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February 10, 2010 > History: The John Cleveland Whipple family

History: The John Cleveland Whipple family

By Myrla Raymundo

John Cleveland Whipple was a pioneer agriculturist of Washington Township, owning and occupying a finely improved homestead near Decoto.

A native of New York, John Cleveland Whipple was born on January 25, 1820, in Duanesburg, Schenectady County, also the birthplace of his father, Samuel Whipple. Samuel Whipple married Phoebe (Cleveland) Whipple and they had thirteen children.

One of a large family, John Cleveland Whipple began as a boy to assist his father in clearing farmland, laboring assiduously throughout his early life. During the winter seasons he attended the short term of the district school. At 20 he began working for wages, receiving $10 a month, all of which he saved; by the end of the year he accumulated $120. Subsequently learning the carpenter's trade, John followed it first in Pennsylvania, and afterwards with his uncle near Rochester, New York. While there he cast his first presidential vote for Whig candidate, Henry Clay.

In the latter part of l852, Mr. Whipple started for California by way of Panama. After walking part of the way across the Isthmus, he boarded a steamer, and arrived in San Francisco on February 5, 1853. John worked at his trade in that city for five years. In the fall of l853, he went to Oakland, then in its incipiency, having but one store, one butcher shop, and no post office, although one opened soon after. There was at that time no wagon road between Oakland and San Pablo, a distance of twelve miles, and only one house between the two towns.

Relocating to Point Richmond in Contra Costa County in l858, Whipple and his brother William who came to California with him rented land and engaged in farming. The partnership lasted for about two years, ending when his brother returned to New York State. Whipple also spent a year in his native state. Upon his return to Alameda County in l863, he bought two hundred acres of land, ranching with eminent success. From time to time he purchased more land, accumulating three hundred acres of good land in the hills, while his home farm on open plain occupied one hundred and thirty-eight acres. Much of the land was used for growing grain, although his land included "a fine-bearing orchard of twenty-seven acres."

Known as a man of sterling integrity, Mr. Whipple was held in high respect throughout the community, and actively identified with its improvement and advancement. With the formation of the Republican Party, Whipple endorsed its principles and was a loyal adherent. John Whipple's brother, Samuel Whipple and his children came from back east to join John Whipple in Union City. Among them was Rufus Whipple, Samuel Whipple's son. John Whipple III worked for the Holy Sugar Factory from 1940 through 1948. He passed away in 2003 in San Jose, California.

Gilbreth F. Whipple is a living descendant of John Cleveland Whipple. Gilbreth was born on October 8, 1940 in San Jose, California. He came back to Union City when he was five years old, attended Niles Elementary School in Fremont and graduated from Washington High School in 1958. Gilbreth went to UC Berkeley and majored in Latin American studies. He learned Spanish and taught bilingual education. Working at the Whipple Ranch from a very early age until age 20, he drove tractors, worked on irrigation systems, and checked tomatoes. He worked with a lot of Filipinos and Mexicans in the area and learned their languages too.

James Logan, another local historical figure, died in an auto accident in 1932 along with Gilbreth's grandfather, John Whipple II, son of Rufus Whipple. Gilbreth's father, John Whipple III, was only 15 years old when his father was killed.

Gilbreth's sister, Laurel Whipple, still lives in San Jose and has two boys, Joseph and John. Many Whipple family ancestors are buried at the Chapel of the Chimes Cemetery in Hayward.

I would like to thank Joan Serafino, a curator of the James and Lucy Shinn House in Fremont, who provided this writer with materials about John Cleveland Whipple and provided a photograph of him.

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