History Of Merced County California
TOWNS AND SUBDIVISIONS
The building of towns from a very early, and the establishment of
subdivisions from a somewhat later period, have served to mark the course of
the county's growth; and what is given here is intended as a use of towns and
subdivisions as such landmarks rather than for the sake of the individual
histories of the smaller units themselves.
The first group of towns may be said to have consisted of Snelling, Merced
Falls, and Hopeton, the latter called Forlorn Hope in its earlier days, three
little villages along the Merced River bottom.
By reason of the fact that Snelling was the county seat and had the
newspaper, a good deal more has been preserved about it than about the other
two. We know that John M. Montgomery, Col. Samuel Scott, and Dr. David Wallace
Lewis established it in the spring or early summer of 1851, and that the start
was a house of entertainment, at first a brush tent, but soon replaced by a
more permanent structure. The Snelling family came in the fall of 1851 and
bought the place and ran the hotel. The place continued to be called
Snelling's Ranch for some years; it was "Snelling's Ranch" which won out in
the election to choose a county seat in the fall of 1855, and the name
Snelling's, with the apostrophe and "s," is still used by oldtimers. It was
Charles V. Snelling who deeded to the county the site for the first court
house and jail. As we should expect, Snelling led all other towns of the
county in the matter of having a map filed. A blueprint copy in the recorder's
office shows that the original map was filed in the office of the county clerk
on November 24, 1856, and that there was a recording in the recorder's office
at the request of Peter Sharer on September 23, 1869, in Book C of Deeds at
There is a map of the "Town of Hopeton," recorded at the request of E.
Eagleson on April 2, 1870. This of course was long after the founding of the
town under the name of Forlorn Hope. The early name suggests that it was
bestowed by a miner who probably realized that he was too far from the hills;
the streets shown on the map suggest somewhat one of the New England
Congregation-founded villages. Broad Street paralleled the river, and crossing
it were Campbell, Wesley, Salem, Center, and East. The early presence of Elder
D. McSwain, of the Christian denomination, and the fact that in the early
papers we read of the reproach of Snelling in that Forlorn Hope had two
churches while she had none, indicate that this was the nearest to a
Congregation-founded town of any that Merced County had, unless it be Hilmar,
sixty years later.
Merced Falls, like Forlorn Hope, could not cope with the county seat in the
way of publicity. The county seat, with its newspapers and their civic pride,
early laid claim to be the earliest settlement in the county and has pretty
consistently stuck to its claim ever since—referring to the arrival of
Montgomery and Scott in the fall of 1849 and not to the building of the brush
tent in the spring of 1851. There is a strong probability, however, that there
was something in way of settlement near Merced Falls earlier. We read of Judge
Robertson arriving in January, 1850, at "the old California ferry," about
where Young's Ferry afterwards was, and remaining there several months. The
mines were well on their way by the fall of 1849, and it is very likely that
there was some sort of settlement where the travel to them crossed the Merced;
perhaps not yet a ferry, but even a ford would probably mean stopping-place
enough so that some one would have settled there. There seems never to have
been a map of Merced Falls recorded.
Following these three, and preceding the Central Pacific Railroad, came
Dover and Plainsburg. There is a map of Dover recorded at the request of A. C.
Hill, March 9, 1869. It is shown located on the northeast quarter of Section
26, Township 7 South, Range 10 East. It was on the east bank of the San
Joaquin, a half mile or a little more below where John Dugain's house is
today. There were Front, First, Second, and Third Streets, paralleling the
river, and Olive, Vine, Hill, Pine, and Pike crossing them. The names of a few
owners are given: Simpson & Scott, Simpson, Soper, and Wilker-son. There were
sixteen blocks and an odd piece next to the river, probably where the
boat-landing was; it was Simpson & Scott's. H. B. Jolley made the survey. The
whole map was started off from a stone 150 feet from the river; and the title
men will tell you that the location of this stone, and therefore the exact
location of the whole town, is now uncertain. Joseph Heacox remembers that the
hotel and stable there were moved up the river to Dickenson's Ferry, or
Chester, as the post office was named, after Dovers short-lived glory had
departed. It is doubtful if a careful search at the site of Dover now would
reveal any trace beyond a few remaining marks of excavation.
Chester, we may remark here, owed its existence not to traffic which sought
to follow the river, but to such as wanted to cross it. It was a point on the
old road between the East and West Sides. Its name was obtained from a part of
George Winchester Dickenson's middle name, and in its prime it boasted a hotel
and stable, a post office, and the ferry.
