California Railroads ca 1870-1872

The Central Pacific Railroad opened their line in the San Joaquin Valley from Lathrop, originally called Wilson Station, to Goshen , originally called Goshen Junction, between 1870 and 1872. Lathrop to Modesto Nov 8 1870 – Modesto to Merced Jan 25 1872 – Merced to Herndon, originally Sycamore, Apr 1 1872 Herndon to Fresno May 28 1872 and Fresno to Goshen Aug 1872 and Fresno to Goshen Aug 1 1872 . These dates are the official dates opened fro traffic to the public. Work trains would have been there earlier.To Tulare July 25, 1872 ; and reached Bakersfield November 98, 1874. Here the difficult two-year struggle to build through the Tehachapis commenced, completing the valley route from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 1876.



While construction was under way on the transcontinental route over the Sierra and across Nevada to Promontory, Utah , the Big Four began extension of the line between Sacramento and the San Francisco bay. This line through Stockton and Niles Canyon was over a route originally projected by the Western Pacific Railroad (no connection with the later company of the same name) whose federal authority for construction had been taken over by the Central Pacific. Transcontinental trains reached San Francisco Bay over the pioneer Oakland and Alameda “local” lines whose rail-ferry service to San Francisco had been in operation since 1863-64.

East Bay “Locals”
The Oakland “local” line was the San Francisco and Oakland Railroad Company, incorporated October 21, 1861 , which began operation of its combination rail-ferry service on September 2, 1863 , from Broadway in Oakland along Seventh Street to Oakland Wharf at Gibbon’s Point and thence by ferry boat to the Davis Street landing between Broadway and Pacific wharfs in San Francisco . To meet competition of a rival ferry line on the Oakland Estuary “creek route,” the railroad built a bridge (later filled in) across San Antonio Creek and extended its service to the town of San Antonio (now East Oakland ) on September 28,1864 ,

The Alameda “local” line was the San Francisco and Alameda Railroad Company, commonly called the “Encinal Road,” incorporated March 25, 1863, which on August 25, 1864, began operation of its rail-ferry service from the Davis Street ferry landing in San Francisco to Alameda Wharf at the foot of Pacific Street (since abandoned), thence along what is now Lincoln Avenue to High Street, in Alameda. Extensions were opened to San Leandro on March 2, 1865 , and to Hayward on the following August 24. First ferry steamer on the Oakland service was the “Contra Costa,” and the “Sophie McLane” inaugurated the Alameda service.

Overland passenger service was first operated to Alameda Wharf on September 6, 1869, and then transferred to Oakland Wharf the following November 8. Ferry boats carried passengers across the bay to San Francisco . The two-mile Oakland Long Wharf, opened for traffic January 16, 1871, remained the terminal for passenger trains until the present-day Oakland Pier (earlier known as the “Mole”) was opened January 22, 1882.

Start of Sunset Route

Construction on the western end of the Sunset Route was started December 31, 1869 , branching from the transcontinental line at the newly established town of Lathrop . Only the most optimistic hopes could have prompted the Big Four to build into the San Joaquin Valley . The great broad region now so productive and populous was then nearly unoccupied. When looking over the proposed route, Stanford and Hopkins and their engineers traveled the upper section of the valley on horseback and camped out. For miles and miles they rode without seeing any sign of habitation, except an occasional sheep border’s shack.

Many of the valley’s large cities of today—Fresno, Merced, Modesto, Tulare and others—were just “railroad towns” in the ’70s, founded by the railroad’s builders. Traffic was inaugurated to Modesto on November 8,1870 ; to Merced , January 15,1872 ; to Fresno , May 28,1872 ; to Tulare , July 25, 1872 ; and to Sumner (now East Bakersfield ) on November 8, 1874.

For more than two hundred miles the builders had easy construction through the valley, but south of Bakersfield the Tehachapi mountains towered ahead of them. Here the engineers faced the problem of raising the railroad 2,734 feet from the valley at Caliente to scale the mountain pass at an elevation of 4,025 feet in about 16 air-line miles. This feat was accomplished by swerving 28 miles of track back and forth up the mountainside around gradual curves on a 2.2 per cent grade through 18 tunnels. At one point the track was looped over itself in a remarkable stroke of engineering skill directed by William Hood, who had by then become chief assistant engineer. The road was opened through Tehachapi out onto the desert to Mojave on August 8, 1876 .

Before this date the Big Four and their engineers had pondered over the exact route for the railroad through southern California . At one time it was considered advisable to leave Los Angeles several miles to the west of the main line. The great metropolis of today was then a sleepy, little Mexican city with a population of less than 10,000. Trade of the area was being well served by steamers and sailing vessels; and, what was more important at the moment, the most direct and cheapest route for the transcontinental line would have been through the Cajon and San Gorgonio passes to the Colorado River, with a branch line later into Los Angeles .

