Tag Archives: mirassou

Quimby Road – History

 

thumb200caQuimby Road, from its 1860’s creation, has been an artery into the town of Evergreen, intersecting with historic White Road and King Road for over 150 years now.  We’ve discussed previously in Evergreen Mural Walk’s blog Evergreen’s Own Mayor Quimby.  John Alonzo Quimby, San Jose Mayor, is indeed the roadway’s namesake, whose second home outside of downtown was here in Evergreen in the 1860’s.  Quimby Road on our Best Drives List, however, is host to many powerful stories and breathtaking vistas.

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We’re looking at Quimby Road from the familiar now 1899 map, which I found at Evergreen Valley College’s library in the Heritage Room, curated by Colleen Cortese.  Let’s talk about what these parcels are now.

6254416259_78f082522aYou can see White Road further left.  Left is west and a pinch south.  White Road runs North and South and Norwood Avenue, running off the map here, ought to point directly East.  The right of the adjacent Chaboya properties, belonging Ramon Chaboya, is the Evergreen School District Office and Quimby Oak Middle School.   This is Ramon, or Raymond, Chaboya to the left here.  The western border of the western, or left, Renaud property is Ruby Avenue which later builds through to the Mirassau or Mirassou property on Chew Lane, which became Aborn Road.  This is a particularly interesting tid bit because of the Pellier lineage

.CAM11091The roadway was named for the one time Mayor, long time civil servant and Evergreen rancher.  Strangely enough though, the Quimby Family property, in the family as shown above, isn’t located on Quimby Road in 1899.  It appears to have been downsized and passed down to the Quimby’s daughter, then Mrs. Wright, lived on Chaboya Road.  Can I be honest with you?  This M. Wright parcel feels more like the corner of the Pellier Ranch.  The straightened portion becomes Murillo Avenue and the offshoot of Chaboya Road is there.  This is where the Sikh Gurdawa is today.  It would’ve outline the neighboring Pellier Ranch in 1876 and become the driveway by 1899.

We’re going to look back at Quimby Road again, but this time in 1876.  I’m going to tell you that this zoom out is very deceiving.  The properties will appear to be the same size, but that is not the case.  They’re much larger and fewer.  They’ll just be bigger.  Check the acre size on the Ramon Chaboya and the McClay/Chaboya parcel to be sure.  Ramon Chaboya’s are both 39 acres.  The McClay/Chaboya parcel on Quimby Road is 36+ acres.

Map 006, San Jose, Evergreen, Silver Creek, Mount Pleasant, Pal

As stated above, Quimby Road connected Evergreen to downtown at its Northern end as Evergreen and Chew Lane did on the South side.  The portion of Tully Road where Quimby Road first appears was also known as Quimby Road.  This section was soon after renamed for the prominent businessman and landowner, John Tully, Lake Cunningham were developed.  You can see Cunningham on the Wallace & Tully parcel in yellow.  Tully Road would divide this property in half.

Along the dotted line, Norwood Avenue would’ve been built and Tully Road would border the Wallace Tully property to the North.  This is considered the boundary of Evergreen itself.

 6254426015_f091ee3233_bDuring the 1870’s, the Chaboya’s would spread out along Quimby Road with large ranches and a driveway that would later become Murillo and Chaboya.  Into the 1890’s the family would downsize and swap parcels with neighbors like the McClays, who would also downsize over the years as it passed down to later generations.  The Kettmann’s were upsizing, purchasing Mt. Hamilton land for goat herding, and surely used Quimby Road and Mt. Hamilton to get there.  The widowed Mrs. Tully was buying up property.  Also seemingly moving out of the Evergreen area is the Pellier Family, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

129607434_1399786458 12314282_198416020500512_5584157587879954674_o As we discussed before in RIP Louis Pellier, detailing a gravestone mix up, the Pierre Pellier family lost their budding male heir at the age of 16.  This was a huge blow for Mr. & Mrs. Pellier and their daughters , soon after the death of Pierre’s brother  .  There wasn’t another son.  Uncle Louis and his wife would have no children.  Uncle Jean would have children.  He is the only one who would carry on the family name.  But the Pellier daughters would step up, marry well and pass on their family lineage and French heritage.

