Scope and Content
Title: Charles B. Polhemus Family
Date (inclusive): 1886-1924
Collection Number: ECS01.03
Charles B. Polhemus Family
Selected online items available
Sourisseau Academy for State and
San Jose State University,
Abstract: Part of the Edith C. Smith Collection, these albums are a
rare collection of photographs taken by members of this important California family
of their various estates, family members and their activities, and early automobile
excursions throughout Northern California.
Selected digitized images from this collection.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Sourisseau Academy. Neither the original
photographs nor the digital images held by the Sourisseau Academy may be
reproduced, published, or used on the Internet without the expressed, written
permission of the Executive Secretary. Permission for publication is given on
behalf of the Sourisseau Academy as the owner of the physical items and is not
intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also
be obtained by the researcher. The credit line, "Courtesy of the Edith C. Smith
Trust Collection, Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History" must accompany
any such use.
[Identification of item], Charles B. Polhemus Family Albums, [Box number]:
[Folder number], Edith C. Smith Collection, Sourisseau Academy for State and
Local History, San Jose State University, San Jose, California
The Charles B. Polhemus Family Albums were donated to the Sourisseau Academy by the
Edith C. Smith Trust in 2008.
Charles B. Polhemus (1888-1969) was the son of George B. and Jennie (Jane Eliza
Ryder) Polhemus, and grandson of Charles Bispham Polhemus.
Charles Bispham Polhemus (1818-1904) was born in New Jersey, but like many Americans,
had a restless spirit. At the age of seventeen he ventured to South America, living
variously in Valparaiso, Guayaquil, Lima, and Payta. After serving as the United
States Consul to Payta for four years, Charles returned to America and settled in
San Francisco in 1850. He married Matilda Murphy in 1852 and they had three
children: Mary Josephine (d. 1935), George Bissel (1857-1914) and Stanhope Prevost,
who died in infancy. When Charles divorced his wife in 1862, his niece Ellen V.
Polhemus took over the management of his large household.
In the 1850s, Charles Polhemus acquired a substantial portion of the Las Pulgas
Rancho, a vast tract of land that encompassed most of the peninsula. He subdivided
the land and the large parcels he sold off to friends became the estates now known
as Atherton, Millbrae and Menlo Park. The Polhemus estate, where the family lived in
until 1862, eventually became the City of San Mateo. After working to bring the
railroad to San Jose from San Francisco, Polhemus purchased Laurelwood Estate from
Peter Donohue, a colleague in the railroad business, and moved south into Santa
Clara County in the late 1860s. He also bought a large portion of the Stockton
Rancho (Potrero de Santa Clara) from Commodore Stockton. By 1873 the family was
occupying an estate known as Pendennis, one of several well-known prefabricated
houses that were brought around Cape Horn in the 1850s by Commodore Stockton. A lack
of sawmills in the West made imported prefabricated houses a viable option for those
with the means to establish substantial residences. The family lived at Pendennis,
located at the corner of Stockton Avenue and Polhemus Street, until it burned in
1914. A new house was erected on the property in 1916, and was eventually moved onto
the grounds of Bellarmine College Preparatory School in 1946, where it still
Charles Polhemus also owned a nine-hundred acre ranch in Coyote, which his son George
Polhemus managed until the late 1890s when it was sold to the Spreckles family.
George and his wife Jennie (Jane Eliza Ryder, married in 1887), daughter of local
jeweler George R. Ryder, retained ninety acres in Coyote where they built a house
and kept orchards. In 1906, George was the local Winton Automobile dealer, and
became a founding member and the first president of the Santa Clara County
George and Jennie’s son Charles B. Polhemus, named for his grandfather, inherited the
estate of Pendennis and constructed a new house on it in the 1950s after selling the
Stockton Avenue property.
Charles Bispham Polhemus died in San Jose in 1904, followed shortly by his son George
Polhemus in 1914. Jennie Polhemus died in 1938 at the age of seventy-four. George
and Jennie’s son Charles B. Polhemus died in 1969, and his wife Irene in 1990. The
couple left no heirs. Mary Josephine Polhemus moved to Italy with her long-time
companion Adeline Mills prior to World War I. She died there in 1935.
The following terms may be used to index this collection.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Automobiles – Societies, etc.
Cerro Allegre Rancho (San
Pendennis (San Jose,
Polhemus, Charles B.
Polhemus, George B.
Polhemus, Jennie (Jane
Eliza Ryder) (d. 1938)
Santa Clara County
Santa Clara County Automobile
Scope and Content
The Charles B. Polhemus Family Albums collection consists of two photo albums and
several pieces of correspondence.
One photo album chronicles the 1908 outings of the newly-formed Santa Clara
Automobile Club, which traveled throughout Santa Clara County and ventured south
into Monterey and Carmel. The auto club organized tours and excursions throughout
the county and ventured south to Monterey and Carmel. Scenic destinations for
Polhemus family excursions as well as Auto Club tours included many points of local
and regional interest such as the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines, the sumptuous Hotel
Del Monte in Monterey, the famed Seventeen Mile Drive at Pebble Beach, Point Lobos
and Gus Lion’s ranch near San Martin. One especially exciting and historic trip took
the Club over the mountains to Santa Cruz in 1908 to see President Roosevelt’s Great
White Fleet anchored off the coast in Monterey Bay.
A second photo album chronicles the excursions of the Polhemus family throughout San
Jose and Santa Cruz, including Congress Springs.
The correspondence in this collection primarily relates to a trip Charles B. Polhemus
took to Italy in 1924.