Early in 1868 construction was begun on the line south of San Jose and on March 13, 1869 trains were operating to Gilroy . It was the intention to follow the proposed route through Pacheco Pass into the San Joaquin ‘Valley, but the cost of construction and operation over the mountainous section of the Coast Range, also the uncertainty of local traffic developing on the far western slope of the valley, halted further work over that route after the road had been opened to Hollister on July 13, 1871, and to the terminus at Tres Pinos on August 12,1873. The main line south from Gilroy was opened to Pajaro (Watsonvllle Jct.) on November 27, 1871 ; to Salinas on November 1, 1872 ; and to Soledad on August 12, 1873 . There the terminus remained for thirteen years while construction forces concentrated on completing the line through the San Joaquin Valley and eastward from Los Angeles , as already described.

SP Map

One of these early short lines was the San Francisco-San Jose Railroad, incorporated in 1860 by three San Francisco entrepreneurs. At a cost of $2 million, Peter Donahue, Timothy Dane, and Henry Newhall brought passenger rail service to the San Francisco Peninsula on June 6, 1864 . The railroad was an instant success, since it reduced the cost of passage between San Francisco and San Jose from the stage fare of $32 to $2.50.

Greatly encouraged by their success, the three formed the Southern Pacific Railroad on December 2, 1865 , for the purpose of building a new line to the Colorado River . The development of this route was intended by Congress to bring some competition to the Central Pacific, which controlled the western portion of the nation’s only transcontinental railroad. Aided by President Lincoln’s Pacific Railway Act of 1862 and its generous amendments in 1864, the Central Pacific had received loans and gifts of public land to aid in financing the railroad construction from Sacramento to its junction with the Union Pacific in Utah . Upon the completion of the transcontinental line in 1869, the “Big Four” of the Central Pacific, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, and Collis P. Huntington, watched with some concern the successes of the upstart Southern Pacific. By 1868, the three Southern Pacific entrepreneurs had enjoined the help of William Ralston and were not only running scheduled passenger service on the San Francisco-San Jose line, but had formed a third railroad, the Santa Clara and Pajaro Valley, to lay track to Gilroy. From there they had surveyed a route from Gilroy through present San Benito County and Pacheco Pass , down the San Joaquin Valley and over the Tehachapis to join the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad at Needles. In 1870 the Central Pacific bought out the two operating and the third planned railroad, merged them under one company, the Southern Pacific. The new Southern Pacific then announced plans to build a coast route from San Francisco to Los Angeles , opening the entire western coast for settlement.

The coast route was extended from Gilroy to Hollister on July 13, 1871 ; to Pajaro Junction on November 27, 1871 ; to Salinas on November 1, 1872 ; and to Soledad on August 12, 1873 . Southern Pacific ran one train daily in each direction on this route, consuming 6 hours 45 minutes for the one-way trip. In addition, by 1879 seven additional trains ran between intermediate points on the line. The same year that service was completed south to Soledad , construction for the southern end of the coast route was completed from Los Angeles to Burbank .


Extract from the San Joaquin County History
History of San Joaquin County , California with Biographical Sketches – Historic Record Company, Los Angeles , CA – 1923


THE invention of the steam locomotive revolutionized the transportation traffic of the civilized world. Many of Stockton ‘s progressive citizens of early days believed this true, agreeing with the editor of the Independent, Samuel Seabough, that “railroads are the great civilizers of the age, and exert more influence than any other agency in developing the resources of the country through which they pass.” There was another class, however, who declared that they were an injury to the country, as they displaced the pack mule and put teamsters out of business, thus hurting the farmer in his sale of hay; killed the stage and the steamboat business; cut up the country and frightened away all the game, deer, bear, elk, etc. In this class were the migratory pioneers, men who in all their lives had never seen a locomotive or a steamboat. They wanted their nearest neighbors to be at last ten miles distant, so they could have breathing room, and early in the ’60’s they removed from Stockton down the valley, for this town, with its 6,000 inhabitants, was too thickly settled for them.

As early as 1852 a railroad was projected from Stockton to Sonora , and in 1856 a company was organized to construct a road from Stockton to San Francisco . Stockton was then completely cut off from the outside world except by stage or steamboat. By stage it was a hot, dusty, all-day ride to Sacramento , the same to Sonora , and a long tiresome two days’ trip to Mariposa. The fare to Mariposa was $20. In winter the journey was fearful  often the passengers were obliged to get out and walk, and at times were compelled to assist in starting the stage when it had stuck in the mud. The hauling of freight to the mountains, especially in winter, was very difficult. The freight rates then were very high, something like 3 or 4 cents a pound, and the mountain merchants were obliged to order their goods several months ahead of time. What has caused this great change; this saving of time and money, this ease and comfort of travel; this great expansion of commerce and trade, settling up the vast desert lands, to the south? The railroad, and behind it four railroad kings —Stanford, Huntington, Crocker and Hopkins. Stockton at first assisted and then fought the progress of the great work, and in later years, realizing the great value of railroads to any community, gave liberally to the Valley Road and later welcomed the Western Pacific.