We have read of the beginnings of Plainsburg in the late sixties, when the
influx of grain-growers had begun. The place was formerly designated as
Welch's Store; it was so designated on the new mail route established in 1868
from Stockton by way of the towns on the lower Tuolumne, where the
grain-growing began a year or so earlier than in Merced County, and so on
through "Hopetown" and Snelling, and by P. Y. Welch's store on Mariposa Creek
and Appling's store on the Chowchilla, to Millerton. In the next year, 1869,
Farley's hotel was established and the name Plainsburg was applied to the
place, and there were
soon two stores, two blacksmith shops, and other business establishments. To
employ an Irish bull the only map of Plainsburg there is of record is a map of
Athlone. It was surveyed by James T. Stratton on April 16, 1873, and recorded
on December 2, 1874, and apparently marks one of the steps in the unsuccessful
attempt to move Plainsburg over to the Central Pacific shortly after the
railroad was built. Jefferson Price recalls that his father bought a warehouse
from one of the merchants in Plainsburg along about this time, and how the
merchant wished he had it back when the expected move did not take place. And
we find an item in the Argus also which prophesies that in six months
Plainsburg will be all moved over to the railroad. Like some of the other
prophecies of the Argus about other towns, this one proved
inaccurate—signifying, not necessarily that Steele was such a bad prophet, but
that he was prophesying in a pretty uncertain field.
The "Town of Plainsburg" shown on this map contains twelve blocks 300 by
400 feet, each containing 16 lots 50 by 150 feet like those in Merced, but
with no alleys; and with 80-foot streets, also like Merced. There are four
blocks west of the railroads and eight east of it; and on each side of the
railroad there is a 220-foot reservation besides the 80-foot street.
The town of Merced was first formally opened with the sale of lots on
February 8, 1872. The name "Merced" was first applied to the town in its
present location on the railroad. There was, however, a small predecessor a
mile or two down Bear Creek before the railroad came. Goldman's store was§
located there before it was moved to Merced. There was a blacksmith shop, and
also a saloon. Steele records first learning about the embryo town in 1871, on
a trip when he got several new subscribers there. It seems at that time to
have had no more definite name than "Bear Creek," which designation was
applied to the whole region up and down for several miles. It was absorbed by
the new town on the railroad when that was established.
Merced was a railroad town, but the land on which it was built was not
originally railroad land. The original patentees of the four sections of land
which the town occupies the greater part of were John M. Montgomery, Warner
Oliver, Joseph F. Goodale, William P. Fowler, and Job Wheat. Montgomery was
six years earlier than the next comer; he patented 240 acres lying along Bear
To outline the situation briefly, Merced occupies the greater part of four
sections lying in a square two miles on a side. These are sections 24 and 25
in Township 7 South, Range 13 East; and directly east of them, Sections 19 and
30 in Township 7 South, Range 14 East. The town is laid out with its streets
respectively parallel and at right angles to the Central Pacific tracks, and
at such an angle to the section lines that the railroad and the streets
parallel to it run 24° 40' south of east as one goes towards Fresno, or
slightly more than a quarter of a right angle. The section corner common to
the four sections is located not far from the southwesterly corner of Lot 11
in Block 165; that is, about 100 feet east of O Street on the north side of
Seventeenth. The north and south section line through the middle of our
two-mile square passes from the road corner at the Catholic cemetery northward
through this point, and about three-quarters of a mile further north crosses
Bear Creek at approximately the Y. V. crossing on R Street. The east and west
line from the central point going east cuts G Street about 100 feet south of
Twenty-first Street, and going west strikes into the British Colony Road at
the western edge of town.
Warner Oliver was the patentee of the two southerly sections, 25 and 30, of
the south one-half of the northeast section, 19, and of the south one-fourth
of the northwest section, 24. His patents were all dated 1868.
William P. Fowler patented the northeast quarter of Section 19 in 1868. The
southwest corner of this quarter-section is roughly near James Ryan's
residence at Twenty-sixth and L Streets and the quarter includes the part of
the town east and north of that point, but lies for the greater part on the
north side of Bear Creek.
The south half of the southwest quarter of this same Section 19, reaching a
half-mile in length and a quarter in width, practically all on the south side
of Bear Creek, approximately from the Huffman mansion to the Y. V. crossing,
"was patented by Job Wheat in 1872.
On west in Section 24, Joseph F. Goodale, Wheat's brother-in-law, had the
eighty directly west of Wheat's, also the next eighty south, and also the west
forty of the next eighty north. This last forty is for the most part north of
Bear Creek. All of this, except his southeasterly forty acres, Goodale
patented in 1872; the southeasterly forty he patented in 1868.
Montgomery had the forty upstream and the one downstream from Goodale's
northerly forty, and also had the hundred and sixty square directly west of
Goodale's hundred and sixty square. Montgomery certainly, and Goodale
presumably, had taken the land chiefly for the water-holes. Montgomery's land
lay on both sides of Bear Creek from the Central Pacific, approximately up the
Santa Fe; and from the Santa Fe crossing, up to the Y. V., Goodale had the
first quarter of a mile and Montgomery the second.