Interior-FirstGeneration-PierrePellierMrs. Pellier’s distant family members, the Renaud’s, would move in near the French immigrants and begin planting vineyards on Quimby Road.  One Pellier daughter would marry into the Renaud Family, third cousins or further removed.  Elise Pellier would marry Alfred Leon Renaud and have eight children in 17 years on a Quimby Road Estate.  In fact, Alfred Renaud would’ve passed away before Rose knew she was pregnant with their last child in 1901.  I think a Renaud property is across from Evergreen Valley High School, but the larger E. L. Renaud property may stand for Elise Leon Renaud.  In fact, there are still grapes grown here.  The homestead may have been across  Evergreen Valley High School while the grapevines grew up the street.

148) Herman, Peter, & John Mirassou, circa 1905Again, a Pierre and Henrietta Pellier daughter would marry a French transplant moving to the Santa Clara County to engage in agriculture. Pierre Mirassou would marry Henrietta Pellier, the eldest daughter, and a wine dynasty would be born from their union.

Pellier Daughter Josephine would marry Mr. Michael Casalegno, an Italian immigrant, and have six children on the Pellier Ranch.  I got to see their house, which has been moved and preserved within Evergreen.  This would’ve been the Pellier’s home at one point.  The largest ranch in Evergreen would again break up and become many of the largest ranches in Evergreen.  The awesome ending to this Evergreen story is that it doesn’t end and they continue to raise new generations in Evergreen today.  Rad.

I also need to confirm another historic Quimby Road lead that one of the Rinella daughters, a large Sicilian, Italian family, would marry into the LaMantia Family.  Mr. LaMantia would maintain orchards of his own and the vineyards for the Evergreen Cribari Winery.

Back to Quimby Road in the late 1800’s, though.  It would’ve been paved fairly early as an alternative route to James Lick Observatory.  Alum Rock Road’s construction would have to be innovative and swift so the Observatory could begin its construction.  Evergreen’s awesome drives and almost unchanged roadways have a lot to do with East San Jose and the Observatory’s development in Santa Clara County.  Suddenly Evergreen’s thousands of residents were receiving a little more love from its Department of Transportation.

Let’s see if Quimby Road has changed much.  Here it is today.

And the side by side.  Can’t find it earlier than 1876.

Map 006, San Jose, Evergreen, Silver Creek, Mount Pleasant, Pal

IMG_0163The Evergreen artery, Quimby Road, has had some updates.  I think there’s been two path changes in Quimby’s 150 year history.  The first is the part of Quimby Road that now runs through to Mt. Hamilton Road.  In 1876, it merely ran through Evergreen or up to “the Summit”.  That was the boundary for Rancho Yerba Buena and is the color change at the end of each Quimby Road.  This area simply didn’t exist before.  Mt. Hamilton Road’s path too has been softened over time.

IMG_0182The second place updated is where I’m thinking is where I found evidence of it in a bridge. Quimby Road crosses creeks many times and therefore would’ve been washed out if unpaved or poorly maintained.  This update would’ve taken place adding a second and steeper hump between the J. A. Quimby and A. Chaboya in the 1876 map.  This was cleary updated in 1935.  I’ll have to find out when Quimby reached Highway 130 and see if they happened at the same time.

A Tribute to Wehner Mansion

5985327859_3f314741f2_bHeritage Room azules.pdfThis guy once painted Civil War scenes on a panoramic scale in Chicago. Wonderful William Wehner, German born, American famed artist, moved to Evergreen in the 1880’s and built one of the most beautiful structures in Santa Clara County.  The Blue Hills Estate, Wehner Mansion or Cribari Mansion, whichever you prefer, has been a longstanding gem of Queen Anne architecture hiding in Evergreen.

IMG_0214IMG_0206Behind locked gates, this historically designated but almost uninhabitable building has seen better days.  There’s a questionable title and legal loopholes being used to keep the home out of the bank’s hands exclusively, rendering it unable to be sold, preserved or renovated.  Wait a second, there is life here.  I felt it all around me when I took these photographs.  It’s just not human life.  The Mansion is quickly being reclaimed by nature, and a territorial young buck.  Read the above post for that story.

