Wednesday, February 17, 2021




He was the son of Nathaniel Hiram Stockton, born in Tennessee November 6, 1818, and Mary Lynn. N. H. Stockton married Mary on October 17, 1852, in Watsonville, California, and resided near Santa Cruz, California, where their six children were born. Their oldest son, William Walter Stockton, was born in Santa Cruz on June 30, 1857. He then moved with his family to San Jose in 1862, where N. H. Stockton engaged in viticulture. W.W. Stockton was to graduate from San Jose State Normal School, which was established as a teacher’s college and is known today as San Jose State University.

 By March 1882, W.W. Stockton entered into a partnership with fellow San Jose resident, Lewis B. Wilson. Stockton opened a wine store in San Jose and Wilson opened a branch store in Grass Valley.

 Stockton’s short lived partnership with Lewis B. Wilson ended when Wilson was declared insolvent in Grass Valley. Wilson then returned to San Jose where he immersed himself in education, receiving his certificate to teach school. He eventually became vice-president of San Jose State College. Wilson married Alice Blythe in San Jose on January 10, 1883.  Wilson died in San Jose on 16 May 1924. Meanwhile W. W. Stockton married Sacramento native, Mary A. Gay in San Jose on August 12, 1882.

 W.W. Stockton wasted no time in creating a new business under the name of W.W. Stockton & Co. This was most certainly a business formed for the purpose of selling wines, etc., from his father’s own extensive vineyards, and soon included his Port Wine Bitters.



Stockton's Port Wine Bitters bottle.


The original label for Stockton's Port Wine Bitters, included with his trade mark registration for the brand, deposited with the California Secretary of State as trade mark Number 971 on April 9, 1883.

 As would be expected in the relatively small town of San Jose, the local newspaper gave notice to a promising new business by a well respected resident. (San Jose Mercury-news, 28 April 1883 )



A newspaper ad for his bitters, it originally incorporated the word “MALVOISIE” which represented the initial grape variety used to compound the product. (San Jose Mercury-News, April 17, 1883) 



An interesting news byte noting the original art work for Stockton’s Malvoise Bitters was being displayed in the window of Rhode’s drug store in San Jose.  (San Jose Mercury-News, April 7, 1883) 


By June 1883 the word MALVOISE was no longer used in his ads. This action, which is not completely explained, may be because of the varietal grape choices his father had made in his vineyards, which is where the juice was derived for Stockton’s Port Wine Bitters.


Stockton’s advertisements for his bitters soon dropped the reference to the Malvoisie grape probably represented a switch to the use of the more abundant Zinfandel grape from the much larger vineyards of his father’s Madera properties. (San Jose Mercury-News, June 17, 1883)  


The malvoisie grape, or malvasia in Italian, is a European species of the Vitus vinifera family, (aka Vitus vinifera “Cinsaut”) It has been commonly used in the production of port wines for many generations, and was a freely planted grape in the early orchards of California, especially Napa and San Jose. As different grape varieties became better tested in the new California geography, it was noted that the Malvoisie grape was not as hardy as first expected and fell out of favor by the early 1880’s.


All documentation located indicated a successful business venture that was to be an excellent financial success to both Stockton and the city of San Jose. (San Jose Herald, March 19, 1884) 


Much of Stockton’s success should be put squarely on the shoulders of his father, N. H.  Stockton, who was producing huge amounts of grapes.


Nathaniel Stockton’s Live Oak Vineyard became a model for the newly emerging viticulture that once rivaled its counterpart in Napa County. While Stockton was a successful grape grower he looked enviously toward the area of Fresno County where the climate was much more to his liking. 


Retaining his successful Live Oak Vineyard, N. H. Stockton later purchased as much as 640 acres in the warmer San Joaquin Valley and planted a large portion of it in grapes as well. He had been particularly critical of the milder, and wetter, climate of the San Jose ValleyStockton also established a house and winery at his Madera property.


A letterhead from N.H. Stockton, documenting his vineyards in Madera, Fresno County, California, In 1893 Madera became the county seat of the newly formed Madera County, reducing the size of Fresno County



It is clear from this newspaper advertisement that N.H. Stockton, and his son, W.W. Stockton, had a close relationship in the spirits and bitters business.   (San Jose Mercury-News, December 18, 1883) 




This somewhat close father / son relationship between W.W. Stockton and his father becomes even clearer with this IOU, on W.W. Stockton’s letterhead, with both father and son’s signature.    


The successful business of N. H. Stockton, and the newly emerging business of his son, W.W. Stockton, and his Port Wine Bitters, all came to an abrupt end when the senior Stockton died at his ranch in Madera on June 30, 1884.


W. W. Stockton, was the only surviving male sibling, along with his four sisters, when their father died. W.W. Stockton became the executor of his father’s rather large estate after N.H. Stockton’s wife, Mary Stockton, gave up her first right as executor. It took six years to finally complete the probate process which consumed much of his time. It is apparent that Stockton ceased producing his Port Wine Bitters and closed the wine and liquor store in San Jose which was considered part of his father’s estate.


Stockton sold his liquor business in May 1885, which by that time was only advertising Thistle Dew Whiskey. From that date he no longer was involved in liquor sales.