In 1868 Goodale deeded his southeast forty to Wheat; in May, 1871, Wheat
deeded it back and also deeded Goodale his original eighty. In the same month,
on the 26th, Warner Oliver and Deborah, his wife, deeded all their land to the
Contract and Finance Company at a consideration of $22,960. On June 6, 1871,
W. P. Fowler and Fannie A., his wife, deeded the portion of the northeast
quarter of 19 south of Bear Creek, about twenty acres, to Charles Henry
Huffman; and on the same day Huffman took a deed from Goodale and Martha, his
wife, to all their lands mentioned that lie south of Bear Creek, and also a
forty north of the creek. Huffman bought this Goodale land for $8350. On
August 1, 1871, he conveyed all of it except the forty north of the creek to
the Contract and Finance Company for $7150. On January 17, 1872, J. M.
Montgomery conveyed to the Contract and Finance Company his land in Section 24
lying south of Bear Creek. One dollar is the consideration mentioned. On
August 4, 1873, Huffman conveyed to the Contract and Finance Company the
twenty acres he had bought from Fowler. On October 26, 1875, the Contract and
Finance Company conveyed to Charles Crocker all of the four sections "south of
Bear Creek, 1525 acres, including the town site of the town of Merced, except
the lots therein heretofore sold and conveyed by the party of the first part."
The Contract and Finance Company was disincorporated the following day, and on
April 27, 1876, E. W. Hopkins, E. T. Miller, and Jas. O. B. Gunn, as trustees,
and in accordance with the order of dissolution, executed a deed to Charles
Crocker to convey the same lands as the
last one, to correct errors in the latter.
The first map of Merced was the "official map of Town of Merced, Merced
County, Cal., on line of San Joaquin Division, Central Pacific Railroad"
recorded at the request of H. B. Underhill on February 10, 1872, in Book F of
Deeds at page 400. It embraced only the part of the town from Twelfth to
Twenty-third Streets and from H to R.
The next map was that one recorded in Volume X of Deeds at page 540 "at the
request of Charles Crocker per C. H. Huffman," May 7, 1885. It was filed in
the clerk's office the preceding December as shown by the endorsement: "Filed
Dec. 22, 1884. J. H. Simonson, Clerk per A. Zirker, Dep. Clerk." It embraced
the territory from Eleventh to Twenty-eighth Streets, and from G to inclusive.
The next, embracing the same territory and entitled "Supplemental Map to
Town of Merced," was recorded March 4, 1889, at the request of Wells Fargo &
Company. This was just about the time of the calling of the election on the
incorporation of Merced as a city of the sixth class.
A "Map of the City of Merced and Subdivisions of Adjoining Acreage
Property, " resurveyed in June, 1897, by L. D. Norton, and certified by the
Pacific Improvement Company, H. E. Huntington, president, F. S. Douty,
secretary, on December 10, 1897, was recorded on May 15, 1901. It includes all
of the four sections south of Bear Creek except the triangle east of G Street
and north of
the Central Pacific.
The last map of Merced was the one recorded on August 23, 1912, in
connection with a proceeding to perpetuate the testimony of M. D. Wood and
others. It is accompanied by an affidavit by Mr. Wood to the effect that when
he was county assessor, during the years 1886 to 1890, there was in the
assessor's office a map known as the "Official Map of the City of Merced," and
that this map is a true copy.
It was on March 6, 1889, that the board of supervisors, in response to a
petition filed for the purpose, called the election to incorporate Merced as a
city of the sixth class. The election was held on March 30, and the votes were
canvassed on April 1. There were 300 votes for and 59 against. The first board
of trustees, elected at the same election, consisted of M. D. Wood, E. T.
Dixon, W. L. Silman, J. R. Jones, and W. H. Turner. H. L. Rapelje was elected
city marshal; M. S. Huffman, city treasurer; and J. O. Blackburn, city clerk.
Livingston was evidently named for the African explorer. We find it spelled
with the final "e" in the early mention, when it was a candidate for the
county seat in the latter part of 1872. Its first name, however, was Cressey,
bestowed for the large landowner and grain farmer of that well-known name,
whose ranch was extensive enough so that his name was afterwards applied to
the present Cressey on the Santa Fe. E. J. Olds built a hotel in the first
Cressey in its earliest days. A man named W. J. Little was postmaster and
owned some land there; and as he was not in favor of the name of another
landowner for the town, he succeeded in having it changed to a name of his
choosing, "Livingstone," from which the final "e" was soon dropped.
The map of the town of Livingston was recorded in Book Y of Deeds at page
121, on December 4, 1872; the date indicates that the surveying was in all
probability a part of the campaign to make the town the county seat.