First Railroad Convention

The great overland railroad, the Central Pacific, was conceived by that splendid engineer, Theodore Judah. With the foresight of but few men, he knew that some day a railroad would be built across the continent and from actual surveys he knew that such a road could be carried across the Sierras over what is now known as the Central route. With faith and courage scarcely equaled, he began his work of organization and induced the Legislature of 1859 to call a state railroad convention to assemble at San Francisco in September for the purpose of discussing the best plan for securing an overland railroad. No plan of procedure was adopted and Secretary of State Ferris Forman, afterwards the father-in-law of J. D. Peters of this city, requested all sheriffs to call an election for delegates to the convention. In accordance with this request Sheriff John W. O’Neal called a San Joaquin convention. They met in the city hall, and selected A. C. Bradford chairman, and A. G. Brown secretary of the meeting. This convention elected Mayor Holden, Maj. R. P. Hammond and William Garrard as delegates to the State convention. The latter body met September 20 and chose John Bidwell as president and E. S. Holden as vice-president. This convention passed resolutions recommending that the state issue $15,000,000 in bonds for the building of an overland railroad and favored the Central route.

Congress Takes Action

Congress had been discussing this question since 1854, when Senator Gwinn of California introduced his first bill, but there was a disagreement about a route. The northern men wanted a northern or central route, and the Southerners wanted the present southern route. The secession of the Southern members settled the question, and Congress passed a bill for a railroad over the central route, which became a law July 1, 1862 . The news reached Stockton July 4th, just as the procession was about to march, and for over an hour the old fire bell proclaimed the joyful news. “The construction of this road is the only salvation of our State,” was the general declaration. “We must have a market, a far better one than the inhabitants of the state can afford us, and a market to which access is easy.”

The year before this Leland Stanford had been elected Governor of California. The railroad then was no party question. All three conventions favored it, and so universal was the demand for an overland highway, that Milton S. Latham in Congress declared, “There is but one thing that can alienate the affections of the people of the Pacific from the Union , and that is a failure to give them a Pacific railroad. Stanford, as governor of this state, supported as he was by a pro-railroad legislature, now found himself in a position to hasten the building of the proposed road, and in the presence of a large crowd. January 8, 1862 , at the corner of Front and & K Streets in Sacramento , he dug the first shovelful of earth. Speeches were made by the Governor Charles Crocker, Senator J. R. Warwick, Walter Van Dyke, Newton Booth and Niles Searles. The work was pushed ahead and in November, 1867, cars were running to the summit of the Sierra Nevada Mountains . This was not the first railroad, for in 1856 a road was built from Sacramento to Folsom. The Stockton city council were invited to attend the celebration, but the mud was so deep they could not make the journey.

In November, 1867, Governor Stanford and Charles Crocker came over from Sacramento to Stockton to ask the right-of-way through the city, as they wished to connect their road with the Western Pacific purchased by them. This Western Pacific road is another story and because of it the council were very wary of railroad projects. The council comprised at this time, Wm. Dennis, Capt. Joseph Hammand and George C. Devoll from the first ward Andrew Simpson, Joseph Adams. H. M. Fanning and John Nichols from the second ward; and Charles G. Hubner, Charles Ivory, and Thomas K. Hook from the third ward. It was planned that Dr. E. S. Holden, a very enthusiastic railroad man, should present the petition for the Central Pacific right-of-way “across and along Sutter Street, or any street lying east of said Sutter Street excepting California Street, with the privileges of erecting a depot and warehouse.” Stanford, on his arrival in the council chamber, immediately noticed antagonistic feeling among the members and he advised Holden not to present the ordinance, but the latter believed he could talk it through. As soon as the ordinance was read, Dennis moved that it be laid on the table until the property owners could be heard from. As they had been talking of the road for three years, this motion made Holden angry and he attempted to withdraw the ordinance. Nichols moved to allow him to withdraw it and the matter was laid over until a December meeting. When the council met again, Dennis offered the following resolution, which was unanimously adopted: “We freely admit that a railroad is highly necessary and we desire to see one built speedily. We are not opposed to railroads, even through the city, but we are strongly opposed to being humbugged, as we have been in the past—not by the Central Pacific, it is true, but by the Western Pacific. As we have suffered to the tune of $250,000, or nearly so, and must pay taxes on the swindle for years to come, it ought not seem strange if we observe the proper care in dealing with others. The Central Pacific may carry out all they may promise in running their road through one of the principal streets of the city; still the council cannot grant what they request or permit many other things asked for. The ordinance is too general in its demands in one sense and too indefinite in another. We must not grant a franchise for an indefinite period, without some written guarantee stating what the city and railroad are willing to do as to grades, obstructions, crossings, etc. We want the road, but we also want all concerned to act in good faith.”

