Ming Quong: a Los Gatos Monument

Ming Quong Arch appx c.1940
Children playing beneath the arch at the entrance to the Loma Alta Home around 1940.

At the end of Loma Alta Ave in the foothills sits the Los Gatos campus of Uplift Family Services, formerly Eastfield Ming Quong (EMQ) Family First. Tucked away among quiet residential streets, this unassuming establishment often goes unnoticed by locals, but it has deep roots in this Town and across the Bay Area, and especially within the Chinese community.

Origins: “Radiant Light”

Discriminatory laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943) took their toll on US Chinatowns. Organized crime took hold in US Chinatowns and with it, human trafficking. Tong kidnaped Chinese women, smuggling them through the Golden Gate and into prostitution and slavery. In the late 19th century, Presbyterian missionaries in San Francisco began an effort to help the victims, women and children, escape to safety.

This undertaking expanded, providing safe houses and orphanages: Chung Mei (“China America”) Home for boys and Ming Quong (“radiant light”) Homes for girls.

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Mountain Charley

Mountain Charley's Saloon sign - named after the colorful figure well known in Los Gatos“Mountain Charley” was one of the first non-native settlers to this area and he made his home in the summit area of  the Santa Cruz Mountains beginning in 1851. (In some places, he’s referred to as Mountain Charlie.)

Charles Henry McKiernan was an Irishman whose main claim to fame is that he was attacked by a thousand pound, angry mama grizzly bear and managed to live despite losing a chunk of his skull to her.

Mountain Charley married a nurse who made sure he survived and she also bore him 7 children.

Additionally, he was responsible for accosting some stage robbers.

His colorful story lives on as part of the town of Los Gatos’ more interesting history – and folklore.

Related Reading

E Clampus Vitus has a page on Mountain Charlie if you’d like to learn more.

Another colorful person in Los Gatos, sometimes confused with Mountain Charley, was Charley Parkhurst, written about in Surprises of the Wild West of Los Gatos on this site.

Cheeky Los Gatos Article from 1892

Tucked away on the back page of the San Jose Daily Mercury from Monday September 5th, 1892 is an amusing and impudent little article titled “The Effect of the ‘Mercury’ on the Gem of the Foothills”.

It reads:San Jose Mercury-news, Volume XLII, Number 67, 5 September 1892

San Jose, says the Los Gatos News, is making a lively bid for Los Gatos favors. The Mercury has arranged for a daily news budget and an agent (his name is Dennis) is canvassing the town for subscribers. Like the Novitiate College and Glenridge, the Garden City will soon be applying for annexation to Los Gatos. No doubt San Jose envies us our felicitous zephyrs and the picturesqueness of our mountain scenery and would like us to divide the honor which the Gem of the Foothills monopolizes on the Pacific Coast. We advise our Town Board to go slow on San Jose. It would be well to modestly suggest that our patronizing sister first purge herself of the discordant elements which have been blazoned from the electric tower and have been made so conspicuous in the councils of the body politic before we risk the chances of admitting her to our peaceful realm. We will take the Mercury on probation and if the evidences of peace and good will develop a tendency to reform in these important particulars, we may, at some future time, consider a proposition to admit San Jose as a suburb, providing she will allow us the privilege of attaching to her main sewer to the Bay, or offer some other equally persuasive inducement.

The author sets up the joke right at the start. The News and the Mercury are competing daily papers; the Mercury (based in San Jose) is hawking subscriptions in Los Gatos (home of the News) while condescending to the Town in it’s publications, at least in the author’s opinion. In response the author (presumably from our little Town and proud of it) turns right around and patronizes them back! This article references contemporary issues, from overtly bragging about annexations and reputations, to addressing the desired expansion of public utilities (sewage, in this case), and takes jabs at San Jose’s first attempt at electric street lighting and the “San Jose Electric-Light War”! What a cheeky piece of history!

Austin Corners: from Popular Resort Destination to Death Curve

In 1940 construction began to widen, straighten, and modernize Highway 9. This was eagerly welcomed by locals who hoped to ease beach traffic and to eliminate the infamous ‘Death Curve’ at Austin Corners. The project was a success and the once bustling, popular, and even notorious, Austin Corners has since become a nearly forgotten by way.

The Austin Corners Namesake

Austin Corners Map
Historic Maps from History San Jose highlighted to show DB Austin’s property of Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd and Quito. Click to go to the source of the maps.

The name Austin comes from Captain Daniel “Dan” Buckley Austin, who purchased 60 acres of land 1.25 mi from Los Gatos around 1882. By 1888 he sold all but the 2.25 acres of his parcel surrounding his home, though the area would keep his name for centuries to come.

Mr. Austin was one of the original stockholders and directors of the Los Gatos and Saratoga Wine and Fruit Company, and his property became the location for the Plant from 1885-1919. The Wine and Fruit Plant was a community effort, “built by local growers… to facilitate the processing of grapes” (LG History Research Collection) and its managers were respected members of the community, such as orchard owner Alfred Malpas and Antone Anderson. Mr. Austin did not live to see the Plant’s destruction due to prohibition in 1919.

