George Henry Tinkham.

History of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres online

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Online LibraryGeorge Henry TinkhamHistory of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres → online text (page 13 of 177)
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Lowe, 833 ; J. M. Koon, 510. Administrator, M. S. Duncan, 814; C. O. Moore, 508.
Superintendent of Schools, J. M. Burney, 789 ; E. M. Street, 503.

Laying of the Town Site
Why the Southern Pacific selected as a townsite the present location of Modesto
probably will never be known. Possibly the finding of a landowner in a good location
willing to sell his land at a reasonable price was one reason. The contract and finance
committee of the Southern Pacific in April, 1870, purchased of John J. Atherton 160
acres of land, the site of the original town. They paid him $3,200 for the tract.
Atherton had bought a part of the land from Robert Kirkland, who had purchased it
in September, 1869, at $2.50 per acre of the Government. The railroad surveyor now
laid off the proposed town into blocks, streets, and alleys, a fifteen-foot alley running
north and south through each block. The blocks, 300 by 400 feet, were laid off in
conformity with the lines of the railroad track. The streets, eighty feet in width, were
laid off along the same lines, and as the railroad runs northwest and southeast, it made
a very awkward geographical position. The principal street, I Street, is 100 feet in
width. The streets running east and west were alphabetically named and those run-
ning north and south are designated by numbers. The original town was one mile
square, but with numerous additions, including Branch's, Ripperdan's and Griffith's, the
city is nearly two miles square. Its western boundary is the Tuolumne River and
the west irrigation ditch forms the northern boundary of the town. In all of the
additions the blocks are 300 feet square, the street lines running north and south and
east and west.

The Name of the Town

The Southern Pacific selected as the name of the new town that of Ralston, in
honor of William C. Ralston, president of the Bank of California, San Francisco. The
name was printed upon the maps and it is stated "that the name' took well and pleased
the people highly." Mr. Ralston, however, had not been consulted in the matter and
through excessive modesty, it is said, refused to permit his name to be given to the new
town. Because of this refusal the company changed the name to Modesto, a Spanish
word, its English definition being "modesty."

The Southern Pacific, foreseeing the immense traffic of the future at Modesto,
reserved for their own use a strip of land about 300 feet in width and two miles in
length for main and siding tracks, freight and passenger depot. Considerable of this
space is already in use and quite a vacant space near the passenger depot is at present
set apart for public, open-air exhibitions. The balance of the reservation is leased to
private parties for business purposes.

The Exodus to Modesto
As the News intimated, the merchants of Paradise, Tuolumne City, Empire and
Westport began moving their business, and nearly all of their buildings to Modesto.
Sol Elias vividly described the event when he wrote: "When it became generally
known where the new town was to be located, there was a general stampede from the
three towns of Empire, Tuolumne and Paradise to the new site. For months the high-
ways were thronged with buildings being moved to Modesto and it looked as though
Tuolumne and Paradise were on wheels. It was indeed an odd sight to see these two
towns, furniture and people, traveling at a rapid rate to be first to locate in the railroad
town." Many of the oldest wooden houses in Modesto were hauled from Paradise,
while the brick buildings in those towns were torn down and rebuilt in Modesto. An
excursion party from Stockton, visiting the town November 20, 1870, found twenty-
five buildings located and being constructed. J. D. Spencer, the News editor, coming
up from Paradise in February, 1871, counted seventy-five buildings, "many of which
may be classed as imposing structures." Among these buildings, the first on the ground,
was a little frame building, 18x24, owned by James McHenry and W. G. Ross.


