Sunday, July 22, 2007

Leonard Buck (1834-1895) - Farmer and Politician; Buck Family Trust

[Gravesite photo by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 14B

Born on July 8, 1834, in Cortland County, N.Y., Buck attended the historic Cortland Academy. He married Anna Bellows, daughter of Dr. M. B. Bellows, a physician, on Sept. 10, 1856. Two of their children, Emma L. and Frank H. Buck, were born in Cortland in the ensuing years.

During the Civil War, Leonard joined Company H, 157th New York Volunteer Infantry and soon was promoted to first lieutenant. He was discharged in February of 1863 on account of ill health.

The family then moved westward to Clinton, Iowa, where Leonard was involved in the lumber trade and in the hardware and grocery business. In 1874, Leonard traveled to California and, after a visit to Solano County, decided to move his family out to settle in the Vacaville area. His first land purchase consisted of the Long Ranch, or former Weldon Ranch, 107 acres in Vaca Valley.

Buck threw himself wholeheartedly into the orchard business. Through the advent of the transcontinental railroad, growers finally could reach the East Coast markets. His earlier merchandising background had given him the necessary contacts, and he became one of the first growers to ship his produce to the East Coast. The first carload of grapes ever sent out of Vaca Valley to Chicago was packed by him in 1876.

The Vacaville Reporter named Leonard Buck as one of the richest and most productive farmers of Solano County on August 30, 1884, “adapted to the cultivation of every agricultural product that can be grown, including all the semi-tropic fruits, but just now horticulture and viticulture are so profitable that no cereals are produced, and almost every available spot blossoms with a vine or is rooted with a fruit tree. His residence is very pleasantly located, and commands a pretty view of the valley, ...

“There are 500 almond, 200 peach, 100 pear, 500 plum, 1,500 apricot, 1,000 cherries and 1,000 apples, nectarines and prunes. Besides these, there are 30,000 vines of the Muscat, Tokay, Rose of Peru, Fontaine Bleau (sic) Cornuchon and Emperor varieties (these are all table grapes.) The peaches are mostly of the Susquehanna variety and of a very superior size and flavor. A part of them have already been engaged to a Chicago firm, at a fancy price; ...”

The volume of fruit produced inevitably led Leonard and Frank H. Buck into the packing and shipping business. In 1880, Leonard Buck established the California Fruit Shipping Association with headquarters in San Francisco. In the following year, he founded the L. W. & F. H. Buck company.

During his later years, he also found the energy to serve his community in other functions. In 1886, he was elected to the senate of the California legislature as a member of the Democratic Party. On March 27, 1889, he was appointed as a member of the State Board of Horticulture for the Second Horticultural District, which included Napa, Solano, and Contra Costa counties. He served on this board until his death in 1895.

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