November 15, 1837 – July 9, 1913
John Leopold Kurtz was born on November 15, 1837 in Germany. He learned the shoemaker trade at a young age. He immigrated to America to Philadelphia in 1855 and worked as a shoemaker. Hearing about cheap land in 1858 he moved to Illinois and worked for wages. He left for California in 1861 driving a mule team for Eli Walker arriving at Sutterville in the Sacramento valley on November 10, 1861.
Kurtz found work on a fruit ranch owned by a Mr. Rich where he worked for 6 years. In 1867 he married Mary Lucretia Wyman. In October of 1869 with his wife and baby, John Edward, they came to Tulare county and prempted 160 acres of land north of Lemoore with nothing more than $45 and a horse and wagon. This northeast quarter of section 26, Township 19 South, Range 20 East. Today this would be about half a mile north of Lacey Blvd. on the west side of 17th.
They built a small house and cooked on an open fire. For his first wheat crop John had to go the 30 miles to Visalia for the seed. The area was subject to overflow and with Tulare lake being close he built a levee to keep the water from flooding his land in the spring. While he continued to farm wheat he purchase 320 acres of land north of his property. In 1878 they built their permanent home on the ranch. By 1886 the fruit industry had grown into prominence and so Kurtz, along with half a section under wheat, began growing pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and French prunes on thirty acres. Also on seventy acres he had a vineyard of raisin grapes. John became the president of the Lemoore Fruit Packing Company
As their holding grew, so did the family. John and Mary had a total of 17 children. Besides John Edward, there were Frank Bernhard, Marguerite Ellen (Maggie), George Washington, Andrew Foster, William Wallace, Louisa Wilhelmina (Mene), Sarah Magdeline, Lena, Otto Leopold, Freddie Alvin, Lester Charles, Edwin Henry (Eddie), Olive Ambrose, Raymond Richard, Ida Lucretia, and Mary Athlone. Several of the children died at a young age.
John died on July 9, 1913 and was interred in the Lemoore Cemetery. At the time of his death thirteen of his children were still alive.
Mary died on July 1, 1911 and is interred in the Lemoore Cemetery.