gmhTODAY 15 gmhToday July Aug 2017 - Page 68

Then and Now… A Look Back in History The Transformation of the Railroad Written By Mike Monroe I t was May 1869, at Promontory Summit in Utah, when the “last spike” was driven into the rail- road bed completing the trans- continental railroad. The Union Pacific Railroad had rushed across the Plains to meet the Central Pacific Railroad which had achieved the first rail crossing of the Sierra Nevada. That same year, just a month before, another railroad line was completed connecting southern Santa Clara County with San Francisco and San Jose. It was an auspicious moment for the burgeoning population of California and our South Valley. Our local story begins in 1866 when Congress authorized the construction of a rail line through Santa Clara County eventually to extend to Hollister and Monterey County. Taking the lead was the Santa Clara and Pajaro Valley Railroad Company which began rapidly laying tracks in 1867. As so well summarized by Ian Sanders in his book “Views of Morgan Hill,” it was in December of 1867 that work had progressed to a point just to the north of the tiny hamlet of Coyote. The Fisher family had purchased Rancho Laguna Seca (a land grant extending from Coyote south to Madrone—a distance of nearly five miles) from Juan Alvires in 1845. With the Gold Rush of 1849, fortune seekers from around the world made their way through the Fisher ranch lands. On foot or on horseback they streamed along the El Camino Real, sometimes camping near the Coyote Creek adobe home of the Fishers, seeking food and shelter.  Mrs. Liberata Fisher was a young widow after her husband Thomas died 68 at the age of 40 in 1850. Yet the fam- ily recognized the business opportunity to provide lodging and sustenance to the Forty-Niners. So she and her new son-in-law, Daniel Murphy, decided to place a rest stop on the east side of the San Jose-Monterey Road. It was the first framed building in Burnett Township, constructed around 1852 of local redwood from the Murphy’s mill on Redwood Retreat Road. The Murphy’s home in San Martin was a pre-fabricated kit house that had been shipped “around the Horn” in 1850. Initially, the inn was referred to as the “Laguna House.” According to Ian Sanders, the two-story structure had rooms for rent upstairs and a forty-foot polished mahogany bar for the thirsty adventur- ers. It was a popular place to stop and be refreshed. In a few years, the Fisher’s wayside became known as the “12 Mile House” as its location approximated the distance from south San Jose. With the advent of Butterfield Overland Express in 1858, the “12 Mile House,” as well other “Mile Houses” became stage stops serv- ing oftentimes as post offices and hubs of the local communities. Officially, the locality was called Burnett and it was not until 1882 that the name was changed to Coyote.  The arrival of train service in 1869, from San Jose to an area south of Gilroy known as Carnadero near Henry Miller’s Bloomfield Ranch, was a “game changer” for the region’s farmers and cattle ranch- ers. No longer would they have to plan on multi-day trips to get their prod- ucts to market. Coyote Station quickly evolved as corrals were erected to hold GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JULY/AUGUST 2017 the cattle pastured in the surrounding hills to await shipment to San Jose and San Francisco. The Braslan Seed Co. built warehouses to store the harvest of seed crops such as onions grown in the rich Coyote Valley soil. The Miller and Lux ranching outfit owned more than 20