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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system of delivery was established in 1904. The longest route, twenty-five miles, was
Waterford and 100 families were served daily with their mail. Five rural routes had
been established in 1910. The city free delivery system was established in 1906 with
three carriers, one on the west and two on the east side. After Wade Howell's appoint-
ment in 1914 he held the position as postmaster until January 15, 1920, at w T hich time
he resigned. The office was temporarily filled by C. H. Conron, a former deputy,
the permanent position being held in the air for some unexplainable reason until April
30, 1921, when the ex-postmaster and ex-mayor of Modesto, David W. Morris, was
again appointed postmaster. The office at this time pays a salary of $3,200 per annum.

Modesto Business Firms in 1880

Modesto in 1880 was credited with the following business places: three butcher,
two tinware, five barber, six blacksmith and wheelwright shops, four drug stores,
two furniture, four paint, two hardware, two jewelry, five millinery and dressmaking,
a harness, a hat and boot and shoe and twenty general merchandising stores, a broom,
a candy and a soda factory, a flour and barley mill, two breweries, a foundry, four
livery stables, two lumber yards, a gunsmith, two photograph parlors, two under-
takers, a vegetable market, two bakeries, three restaurants, six hotels, two newspapers,
six laundries, five large warehouses, a wholesale liquor house and fifteen saloons. The
professions were also well represented, including two dentists, six ministers, a half
dozen physicians, fourteen lawyers, several music teachers and a brass band. The
religious denominations were represented by the Baptist, Catholic, Christian, Episcopal,
Methodist, Southern Methodist, and a Liberal League. The benevolent orders were
Druids, Knights of Honor, G. A. R. Post, Good Templars, Masons, Odd Fellows
and a Temperance Society. In 1890 the city had less business houses, less population
and, strange to say, twelve instead of fifteen saloons. What was the cause of this
decrease in business and loss of population in both city and county? The Herald in
explanation of the cause said : "Years of litigation over the irrigation laws had drained
her (the county's) resources and those who remained there did so largely because they
could not sell out to get away. She had a prosperous crowd before that of 3,000
population (the city) when she was the center of business for the West Side and in
the other direction as far as the southern mines." But there was a brighter life for
both city and county. It came after the opponents of irrigation had been forever
quieted and through irrigation the earth began to blossom and put forth an abundant
harvest and prosperity reigned.


The Nonpartisan Mass Meeting
In a previous chapter we recorded the first city election, August 1, 1884, and the
turbulent mass meeting preceding it — a mass meeting in which there was an attempt
to nominate a nonpartisan ticket. The meeting broke up in a row. As the time
drew near for the second city election, another nonpartisan meeting was held March
18, 1886, in Rodgers Hall. The News declared it "one of the liveliest meetings ever
held in Modesto. The hall was packed long before John A. Worthington (the attor-
ney) stepped upon the platform and called the meeting to order. P. J. Hazen, another
lawyer, and George Perley, both Democrats, were nominated for temporary chairmen.
Hazen was elected amidst the greatest excitement and confusion." L. J. Maddux
was elected temporary secretary and these officers later were elected the permanent
officers of the meeting. Perley's motion was adopted and a permanent committee on
organization was appointed. The chairman appointed the following committee : George
Perley, L. W. Fulkerth, Willis Bledsoe, P. H. Medley, and John Cardoza. In time
nominations for office were called. For city marshal, A. K. Pritchett, the marshal
in office, received 132 votes and A. M. Hill, 214 votes. For city clerk L. B. Farrish
received the nomination, 122 votes, eight more than his opponent, E. T. Stone. Thomas
Wallace, William Tregea, John Robinson, Henry G. James and John Sorensen were
nominated trustees without any opposition.

The City Election of 1886

As the time drew near for the second city election the board of trustees through
their chairman, Theodore Turner, and George Perley, clerk, gave notice that an elec-
tion for city officers would be held April 12, 1886. They designated the county
superintendent's office in the court house as the polling place. They appointed George
W. Toombs, inspector, Isaac Perkins and Rasmus Sorensen, judges, and W. H. Tuggle
and Edward Howard, clerks.