Not staying idle, Stockton soon exposed his inquisitive side. He had a great fascination for the properties of electro-magnetic energy and spent some time with the development of a telephone. He was noted as being the co-developer of a new type of highly efficient telephone transmission. (San Jose Herald, March 2, 1885) After an extensive interview with Stockton about his new invention, the local newspaper illuminated predictions about this new modern field.  “Mr. Stockton has given several years of careful study and systematic experiments to electrical science, studying the best textbooks obtainable and keeping informed on the progress made in the world through valuable sources as the Electrical World, Scientific American, Electrical Review and similar papers.  “And yet,” he remarked, “although what the world knows to-day about electricity would fill many books, what the world does not know to-day about it would fill a vastly greater number; and we are now on the threshold of a century in which there will be such discoveries and applications of known principles made as are too wonderful to contemplate.  One hundred years or so hence people will navigate the air by electrical force, will see a friend a hundred or a thousand miles away.  The refrangibility of light, refractive power of lenses, etc., will be so affected by electro-magnetic action that telescopes will be made powerful enough to show every pebble in the planets, and so will other wonderful results, ad infinitum, be obtained through the agency of this wonderful form of energy, electricity.”


Not overlooking more traditional innovations, in December 1885 Stockton and G. Phelps patented a yoke for double team draft animals. (draft yoke or bar for double teams,  Patent Number 332,366, filed July 29, 1885) Later that year he went to Mexico to superintend the installation of an electric light plant. (San Jose Mercury News, December 17, 1885)  By 1887 he was noted as a “constructing electrician” for the Risdon Iron Works of San Francisco (San Jose Mercury News, August 19, 1887). He remained in San Francisco for the next several years where the city directory lists him as an electrician.


The remaining stock of Port Wine Bitters was being sold by secondary parties as late as 1890 at THE FAMILY WINE AND LIQUOR STORE, in San Jose – at a reduced price of 35 cents per bottle, and noted as 11 years old. (San Jose Herald, February 28, 1890) By 1892 it was being sold at $1.00 for 5 bottles.


Stockton briefly moved to Niles, Alameda County, about 1890, where the voting register notes his occupation as an accountant. From that date he is no longer documented in California but probably stayed there until about 1894.


By 1891 Stockton left Niles and became somewhat aloof in his whereabouts, even though Mary Stockton, his wife, born as Mary Albertine Gay, remained in San Francisco and engaged in a variety of odd jobs to support herself. She even bore a child, Mary Arlene Stockton on August 22, 1893. It is assumed that her father was W.W. Stockton, even though Arlene’s death certificate notes her father was “Frank Stockton”. This is likely an error.  By 1895 the San Francisco city directories simply listed Stockton’s wife as a widow, which was a common descriptor for a woman who had no husband, for reasons including death, divorce and abandonment. She had relocated to Chicago, Illinois, by 1900 and eventually moved to Michigan, where she married John Herman Hensen in Grand Rapids, on April 11, 1938, at the age of 74 years. She died in Kalamazoo on January 24, 1946.


W. W. Stockton clearly determined to make another life changing move and was found next in Maricopa County, Arizona, in the voting register, when he signed up to vote on September 29, 1894, in Gila Bend, Arizona. He apparently had decided to stay in the area for awhile. Local newspapers periodically made note of his prospecting and mining activities in Arizona Territory.

William Walker Stockton died on December 24, 1901, at Castle Creek Hot Springs, Yavapai, Arizona. The only signed affidavit from the inquest of his death, except for the Coroners Jury final determination, was from William “Billy” Walker, a well known chef who went to work at the Castle Creek Hotel about 1899, according to a newspaper article. (Prescott Arizona Weekly Journal Miner, October 4, 1899) As an aside, in 1909 Walker, was arrested for an assault with a deadly weapon – a heavy beer glass, that he threw at Joe Bush in McDonough’s Saloon in Globe, Arizona. (The Daily Silver Belt, Globe, Arizona, July 21, 1909.

The Arizona probate court determined that although Stockton had an undivided interest in the Prosperity, Oro Grande, and Rich Rock mining claims in the Castle Creek Mining District of Yavapai County, Arizona, they were not sufficiently developed to have any true value, and probate was closed on February 2, 1903. 

In cases where deaths were either suspicious or unknown, Arizona law required that the coroner name a panel of six jurors that would look into, and attempt to determine, the cause of death. The Billy Walker inquest deposition for Stockton notes he had been drinking heavily, went to bed and died in his sleep.


The final result as determined by the Coroners’ jury was that Stockton had died from apoplexy (stroke). To say the least, it was a bit of a shock to note the signature of Maxfield Parrish as a member of the Coroner’s jury, as noted in this document.


Names of the Coroner’s jury:

Oren A. Ensign: jury foreman and miner in Castle Creek District

Charles M. Calhoun: Manager of Hot Springs, beginning in 1898

Maxfield Parrish: Artist – see below.

John Deck: Miner: Killed in a mining accident at Tip Top, Yavapai County, in 1905.

Charles E. Stuart: A pioneer painting contractor of Phoenix.

Thomas M. Kerr: He was a successful freighter operating in Yavapai County.


Maxfield Parrish, and his new bride, Lydia, visited Hot Springs in the winter of 1901-1902. He had been suffering from the effects of tuberculosis and jumped at the chance to accept an offer by The Century Magazine to visit the Southwest, and create pictures for a series of articles. He created a total of 19 paintings while staying at Castle Creek Hot Springs, considered Arizona’s first springs resort. It was here that Parrish first employed the intense blue that he experienced in the Western skies, which became a hallmark of many of his paintings. Little else need be stated about Parrish, as he is so well known, except this hidden fact about his Coroner’s jury obligation which has not previously been documented to my knowledge. The story how he was selected for the jury is a story that will probably never be discovered.



The Maxfield Parrish print, Daybreak, first produced in 1922, was the most popular, and recognizable print of the twentieth century. The original painting was sold in 2006, for $7.6 million, to the wife of actor, Mel Gibson. It was again sold in 2010, at a loss – for $5.2 million.


Eric McGuire 

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