For more than a half century Joseph R. Weller has been identified with agricultural interests in Santa Clara county, where he now owns and operates three hundred and sixty acres of valuable land, adjoining Milpitas. He is one of the most prominent as well as the oldest resident of this locality, and his influence in public affairs has been a potent element for good in the state. Honored and respected, the high position which he fills in the public regard has been worthily won. Although he has traveled for more than fourscore years upon the journey of life he is still an active factor in business affairs. Old age is not necessarily a synonym of weakness or inactivity and it need not suggest as a matter of course idleness or lack of occupation. There is an old age which grows stronger and brighter intellectually and morally as the years advance and gives out of its rich stores of wisdom and experience to others. Such has been the career of Mr. Weller and the history of this community would be incomplete without the record of his life.
Mr. Weller was born in Warren county, New Jersey, on the 10th of October, 1819, and is a son of Peter R. and Elizabeth (Smock) Weller, both of whom were natives of the same state. The father was of German lineage, while the mother was a representative of an old Moravian family of French Huguenot lineage. both families were established in America during the colonial epoch in our country's history, and were represented by loyal soldiers in the Revolutionary war. A brother of the grandfather served with General Washington in the French and Indian wars. Peter R. Weller was a tanner by trade, following that pursuit in Warren county, New Jersey, and shipping his product to surrounding states and to Europe. In the family were ten sons and four daughters, and by a second marriage our subject had four half-brothers and a half-sister.
The boyhood days of Joseph R. Weller were spent upon his father's farm, and he assisted in building the country schoolhouse in which he learned the alphabet. He continued to attend the district schools until about twelve years of age, and he afterward spent two years as a student in the Geneseo Academy of western New York. He was desirous of acquiring a good education, and applied himself diligently to the mastery of the branches of learning which constituted the curriculum. After leaving school he engaged in teaching for a few terms during the winter months, while in the summer seasons he labors were devoted to agricultural pursuits. When twenty-four years of age he entered the State Normal School at Albany, New York, and was graduated in that institution with the class of 1846. Subsequently he engaged in teaching on Staten Island until May, 1850, when he left New York for California. Making the journey by way of the isthmus of Panama he took passage on a sailing vessel, accompanied by his brother Abraham, and on the 7th of August, 1850, he reached his destination, landing at what is now the foot of Jackson street in San Francisco. From that place they made their way to the mines, but not finding the excellent business prospects that they had anticipated they returned to San Francisco after a short time.
In the fall of 1851 Mr. Weller came to Santa Clara county and at first rented a farm from James Murphy, which he operated for two years. In 1853, with the capital he had acquired through his own labor, he purchased two hundred and fifty acres of land adjoining Milpitas and thereon began farming. He has made it his home up to the present time, carrying on general agricultural pursuits, a dairy business and the raising of grain and cattle. He built the first fence and roadway on the old Calaveras road, and in the midst of what was then a wild region eh developed an excellent farm, his enterprise and labor producing a wonderful transformation in the appearance of the place.
In 1860 Mr. Weller was united in marriage to Marian Hart Battey, a native of Madison county, New York, who came to California in 1852 with her first husband, who died the following year. To Mr. and Mrs. Weller have been born two children, Marian E., who is living with her parents; and May Lucinda, who is the wife of William M. Curtner, a farmer and fruit raiser, who is a son of Henry Curtner, one of the old pioneer settlers of Milpitas, having arrived here in 1852.
Mr. Weller is a member of the San Jose Grange and has been quite prominent and influential in public affairs, giving his allegiance to the Republican party. He organized the school district of Milpitas and was a trustee of the schools for thirty years. Certainly the county owes to him a debt of gratitude for what he accomplished along educational lines. He has also been justice of the peace for over two decades, and his fairness and impartiality "win him golden opinions from all sorts of people." He has ever been faithful and loyal in the discharge of public duties, and in 1879 was honored by his fellow townsmen with election to the office of a delegate to the consitutional convention and aided in framing the organic law of the state.
In the first rank of the columns which have advanced the civilization of the west Mr. Weller has led the way to the substantial development, progress and upbuilding of California, being particularly active in the growth of Santa Clara county, where he still makes his home. He is numbered among the pioneers of this region, his memory going back to the time when the entire Pacific coast was but sparsely settled and the Indians were numerous and the population was largely a mining one, and when the land had not been reclaimed for purposes of civilization but remained in the primitive condition in which it had come from the hand of nature.
Source: History of the New California Its Resources and People, Volume II
The Lewis Publishing Company - 1905
Edited by Leigh H. Irvine
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