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Leonard McKay

Leonard McKay

Welcome to www.leonardmckay.com, the site dedicated to the life and learnings of Leonard McKay, historian, San Jose, California. My grandfather was an amazing man and a wealth of knowledge. As such, I have decided that it is a crime to let his knowledge go to waste, and will be developing this site in his honor.

Excerpts from Leonard's Blog

  • The Big Fight: It was the biggest fight ever seen in San Jose. The adversaries were “Frank Heney,” at 450 pounds, versus the team of “Reuf” and “Schmitz,” each weighing in at 250 pounds. The victor was “Frank Heney,” who nearly killed his opponents and then kicked them out of the arena.
  • The Baronda Mayhem Trial: I wish to tell the true story of a real incident from a century ago when a local fire captain suffered the same fate as John Wayne Bobbitt, and it happened right here in San Jose. As a matter of fact, it happened on what is now San Pedro Square.
  • The 1906 Earthquake (Part 4): “So Dad whipped up the horse and we made a harried tour of the disrupted city. Certain sights were implanted in the mind of this 12-year old. San Francisco suffered most from its great fire. In that respect San Jose was more fortunate. The [fire] control was excellent in comparison. We arrived to see only one fire in progress on Second Street. Remember this was before fire engines were motorized. So the team or rather three abreast horses were tied across the street from the Jose Theater. The fire was just one building, now under control. But the street was strangely deserted. Why was there no crowd? Where were the usual spectators?”
  • Christmas in San Jose: Did you ever wonder how Christmas was celebrated in the past in San Jose? When our first foreign settlers, the Spaniards, were here, the birth of Christ was celebrated by going to mass at the Mission Santa Clara, the closest church. The male citizens rode their horses for the three-mile trip. The women and young children went on the rough ride to the mission on a wooden-wheeled, no-springs caretta. After the Americans arrived, most of the celebrations moved to the family home or local churches.
  • Early Land Grants: Many people have asked me about the land grants dating from the Pueblo de San Jose era. Most people refer to them as the “Spanish Land Grants.” In fact, the grants were nearly all Mexican grants as the Spanish king’s land was only given to retired soldiers for their military service. Of the 44 land grants in Santa Clara County, only three were Spanish while 41 were Mexican. To receive a Mexican Grant, an individual only had to petition the governor, file a crude map of the area, and submit a fee of about twelve dollars. The petition could be for a city house lot or a 50,000 acre rancho. In addition, one had to be a Mexican citizen and of the Catholic faith. To become a Mexican citizen, an individual merely had to pledge allegiance to Mexico.