With this we come to the last of the towns which may be fairly classed as
early towns. One exception, however, should be noted, a place that has been
mentioned in another chapter, and that never attained to the dignity of much
more than a postoffice. This was the Union Postoffice, out on Mariposa Creek
near the Mariposa county line, kept by P. B. Bennett in the early days of the
travel on the Stockton and Fort Miller Road.
The oldest of what should perhaps be called the new towns is Atwater. The
earliest map of Atwater was recorded on March 15, 1888, with the approval of
Ella Stone Bloss, George S. Bloss, and the Merced Land & Fruit Company, by H.
N. Rucker, president, endorsed upon it. It was filed at the request of J. F.
McSwain & Company. The date of this map is significant; it was the year of the
completion of the Lake Yosemite reservoir, the last step in the building of
the Crocker-Huffman Land & Water Company's irrigation system, the fruition of
the dreams of William G. Collier and his associates of the Robla Canal
Company, and their successors of the Farmers' Canal Company, whose earlier
work had been brought to completion by the ability and energy of C. H.
Huffman, backed by the capital of Charles Crocker.
To return to Atwater, the town was laid out about 1888 by the Merced Land &
Fruit Company. They held an auction in Merced and sold lots in the new town.
The original town lay all south of the Central Pacific tracks, in the portion
of the present town where the packing plants and canneries now are. Mr. George
S. Bloss, Sr., arrived in 1884. At that time there were only three buildings
the town now stands. The chief of these was a grain warehouse; the others were
a little station and a dwelling-house. There was a family living in the
warehouse; Mr. Bloss moved into the dwelling-house. With the station or depot
was combined a general store and a post office. This is said to have been the
first building built in the town. It was owned and operated by John Giddings.
The site of Atwater was originally a part of the huge 117,000-acre ranch of
J. W. Mitchell, which included all of the later Dallas, Bloss, and Crane
Ranches. Grain-farming was of course the main business of the whole region.
Wheat was raised on the heavier lands, rye on the lighter and sandier soil.
Barley was also raised. M. D. Atwater, for whom the town is named, farmed here
for a good many years, on part of J. W. Mitchell's land, and later on 6000
acres belonging to Stewart, Newell, and a third man. While farming the
Mitchell land, he lived about a mile west of where the town is. The 6000 acres
which he farmed later was located north of town, extending down from about the
present site of Winton to the highway and Central Pacific about where the
Fruitland road turns off. Mr. Atwater afterwards retired to the ranch east of
town now owned by his widow, Mrs. Laura Atwater, and his son-in-law, F. W.
Henderson. Two young men named Mix and Bruen, the former a nephew of Mr.
Atwater, farmed the 6000 acres for several years during the eighties.
Even as early as 1884 there had been small beginnings made in
fruit-raising. There was a considerable orchard on the Buhach Ranch, besides
large plantings of the plant from which the insect powder buhach was made.
Supervisor Frank Pebley's father had an orchard north of the Central Pacific
about opposite Buhach Station. Two retired school teachers had about 80 acres
each between there and Atwater, north of the State Highway about where the
Shaffer Road leaves the highway. One of these was G. D. Smith; the other was
the father of C. C. Boynton. In 1888, the year when the Merced Land & Fruit
Company laid out the town site, they also planted the first vineyard, the one
now known as the Giannini vineyard. C. C. Mitchell, brother of J. W. Mitchell,
came in 1884. He bought 280 acres and built the house where Charles Osborn
later lived. About 1890 he planted a peach orchard. About 1891 J. W. Mitchell
planted what was later known as the Sierra Vista Vineyard—about 300 acres.
The Fin de Siecle Investment Company's Addition to the Town of Atwater,
five blocks long by half a block deep, on the north side of the railroad, was
made about 1899. Mr. Bloss bought 36 acres of acreage and twenty lots 25 by
115 feet each, from the Fin de Siecle Company, and from this he has made three
additions to the town as its growth warranted it. The first was made in 1904
or 1905, the last in 1921. The Sierra Vista Company have also made three
additions. J. B. Osborn bought out John Giddings, the keeper of the first
store. Later he purchased a lot on the main corner of the town from the Fin de
Siecle Investment Company, and about 1897 he built a store building on it. At
that time there were about 100 people in the town.
Subdivision and colonization began in the nineties. Buhach Colony, put on
the market by the Merced Land & Fruit Company, was among the first
subdivisions. Fruit-growing increased and the growing of sweet potatoes began.
It was at this time that the first Portuguese settlers came. Such
representative men as Tony and Frank Duitra and John Avila were among the
early settlers of Buhach Colony. The Elliott Ranch, just south of Buhach
Colony, was subdivided. Landram Colony was another of the early subdivisions.
The Atwater Colony, of three-quarters of a section, was laid out in 1899, and
the Fin de Siecle Company's Addition to Atwater Colony a year or so later.
