Charting a course of their own to become founders of Santa Clara Valley
In 1844, Martin Murphy Sr. brought his large, Irish family across the continent in the Stephens-Murphy-Townsend overland part. Their determination, optimism and close family bonds helped them cross rugged terrain and become founders of early Santa Clara Valley.
In 1846, Martin Murphy, Sr. made his way to Santa Clara Valley and established his homestead. For $1500 he purchased the 9000-acre Rancho Ojo del Agua de la Coche, named for its many springs. Murphy's ranch and hospitality created a welcome resting place for many travelers. Later the town of San Martin would grow up around the ranch and be named in honor of Murphy's patron saint.
Murphy's sons, John and Daniel, struck gold in the Sierras in 1849, but made their fortunes selling dry goods to the miners. The town they established bears the family name - Murphys. John became a prominent San Jose citizen, as treasurer, coroner, and sheriff for the newly formed County of Santa Clara. In 1854, Daniel took over the operation of Murphy Sr.'s ranch. He began purchasing cattle and land. At the time of his death in 1881, Dan's landholdings in California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona made him perhaps the largest landowner on the Pacific Coast. The Murphy clan's pioneering spirit continued as they helped establish Santa Clara University, College of Notre Dame and the cities of San Martin, Morgan Hill, San Jose and Sunnyvale.
After Dan Murphy died his property was subdivided and changed hands several times. The Harvey Bear family bought property to graze cattle. In 1997, the Bear family sold 4,445-acres to the Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Department. The former Ojo del Agua Rancho lands have been added to Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park.
The historic Murphy homestead, pictured at left, once stood on the Bear Ranch property. Today, cattle still graze the parklands to fight weeds and reduce fire danger.