In this the second city election, 603 votes were cast. Farish for clerk, Hill for
marshal and Marriott for treasurer were elected without any opposition, Marriott
polling the highest vote of the three nominees, 589. For trustees there were two tickets
in the field, a Citizens, or so-called nonpartisan, all Democrats, and an Independent
ticket, all Republicans. The straight Democratic ticket was elected as follows : Thomas
Wallace, 360; H. G. James, 323; William Tregea, 320; John Robinson, 322; and
John Sorensen, 333. The Independents were not in sight, running far behind, as
follows: Theodore Turner, president of the first board of trustees, 260; C. L.
Payne, 267; John F. Tucker, 274; George Reitch, 235; and C. D. Post, later the
postmaster, 260 votes.

Ten years previous to this election the Republicans of the county, few in number,
made strenuous efforts to carry the county in the presidential election of that year for
their standard bearer, Rutherford B. Hayes. In those days torchlight processions,
political uniformed clubs, bonfires and political "whoop-ups" were supposed to win
votes and thousands of dollars were expended by each party in their political cam-
paigns. The Republicans of Stockton, anxious to assist the Modesto Republicans in
their fight, planned an excursion to Modesto on the evening of October 24, 1876. The
Stockton Buckeye Club, the Stockton Glee Club, a brass band and about 375 friends,
including many ladies, were on the train. To make things lively, the Buckeyes took
with them their cannon, "Buckeye Boy." On arrival at Modesto, a procession was
formed and the Buckeyes led the procession, preceded by the band and followed by
large numbers of decorated wagons drawn by six and eight horses, the wagons being
loaded with ladies from Grayson, Turlock, Hill's Ferry and Oakdale. The Modesto
Hayes Invincibles and the Hayes and Wheeler clubs from the various towns brought
up the rear of the line. Each club carried bright-burning torches and dozens of trans-
parencies. There were fully 300 torches in line and the procession, a mile and a half
in length, was ten minutes passing a given point. After parading the principal streets,
the procession countermarched on Front Street and, said an observer, looking from
the Ross House, "They presented a dazzling appearance." In the procession the
Republican club carried a beautiful flag. It was the gift of the Republican ladies of


Modesto and was presented to the club October 11 by Miss Maddux in a neat speech.
The procession halted and disbanded at the pavilion. The crowd, over 2,000 in
number, now gathered around the speakers' stand, which was prettily trimmed with
flags. After a political song by the Stockton Glee Club and a second song by the
Grayson mixed quartette. Judge George Schell introduced L. M. Booth as chairman
of the evening. The principal speaker of the evening was Marcus D. Boruck, secre-
tary of the state Republican committee. He was followed by Timothy G. Phelps,
an extensive wheat grower and former candidate for governor. While he was speaking
it was announced from the stand that as the hour was late the Stockton guests would
retire to Eastin Hall, where a fine banquet awaited them. The hall was tastily deco-
rated and six long tables "fairly groaned with all of the delicacies of the season." The
supper was provided by the "loyal, patriotic and hospitable Republican ladies," among
them Mrs. D. S. Husband and Mrs. John S. Ross. The Stocktonians invited the
Modesto Republicans to visit the city on the evening of the big torchlight procession
on November 4, and the Modesto Republican Club returned the visit. They were
accompanied by many ladies, who were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. James Cole, who
will be remembered as proprietors in 1872 of the Ross House.

Waterworks and Sewers

A city government is ofttimes criticized for not carrying out certain improve-
ments necessary to the health and welfare of the community when as a matter of fact
they cannot accomplish results for lack of money. Although the boards of trustees
of Modesto were very slow in making many improvements in the town during their
Democratic rule of over twenty years, they should be commended for the improve-
ments they made, and one of these improvements was the laying of sewers. The town
was riddled with ill-smelling vaults which in the summer season smelled to high
heaven. The work of sewering the most thickly inhabited part of the city began in
December, 1885. It was not completed, however, until June, 1893, at a cost of
$25,000. The sewer pipe was run to the Tuolumne River and in purchasing rights
of way, Mrs. Mary Brinkerhoff wanted an excess price for her land, $1,500. The
city trustees refused to pay the amount and in their condemnation suit, Judge Minor
October 10, 1899, awarded her eighty-five dollars. Long before this suit the outfall
sewer was in a bad condition and in the tax estimate $600 had been allowed for its
repair. Bids were called for and received in September, 1 899, and the lowest bidder
was a Stockton firm, Clark & Henery. Their bid was seventy-five dollars and they
were given the contract for repairing, extending and protecting the outfall sewer.
They also constructed the protection and placed piling in the river to carry the pipe
into the stream.