These were laid out in twenty-acre tracts. Then came the Jordan-Atwater Tract,
five sections, in twenty-acre lots, sold by the Co-operative Land & Trust
Company; the Arizona Tract and the Martin Tract, 1120 acres, sold by J. M.
Martin of Turlock; Gertrude Colony, 640 acres, by Walter Casad of Merced;
Fruitland Colony, 1280 acres, by the Crocker-Huffman Land & Water Company; and
Casad Colony, 1280 acres, by Walter Casad.
Subdivision in the country lying below Lake Yosemite followed close upon
the boom of 1888 which the completion of the canal system brought. Several of
the subdividers along Bear Creek between the lake and Merced have been
mentioned in the chapter on Irrigation from the Merced. In the papers of 1889
and 1890 we find large advertisements of V. C. W. Hooper & Son, of lands in Yo
Semite Colony (so they spelled it, the latest instance we have noted of the
word divided into two). They offered ten- and twenty-acre farms with perpetual
water rights, at from $80 to $150 an acre, one-fourth at the end of live
years, one-fourth yearly thereafter. The lands of Mrs. A. A. Dunn and John
Archer were offered by the Hoopers along with their own. This was in the
latter part of 1889. We also see in October of that year an "ad." of Hooper &
Son offering orange trees for sale. We see the Merced Land & Fruit Company
mentioned again, and W. H. Turner as its secretary. In the April 5, 1890,
issue of the Express we find an "ad." of Rialto Colony, only one and
one-fourth miles from the court house, where H. H. McCloskey offers lands at
$150 per acre with water rights, one-fourth cash.
On June 14, 1890, we read in the Express: "Now that the Southern Pacific
Company have actually let the contract we may expect to see the Oakdale road
in process of construction during the coming week." The article goes on to say
that the work was to begin at this end, that it will be an "entering wedge for
the S. P. machine shops," and that the road will be done in time to move the
current season's crops.
Meanwhile, or rather a little earlier, the San Pablo and Tulare Extension
Railroad had been built across the country from north to south on the West
Side. The first town map recorded as a result was a map of Volta. It was
adopted and approved by the board of directors of the Volta Improvement
Company on March 21, 1890, and signed by Antony Pfitzer, vice-president, and
C. W. Smith, secretary, and was recorded on March 28, 1890. Volta was intended
to be the town on the West Side, by its founders. The old Dogtown was more or
less completely moved down to the railroad at this point—it was only a short
move. The Volta Boosters appear, however, to have reckoned without Miller &
Lux, which was quite frequently a mistake on the West Side. There was a map of
the Miller & Lux Subdivision of the Town of Los Banos filed on November 28,
1890; the map of the Town of Los Banos, surveyed by L. D. Norton, was not
filed until October 29, 1892. Old Los Banos, it will be remembered, had been
established in 1872 by the process of Henry Miller's leasing for five years
for one dollar a section of land to Gus Kreyen-hagen on the condition that the
latter would start a store. Kreyenhagen started it, but within a few years, as
we have seen, Miller & Lux came to be the owners. When the railroad had
proceeded south past Central Point and the partnership got good and ready,
they moved their store down to the tracks several miles south of the aspiring
Volta and established the largest West Side town there.
Returning to the East Side, we find that same issue of the Express of June
14, 1890, with an item about well-to-do Hollanders choosing Merced County to
settle in, and how this brings Merced County to the attention of Santa Clara
and Santa Mateo Counties. These were of course the Rotterdam settlers. The
"Map of the Town of Rotterdam, Merced County, Cal., situated in the S. W.
portion of the N. W. 1/4 of Sec. 28, Twp. 6 S., R. 14 E., M. D. B. & M.,
surveyed by Chas. D. Martin, scale 100 ft. equals 1 inch" was filed December
2, 1890. The location is on the elevated ground out near Lake Yosemite. In one
of Hooper's "ads," of his lands out there he speaks of its picturesque rolling
character as an advantage. Irrigation was still pretty young then.
Maps of Dos Palos Colony and of Ingomar appear in 1895. A map of the Town
of Dos Palos does not appear to have been filed until the one in 1907. These
dates do not represent the beginning of Dos Palos—either settlement. A
mid-winter historical edition of the Dos Palos Star published on January 4,
1924, says the colony was opened in 1892; that in 1893 Bernhard Marks
established a colony on the "dobie" land which lies just southeast of what is
now known as South Dos Palos; and that this land proved unsuitable for the
small farmer, and with the consent of Miller & Lux, Inc., the colonists were
moved to the present site of Dos Palos Colony. "This move proved to be the
salvation of the early settlers, and in the latter part of that year the
country began to have the appearance of being occupied by men rather than
horses and cattle.
