Downing Road, which branches off of Calaveras Road in the hills to the east to Milpitas, isn’t really within Milpitas city limits, but it nonetheless commemorates a family and their ranch which was very important to Milpitas history.
The William F. Downing family came from Nevada in 1881 and bought land east of the Evans ranch and north of Laguna Valley, where Downing Road was later cut into Calaveras Road. The ranch was purchased from Henry Curtner and was part of Ranchos Tularcitos and Agua Caliente.
One of the first to rent land from the Downings was Joseph Silva, who came to the area in 1886 and whose family continued to farm the land half way through the 20th century.
William F. Downing’s son, George Lucas Downing, (1879-1931) continued the tradition of tenant farming.
He encouraged the local Portuguese farmers, whose knowledge of farming and willingness to work he respected, to send for their relatives in the Azores Islands. He would give them a house, a barn, a cow, and a plot of land. Two thirds of their season’s profit would go to the tenant farmer, and the rest would go to Mr. Downing. As many as 30 tenant families farmed the Downing land, grateful for the opportunity to come the United States.
In 1903, Airpoint School was built at the corner of Downing Road and Calaveras Road, so that children of the Downing and other nearby ranches would have a school within reasonable distance of their homes. George Lucas Downing was a long-time trustee of Airpoint School.
George Lucas Downing and his wife Georgia had three children, Jerome and Lorraine, both of whom died young, and Suzanne, who grew up to marry the younger George Abel, the son of another pioneer Milpitas settler.
March 1, 2012 by mhs