Wehner, Albert Haentz, Cribari and Mirassou families all utilized this stunning home and its expansive vineyards.  Until the 1970’s, this mansion was storage and winery for some of the world’s most famous vines.

I know it’ll be some time before you make older friends who’ll let you snoop around their homes looking for nuggets of Evergreen gold.  Here’s a reimagining of the Wehner Mansion.

wehner mansion Wehner%20mansion

Here’s the progression of the drawing for your art buffs

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Today’s Wehner Mansion

5985327859_3f314741f2_bP1310186 (2)This introduction to the subject matter at hand isn’t purposefully an alliteration.  It just happens to be one anyway.

Heritage Room azules.pdfWonderful William Wenher was renowned for his winning white wines.  William Wehner was a Chicago-based panoramic painter and winemaker, born in Germany.  The Historic Manor was built by famous skyscaper architect, David Burnham, who would design and build only the one home in his career, friend of Wehner’s from Chicago.  His 1884 built Evergreen Estate still stands behind private gates and ropes, but that’s about all the care it’s had in a while.  These photos are courtesy of Colleen Cortese and the EVC Heritage Room.

P1320410lomasazulesUntil recently, I had only seen Colleen’s pictures and sketches of Evergreen’s Queen Anne Victorian.  Wehner, Albert Haentz, Cribaris and Mirassous have all made wine from the winery also on-site, Lomas Azules Winery.  Ebe Frasse, from the Cribari Family, has the fondest memories of growing up in the Blue Mansion.  This perspective had always seemed odd to me until I dropped in on the historic Evergreen jewel.  It is a literal drop into the seat of this Evergreen relic to its arched carriage entrance.

 

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The Wehner Mansion today is boarded up and breaking down.  It clearly hasn’t had a new paint job since the 70’s.  It was deemed unfit for residence in 2014 by City Inspectors.  I like the colors, but an owner should be maintaining this important piece of San Jose History.  It has historic designation.

When I dropped by the property to lay my own eyes on it, I got lost.  Nothing new.  Actually, getting lost has helped me throughout this project.  Upon coming up to a Community stable and garden, the caretakers inquired if I was a real estate agent looking for the Wehner Mansion.  I wish.  But they wished too that something could be done about the beautiful piece of architecture that lay dormant and decaying in their backyard.

IMG_0216I found these windows to be stunning.  The glass remaining is a sight to behold.  If a replacement for this fifth window could be found, it would be incredible from inside.  I’m hoping this is a staircase on the other side.  The rounded feature is generally photographed and admired, but not much is said about its antique glass.  Mrs. Louise Lamantia remembers it well.  In fact, somewhere, some of this glass was donated to a historical society.

IMG_0220This second building here isn’t the attached Winery that’s been so well used by Evergreen vintners.  Wehner’s no dumby.  You’d never invite that nonsense into your backyard nearest your children.  I’d also expect more storage for barrels.

This is a tiny, one room building obscured by trees from Colleen’s sketch and initial sighting of the Wehner Mansion.  This is an old fashion frig or pantry.  This is a kitchen house designed to keep food for as long as it would naturally keep.  This was necessary in the 1800’s.  The Summer ones are built differently than Winter ones. It’s a science of keeping things fresh.  You can see why farming would be big business back then especially.

IMG_0219IMG_0217It is super quiet in these hills and this roped of manor is as well.  Wehner Mansion, also known as the Blue Hill Estate, isn’t without its tenants or residence today, though.  They just aren’t people.  The historic estate hosts a very territorial buck and a family of turkeys.  It’s so silent, you can hear them gobble from all the way over here.  I found that indigenous wildlife and a near by run-off creek trickle through Wehner Mansion while its title is questionable at best.  Its faith rests with the Title.  I’m making inquiries.

IMG_0232If I can fire enough people up and raise some awareness for this San Jose Gem, I’d like to do so and make something happen here.  I see a private venue for weddings or a Community Garden for a non-profit.  I see a Community Center for the Villages or an Evergreen History Museum.  Access is difficult, so the tenant would need to be perfect for the situation.  Let’s start talking about how to fill Wehner Mansion’s halls with laughter again.  It’s a piece of our History still standing.  There’s only a couple left.

