Santa Clara Valley, in 1852, Michael
Hughes became the first non-hispanic European to build a wood frame
in Milpitas. Hughes was a native of Ireland who had settled in
Missouri for a few years before heading west to California with wife
Ellen and young sons Michael and James. He was illiterate as can
be seen by the image of his mark above taken from a mortgage he made to
Henry O. Weller and Abraham Weller. No image of Hughes or of his
early house have been discovered, yet.
The Santa Clara Record of Deeds shows that in 1852, Hughes bought a
town lot on Julian Street in San Jose in the Charles White development
for $500. It is not known if Hughes was living in two dwellings
in 1852, but it seems unlikely. Perhaps he and his family were
living in a frame house in Milpitas and had bought the lot in the San
Jose lot as an investment. Or perhaps the memories of 1881 were
mistaken by a year. In 1853, Hughes sold this town lot for $600.
his redwood frame house in Milpitas near what is now the intersection
of Main and
Carlo Streets, on nearly 800 acres of land he to which he filed a
Pre-Emption Claim in 1853. [A Pre-Emption Claim is commonly
"squatter's rights".] This land was the northwest corner of the Rancho
Milpitas granted to José Maria Alviso. It is not known
whether Hughes and Alviso formed any business agreement over Hughes
settling on and farming this parcel of land prior to Alviso's death in
the summer of 1853.
The Santa Clara County Record
of deeds shows Michael Hughes purchased 800 acres along the east bank
of Penitencia Creek starting from a giant white oak near where modern
Calaveras Blvd. crosses Abel St. thence east 700 feet (near the corner
of Winsor and Carlo Streets), thence to a
stake 1,800 feet to the south (just south of present St. John's
Catholic Church), thence west to Penitencia Creek and thence back to
the point of beginning,
from Juana Galindo Alviso, the illiterate widow of José Maria
Alviso, on February 14, 1856. According to the deed of
sale, Hughes paid just $225 or 28¢ per acre for what would one day
become the heart of downtown Milpitas. Mysteriously, the deed
shows the land Alviso sold as being part of "Rancho San Miguel" rather
than called Rancho Milpitas.
1856, Richard Greenham was squatting on four acres of Alviso land at
the southwest corner of what is now Main and Serra Streets. He
wanted to sell his land and buildings to Augustus Rathbone, a
twenty-six year old Rhode Island merchant who had recently come to the
area with his young wife, Hannah. In order to make the
sale, Greenham had to have clear title to the land.
However, in 1856, it was unclear who owned the land. The Alviso
grant had not been recognized by the US land commission at that
time. Michael Hughes had filed a preemption claim to the land
three years earlier but did not have a bill of sale from Juana
Galindo Alviso giving him a clear title to the land.
To remedy this situation a choreographed sequence of buying and selling
was arranged. On Valentine's Day of 1856 five people gathered in
Milpitas before the first Justice of the Peace for Alviso Township,
John Berry. They were Juana Galindo Alviso, Michael Hughes,
Richard Greenham, and Augustus Rathbone and his wife. At exactly
1:30PM, Alviso sold to Hughes for $225 the 800
acres to which he had file his Preemption Claim. At exactly
1:35PM, Hughes sold for $150 to
Greenham the four acres on which he had been squatting. Then, at
exactly 1:40PM, Greenham sold the four acres and the improvements he
had erected on it to Mr. and Mrs. Rathbone for $1,000.
Since four acres is small for a farm, it is possible that Rathbone, a
merchant, was buying a retail business from Greenham. If so, it
would mean that Greenham's store predates that said, in the 1881
History, to have been built by Frederick Creighton in 1857 as the first
retail business in Milpitas. However, more research is needed to
unravel that mystery. One thing that is known is that Richard
Greenham set the record for the shortest duration of property ownership
in Milpitas history.
40 acres along the west bank of Penitencia Creek starting
west of the intersection of what is now Serra and Main Streets then
600 feet from Ellen E. White for $1,000 or $25 per acre. White
was the widow of Charles White who, in 1850, bought the eastern third
of Rancho Rincon de los Esteros from the descendants of Igancio
The California State census of 1852, shows Michael and Ellen Hughes
with their sons as living in Santa Clara County. The U.S. Census
of 1860 lists
Michael and Ellen Hughes as farmers living with their teen-age sons,
Michael and James, in Milpitas. Hughes listed his occupation as Farmer.
Alfred French bought a hotel that had be erected by Alex Anderson on
the northwest corner of the intersection of Main and Serra Streets from
Austin Thompson for $1,700 in 1859. French bought the lease
rights to the land the building was on from David Riddle in the same
year. The next year, 1860, French bought the land from Hughes for
$350. This parcel or lot has remained more or less intact up to
the present day.
In, 1868, Michael Hughes, Jr., by now married and the father of a child
bought a parcel of land in the Calaveras Valley with $4,200.
Michael Hughes, Sr. filed suit against his son over this transaction
and won. Hughes, Sr. then attached the farm bought by his son.
Ellen Hughes filed a Homestead Claim, possibly to the
land her home stood on.
Ellen Hughes still owned 40 acres north of
Milpitas-Alviso Road on both banks of Penitencia Creek and her sons,
James and Michael,
Jr., owned adjacent 50 acre farms on the south side of Calaveras Road
across from Samuel Ayer
in the vacinity of modern Calaveras Blvd. and Park Victoria Drive.
A Michael Hughes is listed as a Trustee of the Laguna School, in the
hills above the Calaveras Valley, in the 1880s.