This should not be understood as contradicting the statement that Dos Palos
was a colony founded by Miller & Lux. The use at this time of the name Miller
& Lux, Inc., appears not to be strictly correct, however, if we are to judge
from the "Map of that part of Dos Palos Colony that lies in Merced County." It
was surveyed by H. Wanzer and dedicated January 11, 1895, by Henry Miller,
surviving partner of Miller & Lux—clearly a partnership and not a corporation.
This map was not filed for record until July 15, 1896.
"In the month of February, 1893," says the article in the Star, "the first
fruit tree was planted by an early settler and the inhabitants began an active
campaign of cultivation and otherwise improving their land. J. O. Hoyle opened
up a store on the corner of Elgin and Cornelia Avenues. It was a success, and
he had the first post office in the colony. F. A. Bennett opened an exchange
in the summer of 1896, with a cash capital of $10, it is said; it afterwards
grew to be the Dos Palos Colony Rochdale Association. O. D. McPherson early
established a broom factory. L. B. Woodruff, now a job printer at Newman,
established the first paper in the colony, the Colonist. The News was the
second paper. The first number of the Dos Palos Star, the present paper, was
issued on July 9, 1897, by Mr. Bowen; he became postmaster in 1898. By January
1, 1899, there were six hundred people in the colony. The town which grew up
as the center of the colony was first known by the obvious name of Colony
Center, but this name gave way to the longer established one of Dos Palos,
from two tall poplar trees, long dead, which stood on the site of the village.
The "Town of Dos Palos" is what is commonly called South Town, to
distinguish it from Colony Center. It is the town on the San Pablo and Tulare
Extension Railroad. The map of it was filed on July 22, 1907. It was a Pacific
Improvement Company town, and the certificate attached to it is dated May 23,
1907, signed by the company by A. D. Shepard, secretary.
The certificate on the map of the Town of Ingomar of its subdivision into
lots for the purpose of sale was made on October 7, 1895, by the Pacific
Improvement Company, by F. S. Douty, secretary, and the map was recorded on
October 10, 1895.
Maps of only two more towns appear before the end of the century, both in
1896, in which year the San Joaquin Valley Railroad, or Spreckels Road, was
built through the county. It was soon taken over by the Santa Fe. One of the
two towns was Le Grand. The Map of the Town of Le Grand, Merced Co., Cal., on
line of San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley R. R., S. W. % of Sec. 17, T. 8
S., R. 16 E., M. D. M., Surveyed by W. P. Stoneroad, August, 1896," was filed
September 5, 1896. It had endorsed upon it certificate of approval by Luella
J. Dickenson, which states that she changed the names of seven of the streets
before approving it. The streets after the change were: Parallel with the
railroad, on the south side, Broadway, Washington, and McDowell, and on the
north, Canal and Cottonwood. At right angles to these and the railroad: Adams,
Jefferson, and Madison. Running due north and south on the west side of the
town, Dickenson Avenue; and running east and west along the south side, the
The map of the town of South Le Grand, surveyed by W. P. Stoneroad in
October, 1896, was filed November 12 of the same year, at the request of Nels
Ipson. The name is spelled "Ipson" where he signed it; elsewhere, "Ipsen."
There are three blocks in a strip one block wide south of the county road, and
between Block 1 on the east and Block 2, just west of it, it "Ipsen" Avenue.
"The Map of the Town of Geneva" (now Whitton), recorded November 25, 1896,
will probably puzzle comparatively late comers to the county as much as the
town of Dover. Both of these were early names of Planada. The owner who
dedicated the streets to the public was James Bean, and the certificate is
dated at San Jose on November 20, 1896. There is a later map of the Town of
Planada, surveyed by E. D. Severance, and recorded on January 30, 1911.
The town of Gustine is the first appearing in the new century. The map of
it, surveyed by F. P. McCray, was recorded on November 14, 1906. The
certificate attached shows that it was subdivided by Miller & Lux, Inc., by
Henry Miller, president, and David Brown, secretary, September 29, 1906. There
is an acceptance of the streets by the board of supervisors. Gustine was built
by Henry Miller as a rival town to Newman, across the Stanislaus border,
founded by the rival Simon Newman Company. It is said to have been named for
There is no map of record of the Town of Stevinson. The acreage subdivision
there begins, as indicated by the maps on file, in 1903. The acreage property
was land belonging to James J. Stevinson. The town of Stevinson was begun a
few years later than 1903 and was built on land of Miss Sara B. Collier.
Irwin City was founded in 1907. The "Map of Irwin City, being a replat of a
portion of Hilmar Colony, Merced County, Cal.," surveyed by George S. Manuel,
March 30, 1907, and dedicated by W. A. Irwin the same day, was recorded on May
8, 1907. The board of supervisors rejected the streets. The map shows the "I.
& S. W. R.R."