 

 

RIP – Louis Pellier

CEM47024782_124197784496When I went down to Oak Hill Cemetery on Fathers’ Day, because people lessen the likelihood of zombie apocalypse.  I was totally interested in anything Evergreen but they were scattered all over the place.  The only way to do this is wander around for a long time or check in the records people.  I’m going to have to dissect things into lawns and comb through records to find everyone.

That having been said, I knew there were some Pelliers buried here.  I forgot who initially was there, knowing it wasn’t the entire family.  In looking into the Pellier family originally, I also heard about this awesome grave discovery.  There was something fishy with the Louis Pellier headstones, but it looks weird to google on your phone and tip toe through a crowded graveyard.  Truth is Louis would and wouldn’t be here at Oak Hill Cemetery.

12314282_198416020500512_5584157587879954674_oSo, let’s start with our three Pellier brothers, the first generation to come to America.  The elder Pelliers were Louis, Pierre and Jean.  Louis A. Pellier was the brother who first came to America during the Gold Rush and first thought to bring the Prune and other fruit varietals to California soil.  His idea contributed to the California Fruit Industry we still enjoy today.  Louis Pellier would die in 1872, age the age of 55.  The eldest Louis Pellier wouldn’t be found at Oak Hill.  For a long while, his remains wouldn’t be found at all.

120013655_138395571327Interior-FirstGeneration-PierrePellierPierre would buy Pellier Ranch in Evergreen from his older brother, Louis, in 1863 after running someone else’s vineyards successfully near Mission San Jose.  Pierre and Henrietta Pellier raised their son and three daughters on their Evergreen ranch,  Although initially buried with his other relatives, Pierre Pellier would be buried at Oak Hill Cemetry.  I found he and his wife, Henrietta!  Wait. That’s a weird thing to get excited about.  I think this monument is stellar, though.  Again, weird thing to get excited about.

9ee89fc729d94679e4a4e7792a02a795Pellier’s son, Louis P. Pellier, would have been the patriarch once Pierre and Jean died.  Louis P. was being groomed to groom the vines and run the lucrative family business.  Louis P. Pellier would died at the age of 15 in 1873.  Passing a year after his uncle, the Pellier family was devastated.  They had no scions in the way of male heirs.  That having been said, his sisters stepped up and carried on the tradition of French Winemaking in the Evergreen hillside that eventually became the Mirassou Wine Dynasty.  The teenage

PelliWait, how did that happen?  They can’t get up and walk away.  Well, these Pelliers were laid to rest at Holy Cross or Kell Cemetery, opposite Communication Hill, on the outskirts of Willow Glen.  Here, for the most part patrons of St. Joseph’s Basilica were buried.  This included many notable Evergreenians.  Holy Cross Cemetery was sanctioned by the Catholic Church and operated from 1871-1890.  It was later replaced by a larger Catholic cemetery in 1882 which was closer to both Catholic churches.  Oak Hill Cemetery, close by, and Santa Clara Mission Cemetery was also available for Catholics.  In fact, many moved their loved ones to these other cemeteries.  The burial ground wasn’t maintained in the meantime and things got ran down.  Kids would play with things.  Earth would move.  Kell Cemetery was forgotten.  Today, it’s a source of Socio-Historic information for Archeologists.

In 1930, the unmoved graves would be bulldozed through and cleared for grazing land.  I spoke to the gentlemen who united the monuments with the remains, Ralph Pearce and Judge Paul Bernal.  For some reason the elder Louis’s headstone would go missing 80 years, rescued by Clyde Arbuckle, San Jose Historian.  Judge Paul Bernal describes its discovery by Clyde.

129607541_1399786781“Around 1941 historian Clyde Arbuckle was at the Holy Cross Cemetery with his two children Jim and Susan.    As Jim and Susan chased a jackrabbit across the once cemetery, Clyde discovered the broken headstone of Louis Pellier lying face-down in the brush.   There are photos of Clyde and Helen Abuckle with the headstone propped back up in the cemetery in 1948/1949.  Between 1948/1949 and 1951, Arbuckle removed the headstone for safekeeping.”

arbuckleClyde Arbuckle would realize the treasure he had found.  The grand headstone was used as a prop for a documentary on Sunsweet Prunes in 1951.  Arbuckle’s collection was just underway.  He would be San Jose’s prevailing historian for many years.  The Prune King’s monument would be a piece of a vast collection which became the awesome organization History San Jose.  I’ve visited these guys.  Wow.  If you’re looking to get your nerd on, you can do it here.  But the collection was so broad, even this large piece was able to be overlooked for some time.  It was kept too safe.