Modesto's Pioneer Business Firms

In compiling this list the writer has endeavored to obtain the names and locations
of the leading firms for the information of the rising generation. Some have been
learned through an article published by Sol P. Elias, others from correspondents, news-
papers and various other sources. Let me call your attention to Front Street, the
corner of J Street. There a two-story frame building was located, the lower story
being occupied by W. B. Wood and J. A. Brown as an agricultural implement store.
The upper story was used as a hall in which, it is said, the first temperance society
was organized ; it was the "Band of Hope," a children's society. Moving south, the
adjoining building was that of I. E. Gilbert, who subsequently removed to Front and
H streets, now the Turner building. Then came the photograph gallery of William
Brown, and a general tinware store adjoining. Mr. Brown was the pioneer photog-
rapher of Modesto and later erected a brick building, corner of I and Front streets,
opposite the Ross House. Adjoining the Brown building was a little fruit store kept
by "Judge" Hunt, then Schell & Scrivner's law office. Next was William Tregea's
harness store; he retired from business in 1904. The Modesto House, managed by
D. S. Husband, was next in line and adjoining was the W. J. Houston general mer-
chandise store, He hailed from Paradise, he and John J. McEwen being the first
merchants in town. In 1896, says George H. Bertram, this Front Street block was
occupied by warehouses. A photograph of that date shows the Huffman warehouse,
on the corner of I and Front. This became one of the historic places of Modesto in
later years ; it was afterwards known as the Brown and Alexander warehouse and
later became the Garrison Turner property. Tradition has it that it was in this
building that the Vigilantes met in 1879 and in 1884. The famous Ross House stood
on the southeast corner of I and Front, and adjoining on the south was Dettlebach
Bros.' store and the Davies & Medley stationery and book store. Next was the post
office, John J. McEwen being the first postmaster; he was also the Wells Fargo
Express agent. Next in line was the "Golden Sheaf" saloon, owned by John B
Brichman, one of Modesto's prominent citizens. Then came the "Marble Palace" of
Barney Garner, and following along we passed the saloons of McClure & Aulich,
Ducker & Casebolt, and the "White Oak" saloon of D. S. Husband. At the lower
end of the block Jake Woolner sold tobacco and notions, next was the Lane &
Williams drug store, and then the tin and hardware store of John J. Chapman, who
came up from Paradise. A few years later he erected a two-story building on H,
between Ninth and Tenth streets, the lower story being occupied by Dr. J. T. Sur-
baugh as the Model Drug Store. The corner of H and Front streets was occupied
by L. B. Farrish as a general dry goods store. In the block below, between H and G
streets, B. F. Jones carried on a poultry business. H was then the principal business
street. On the south side between Ninth and Tenth was the boot and shoe store of
J. H. Hayes and the undertaking 'parlors of Cleveland & Hardesty. Cleveland was
the first worthy master of the Stanislaus Lodge of Masons. In 1884 this block was
destroyed by fire. On the north side of the block stood the St. John House, the three-
story Tynan Hotel, its successor in 1890, and the shoe store of James Johnson. On
a high knoll at Tenth and H stood Modesto's first district school.

A famous resort was the "Old Corner" saloon, in the one-story building on the
corner of Tenth and H streets, later rebuilt for the Farmers and Merchants Bank.
On the opposite corner south was a brick building, the first floor occupied by small
stores. In the second story in 1890, the Herald was published by the irrepressible
Hanscom. To the south, Mike Braun's brewery manufactured beer. Up the street
between H and I on Tenth Street was the livery stable of Frank Ross, which ex-
tended through to I Street, completely surrounding the building of W. W. Eastin, a
two-story brick, rebuilt from Paradise at the corner of I and Tenth streets. Eastin's
saloon was in the first story, with a hall above at one time occupied by the Farmers'
Journal, with Attorney W. E. Turner as editor. Where now stands the Modesto
Bank stood the blacksmith shop and home of Mose Freeman. James Harter, Modesto's
first "smithy," was located just north of the Grollman building on this block, his
home adjoining. Another blacksmith was a Mr. Ollrich. North and across the


street from Freeman's shop was a two-story frame building on the corner occupied by
J. H. Maddux as a grocery store. Schafer's store now occupies this site. On the
northwest corner of Tenth and I streets, Henry Ross conducted a livery stable, after-
wards known as the Patterson Stables. On I Street between Ninth and Tenth streets,
Valentine Pitoff managed his bowling alley and saloon. Thomas Wallace conducted
a large stable on Eleventh Street between F and G. While under lease to Sontag and
Evans, the train bandits, it was destroyed by fire in 1891, following their holding up a
train at Ceres. Will Claypool, presumably possessed of knowledge of their depreda-
tions, was burned to death in this fire.