Mr. Austin was heavily influential in the creation of a school house and a school district in this part of the county. The original Austin School District’s single room schoolhouse was built on his property in 1884, and was used until a new schoolhouse was built on the same location in 1913 at what is today 19010 Austin Way. This school district was incorporated into the Saratoga School District in the 1920s, and when the highway was straightened the old schoolhouse was raised and replaced with an Arts and Crafts style building that would be used as a nursery school for years (Saratoga History Newsletter March 2009).

A Trip to the Corner

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Los Gatos and the 1918-1920 Influenza Pandemic: Part 2

The Oaks Sanitarium Los Gatos, CA
An ad for the Oaks Sanitarium near Los Gatos placed in the California State Journal of Medicine’s 1918 edition.

A continuation from Los Gatos and the 1918-1920 Influenza Pandemic: Part 1.

Health Care Services

Today we think of Los Gatos as being a town with plenty of medical services and we’re very proud of the healing and life saving work that is done there, especially now. But at the start of the 1900s this was just a pretty, agricultural town.

Only after a 1905 British medical publication professed that Los Gatos, CA had one of the most healthful climates in the world did thing start to change, and eventually a hospital for tuberculosis, the Oaks Sanitarium, was built and advertised to meet growing needs.

There were very few doctors in town, so locals who fought severe cases of influenza during the pandemic likely went to the clinics in more populated areas like nearby San Jose. State documents show that additional nursing and medical services were supplied to San Jose and other Bay Area cities.

There were many brave individuals who generously gave their time and efforts to help those in need both during the war and the influenza pandemic which immediately followed. We have details on some of them because their stories had tragic endings and made the news.

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Los Gatos and the 1918-1920 Influenza Pandemic: Part 1

Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases October 1918 regarding the flu pandemic
“Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases,” states the graphic used in an informational article published across various newspapers in October 1918

Los Gatos Pandemic Then and Now

Today, Los Gatos is a bustling town of approximately 30,000 people with booming industry including high tech and an ever-expanding medical industry. We face a crisis locally and nationally, and do our part to help halt the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic by sheltering in place, working (or studying) from home, and supporting our essential workers.

The current pandemic has often been compared to the influenza of 1918 – 1920, but a lot has changed over the last 100 years. In 1920, Los Gatos’ total population was 2,317 (less than 10% of the current population) and it had only grown in size by about 85 people over the decade since the prior census! However small, this town has its own tales to tell, so I’ve dug up some history to present to you a retrospective on Los Gatos and the 1918-1920 Influenza pandemic.

Rolling back the clock, historic documents point to issues with masks and non compliance during the Spanish flu pandemic. Looking through 100+ year old Bay Area newspapers, you can review official city and county documents with numerous paragraphs lamenting the lack of progress on the “Joint Highway District”.  In particular, there are gripes regarding the completion of a state highway between Santa Cruz and Los Gatos which some locals were banking their hopes on during the “disappointing experiences which this country passed through at the time” (Santa Cruz Evening News V 24 #113 Sept 13, 1919). Apparently, getting to the beach was a mood lifter then, too!

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The historic Broadway area neighborhood in Los Gatos

Los Gatos, CA Broadway District Historic Home

Broadway and El Sereno The very first subdivision or planned neighborhood in Los Gatos was along Broadway and nearby (Clifton Avenue, Broadway Extension and Wood Road), now the Historic Broadway Area (or Neighborhood or District).  There had already been quite a few houses built at that time in Los Gatos, but none were planned areas per se. The Town of Los Gatos has called this the first residential street of Los Gatos! John Lyndon was the developer and he bought the land and created 48 parcels which were sold in September 1881 – a good six years before the far larger Almond Grove district was created and 6 years before the town was incorporated, too. A few homes in this area may already have been present, though, and seem to predate the 1881 date.

No doubt, Mr. Lyndon’s real estate buying decision was at least partially influenced by the location of his Lyndon Hotel, a whose bar was a popular hangout for the likes of John Steinbeck and Charlie Chaplain, which was located at the corner of Santa Cruz Avenue and Broadway, and now is the Lyndon Plaza (since sadly the hotel was torn down in the 1960s).

What was once a fairly quiet end of town is today mostly in the heart of it. The area closest to the post office enjoys a wide road (if desperately in need of repair), a good variety of Victorian and mostly older, historic homes, and is very uniformly well kept. Because it is either “in town” or “close to town”, the road is lined with cars most days – perhaps also because these houses of course pre-dated garages.

Historic Broadway Area Photos

 

Where is the Broadway Historic District in Los Gatos?

The Town of Los Gatos has a Historic Districts Map – have a look:

Town of Los Gatos Historic Districts Map

 

Broadway neighborhood of Los Gatos real estate information

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