129607434_1399786458Some years later, an orchardist and rancher would happen upon the headstone of Louis P. Pellier.  Farmer Lee Lester bought the property next door to the former cemetery.  Lester knew his prune history and thought he had found the most valuable piece of memorabilia, the Prune King’s headstone.  The monument was a little worse for wear, but it would be preserved as well by another San Jose history buff.  The gravestone would come back to Lester’s Baily Avenue farm for safekeeping and lean up against his barn exposed to the elements.

So, fast forward almost 100 years after its abandonment, Kell Cemetery was in the path of a proposed highway into the heart of Downtown.  That highway was the 87.  In 1984, these remains were moved to nearby Oak Hill with family or to the Catholic Cavalry Cemetery off of Alum Rock, its replacement, in a Pioneer Section.  All the remains moved.  Not all of the gravestones were located.  Many were in disrepair.  Both Louis Pellier’s remains would move to Alum Rock.

Jim%20Ralph%20Tim
Photo Courtesy of Ralph Pearce

Pioneer of Santa Clara County would often end up at the San Jose Public Library, like I have, in the California Room, in the midst of librarian Ralph Pearce.  In August 2011, Ralph let a member know that he thought he heard someone had a Louis Pellier headstone laying around.  The group having found the younger Louis’s monument in their possession, the search for the Prune King was on.  History San Jose confirmed it in archive databases, but the collection was so massive, it was housed in many multiple warehouses.  They opened their doors to the Pioneers of Santa Clara and Ralph Pearce, together creating the “In Grave Danger Gang”.

The “In Grave Danger Gang” would commemorate the reuniting of the Pellier Monuments on November 2, 2011 with Lester family, Pellier Family and the Pioneer Society members.

IMG_4028 [2794442]So, when I popped up at Oak Hill and asked for Louis Pellier, I wasn’t expecting the helpful lady to call me back with this little curve ball.  A two year old curve ball too young to be either first or second generation Louis.  Who’s this little guy?

Ralph Pearce and the Santa Clara Pioneers Society helped me figure it out!  It was buried deep in census statistics from the 1870’s and figuring out who was in the household who was old enough to father this child.  This little guy Louis belongs to another Louis Pellier, son of Jean Pellier.  This is the fourth generation of Louis Pellier, here who passed as a boy.  Jean’s son Louis A. was born in France in 1852, moved to the States with his family and married Christina Frances Alvarez.  They would have a son and also name him Louis A.  Whoa.  Those family names.  You could certain understand the confusion was all had.  Which brings up a whole new question.  Where’s the other L. A. Pellier located now?

 

Wehner Mansion – a house by many names

Sadly, lomasazulesthere are only a few original structures left from Evergreen’s early days.  There aren’t Victorian homes standing like there are downtown.  The old timers know the old town by the hundreds year old oak trees that marked their old homes.  These relics from the 1800’s are obscured by trees and fences for the most part.  This one is tucked back into the hills of the Villages Retirement Community, empty and unused.  The absence of warmth to this one time brimming mansion is one of the sadder things I witness in Evergreen.  Personally, I would love to it restored in time for my own wedding.  This is the Wehner Mansion, but over time, it’s had many names.

Heritage Room azules.pdfThe initial 718 acre property would be purchased in 1887 for $20,000 from Mr. McCarthy and construction would begin the following year.  Built by German immigrant, William Wehner, it was originally named the Villa Lomas Azules or Blue Hills Estate for its stunning color.  It is only fitting that Wehner’s house be colorful.  William Wehner (1853-1916), after coming to the United States from Hanover, Germany in the 1850’s, would be a famous Chicago painter, painting large scale panoramic paintings commemorating the Civil War.  His Evergreen home would became a winery as Wehner planted 175 acres of vineyards within a couple years.  William Wehner’s White Wines were award winning in 1888 and into the 1890’s.  Wehner would come to own and plant over 3000 acres of vineyards.