The other early general merchants were Robert Phillips, R. C. Gridley, of Civil
War fame, and Cressey Brothers. Walden and Grenfall were liverymen, subsequently
selling to Thomas Wallace. George Buck and Henry Covert were in the commission
business, the former from La Grange and the latter from Paradise. Barnett and
Daly, Charles Beauchamp, H. G. James, and John Robinson were the first butchers
of Modesto. John B. Covert removed from Paradise. Dr. Samuel McLean, the first
druggist of Modesto, Dr. W. C. Saunders, Dr. Barry Dorr, and Dr. J. E. Howard
were the early physicians. John D. Spencer moved his newspaper plant and family
to Modesto and located on Eleventh and I streets in December, 1870. J. Leet had one
of the first harness shops, and Bob McClanathan one of the first liverymen. H. Christ
was the first baker, and E. H. Wagoner the first wagon maker. James McHenry
and W. G. Ross had the first saloon, the "Pioneer Exchange," at J and Eighth streets.
Eagelson & Campau were another early firm. Pierce was the first lumberman, fol-
lowed by the Modesto Lumber Company. The early lawyers were Judge A. Hewel,
S. P. Scaniker, B. F. Haislip, G. W. Schell ; J. J. Scrivner, still living in San Fran-
cisco; T. A. Coldwell and A. H. Gehr. W. H. Spencer was an early dentist.

Pioneer Hotels and Prominent Buildings
On the west side of the railroad track near the court house, a Mr. Trollinger
opened the Modesto Restaur.ant, in the building put up by James McHenry. George
Keith also conducted a restaurant a little north of the Trollinger place. The land-
lord of the Covert House in Tuolumne City was D. S. Husband. He engaged in the
*ame business in Modesto, possibly managing it in connection with his Front Street
saloon. Another well-known hotel was the Mose Duncan House, later called the
Stanislaus Hotel. It was not a paying proposition and in 1875 it was for rent, all
furnished at forty dollars per month. вАҐ Roanoke, in writing of this hotel, said:
"Hotels cannot flourish in Modesto with every third family keeping a private board-
ing house." The Modesto House on Front Street near I was under the management
of Thomas F. Garner, who came from Empire to take charge. In less than four
years he sold out to Dr. M. H. Hall. The famous Ross House opposite the depot
was for many years the leading hotel of the county. It was a long, white, two-story
building, hard finished throughout, with a history of many social events and financial
losses to managers and owners. It was built in Paradise City by Frank Ross and
retained its original owner's name until destroyed by fire. In 1869 it passed into
the management of James Cole, who had formerly kept the North American, a stage
station on the Sonora Road. Cole immediately made arrangements with the Stockton
house movers, Hyram Fisher & Sons, to remove the big frame structure to the railroad
town. So large was it they were compelled to move it in two sections. The first half
was in its new location by November 20 ,1870. The second half was moved a week
later. Cole now refitted and refurnished the house at considerable expense and in the
press advertised it as a house of large, commodious rooms, well adapted for families.
The 22nd of February, 1871, was celebrated with a grand ball, the first, perhaps, in
Modesto. Good music was furnished by Condy's orchestra from Stockton and it was,
said the report, largely attended and was in all respects one of the most pleasant and
well-conducted balls of the season. The supper was particularly mentioned, the princi-
pal meat being roast pig. Losing considerable money, Cole retired in less than two vears,
for it was then "hard times, no crops," and took charge of the Yosemite House, Stock-