Another improvement, small in itself, but of great importance to the relatives of
the dead, was the laying of a sidewalk from the business street to the cemetery. The
lane in winter was almost impassable because of soft sand and pools of water, and Trus-
tee Thomas Wallace suggested that the city lay the sidewalk.

The City Cemetery was laid out as early as 1872, on the east side of the town,
a mile distant. On the east side lie the dead of the Odd Fellows and the Masons
and on the west side the dead of the Catholic Church. The Grand Army plot in the
City grounds is noticeable because of two cannon constructed of wood at the east and
west ends of the plot.

At the time of the completion of the sewers, the trustees purchased the water-
works, paying for them $60,000. The best description that I have seen of the water-
works' of that time was that given by Rev. J. C. Simmons, in a letter to the Chico
Times. He said: "S. P. Rodgers is the principal stockholder and he kindly showed
me through the works. There are four wooden tanks on a solid brick building,
standing twenty feet higher than the tallest house in Modesto. They have a tank
capacity of 165,000 gallons. Beneath the tanks there is a room 14x22 with concrete
walls, sunk thirty-five feet in the earth. Three nine-inch wells, each 165 feet deep,
supply the water to the pumps."


That these city improvements did not go unnoticed by the outside world, is evi-
dent from an article in the Visalia Times in 1900. It declared: "The city of Mo-
desto is in some respects far in advance of any other municipality in the valley.
The city has a first-class sewer system, owns its waterworks and lighting plant and has
excellent school facilities. Its streets are well graded and its parks are well kept."

The Courthouse Cornerstone

The Times said nothing about the County Court House which was then over-
crowded and out of date. It was built, it is remembered, in 1872, and October 7
of that year the cornerstone was laid with very imposing ceremony by the Stanislaus
Masons, Stanislaus Lodge No. 206 taking charge of the ceremony. Early in the
afternoon the Masons of the county assembled at their lodge room in the James
Building, corner of H and Eleventh streets, and after holding a preliminary meeting
they marched to the court house site, the northeast corner of the building. A large
crowd of people had gathered at that point. The president of the day, Thomas T.
Hamlin, called the assemblage to order and introduced Judge Adolphus C. L. Hewel
as orator of the day. He reviewed, in an eloquent manner, the history of Stanislaus
County, from its earliest days, said the correspondent, and well he might for he had
been in the county since 1855, an attorney since 1864, deputy county clerk in 1865
and county clerk in 1867-68. Concluding his address, the cornerstone was put into
place under the direction of the grand master, N. Green Curtis, of Sacramento, who
pronounced the cornerstone "well and truly laid." The ceremony of the day ended
by a grand ball given by the Masons.

In the cavity of that stone today there are resting the names of the President,
Vice-President of the United States and the President's cabinet at that date. It con-
tains also the names of the state, county and city officials of 1872, the county voting
register, a copy of the Stanislaus News, the names of the officers of Stanislaus Lodge
of Masons and Wildey Lodge of Odd Fellows, and Uncle Sam's currency, a gold and
silver dollar, a greenback and a bank note.

The Court House Annex
By much planning and crowding the court house answered the purpose for which
it was built until the year 1900. At that time plans were drawn and bids let for an
annex on the west side. The Hall of Records, as it was called, 42x43 feet, corre-
sponding in height and architecture to the old building, was ready for occupancy in
June, 1901. It was absolutely fireproof and the records are now safe from fire.
The first or basement floor was occupied by the county assessor, J. L. Campbell, the
second floor by the county auditor and recorder, and the third floor by the county
clerk, A. S. Dingley. It was at this time the county grounds were first lighted. The
supervisors accepted the Electric Light Company's proposition. The company erected
in the square a tall mast and upon it a 2,000 candlepower arc light, costing the
supervisors twenty-five dollars per month.

