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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

  • 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.
  • The Canning Industry in San Jose: The canning industry got its start in 1871 when Dr. Dawson and his wife canned some fruit over an old cook stove in their backyard on The Alameda. From this humble start, a huge industry developed right here in San Jose for three basic reasons: the fruit was grown here, there was a ready supply of labor and two railroads, Western Pacific and Southern Pacific, built rail sidings right to the canning plants.
  • 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.
  • Dirt (Part I): For the next few weeks, I am going to write about “dirt.” Not political dirt, not Hollywood dirt, just plain dirt—the kind we have underneath us, some of the best dirt in the world.
  • Dutch Hamann (Part 1): In more than two hundred years of San Jose’s history, who changed the city the most? Actually there were two politicians, each of whom had a profound effect and each of whom I have been privileged to call friend. One increased the population from a small town of 95,000 people and an area of 17 square miles to a metropolis of over 500,000 people and a city sprawled over 137 square miles. During his 19 years in office, the city changed from a canning and food processing center to a manufacturing and hi-tech center and earned the “All-American City” award along the way. The other politician, Tom McEnery, took an antiquated downtown and created a renaissance with a dramatic skyline during his two terms as mayor.