ton. He sold his interest to E. P. Block of Stockton. He was an auctioneer of ability,
but no landlord, and during the year 1875 he retired. Then Ross himself took charge
of the hotel and managed it for three years, conducting his livery stable at the same
time. Ross then leased the hotel to J. P. Trainor. That gentleman had a grand
opening and ball, on February 22, 1878, so stated the press dispatches. "The hall
and dining room were tastily decorated and the guests served with a splendid supper."
As Modesto increased in population the Ross House might have been a paying propo-
sition, but now competition sprung up. The Prentice Hotel was erected and is still
standing at the corner of H and Eleventh streets. The hotel was managed by J. W.
Prentice and it was opened for business January, 1880. It was an ideal location,
on a quiet street away from the dust and confusion of railroad cars and the drunken
revelry of gamblers and saloon men on Front Street, and directly opposite the court
house and square. Prentice believed, however, he would be compelled to seek patron-
age and it was the first hotel to run a bus to the trains. There was a second bus soon
running, for about the same time the Merry House was opened by L. Merry. This
also was and is a two-story frame- building, corner of Twelfth and H streets. The
Rodgers Hall building, a two-story brick on H near Front Street, was erected in
1877 by Stimpson P. Rodgers, a progressive business man, son of Stephen Rodgers.
The post office was moved to this building from Front Street soon after its completion,
this having become the main business street. The post office window and the boxes were
in a hallway leading to the Wells Fargo Express, they occupying the rear of the
building facing on the alley. The first story was also occupied by the Mechanics
cash store, S. Greenfield, jeweler, and A. J. Spindle, barber. Between these two
stores was a second hallway which led to the Gem saloon, J. W. Stuart, proprie-
tor. The second story had been fitted up as a public hall, where took place the
dramatic performances of theatrical companies that visited the town, school exhibi-
tions and other social events.

Masonic and Odd Fellows Hall

Two years previous, 1875, William Grollman, a prominent Mason, erected a
fine two-story brick structure on Tenth Street between H and I streets. The first
story was occupied by Mr. Grollman as a harness store and by S. Schonfield. gen-
eral merchandise. In the front portion of the second story, Dr. A. A. Gilmour and
Dr. Wilhite had offices, the rear portion being occupied by Stanislaus Lodge of
Masons. They removed to the hall which was fitted up for them from Odd Fellows
Hall, corner of H and Tenth streets.

The Odd Fellows building was the first two-story building erected in Modesto
from first-hand building material. It was built in 1875, just previous to the "hard
times" that hit the town. Roanoke, in describing this building in October. 1875,
wrote to the Stockton Independent: "The times are very hard, but fortunatelv the
Odd Fellows got their splendid two-story building nearly completed before the
twenties and small coin had entirely disappeared. Our mutual friend, R. A. Hatha-
way, the druggist, escorted me over the building. The lower floor contains two
stores with deep cellars. The upper floor will be used for lodge purposes. The
main or lodge room is 32x50 feet and when covered by Brussels carpet will be the
equal of any lodge room in the state. The ceiling is twenty feet in height. There
will be ante-rooms for paraphernalia, and on the third story there will be a banquet
room 16x50 feet and a kitchen. The cost will be about $17,000."