It will be most convenient to leave the strictly chronological order and
deal with Hilmar Colony and the town of Hilmar here with Irwin City. The town
of Hilmar was not established until 1917, when the Tidewater Southern Railroad
reached its site; Hilmar Colony, however, was established before Irwin City,
in 1900 or 1901. Gust Johnson, who is a pioneer settler of the colony, came
there in the spring of 1903, and that was the year in which most of the
settlers came. It was largely a Swedish colony. The land was originally owned
by J. W. Mitchell. He used to back men who wanted to farm portions of it to
grain, but the grain-farming was a good deal of a gamble, producing perhaps
two crops in five years in the blow sand there. Eventually Mitchell had to
take a good deal of the land back. As W. J. Stockton tells us of Henry Miller,
Mitchell backed his men as long as they wanted to keep at it, furnished them
seed and was always willing to give them another chance.
The Fin de Siecle Investment Company handled a good deal of the land. Mr.
Johnson states that the deed to his own land came from the Richard estate. N.
O. Hultberg and A. Hallner were the men who promoted the colony. Hulberg, who
had been a minister, became a real estate man. Andrew Hallner was an old
newspaper man and also a preacher. There was a man named Soderberg associated
with Hultberg, and Hallner became their manager and publicity man. Hultberg
had been a missionary in Alaska, and Soderberg had been in Alaska also. They
had made a little money there. They returned to Alaska in 1904 and placed
Hallner in full
charge, at Turlock, which was headquarters. It was the only town in the entire
settlement then. Hallner was largely instrumental in obtaining settlers. The
greater number of them came from Minnesota and Nebraska; and as has been said,
the heaviest settlements were made during 1903 and the following winter.
Mr. Johnson recalls the early days in the colony vividly with an account of
a fight which he and his family had to save from the grasshoppers twenty acres
of orchard which they had planted. The grasshoppers bred in the uncultivated
ground north of the canal of the Turlock Irrigation District, and when they
had attained an age to move they advanced on Mr. Johnson's little oasis in the
desert in mass formation. Mr. Johnson tells how he hauled dry manure from an
old grain ranch for smudges, and he, his wife, five children, and a hired man
worked for three weeks to get the grasshoppers through the orchard, and
finally saw them fly away. Pioneer days were not so many years ago in Hilmar
Colony, but the industry of the thrifty people of that section has conquered
grasshoppers and other pioneer difficulties and made Hilmar one of the most
flourishing sections of the county.
Irwin came up from Santa Monica and laid out Irwin City in 1907; the town
of Hilmar was established in 1917, when the Tidewater Southern arrived. Mr.
Beers of the railroad wanted the people of Irwin to move their town up to the
railroad; but they refused to do it, and the two towns stand close together on
the paved county highway which extends from the Milleken Bridge across the
Merced to the Stanislaus line and connects with a Stanislaus County paved
highway which continues it into Turlock.
The "Map of the Townsite of Hilmar, being Lots 82 and 83 of the Hilmar
Colony. . ." was surveyed by J. C. Lindsay of Stockton, and dedicated on May
7, 1917, by B. T. Cowgill; the streets were rejected the following day by the
board of supervisors, and it was recorded. The "Map of the Townsite of Hilmar,
No. 2, Blocks 1 & 4 of the Townsite of Hilmar, Merced County, California," was
surveyed by A. E. Cowell and W. E. Bedesen, certified by them and dedicated by
B. T. Cowgill on June 3, 1918, accepted by the supervisors on June 6, and
recorded on June 7, 1918.
Hilmar has a $40,000 Swedish Lutheran Mission Church, which was dedicated
in the fall of 1921, and subscriptions for which were taken in the summer of
1920. A man prominent in the colony and in the building of the church was John
Brynteson, who had known Hult-berg in Alaska, who had bought 800 acres of land
in the colony, and who comes there from time to time from his home in Sweden.
He contributed $4000 towards the church. Irwin also has a church, in addition
to the one at Hilmar. The community's size now may be judged from the fact
that there are 130 pupils in the Hilmar Union High School and 265 in the Elim
Union Grammar School, the latter having its schoolhouse between Hilmar and
Irwin. The Hilmar Union High School was started in 1911. It has issued bond
issues of $28,000 and $6000, and the high school building, completed in 1919,
represents an investment of $35,000.
The town of Cressey was founded by the Crocker-Huffman Land & Water
Company. The certificate accompanying the map is dated September 16, 1912. The
survey was made by Cowell and Bedesen. The map was recorded September 26,
Maps of Arena and Delhi were recorded in 1911. The survey of Arena was
certified March 9, 1910, by A. E. Cowell and G. E. Winton. The certificate of
subdivision was executed by the Hunter Colony Company, by George T. Hedges,
president, and A. F. Paddie, secretary, in Linn County, Iowa, March 31, 1910.
