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Hwy 101 ' s black walnuts :

The Keesling shade trees

Historically Speaking : by Robin Shepherd for the Morgan Hill Historical Society

Horace Greely Keesling made his mark on Morgan Hill history in a most unusual way . He was born in 1855 into a large midwestern farming family . His father , Thomas Bulla Keesling , had served as a U . S . postmaster , general store operator , sawmill worker and farmer . Horace shared his father ’ s fascination with horticulture , which led to the family ’ s migration to Santa Clara Valley in the 1870s and planted the seed of what would become a legacy of connection to the land

Horace Greely Keesling and wife Annie Lisle Bacon . Source : Keesling and Adams Families
Horace married Annie Lisle Bacon , a Yolo County native , in 1880 . They became fruit growers on the family ’ s Edenvale property . The majority of Horace ’ s close-knit family raised their families in south Santa Clara Valley . The Keeslings , as well as relatives in the McChesney and Adams families , became orchardists , farmers and ranchers as well as entrepreneurs .
Horace formed a special connection with a wealthy widow named Mary Hayes Chynoweth , also from the Midwest . In the 1880 ’ s she moved to California with her two sons and bought 240 acres in Edenvale . In 1899 she built a vast family estate and named it Hayes Mansion . Soon after , it was destroyed by a fire . The second Hayes Mansion1 was completed on the same site in 1905 . It was purchased in the 1980s by the City of San Jose , redeveloped , and continues to operate as a hotel and event center today .
San Jose Mercury Farm Editor Horace G . Keesling with Santa Rosa ’ s “ Plant Wizard ” Luther Burbank circa 1920-29 . Source : History San Jose .
Mary ’ s sons Everis and Jay Hayes made their livelihoods as lawyers , businessmen and farmers . Everis served seven terms in the U . S . House of Representatives . Together , the brothers started Sunsweet Growers , which played a major role in Morgan Hill ’ s agricultural history , and Jay co-founded the California Dried Fruit Association . They purchased the San Jose Herald in 1900 , the San Jose Mercury a year later , and The Evening News in 1942 . These newspapers later merged to become the San Jose Mercury News .
Horace ’ s connection to Mary Hayes Chynoweth and her sons most likely began with their mutual occupation with fruit growing and evolved from there . For a time , Horace served as manager of the Hayes estate , and he devoted 25 years as farm editor for the San Jose Mercury .
During his years as a journalist , Horace became acquainted with the world-renowned botanist and horticulturist Luther Burbank . Burbank ’ s disease-resistant russet potato variety helped Ireland recover after the potato famine . Horace was greatly inspired by Burbank ’ s work .
The Keesling Shade Trees
On hot summer days , Horace enjoyed taking his family to the beautiful coastal town of Pacific Grove to escape the heat . They traveled by horse and buggy along the old Monterey Highway . The
Keesling Shade Trees Plaque . Source : Mountain Charlie condition of the road at that time Chapter 1850 E . Clampus Vitus . probably made for slow going , but the journey was made even more difficult due to the lack of shade for the family and their horses .
In 1900 , he began a labor of love : propagating and planting a 30- mile stretch of black walnut trees along both sides of Monterey Highway from south San Jose through Coyote , Madrone , Morgan Hill , San Martin and into Gilroy . Horace completed the work at his own expense , with help from his son Hayes , in 1911 . More than a century later , the walnut trees that haven ’ t been sacrificed to development still stand tall along the west side of the road .
A plaque was installed to commemorate the planting of the Keesling Shade Trees in 1985.2 It is located on the west side of Monterey Highway ( State Route 82 ) about one-half mile south of Capitol Expressway .
Keesling ’ s Morgan Hill Legacy
Horace shared his knowledge and passion by serving as president of the Santa Clara County Garden Club , and later establishing the Flower Lovers Club in Morgan Hill in 1925 . The nonprofit club still operates today and raises funds for school gardens and scholarships for students engaged in horticulture or related fields of study .
When Horace Greely Keesling died in 1940 , in the midst of World War II , his fellow members of the Morgan Hill Flower Lovers Club were joined by Live Oak high school students in planting “ victory gardens ” around town , and club members planted a cedar tree in his memory on the grounds of the Friendly Inn .
Horace Greely Keesling at Flower Show Source : Keesling and Adams Families
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