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George Henry Tinkham.

History of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres online

. (page 55 of 177)
Online LibraryGeorge Henry TinkhamHistory of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres → online text (page 55 of 177)
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HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 421

Walter Denair, a graduate of the University of California, is a rancher in Stanislaus
County; Alfred is also a graduate of the University of California, and is engaged in
ranching in Merced County, but makes his home at Modesto. Mr. Bledsoe was
bereaved of his faithful wife and helpmate June 21, 1921, a truly wonderful pioneer
woman, mourned by her family and all who knew her.

Mr. and Mrs. Bledsoe were among Stanislaus County's earliest settlers and they
occupied a distinctive place in the life of the community for their sterling traits of
character and exemplary lives that will ever bear fruit in their examples. They were
both for many )'ears active members of the Mefhodist Episcopal Church at Modesto,
in the work of which they were warmly interested, as well as being generous contribu-
tors to its maintenance. Mr. Bledsoe was made a Mason in Stanislaus Lodge No. 206,
F. & A. M., at Modesto, and is a member of Modesto Chapter No. 49, R. A. M. In-
terested in all that made for the county's welfare, he served as a director of the Modesto
Irrigation District for one term and" was a member of the board at the time of the build-
ing of the original Modesto-Turlock Irrigation District dam. The wonderful results of
this great work can better be estimated in comparing the amount of taxable property
then and now, showing what the impounding of water has meant for this county.

It is a far cry back to the days when the Knights Ferry bridge was built in 1862,
but Mr. Bledsoe can well remember this event. At that time there was not a house in
Stanislaus County except on the Stanislaus River, and at the mines. It was not until
the following year, 1863, that people began locating and building on the plains on land
preempted from the Government, land that has since been at times one vast grain
field and yielding untold wealth to those farsighted enough to discern its possibilities.
Even as late as 1865 cattle ranged on the present site of Modesto, and he has camped
here with others while rounding up cattle, a fact difficult to believe for those who now
reside in this attractive city and enjoy its many comforts and conveniences, and made
possible by the labor and indomitable energy of those early pioneers.

LAUD C. GATES. — A native son of California, a pioneer in the development
of Stanislaus County, a true lover of the great outdoors, a hunter and fisherman and a
splendid sportsman, L. C. Gates is one of the influential and highly respected citizens
of the county, where he has spent his entire life engaged in farming and grain raising.
He now farms 1,060 acres of choice land in Hart precinct, ten miles west of Modesto,
just off the Maze Road, a part of the old Gates ranch, which originally numbered
2.000 acres. And even this is destined to go, for Mr. Gates has recently had most
of it leveled and checked for irrigation and alfalfa growing, and plans in the im-
mediate future to plat it into forty-acre farms and put it on the market as the Gates
Colony. He now maintains sixty-five head of horses on his ranch, although the fann-
ing is done with modern machinery.

Mr. Gates has been one of the most extensive wheat growers of the county for
many years, operating as high as 2,500 acres a year. His father was the late Samuel
Gates, who pioneered into Stanislaus County in the early '50s and was one of the
largest and most successful grain growers of his day. He was one of the promoters
of the irrigation projects of the district and had many royal battles in his efforts to
successfully bring irrigation plans to completion. He was a director of the Modesto
Irrigation District for many years, having been largely instrumental in the foundation
of the organization in the early '90s. In the early '60s Samuel Gates was engaged in
the teaming and freighting business between Sacramento and Virginia City, Nev.,
using six yoke of oxen in his teams, with two wagons, carrying eight tons each, and
was identified with many interesting events in early California history.

Samuel Gates married Margaret A. Owen, a daughter of Washington Owen,
who crossed the plains to California in 1860, bringing his family with him, among
them being Mrs. Gates, who had married Mr. Gates in Dubuque, Iowa, prior to his
coming to California in 1852. He came West in search of adventure and gold and
to prepare a home for his bride and son, George, now a resident of Oakland, and who
was eight years old before he saw his father. Mr. Gates had settled in Yolo County
and there they lived and had another son, Emery, now of Modesto, born to them.