Modesto's Water Works
The "old town pump" seems to figure in Modesto's history as well as in the
history of other towns. It was a Douglas pump and with its clear, cool well of
water stood in front of the St. John lodging house, now the Tynan Hotel site. It
supplied, no doubt, the neighborhood with drinking water, also the district school
on the corner. There were many other bored wells about town, for water was easy
to obtain at a depth of eighty or 100 feet, and these wells supplied most of the
inhabitants with water until 1876. In the previous year, Assemblyman J. J. Scrivner


introduced a bill into the Legislature "granting the right to lay down water pipes
in Modesto, to supply the inhabitants thereof." A second bill was introduced three
days later, December 15, "also granting Charles S. Levenworth and his assignees
the right to supply water to the town of Modesto." Both bills passed both houses
and were approved by Governor Booth. In the following year L. C. Branch and
C. L. Levenworth selecting a lot fronting on the alley, now the rear of Shackelford-
Ulman's store, between I and H streets, built a high two-story building and boring
a deep artesian well, installed an engine and Holly water pump. The water was
forced to the top of the building into two large wooden tanks, each tank with a
5000-gallon capacity. In a short time the Modesto Water Company was incorporated,
the principal owner being Stimpson P. Rodgers, who owned four-fifths of the stock.
The fire of 1884 showed conclusively the need of better fire protection and in
January, 1890, the company began laying pipes for hydrant purposes. The pipes
laid at that time were exactly in the shape of the letter H. One pipe was run along
I from Front to Tenth and a second pipe from Knowles' warehouse along H to Tenth.
They were connected with the water works by a six-inch pipe running north and
south through the alley. Seven hydrants were set in the most essential places.
Shortly after this the company laid 1,500 feet of pipe in the northeast part of town.
The price of water to families under the Branch ownership was $1.50 per month,
water for irrigation extra. The corporation increased the price, the usual custom
of corporations, to charge all the traffic will bear. Evidently the people were dis-
satisfied and complaining, for November 19, 1891, by a vote of 385 for and only 113
against, they approved of the council issuing bonds to the amount of $60,000 for the
purchase of waterworks. Wise unto their generation were the citizens of Modesto.
At the same election they approved by a vote of 414 to 113 to bond the city for
$25,000 for sewers. They believed that sewers were the greater necessity and well
they might so believe, for the foul, unhealthy cesspools were a menace to health and
life. Two years later, in 1893, the city established its own waterworks and the
Rodgers waterworks was dismantled and the tanks removed from the roof of the
building. The city purchased a lot on Tenth Street south of G Street and erected
a neat pumping station and building a large concrete cistern forty feet in depth, sank
an artesian well through the floor. A large Hollaway engine was then installed, it
being necessary to draw the water only four feet. From this pump the water was
forced into a large iron tank 100 feet in height and from there distributed to
patrons. In case of fire the water was pumped directly into the main, thus putting
180 pounds pressure on the hose. The pump is run by electrical power and six
reserve tanks were located in different parts of the city, in case by any means the
electrical power was lost or for a long time suspended. At this writing another tank
is to be erected and a second story added to the pumping station for the use of the
city engineer.

Modesto's Gas Works
Modesto was fortunate in having gas almost in its infancy through the enter-
prise of the young citizen, Leonidas C. Branch, then but twenty-three years of age.
Few towns the size of Modesto had gas and it certainly was quite a project. The
Herald, in noticing this progressive movement, said: "For the first time in the his-
tory of Modesto, coal gas was used and pretty generally, too, on Tuesday evening,
July 3, 1876. Gasoline heretofore has been the only luminator that Modesto could
boast of, outside of candle light and kerosene, but now we can say we have a real,
genuine, live, coal gas works. For this enterprise we are indebted to Mr. L. C.
Branch, a young gentleman of enterprise who has grown with the town and who
evidently understands and studies the wants of young communities." The works
were located on G and Tenth streets under the direction of a San Francisco coal
gas expert. "The houses illuminated Tuesday evening were really brilliant and
when compared with the kerosene light put the latter quite in the shade." Promi-
nent among the notable places supplied were Ducker & Casebolt, the "Golden Sheaf,"
Barney Garner's, D. S. Husband Saloon, The White Oak, Farrell & McClure,
George Aulich, J. Dettlebach, Davis & Medley, John J. Chapman, Samuel R. Clayes



Online LibraryGeorge Henry TinkhamHistory of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres → online text (page 13 of 177)