The council approved of this remarkable statement and appointed a committee of three councilmen—Dennis, Hook and Nichols—to confer with the directors of the Central Pacific regarding the right-of-way. Six weeks passed and as they made no move in the matter it called forth the following stinger from the press: “The whole transaction is strictly in keeping with the slow-coach, muddled and befogged process which has left its brand on every matter of public enterprise.” Two days later the council met and when the ordinance was called up there was a wrangle regarding the choice of street. Joseph Adams was opposed to a right-of-way on Sutter Street , as he had built a house on that street. “Put it on San Joaquin Street ,” he said. “No, that won’t do,” replied Hickman. “The school­house is on that street.” “Put it on El Dorado near the water-front.” said Keys. “That won’t do,” answered Hook, “The business is moving eastward.” Finally by a vote of 7 to 1 they gave a right-of-way on El Dorado Street , and Captain Weber, Andrew Simpson and John Nichols were appointed a committee to wait upon the Central Pacific and inform them of the action of the Council. It was a waste of time only. The engineers laid their cross section stakes, and early in April they were grading along the county road, now Sacramento Street , then 200 yards outside of the city limit.

The Last Spike

The fight between Hiram Fisher and the railroad because the latter took earth from East Street canal for the filling, and the liberality of Captain Weber in permitting the contractors to take all the material required, free of cost, from the Mormon slough, are but side issues, and we come to May 8, 1869, when many of our citizens celebrated in Sacramento the laying of the last tie of the trans­continental line and the placing of the golden spike. A meeting of citizens was called to make arrangements for the celebration and about fifty responded. It was resolved to fire a national salute at noon of the day of the completion of the road, ring all of the bells of the city, display flags and banners, engage the Stockton Band and that as many as possible should visit Sacramento . The salute was fired from El Dorado Street bridge by Robert Hanks. The city hall bell was rung continuously for five hours, Al Rider being one of the well-known men who pulled the rope. Quite a large delegation, including many members of the Pioneer Society, with George Evans as marshal, left Stockton for Sacramento , an engine and flat cars being kindly provided by the company. The track from Sacramento southward had been laid only to Liberty and it was necessary to go thither in carriages.

Never will I forget the exhilaration of that trip—my first ride on a railroad train. The train frequently stopped at the stations along the way, and on our arrival at the capital there were several hundred people on board. The little town was overcrowded with people, all awaiting with suppressed excitement the time when the electric spark would flash the news all over the United States and to every California town that the last spike was driven. Eight minutes before 12 o’clock that news came, and immediately the twenty-one locomotives of the company, drawn up in two rows on Front Street , began an unearthly screeching, and they were assisted in this pandemonium by all city whistles and bells and by the brass bands in attendance. The effect was indescribable, the music of our playing sounded to us like another band half a mile distant. There was an immense procession, and an oration was delivered by Governor H. H. Haight, who now has a son residing in this city. For the occasion Charles Shultz, then a famous orchestra leader and composer of San Francisco , composed the “Railroad March,” which was played by the crack band of the state, the Third Artillery. The piece represented the starting and stopping of a railroad train—first, the cry, “All aboard !” then the ringing of the bell, the whistle, the exhaust of the engine, and the noise of the wheels as they, with increasing speed, struck the joints of the rails. During the afternoon the Stockton band serenaded the citizens, and that night even cots were at a premium.

Stockton’s First Passenger Train

The greatest event in Stockton ‘s history was the arrival August 11, 1869 , of the first passenger train from Sacramento . It was a great event, as it linked Stockton with the East in bands of steel. The excursion train was to have arrived at Stockton at 12 o’clock , but it was delayed at Mokelumne City nearly one hour and a half, hundreds of excursionists jumping off at the little village believing it was Stockton . This was not very complimentary to this city, but it indicated how ignorant the general public were of the size of California ‘s towns before the coming of the railroad. “When the arrival of the train was announced by the whistle of the locomotive, the excitement and enthusiasm of the vast throng was unbounded.” The train was literally packed with men and women and children, 2,500 in all. As soon as it reached North Street a salute of thirty guns was  fired by Robert V. Hanks and all of the bells of the city began their clamor. The Pioneers and the firemen, accompanied by a band, were on hand to welcome their Sacramento brethren, and a procession was formed and marched into the city. It comprised the Sacramento City Guard in Zouave uniform, Sacramento band and Pioneers, Stockton band, San Joaquin pioneers, Sacramento fire department band, Confidence Engine Co. No. 1 with their machine, Sacramento No. 3 with engine and delegates from the Sacramento firemen, Stockton firemen, mayors and county officials of Sacramento and Stockton in carriages, citizens on foot. The pioneers tendered their Sacramento brethren a banquet at the Yosemite House; the visiting officials were also banqueted there. The firemen were given a collation at the Eureka engine house.  The general public dined wherever they could find a bite; they cleaned out all of the restaurants, foraged all of the grocery stores and bakeries for bread, crackers, cheese, oysters and sardines, and actually wiped out the town on the food proposition. Two days later Stockton ‘s first railroad excursion took place, the Methodist Episcopal Sunday school going on a picnic to Mokelumne City .

