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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

  • Anatomy of a Street (Part 1): What San Jose street is actually in two cites, has had a murder by hired assassins, has three churches and narrows at both ends? What street had a property with a live lion patrolling the grounds in the 1930s and has a house that was once a brothel before it was moved to its present location? What private eye living on this street was stabbed when answering his door late one night in 1974?
  • Credo Quia Absurdum: There has been considerable debate about the purpose of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus. Is it a men’s historical and drinking society, or is it a drinking and historical society? What does the name stand for? I can’t answer these questions and the name doesn’t translate into anything meaningful in English. The society’s roots—as a benevolent fraternal society—go deep into the gold rush history of California, when there was a real need for such things.
  • Two Dogs Named Buck: I’d like to tell you about two dogs named “Buck.” The first one is widely known because he was the lead character in the famous book, “The Call of the Wild,” by Jack London.
  • Beer Making in San Jose (Part 1): Old Joe’s Steam Beer— “It’s pure that’s sure!” Have you ever heard of this beer or this slogan? Joe Hartman was a 49er who came to California in 1852 from Germany to make his fortune finding gold nuggets. That didn’t work out as only one in five of the gold seekers ever made expenses. So Joe came to San Jose and, in 1853, started the Eagle Brewery in a shack on South Market Street. Joe made steam beer—a brewing process that takes only a month rather than the four months that lager beer requires. Joe had a good delivery system; if a saloon needed a keg of beer, Joe put the keg in his wheelbarrow and delivered it himself. But his personal delivery service didn’t last long as there was tremendous demand for his product and the brewery expanded rapidly.
  • Dirt (Part 2): The Spaniards—a mixture of Spanish, Basque and Indians—were the first Europeans to settle here in the Santa Clara Valley. Captain Juan de Anza, a Basque, led what I believe is the greatest migration in local history. He left the garrison town of Tabac, in what is now southern Arizona, in the dead of winter 1775-76, with 241 men, women and children. They were to arrive in California with 242; one woman died during childbirth and two were born on the harrowing, three month, overland journey. Because water was so scarce in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts that the party had to cross, de Anza split the party into two divisions so that the limited waterholes would have a chance to recharge.