422 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY

The home was on Cache Creek, but on account of the ill health of Mrs. Gates, the
family came down to Stanislaus County, where Mr. Gates had acquired the property
on the old stage road and it was there a daughter, Maud, now the wife of Dr. Green
of Modesto, was born, and the son, Laud C. Gates, now living on the old homestead,
also saw the light of day. Mrs. Gates died while on a visit to Yreka, in 1916, at the
age of seventy-eight years. Mr. Gates passed away in 1913, at the age of eighty. He
was a member of the Masonic fraternity and one of the most highly esteemed and con-
structive men of the San Joaquin Valley. The ranch house where L. C. Gates was
born, August 14, 1874, held an important part in the history of that time, being the
station for the overland stage which crossed the plains from Tuolumne City to Stock-
ton and Sacramento in the early '50s. It was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1916.

Mr. Gates has been twice married and is the father of two sons, Laud C, Jr., and
Donald, both in school in Modesto. He served as a director of the Modesto Irrigation
District for years. Politically he is a Republican and a loyal supporter of party
principles. All matters of public welfare may be certain to command the support and
cooperation of Mr. Gates, and if they tend toward the ultimate betterment of farm
conditions they are apt to have passed his approval before being given to the public.

A matter of local pride and of almost national interest is the great old Gates
Capri fig tree, which stands on the old homestead. It is said to be the largest fig
tree in the world and is a tree of wonder and beauty, although it was injured when
the old home burned in 1916. It has been a source of wide interest, and Mr. Swingle,
of the United States Horticultural Bureau, made several trips to the ranch during the
time our Government was spending $50,000 making the Smyrna fig a producer.

JAMES B. FORD. — A native son of Stanislaus County, James B. Ford was born
on the old Patrick Ford homestead at Twenty-six Mile, in North precinct, February
27, 1863. His father, Patrick Ford, was a native of Ireland, who migrated when a
young man to the land of the Stars and Stripes, making the journey from the Emerald
Isle to New Orleans, La., in a sailer, consuming ten weeks en route. When the dis-
covery of gold in California was heralded, he came via Panama to San Francisco in
1849. He mined on Feather River for a time and then returned to San Francisco,
where he was married to Catherine Birmingham, who was also born in Ireland and
had come to San Francisco when in her latter 'teens.

Soon after his marriage, Mr. Ford located on his present place on Johns Creek,
Stanislaus County, where he entered Government land and engaged in farming and
stock raising. He was one of the first settlers in these parts and purchased land ad-
joining until he had 1,000 acres, which he improved with substantial farm buildings.
The place took the name "Twenty-six Mile" because it was just that distance from
Stockton, and was a popular stopping place for the teamsters and freighters for their
first night out before going into the mountains.

Patrick Ford was interested in the cause of education and established the Farm
Cottage school district, built the schoolhouse and was a trustee from its organization
for many years. He resided on the place until he died, January 27, 1903; while his
widow survived him only until June 11 of the same year.

Of the eight children born to this pioneer couple, James is the sixth in order of
birth. He was brought up on the farm at Twenty-six Mile and from a lad assisted
his father, learning to drive the big teams in the grain fields, ride the range and to
rope and brand cattle, his father's brand being the letters P. F. He was kept very busy,
so his attendance at Farm Cottage school embraced only about one year. However,
this was supplemented with a course at the Stockton Business College. Fond of liter-
ature, he has been a wide reader as well as a close observer and he is today a well-
informed man and a good conversationalist.

It was not until he was twenty-eight years of age that James Ford took unto
himself a wife, when he was united in marriage at Modesto to Miss Mamie Brennan.
Her father, Michael Brennan, brought his family to Stockton and there Mrs. Ford
was educated in St. Agnes Convent, after which she engaged in teaching, and it was
while thus engaged at Farm Cottage school that she met Mr. Ford, the acquaintance
resulting in their marriage, a union that has proven a very happy one. They have three







Online LibraryGeorge Henry TinkhamHistory of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres → online text (page 55 of 177)