Long before the road was built to Stockton citizens were visiting their Eastern homes, and June 26, 1869 , Timothy Newell and Miss Lucy Grove started, the former going to Massachusetts and the latter to Virginia . Passenger trains began running between Stockton and Sacramento on August 11. On September 10, Stocktonians traveled to San Francisco over the San Jose train, connecting at Niles . Over the San Joaquin River they crossed in the ferryboat. November 10 the bridge was finished and the train ran into Oakland , thus completing the great overland railroad from ocean to ocean. As soon as the track was laid to Oakland a regular schedule time table was published, the overland train leaving San Francisco at 8 a. m. and Stockton at 12 a. m. and the west bound leaving Stockton at 1:48 and arriving at San Francisco at 5:40 . The first-class rate of fare (not including sleepers) was $129 to St. Louis ; Chicago , $130; New York , $150; New Orleans , $160. The second-class rate to the same points was $60; New York , $66.75.  Stockton also had the benefit of a through train which left San Francisco at 4 p. m. and Stockton at 8:28 , arriving at Sacramento at 10:50 . Leaving the capital at 6:30 a. m., Stockton was reached at 8:19 and San Francisco at 12:30 , the fare from Stockton being $5.00.

The Western Pacific Railroad

About a year previous to the commencement of the road at Sacramento , a company was organized to run a road from San Jose through Stockton to Sacramento . One of the organizers and vice-president of the road was Dr. E. S. Holden of Stockton . In 1863 the legislature passed bonded bills to the amount of $2,250,000. Among these bills was one authorizing the supervisors of San Joaquin county, if the citizens so voted, to issue $250,000 worth of bonds for the Western Pacific Railroad. Throughout the state, meetings were held to urge the people to vote for the bonds in the various counties and such a meeting was held April 5 in Stockton . Agricultural Hall was crowded, and the meeting was addressed by Judge Thomas Dame, president of the Western Pacific, Timothy G. Phelps and several local speakers.

The following month, May 12, a special election was held. The citizens voted on three propositions—$250,000 for the Western Pacific, $100,000 for the Stockton and Copperopolis Railroad and $50,000 for the Mono and Big Trees road. The citizens gave a good majority for the Western Pacific and  the Mono roads bonds, but the bonds for the Stockton and Copperopolis road, a purely local affair, were defeated. The county vote for the Western Pacific bonds was 1505 for and 502 against. The city vote was 1041 for and 85 against. Four days after the election Supervisors Henry Thornlow and Moses Severy, and Thomas Dame, president of the Western Pacific railroad, and County Clerk Hall were instructed to prepare the bonds, and an order was made for engraving the plate “for the use benefit and advantage of San Joaquin county.” All fine engraving was then done in New York, and, as it took some time to get the plate, no bonds were issued until May, 1864, at which time B. F. Mann came to Stockton and carried away in his pocket fifty $1,000 bonds, it being understood that the money was to be used in the construction of the road in San Joaquin County only. Soon there were reports of misrepresentation and fraud on the part of the company, and in December, 1864, John Tuohy was sent to San Francisco to vote the stock of the county at the railroad meeting and make an investigation regarding the rumors. On returning he gave a detailed history of the road and ended his report by saying, “I found it impossible to get the directors to commence work in San Joaquin County , although it was represented to citizens that the amount subscribed by San Joaquin should be expended in the county.” The people were now up in arms against the railroad company because it had not lived up to its representation. No railroad could be built piece by piece in the manner contemplated. A similar promise had been made in Santa Clara County , and it was fulfilled, the contractors working from that point toward Stockton . Soon it began to be whispered that the supervisors and the railroad were very friendly, notwithstanding the people’s protest, and in August, 1865, Judge Dame secured a further subscription for $50,000 worth of bonds. After this the talk became pretty warm, and when Charles Fox, the new president of the Western Pacific, appeared before the supervisors and requested that the balance of the bonds ($100,000 worth) be issued, not only was his request refused but the supervisors refused to give him the installments then due ($50,000) until the people were satisfied that everything was right. The air was now filled with wild rumors, and to know in part, at least, why Stockton was already so bitterly opposing the progress of the Western Pacific and the Central Pacific we must relate a little inside history. San Francisco , in 1863, voted bonds in the sum of $1,000,000 to the Western Pacific and the Central Pacific, but the board of supervisors refused to issue them. Frank McCoppin declared in unmeasured terms his antagonism to the railroad, and Fred MacCrellish of the Alta referred continuously to the so-called “Dutch Flat swindle.” Leland Stanford, as president of the Central Pacific, invited the supervisors to inspect his work, and they appointed McCoppin and E. Torrey, with an expert bookkeeper, to go to Sacramento and examine the railroad’s books. Stanford refused to show his books. Would any business man have done otherwise when an enemy was sent to look over the books when other railroad companies were doing all within their power to obstruct the progress of the Central Pacific ? The contract was let to Charles McLaughlin to grade the road from San Jose to Stockton , seventy-five miles. Lewis was chief engineer of the road, and August 5, 1865, his men set stakes 100 feet apart along El Dorado Street, the line, running through Woodbridge, crossing the Mokelumne at that point, and continuing one-half mile west of Liberty. From Sacramento to the summit of the mountains 105 miles of road were already in successful operation. An excursion of newspaper men had gone over the road and one writer, in a paper of December 7, said: “It is hoped to put the Legislature next Saturday through a bigger bore than they ever met in political life—a tunnel (one of eleven) 1,659 feet long.” In the meantime the Western Pacific company were unable to finance the road and they turned it over to the contractor, McLaughlin. He also failed to carry out the project and in March, 1864, McLaughlin sold his franchise, shovels, scrapers and all road building material to Stanford & Company. Then came the report, fully confirmed, that the Central Pacific had taken the franchise of the Western Pacific. At this time the county had paid in interest to the Western Pacific $28,780 in gold coin and, said Editor Geddes: “What had the company done? Graded a few miles of road (in Santa Clara County ). As a matter of fact the whole thing has been a swindle since the time when Judge Dame engineered the bill through the Legislature up to the present time.”

