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January 20, 2004 > The Ellsworth Family

The Ellsworth Family

Jane Ellsworth was a widow when she married Elias Lyman Beard in 1843. She had a daughter named Ellen Ellsworth and a son named Henry Ellsworth. Jane and Elias had a son born in 1845 that they named John. Jane brought her three children from Indiana by way of the Isthmus of Panama to join Elias at Mission San Jose in 1850. The lived in the Mission adobe until they built their home in Palmdale.

Henry Ellsworth and his stepfather Elias Beard developed orchards, vineyards, wheat fields and farms that extended over a huge area. They enlarged and improved the old Mission mill. They had problems with squatters on the Ellsworth Ranch at Mission San Jose. Henry was able to evict the squatters through court action.

The 1859, Alameda County assessment showed that family members were large landholders. Henry's property was assessed $38,975 and the Beard property, $26,285.
E. L. Beard and Henry Ellsworth were listed in the History of Washington Township as pioneers. Only men were included in this list. Henry, his son Edward and his grandson Vernon Ellsworth, were listed as direct descendants of pioneer settlers living in Washington Township in 1949. They all were prominent local citizens.

Henry owned land near Alameda Creek. One of the favorite picnic areas was on Ellsworth Island. Water stood three feet deep on the lower part of the island in the flood of 1862. Henry married Harriet Bryant. Their children were Oliver, Edward, Harry, Jenny, Suzie and Carrie.

Henry continued the family farming operations. The 1864 map showed Henry owning a large tract of land between the road from Alvarado to Puebla de San Jose and the upper road from Mission San Jose to San Jose. He was shipping peaches by rail to San Jose in 1875. The 1878 Atlas of Alameda County shows the farms of E. L. Beard and John Beard. Henry's farming operations were still joined with the family enterprises.

Henry bought the Severance place on Alameda Creek in 1880. He planted a large orchard and was irrigating with water from the Spring Valley Water Company in 1889. Charles Shinn noted that Henry had a 75 acre orchard and a 28 acre vineyard. The immense orchards of apricots, prunes and other fruits almost hid the houses from view in 1910.

Henry built a ten room home in 1894. This home is pictured in the 1898 Special Edition as the residence of Mrs. H. B. Ellsworth. It featured carved doors, imported tile and a mahogany staircase. The nearby home of Henry's son Edward, which was built about 1892, is also pictured. The palm lined drive from the road to Henry's house was also planted at this time. Henry died in 1897. Mission Boulevard was moved to its present location in 1937 and divided the palm-lined entry, the apricot orchard and the two Ellsworth houses.

Henry's son Edward continued the ranching enterprises and started drying the fruit. He advertised as a "Drier Packer and Commission Dealer in Fruits and Nuts with Improved Machinery for Evaporating, Grading, etc. of Fruits" in 1900. He bought the Niles Cooperative Fruit Association around this time.

The Ellsworth drier was enjoying a big season drying apricots when the packing house burned in 1908. The business was destroyed and some 50 people thrown out of work. Edward rented his land for awhile but was reported drying cots again in 1909 and erecting a new packing house in 1913. Part of the Ellsworth farm washed away in 1915.

Edward was a leader in several enterprises. He started a real estate business in 1896 and helped organize the Niles State Bank in 1906. He bought and expanded the Citizens Water Company after World War I. Other endeavors included the Jones and Ellsworth brickyard and insurance companies. Editors suggested that the firm of F.V. Jones and E.A. Ellsworth did more to develop Niles than any other firm. The Ellsworth building is a recognized feature of the town.

Edward's son, Vernon, continued the family business in Niles. He graduated from the University of California and became a partner in the real estate and insurance firm. He followed the family tradition of service in community organizations and was a Chamber of Commerce leader. He died suddenly in 1956.

The Ellsworth family was still living on the ranch in 1955 but the property was being developed. The H. B. Ellsworth home became the Essanay Motel and then the Fremont Frontier Motel. Sherri and Martin Spillman purchased the Edward Ellsworth estate for their home in 1973. The Ellsworth family is gone, but the houses are still there, a lingering reminder of a prominent pioneer family.

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