5985327859_3f314741f2_bThe Blue Estate or Villa Lomas Azules was a 3-story, Queen Anne style home built into the hillside.  The construction on the mansion was finally complete in 1891.  It was built by famous Chicago skyscraper builders from the firm of Burham and Root, designed by Richard Burham.  It would be the only home the firm ever designed.  The Mansion’s main architectural feature was its archway entrance for carriages along the bottom floor, but I love all the rounded features.  The Mansion also has a full basement, which later became wine storage.  The Blue Estate had an outdoor kitchen and a garden house, as well as a winery added in 1908.

P1310186 (2)In 1915, Wehner would sell the winery and vineyard portion of the estate to Albert Haentze.  The two men had a lot in common.  Haentze (1896-1947) was another German immigrant vintner from Chicago.  His main occupation before coming to California was a mortgage broker.  Haentze came to Evergreen and bought Wehner’s vineyard.  Mr. Albert Haentze would become the leader of the Santa Clara Valley Grape Growers Association until Prohibition.  Haentze renamed the winery Rancho Villa Vista.  William Wehner sold his vineyards in the knick of time.  Prohibition closed down the Evergreen wineries in 1918 and Wehner passed away only a year later.  The Santa Clara Valley Grape Growers would then consider canning grapes and crushing grapes for juices and syrup.

housevin-villagesIn 1933, Italian born, Benjamino Cribari (1859-1942) would purchase the first portion of the Villa Lomas Azules.   With Prohibition having been lifted, the Italian immigrant would raise his vineyards for altar and traditional table wines.  In 1940, the Cribari family would come to own the rest of the property.  It would then be known as the Cribari Mansion.

cribari1Benjamino Cribari, born in the Calabria, Italy, would come to the United States at the age of 29.  With his wife and two small kids in Italy, Benjamino would work on the railroad for a couple years before returning home to his family.  In 1902, the young Cribari family would relocate to Colorado and then California, where they bought 40 acres of land east of Morgan Hill.  At first, Benjamino, a farmer, would only sell wines to his friends and family before he needed to acquire more land to compete with his growing demand for Italian style wines.

The Cribari Wineries would move operations back to Morgan Hill in 1959.  The Blue Estate’s future became unclear.

P1310098In the meantime, the Mirassou Family vintners would come to lease the property.  They would rent the independent winery for winemaking and the full basement for storage.  The oldest winemaking family in America would use the historic facilities until its historic operations also had to relocate in the 1980’s.

P1320410The Evergreen wineries were being pushed out by development and a growing suburb.  Several developers purchased the property before the Villages were finally built around it.  The Historic value of the Victorian mansion is recognized by the condition of the home is quite questionable.  There’s much discussion about preserving the historic home, but the fruits of those discussions are yet to ripen.  It’s a beautiful piece of Evergreen’s history and someday, we’ll see the Blue Estate shine again.

Here’s our artwork which features the Wehner Mansion.

1940 1885

 

 

 

Pellier Roots

Louis%20Pellier%20from%20HSJ(1)The Pellier family and their descendants have been long time Property and Business Owners in San Jose and Evergreen since the late 1840’s.  Though one of the murals is designed specifically for the descendants of the Pelliers, I have another mural for what I’m calling the “Pellier Contribution” to San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley.

1700's EvergreenMini-History lesson: The Spanish Missions ran the agricultural business and mostly did business with the local naval bases that protected them.  The Indians were the farmers and the monks participated as well.  However, when California became Mexican Territories, the missions closed down and the Indians were displaced.  The vineyards and orchards went dry and much of the valley turned to cattle pasture.

images8NKXGYYQLouis Pellier (1817-72), son of winemakers outside of Bordeaux, had plenty of experience keeping the family farm.  At the age of 32, Louis left France during the French Revolution and traveled around Cape Horn to arrive in San Francisco in 1847-8.  Louis sent for his brother, Pierre, and they found success gold mining in Weaverville.  Pierre served in the French Army during the revolution and came to California in 1849.