Copperopolis Road

 In 1860 several miners prospecting for gold in Calaveras County discovered rich croppings of copper ore. The valuable mineral was found in large quantities. Copperopolis was founded, the mines were developed and as early as 1862, 3,000 tons of copper ore had been taken out, the amount gradually increasing until 1865, when, from February to September, 16,400 tons of ore were taken from the mines. The transportation of this ore to Stockton at eight dollars per ton, gave employment to hundreds of men, including teamsters with their horses, mules and oxen, and annually they expended thousands of dollars in this city. Several enterprising citizens, led by Dr. E. S. Holden, believing that a railroad to the copper town would be a paying investment and of great advantage to Stockton , organized the Stockton & Copperopolis Railroad Company. In March. 1862, Samuel Myers introduced a bill into the Legislature authorizing the construction and granting the right-of-way to Dr. Holden and others for such a road, and R. P. Handy, the county surveyor, was employed to make the survey. Three months later he reported a line forty-eight miles in length, which would cost, fully equipped with locomotives, cars, depots, etc., $1,181,400. The cost of the road simply staggered the directors and the enterprise seemed dead. It had one promoter who knew no such word as failure, and in December, 1865, Dr. Holden again came to the front as president of the company, with George Gray, Timothy Page, T. P. Anthony, George S. Sanderson, C. T. Meader, H. B. Underhill and W. K. Reed and Thomas Hardy of Copperopolis as directors. Things looked encouraging, and said the press, “There is little doubt but what the work will go on in good shape, for the directors and officers are all men of business competency and energetic minds. Subscription books were now opened but although many subscribed, only a few paid in their assessments, as the knockers were at work, and they declared a railroad would destroy business in the city.

The only people alive to the future interest of the county were those of Farmington . In a meeting held in the schoolhouse April 5, 1863 , they declared: “This community is composed of solid firms and sturdy mechanics, who have lived where the steam whistle of the locomotive greeted the ears daily, and we have noticed that the railroad enhances the value of property and vitalizes all kinds of business. We, therefore, sanction and favor railroad enterprises in our vicinity.” This report was signed by John Campbell, S. Dunham and David F. Hadley. A most important special election was about to take place May 12, 1863 , the people to vote on bonds of $100,000 for the Stockton & Copperopolis railroad. George Gray, mayor-elect, in his inaugural address May 11, said: “We have allowed the golden movements to fly by unimproved in the past but the opportunity again presents itself to make Stockton what she might and ought to have been in years gone by. Our only salvation depends on our efforts this time to advance her interests.”

On the day of election there was considerable excitement and much angry talk, and in some places, in the county and the city, notably the third ward, there was a strong and determined fight to defeat the bonds. They were defeated, the total vote in the county being 967 for, and 1048 against. Woodbridge voted yes, 36, no 105. They opposed it because the road would not benefit their part of the country, (the Governor at that time had signed a bill for a railroad from Woodbridge to Mokelumne City ), and Lockeford for the same reason gave one vote for the road and 50 against it. Linden saw the doom of agriculture and voted 7 yes, and 79 no, and Farmington said 39, yes, 7 no. In the city 766 said aye, 288 nay. The third ward gave a majority of 88 against the bonds, they raising the same cry as that of 1856: “What will our blacksmiths and wagon makers do for work if the railroad be constructed? It will put all of our teamsters out of business, our stage drivers and stablemen out of business, for there will be no work for the horses, mules and oxen and no sale of hay, barley or oats, as the work animals will all be driven out of the country.”

