Some of the early pioneers came West for gold, but many found gold mining unprofitable and turned to other occupations for a living. John Van Valkenburgh was one such pioneer. The 1889 History of San Joaquin County tells us how he and his family eventually moved to the Liberty area. His oldest son, Asa Van Valkenburgh, originally deeded a portion of his land to the Christian Church of Lodi for the Liberty Cemetery.
John Van Valkenburgh was born in Oneida County, New York, February 1, 1827, a son of Lambert and Sarah (Dennis) Van Valkenburgh; the former a native of New York State and the latter of Connecticut. Grandfather Van Valkenburgh was a native of Holland who emigrated from that country to the U.S., settling in New York State, where the family have resided over since. John, the subject of this sketch, was one of ten children, who were all reared to man and womanhood; his parents died in New York State.
In 1846 he left New York going to Cass County, Michigan, that at the time being a new county. There he turned his attention to the shoemaking trade, served his apprenticeship and afterward started a shop of his own. He left Michigan for California, February 22, 1849, made his journey across the plains with ox teams, arriving in Sacramento, September 1, 1849. His first meal there cost him $2.50 and consisted of pork, beans, hard tack and black coffee. He went to Coloma and started at mining below the old mill where gold was first discovered. While in that locality he discovered Union Flat, which has since been the seat of considerable mining. A town sprang up called Uniontown, where he started in quartz mining and spent considerable money, but made a failure, not knowing how to work quartz. He was the first man to strike a pick in Nelsonís Canyon, which turned out to be a district rich in minerals. He was among the first to operate in Oregon and Mosquette Canyon, which was among the richest mines struck there. In 1851 he went to Kelsey Diggings, where he was married to Miss Mary Elizabeth Lane, a native of Kirtland, Ohio, who crossed the plains in 1851. In 1852 Mr. And Mrs. Van Valkenburgh moved from Kelsey Diggings to Wallís Diggings, thence to Michigan Bar where he conducted a shoe shop and a livery stable. In 1863 he came down to this valley and bought a ranch, July 24, of that year. The ranch contains 160 acres and is situated on Cherokee Lane, Liberty Township. There , Mrs. Valkenburgh died, April 17, 1885, at the age of forty-nine years. She was the mother of six children, viz: Asa L., born March 10, 1853; Loyal H., December 18, 1855; Lizzie, December 18, 1857; Frank and Charles, deceased; and William T., the youngest of the family, born in San Joaquin County. Asa L., the oldest of the family, remained with his father until he was twenty-three years of age, when he built a shop on Cherokee Lane and started in the blacksmith business, running it for nearly seven years. Then he and his brother Loyal went to farming together. They own 320 acres in Sacramento County, and 160 in San Joaquin County; they make their home in the latter; it is situated in Liberty Township, within half a mile of Cherokee Lane. Besides this the two brothers farm a considerable more land, the greater portion in Sacramento County.
Asa was married, March 3, 1886, to Miss Della Stevens, a native of Kansas. He is among the largest operators in the farming industry in this section of the country, dealing mostly in wheat, and stock, principally horses.
The Galt Area Historical Society offers a book of our local history called Tapestry. Click here for more information.
Last edited 27 February, 2005
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