John Horner arrived in San Francisco on July 31, 1846, aboard the Ship Brooklyn, which had sailed around the horn from New Jersey. He had left Nauvoo, Illinois after the death of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and headed for Northern California with a group of Mormons under the leadership of Samuel Brannon. At the same time Brigham Young would lead the rest of the Mormon colony at Nauvoo to Salt Lake City.

John Horner farmed in and around the Mission San Jose and Centerville area. In 1847 he and his bride settled in Irvington, then known as “The Corners.” In 1849 and 1850 he made good money raising vegetables and selling them in San Francisco and Mission San Jose to people on their way to the goldfields.

In his autobiography John Horner states: “…Thus ended our farming venture of 1850. This year we purchased one hundred acres of land at the landing, on the Alameda River, and laid out the town of Union City upon it. We made extensive preparations for increasing our business in 1851. We started a commission house in San Francisco to sell our vegetables. We bought some excellent farm land near Union City, built upon and farmed it, in addition to improving our home farm, which was ten miles away.”

“This year (1851) our crops were large, and a ready market was found for all we raised, though at reduced prices, since farmers had multiplied. We secured by purchase the steamer “Union” to carry our produce to market…”

“We extended our agricultural operation in 1852, by purchasing more famland…”

“The History of Washington Township” states that Horner started a stagecoach line in 1852 that ran between the Mission San Jose and the landing at Union City.

“…Flouring mills not being sufficient in California at this time, we built one at Union City (1853), with eight run of burrs, at a cost of eighty-five thousand dollars and ground our grain and that of others.”

Apparently by the time Horner bought land in Union City, a landing was already in existence. Whether it existed before 1850 and who owned it is not mentioned. He did, however, begin farming in our area in 1851 and increased his operation in 1852. In 1851, he added the steamboat “Union” to ferry passengers and produce to San Francisco and whatever was needed to ferry back to Union City.

John Horner received several awards, one for being recognized as “California’s First Farmer,” and the second for having the finest ground flour in the state. Today he is known as the “Father of Union City.”

John Horner died May 14, 1907 at his home in Kukaiau, Hawaii where he had spent over forty years managing a cane sugar plantation. He was born in Monmouth County, New Jersey on June 15, 1821.

John Horner was an industrious, hardworking man who was generous and trusting to a fault. His eventual failure in farming in California was largely brought about by having to pay twice for the same piece of property and the heavy debt he incurred in securing property to farm.