The Destructive Fire of 1901
Shortly after the completion of the Hall of Records, a fire broke out among the
shacks on the west side of the square, that completely wiped out the last of the old-
time business houses. The fire broke out Sunday morning about three o'clock, Novem-
ber 29, 1901, in the rear of the wooden buildings near the corner of I and Eleventh
streets. The buildings were very dry and the flames gained headway so rapidly that
although the fire department had two heavy streams of water on the fire, the buildings
and much of the stock within them was destroyed. The heat was so intense the
paint on the Gates building on the north side of the street was badly blistered, two
plate glass windows in the Tucker & Perley real estate office on Eleventh Street were
shattered, and the north wall of the News office was badly scorched and several win-
dows broken. The buildings belonged to Mrs. Martha E. Tucker, D. and G. D.
Plato and the business firms who lost their stock comprised Mrs. R. M. Dunning,
millinery; Harrison & Rutherford, grocers; Mrs. E. Speik, cigars and notions; Rob-
erts Harness and Shoe Repairing shop and George H. Freitas, barber shop . Mr.


Freitas, now and for several years past, city engineer, had time to take from his shop
only a lodge record book and some survey plat books. The heaviest loser by the fire
was George R. Graves, undertaking parlor. He lost not only his stock but several
valuable paintings, valued at $5000. In the rear of the parlors was a billiard table,
Indian clubs and other paraphernalia belonging to the Young Men's Social Club.
These also were destroved. The total loss was about $16,000, with an insurance of
about $8,000.

The Political Boss, Barney Garner

In an interview with Charles Light some months ago, he indicated some of the
causes of the political power of "the Boss." Along about 1870 Modesto was noted
for her saloons. The whole railroad front was occupied by low-down grog shops. Up
to fifteen years ago Stanislaus County was Democratic and always rolled up over-
whelming majorities in every election. The liquor traffic and the Democratic party
seemed to go hand in hand. When the better element from the East settled in Mo-
desto, and throughout Stanislaus County, they brought with them religious and
other uplift influences. During the past fifteen years the Democratic majorities have
been wiped out and the county has gone into the Republican column and at the same
time the liquor traffic has been put out of business, as Stanislaus joined the dry column
several years ago. Two political leaders in Modesto that I remember were Barney
Garner, the saloonkeeper, and Sam Dorn, the gambler. Barney was a small-sized man,
but recognized as a gunman and he had several dead men to his credit. A well-known
Modesto writer said regarding Garner's political pull: "He was the leader of the
saloon forces in the convention and was known in his day as the boss of the Front. He
always went into the Democratic convention with a good-sized vote and on several
occasions held the balance of power and practically nominated and elected the candi-
dates. In the political life of the city and county Garner was the dominant character
until his tragic death in 1890."

Several different times Barney sought the office of sheriff. In one convention,
that of 1886, possibly, he was quite a formidable opponent. There were four possible
nominees: Stephen Bishop, who had been supervisor several terms, Barney Garner,
Robert P. Purvis and A. S. Fulkerth, who had previously held the office. Bishop led
on the first ballot with Garner a close second and Purvis a good third. Garner steadily
lost ground. The contest was long and exciting with Purvis in the first place and
Bishop second, Garner's vote having dropped to seventeen. On the twenty-ninth
ballot Purvis received forty-six votes, Bishop thirty-five and Garner his "stand pat"
seventeen. Garner then withdrew and threw his votes to Purvis, who received the
nomination and was elected sheriff of the county.

He Slaps an Attorney's Face
Garner had such a strong political pull in making officials or in breaking those
who failed to do his bidding, and his record as a gun fighter was so well known that
the marshal feared to arrest him for any of his quarrelsome or vicious acts. A case
in point is recorded May 18, 1886. On that morning W. E. Turner in passing the
Marble Palace, saw Barney upon the sidewalk. He had taken several drinks, was
very angry and he was swearing like a trooper. The marshal of the town, A. M.
Hill, was quietly standing by. Turner, turning to Hill, said: "You should not allow
such language on the public walks." Garner overheard the remark and not being
very friendly with Turner, although both were Democrats and of the same stripe, he
stepped up and slapped the attorney's face. The marshal then going up to Barney
sympathetically remarked, "Barney, I won't allow such proceedings if I can help it."
The marshal made no arrest nor did he swear out a complaint. His excuse was:
"Turner knows the law and can make out a complaint if he so desires."