To be sat down upon by those you are endeavoring to assist is a rather discouraging proposition, but Dr. Holden, an undying promoter, was again busy, and in November, 1865, the Stockton & Copperopolis road was again incorporated, and Surveyor John Wallace, accompanied by the doctor, found a much shorter and less costly route, and Ivers & Nagle took a contract to complete the work. They graded twelve miles and then stopped work, as there was no money in sight to pay them. Copper had depreciated in value from 17 to 12 shillings in England , something never before known, and C. T. Meader, one of the heaviest backers of the road, failed for nearly $2,000,000. In the meantime Dr. Holden went to Congress and assisted by the California congressmen, got a law passed granting to the Stockton & Copperopolis Railroad, 250,000 acres of land along the route, the road to be completed on or before July 4, 1872.

As the road now had a money value, under certain conditions, and copper had risen in value, railroad men and capitalists began to sit up and take notice, and in November, 1869, a new board of directors were elected, men identified with the California Pacific Railroad. Gen. John C. Sullivan was placed in charge of the work. Said a San Francisco paper April 25, 1870 : “The construction of this long-mooted scheme is now assured. The contract has been let for the grading of twenty miles of road, twelve miles are already graded and General Sullivan will complete the road to the mines within eighteen months.” Who was General Sullivan? Nobody knew. Who is building the road? Nobody knew except a few of the Stockton directors. From this time on everything to the public and the press was mysterious, and there was “a nigger in the wood pile” just as there had been in the Western Pacific and the Central Pacific.

Previous to the transfer of stock to San Francisco stockholders, Dr. Holden, in February, 1869, petitioned the supervisors for the $100,000 in bonds which it was reported had been returned to them from the Western Pacific, and in October the council received a petition signed by many taxpayers, requesting them to subscribe to the amount of $100,000 on the books of the railroad company, the bonds to be issued when ten miles of the road was completed and in running order, provided the road had its terminus on the waterfront. The council refused to take any action.

Nearly a year passed. As we have noted, the enterprise is in the hands of non-citizens, and the mystery grows interesting in the latter part of the year, for in November, 1870, the council granted the right-of-way to the Stockton & Copperopolis Railroad down Weber Avenue to the waterfront, the council reserving full control of the wharves. No liquor was to be sold in the depot or upon the street. After the council passed the ordinance the managers of the road invited the council to a social gathering at the Weber House, the first and last instance of Stockton officials banqueting with railroad magnates, as for over twenty years Stockton was fighting the railroad. Sparkling champagne flowed freely, and speeches were made by Mayor Evans, Councilman Ellesworth, Cunningham and Belding, and by McDonald and Moulton of the new road. A toast was proposed and drank to Dr. E. S. Holden, then sick abed, “the promoter and champion of the railroad.”

In less than a week after the passing of the ordinance the citizens began to open their eyes, for there appeared at the wharf a new steamer, the W. H. L. Moulton, with a cargo of ties, spikes and iron for the new road, together with hand cars bearing the stamp of the California Pacific Railroad. Two days later, November 29, the engineers began laying the track up Weber Avenue, commencing at the corner of Center Street and the sidewalk was filled with an eager crowd, all discussing the railroad proposition, who was building it and where it was going.

The rails were laid up the avenue to Union Street , then outside of the city limits, a curved track was laid from the Central Pacific to the Stockton and Copperopolis track, and a California Pacific locomotive and eight platform cars coming over the Union Pacific from Sacramento were switched to the new track. In less than a year, September 1, 1871 , all of the California Pacific railroads were absorbed by the Central Pacific and they for more than twenty years ran their locomotives to the waterfront. Then by an agreement of the merchants along the avenue and an ordinance by the council, granting them waterfront privileges below El Dorado Street , they removed their track.

The 14th of December, 1870 , was hailed as the “dawn of a new era,” for on that day the first locomotive was run to the waterfront. It was a great day in Stockton , and Weber Avenue was lined with people anxiously awaiting the appearance of “the people’s railroad train.” The locomotive Copperopolis had been steamed up and about 1 o’clock , hauling six platform cars, crowded with men and boys, she started down towards the levee. Her starting was announced by the firing of cannon and the pealing of the fire bell. As the train slowly moved down the avenue, it was greeted by the cheers of the crowd, and the waving of thousands of handkerchiefs. At El Dorado Street the engine was stopped and General Evans immediately shouted, three cheers for the first locomotive to come to the waterfront. The cheers were heartily given, followed by three cheers for Dr. Holden, the father of the Stockton & Copperopolis Railroad. Dr. Holden, called upon for a speech, spoke a few words, and then introduced Col. J. P. Jackson, president of the California Pacific Railroad and secretary of the Stockton & Copperopolis.