Louis quickly realized that there were going to be a flood of people coming to California for the Gold Rush and American Dream.  The price of the limited produce was extremely high.  With family in France and experience he gained on the family farm, Louis could get into that business.  Pierre came to California in 1849 in search of gold, but the Pellier brothers returned to their native country several times in search of a different kind of gold.

imagesTKY9RJ9XInterior-FirstGeneration-PierrePellierOn their 1850’s journeys, Pierre brought back his long lost sweetheart, Henriette Renaud.  Louis realized his business plans.  Louis, Pierre and Jean, the Pellier brothers, stretched out across France, looking for fruit and vegetable varieties to repopulate the rich soil of the Santa Clara Valley.  Not all of the plants would arrive alive when traveling by boat.  There was a fair amount of learning taking place in the process.  In steamer trunks and barrels, the brothers brought seeds, small potted plants and clippings to propagate once back in California.

HMS%20FuriousThe brothers improvised when water ran low, presumed to be due to underestimation on the first journey.  They kept the clippings alive by inserting them into potatoes for moisture, which worked well.

The Pellier brothers brought some other notable names, the very young Delmas brothers, to California with them.  The brothers made considerable amounts of money and bought large plots of land in San Jose and east of San Jose.  Unfortunately, the Pelliers sold all their stock of seeds off the dock of Alviso, which meant they had nothing to plant for themselves after the first voyage.  This created the necessity of return trips to France, possibly crossing through Panama by train on their way back to California.

pl_pellier_city_gardens_crhl434Louis Pellier founded City Gardens Nursery in 1850 with Pierre, at the present day corner of St. James Street and San Pedro Street.  The Pellier prune clippings were grafted on to wild Californian prunes, and arranged into rows making the first California prune orchards in 1856.  City Gardens was open to the public for picnics and for the nuns to pick freely.  The prune was a success, and City Gardens was a cultural hub of Downtown San Jose.  The California Prune Industry and Valley of Heart’s Delight radiated outward from the Downtown Pellier orchards.  This, however, will be a forgotten garden.  The Pellier’s other pride lies east of San Jose in the 1860’s.

books1Louis and Pierre bought land in Evergreen, which was once part of the Chaboya Land Grant or Rancho Yerba Buena.  When Louis sold his portion to Pierre, it became one of the largest ranches in the township of Evergreen.

Louis Pellier had a spat with his brothers, presumed to be due to the sale of all the plants or the neglect of their orchards on one of his journeys to France.  Pierre took his horticultural skills and expertise to his ranch and vineyards in Evergreen.  Louis stayed downtown.  Louis took a wife, a woman of French heritage,  who wasn’t well suited for him.  She quite possibly drove him mad, possibly creating the wedge between brothers.

Don’t worry.  There was a lot of love there between the Pellier brothers, even towards the end.  Pierre even named his first son after his brother.  In 1872, Louis died in a state hospital, due to a nervous breakdown after the separation with his wife.  He and his wife had no children.  His brother, Pierre, took care of the estate, and the family decided to pay-off the widow with proceeds of the Downtown property.  There was a Will in place, but the greedy widow kept coming back for more until a cash settlement was reached.

booksOE4IRI16Louis’s amazing business venture wouldn’t reach its height for many years.  In 1929, California would cultivate 171,330 acres of prune orchards.  The La Petite D’Agen from France grafted onto the wild prunes proved to be perfect for California.  It was fruitful or meaty enough to be dried, making the prune easy to export all over the country.  The growth of the railway system made the export possible.  Pierre Pellier brought back the Black Burgundy, French Colombar, Chasselas, Fontainebleau, Pinot Noir, Madeline and others from France.  With these new varieties, Louis and Pierre Pellier founded the Valley’s French wine industry at City Garden Nursery.

9ee89fc729d94679e4a4e7792a02a795Pierre Pelliers’s vineyards and orchards a few miles east of San Jose would get passed down to his five children, who later became vineyard owners and winemakers themselves, following in the Pellier’s footsteps, even through Prohibition.  The descendants of the Pellier brothers would, in fact, become one of, if not the, most famed business out of Evergreen.  The family still has living descendants in family house in the neighborhood.  They deserve their own mural in my humble opinion.

Here’s a look at the artwork I have planned for the “Pellier Contribution.” 1848