A Fearless Marshal
There was great need of a fearless marshal in the town — a marshal that would
do his duty without fear or favor from a political boss or hi; henchmen. Such a man
was fortunately elected at the city election of April 14, 1890, and Barney's political


career and bulldozing methods were soon ended. At that election John P. Allen and
John P. Reed)' were elected trustees, E. P. Grant, treasurer ; George H. Golden,
clerk, and Robert D. Young, marshal. The latter was born in Farmington, San
Joaquin County, graduated in 1876 from the Oakdale high school and ten years later
was engaged in the draying business in Modesto. He was elected marshal on the
Democratic ticket and the criminal element soon learned that the newly elected marshal
intended to arrest all violators of law, and the result was a strong enmity between
the officer and Barney, the boss.

When the city election was again at hand in April, 1892, Barney Garner was
dead, for the "wages of sin is death." Young, however, was again elected marshal.
His opponent on the Independent ticket was A. K. Pritchett, the first city marshal.
So popular, however, was Young, that in a vote of only 600 he received 200 majo'rity.
Again and again he was continuously elected marshal until 1903. By raising the
standard of law and order did he not in some measure add weight to the great
reformation of 1911? And had he been marshal in 1884 would the organization of
the "Regulators" been necessary to clean up the town of criminals and harlots?

A Commission Form of Government

After twenty-six years of party city government, during which time the saloons
and gamblers dominated every election, the citizens resolved to try what was known
as the commission form of government. It was a system in exact antithesis to the
system which had been in use for a hundred years. Under the new or commission
form of government each commissioner was held individually responsible for the work
and expenditures in his department and the mayor had a general supervision and was
held responsible for all of the departments. In other words, the mayor held the
same position as the manager of a business. On the other hand, under the old system,
it was a collective responsibility and no one person was accountable for any short-
comings. Under the party system the only qualifications of a trustee were to belong
to the strongest party, be a good wire puller, a good citizen, and a "jolly good fellow"
and his nomination and election was assured. Under the commission form of govern-
ment, partisanship cut no figure whatever and the only qualifications necessary were
ability and a conscientious desire to faithfully serve the interests of the people.

Framing a Charter

A mass meeting of citizens was called to select the names of a body of fourteen
freeholders, who were to frame a charter under the commission form of government.
A committee was appointed. They reported the following names, which were endorsed
by the meeting, namely: L. L. Dennett, J. R. Broughton, George Perley, J. W. Bell,
Sol P. Elias, Thomas Downey, Z. E. Drake, L. E. De Yoe, C. W. Evans, John
Dunn, Sr., E. I. Fisher, Nate C. Hanscom, Al Schmidt, C. A. Williamson and B. J.
Smith. The freeholders named were elected by the voters April 11, 1910. They imme-
diately began their work, which must be completed and submitted to the electors
within ninety days. Sol Elias was elected president of the board, and L. E. De Yoe,
secretary. To prepare the charter and submit it to the freeholders, a sub-committee
comprising Sol P. Elias, L. E. De Yoe and L. P. Fisher was appointed. It was fitting
and proper that Sol Elias should be elected president of the board, for he was in fact
the "Father of the Charter." Reared in Modesto from early childhood, graduated
from the Modesto high school and later from Stanford University, he seems
to have had a natural aptitude for charter making. He began the study of different
forms of charters, those especially of the commission form of government, delivered
several lectures upon the subject in Modesto, Stockton, and this year (1921) in Mer-
ced, and published in the Modesto papers several arguments upon the commission
form of government.

The charter, which was ratified by the voters September 10, 1910, provided for
the election of a mayor and four trustees. They were in office four years, but two
trustees retired every two years and new trustees were elected. At the first election
the trustees drew lots for the two and the four-year term. A board of education, five


in number, was also elected by the citizen voters. They received no compensation and
two or three, as the case might be, retired every two years. The mayor and trustees
may or may not receive a salary; it was up to the voters. Each trustee was given a
department, over which department he had full control and was held responsible.
The departments were known as finance and revenue, public health and safety, public

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 15 of 177)