But the map was not recorded until December 30, 1911. The "Map of the Town of
Delhi, comprising those portions of Sections 5, 8, and 9 in T. 6 S., R. 11 E.,
M. D. B. & M., lying south and west of the right of way of the Central Pacific
Railroad Company and marked on the map of Shank's Delhi Tract 'Townsite'," was
surveyed by Cowell and Bedesen and certified by them September 20, 1911,
dedicated by Edgar M. Wilson the same day, and recorded October 7, 1911.
The "Map of the Town of Winton, comprising all of Lots 111A, 112, 113, 121A,
100B, and parts of Lots 98B, 99B, 97B and 128 of Merced Colony No. 2," was
surveyed by Cowell and Winton and recorded April 24, 1912, at the request of
the Co-operative Land & Trust Company. The name Winton was more or less an
accident. It was first called "Winfield"; but the Santa Fe had one "Winfield"
on their lines and refused to stand for another, and in the observance of an
economy which sought a substitute that would involve the minimum of painting
out on existing signs, they changed the last syllable and made it Winton.
Amsterdam, on the Oakdale Branch, was subdivided by the Pacific Improvement
Company. The certificate attached to the map is by Wm. H. Crocker,
vice-president, and A. D. Shepard, secretary. It is dated April 2, 1912, and
the map was recorded July 30 of the same year.
Aladdin, on the Santa Fe north of the Merced River, was subdivided by Edgar
M. Wilson and J. K. Mills in 1913. The map was drawn by Cowell and Bedesen and
recorded November 18, of that year.
El Nido, about twelve miles south of Merced, has no map of record. A store
and post office adjoining the district schoolhouse serve a thickly settled
farming community largely devoted to dairying.
North of the Merced River, on the Oakdale Branch, is Ryer, a grain-shipping
Arundel is a switch on the same line just south of the river.
On the Santa Fe, north of Aladdin, is Cortez Station.
On the West Side Railroad, between Gustine and Ingomar, is Linora Station.
On the Santa Fe, north of Merced at Hoff, is a tomato-packing plant.
South of Merced on the same line six miles east is Tuttle, where there are
two large warehouses formerly used for grain, one still devoted to that use
and the other to the purposes of the California Packing Corporation, which has
its big Del Monte orchard extending from Tuttle to Planada.
There are also grain warehouses and switches further south on the Santa Fe
in this county, Burchell between Planada and Le Grand, and Marguerite south of
Le Grand. On the Yosemite Valley Railroad, between Merced and Hopeton, there
is a switch at Eden.
Merced County now has five incorporated towns. We have already told of the
incorporation of Merced itself in 1889. Los Banos was the next to incorporate.
The petition was filed April 2, 1907, and the election called for April 30. On
Monday, May 6, the board of supervisors canvassed the votes and found 83 for
and 15 against. J. D. McCarthy, J. E. Place, J. V. Toscano, W. T. White, and
A. Gen-elly were elected the first board of city trustees, with 99, 96, 91,
70, and 65 votes respectively; J. J. Sweeney, clerk, with 96; S. B. Dismukes,
treasurer, with 61; and Joel Webb, marshal, with 62 votes.
The election to incorporate Gustine was called on October 1, 1915, and held
on November 1. There were 114 votes for and 27 against. There were 22
candidates for city trustee, 7 for clerk, 4 for treasurer. The office of
marshal had become appointive. D. T. Haley, with 100 votes; Peter Bladt, with
133; W. W. Wehner, with 79; George M. Currier, with 108; and J. R. Jensen,
with 128, were elected trustees. W. L. Chappel was elected clerk, with 118
votes, and C. W. Hawks, treasurer, with 122 votes.
The petition for the incorporation of Atwater was presented July 3, 1922,
and the election held August 11. There were 140 votes for and 20 against.
Charles Osborn, with 103 votes, Clarke Ralston, with 100; George Bloss, Jr.,
with 103; A. R. Neves, with 99; and T. A. Wayne, with 97 votes, were elected
trustees; and there were 21 scattering votes. A. T. Rector was elected clerk,
with 95 votes; and B. D. Garlock, treasurer, with 95.
Livingston followed close on the heels of Atwater. The petition was filed
August 7, 1922, and the election held September 6. There were 135 votes for
and 51 against. Charles Ottman received 154 votes; G. H. Winton, 135; S. R.
Swan, 94; A. Court, 82; and Bert Davis, 74; they were elected the first board
of trustees. L. E. White was elected clerk, with 131 votes; and Claude Brooks,
treasurer, with 77 votes.
HISTORY OF MERCED COUNTY CALIFORNIA WITH A
Biographical Review of
The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been
Identified with Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By John Outcalt
ILLUSTRATED COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME
HISTORIC RECORD COMPANY
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA ~ 1925
Contributed by: Carol Lackey