen thing.

Here’s some of the artwork we have planned with ‘cots featured.

evergreen fruit label 19621930 1950 19851915 1860

Trumpet Call! – Evergreen Poetry

Winnifred Coe Verbica, who died on March 31, 2013, in the early 1950s
Winnifred Coe Verbica, who died on March 31, 2013, in the early 1950s

Winnifred Coe Verbica was an inspiring Evergreen woman, but she’s also apart of Evergreen’s literary tradition.  Here’s a poem her son Peter shared with me.

Trumpet Call!

When He calls me home,
My God and King,
May my heart be shown
What joy shall ring!

All the angels there
In Heaven’s world
See the answered prayer
Of sinners hurled.

Nothing here on earth
On land or sea
Measure Heaven’s worth,
Or what it will be.

None of us can know
When time shall cease.
God alone can show
It’s great increase.

Yet I’ll trust and wait
With eager heart
Standing at the gate
His trumpet shall start

Treasuring the time
Until he calls:
Wonderment sublime
In Heaven’s halls.

There with saints of old
I’ll kneel and pray…
There my Lord behold:
Triumphant day!

C 1995 Winnifred Coe Verbica

“My mother passed away in 2013 on Easter – what a great poem to remind us all of the brevity of life and the legacy we leave behind.”

-Peter Coe Verbica


Winnifred Coe Verbica – A Cowgirl paving the way

P1310154Evergreen is rich with ranching heritage.  Generations of ranchers would come out of Evergreen, but there are a couple individuals who have crossed over into the City Slicking lifestyle who have caught my attention.  These are individuals who have changed with the times, which must be difficult.  I even find it hard at times.  I’m addressing that change and that difficulty with this project.  We’ll be discussing an inspiring lady with this mural.

images3RYA942YWinnifred “Winnie” Hannah Coe Verbica (1935-2013) was the granddaughter of Henry W. Coe, California Pioneer.   Before we tell you about Winnie, let’s tell you about where she came from.

coe_brothers_smallThe Coes were descendants of Colonial and Revolutionary Americans.  Henry Coe came out West first when he was 16 years old, 1836, making him a pioneer cross the Great Plains.  Henry returned to New York to prove himself as a businessman.  He was successful but had pitfalls, dusting himself off and starting over.  Due to economic stability resulting from a presidential election in the 1840’s, Mr. Coe parted his property to his New York debtors.  In 1847, the Coe Brothers, all successful businessmen, decided to go into business together and out West.  The brothers stopped in Oregon, but Henry made his way down into California.

Gold Rush - Public DomainLike many pioneers from Evergreen during the 1840’s, the Gold Rush played a major part of their lives before settling in their Evergreen “dream homes”.  Luis Pellier took advantage of the lacking fruit industry.  Henry Coe would import mining equipment from New York to San Francisco just in time to make it rich.  It’s said that Henry knew San Francisco when it had a population of 500.  Later, Mr. Coe would return to New York State to marry his high school sweetheart and long lost love, Hannah Smith.

P1310184The couple returned with their fortune to the quiet countryside of San Jose, California.  The Coes were known for their hospitality and kindness.  Henry Coe would export hops, tobacco and silks grown in from his Willow Glen 150 acre homestead for 15 years.  Henry utilized his New York connections.  After poor luck consecutive years farming in the Willows, Henry W. Coe bought large tracts of land from Rancho los Huechos at the Mt. Diablo foothills.  Its said his exports were the reason San Jose was designated as “the Garden City”.

hqThe Coe Family first moved into Evergreen in the 1860’s.  The family bought a cattle ranch in San Felipe Valley and Henry would retire there.  There, the Coe’s raised cattle, sheep and Arabian Horses.  They would hunt on their ranch.  The well liked, highly regarded Henry Coe Sr. passed in 1896.  Henry Coe’s family would continue to add to their land holdings stretching continuously through Halls Valley and the Mount Diablo Mountain Range to Morgan Hill and present day Henry W. Coe Park.  His son Charles and his wife once owned the famed Naglee Mansion.  Both sons had a hand in expanding the grazing lands.

sada_coeWinnie’s aunt and Henry Jr.’s daughter, Sada Sutcliffe Coe, generously donated the land, 12,320 acres, complete with historic buildings, to the State of California.  Now, the natural beauty is protected for future generations by the State of California and by some friends of Winnie’s.  With 90,000 acres, it’s the second largest state park in California.  “She had a sense of pride and gratitude towards her aunt.  I never heard an unkind word spoken about her. She [Winnie] supported the decision,” said her son, Peter Verbica.  It would be the largest land donation made.

winnieWinnie, daughter of Sada’s brother Henry, grew up in Evergreen, in the San Felipe Valley.  She would attend Evergreen Elementary School in the middle of town, then graduated from James Lick High School in 1952.  Winnifred was raised around steer and rattlesnakes.  Winnie rode through the Evergreen hills and roped cattle.  She, like her aunt Sada, wrote beautiful poetry inspired by the wilderness around them in the San Felipe Valley.

From the Ranch to the lecture hall, Winnie later attended Stanford University, serving as Treasurer in 1952, making friends with Hewllett and Packard founders, and graduating in 1956.  Winnie would become one of two ladies to be accepted to the Stanford Law that year.  Winnie Coe would work in Boston for Harvard Professors before marrying Mr. Verbica and coming home to the San Felipe Valley Ranch.

P1300723Winnifred Coe Verbica would write books and poetry from her San Felipe Valley ranch.  Winnie had a deep Christian Faith which shines through her writings.  Winnifred felt as though the majestic wilderness around her was God’s creativity.  I can’t say I haven’t felt that feeling a couple times, that such stunning wicked oak trees speckle those striking hills.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed by its natural splendor.  Evergreen is a pretty spectacular place.

image1Winnifred would eventually leave her Evergreen home, allowing it to be preserved in a Nature Conservancy owned by friends of hers.  She moved to Oklahoma to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren in her later years.  Her son, Peter, would continue to be inspired by the ranching lifestyle he was raised in, writing poetry and books himself.  Peter Coe Verbica received his BA in English from Santa Clara University, a JD from Santa Clara University School of Law, and an MS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Descendant of Revolutionary soldiers and Pioneers, Winnifred was an inspirational woman, crossing over and adapting to the changing world around her.  Women didn’t commonly go to college during this time and weren’t encouraged to pursue a career.  Winnie struggled an accident during law school and still persevered.  She was able to wrangle a career along with a family.  Winnifred broke barriers for women in the Silicon Valley.

Here’s the artwork I’ve come up with for the Winnifred and the Coe Family Ranch.