The road was completed to Milton May 1, 1871 , and passenger trains began running. Ten days later the superintendent, W. H. L. Moulton, ran an excursion train to that point, the fare being seventy-five cents for the round trip.

Soon after the Civil War the air was filled with paper railroads, so to speak, and there were no less than seven railroad schemes projected. The Stockton & Copperopolis promoters were striving for recognition, and about the same time a company organized in San Francisco, July 1864, as the San Francisco & Atlantic road, proposed to build a line from San Francisco across to the Sierras by the way of Stockton. The directors asked for a right of way through the county, and the citizens “generously” guaranteed the company the right-of-way provided they would run their line through the corporate limits of the city.

In the public discussion which was held in the city hall one of the speakers, L. T. Carr, a local attorney, in no way then or later connected with the railroad, gave the citizens some advice, which had they followed it in 1869 Stockton would have been twenty-five years ahead of its present growth. Mr. Carr said: “Every inducement should be given to the railroad to your city even to your very doors. Corporations have no souls, and if you gentlemen will look at the matter in its proper light you will see that the company will construct its road for its own profit, rather than for the benefit of the city. It is the duty of the people of Stockton to bring the road to this city if they have not only to erect a depot and other buildings at the city expense, but also to guarantee them the right-of-way through the entire county.” This is what the city later did for the Valley or Spreckels’ road.

The San Joaquin Valley Railroad

The Central Pacific in 1868 announced their purpose to build a road down the San Joaquin Valley and a branch road to Oregon, but they were undecided from what point to commence their southern road—French Camp, Shepherd’s Ferry on the San Joaquin river, or Stockton.  Immediately an opposition line, known as the San Joaquin Valley road was incorporated, February 5, 1868 , to run to a point on the Kern River , in Tulare County , 300 miles. It did not receive much encouragement in Stockton . In San Francisco the directors were turned down with the remark that another road had declared its purpose to build down the valley (Stanford’s) within six months and two parallel roads would not pay. The company went on with its work and surveyed a line to the Stanislaus River , set stakes for a distance of twelve miles and several of the directors went East and purchased iron and spikes to be immediately shipped around Cape Horn . In February the council refused them a right-of-way through Sutter Street down Hazelton Avenue to the waterfront. The company asked the citizens to subscribe $100,000 to the project and October, 1868, a mass meeting was held to consider the proposition. The people would not take any stock and only $90,000 could be obtained. Another public meeting was held in March, 1869, and a committee was appointed with Edward Moore as chairman to strengthen the old organization, and they reported that $100,000 was insufficient. Even twenty miles of road could not be built for less than $300,000. At their recommendation the old company was dissolved and a new company was organized. The people having full faith in the new organization voted almost unanimously authorizing the council, if permitted by the Legislature to loan the credit of the city to the Stockton & Tulare Company in bonds of $300,000 and at a council meeting held September 28, 1869, the company declared it their intention to build a railroad, commencing at the waterfront, to Visalia, Stockton forever to remain the terminus of said road, provided the city issue its bonds for $300,000 to said road, $50,000 to be paid when five miles were completed and $50,000 for every additional five miles until the whole sum be paid. The document was signed by Timothy Page, president, and Frank Stewart, secretary.

Governor Stanford’s Proposition

Governor Stanford, awake to all of the railroad schemes going on in the State, heard of this proposition and came to Stockton . He presented to the Council a proposition: “Understanding that the city of Stockton proposed to loan the sum of $300,000 in her bonds, I desire to submit the following proposition: The Central Pacific will build seventy-five miles of their road, from a point in the city to be designated by the mayor and common council, the right-of-way to be given, and when the seventy-five miles are completed so that locomotive and car shall pass over it, there shall be delivered to the company the full amount of the bonds. We guarantee the building of thirty-five miles of the road in one year from that date.” Then another railroad proposition was read and signed by men who were stockholders in the Stockton & Tulare road, and they asked the council to delay action for thirty days. “It seems to me, Mr. Stanford’s proposition is all that can be desired,” said Councilman Humphrey. Evans thought it would be well to appoint a committee to make a specified agreement in regard to the line of the road. “It is the desire of the Councilmen to have a statement made upon that point ?” Mayor Hickman inquired. “Yes,” was the reply. In the audience sitting near the door was Dr. Grattan. “Doctor,” said Mayor Hickman, “will you be kind enough to go to the Yosemite Hotel and escort ex-Governor Stanford to the council chamber.” The railroad magnate arriving, he was introduced to the council by Mayor Hickman and cordially received.

“Governor,” inquired General Evans, may I with propriety ask you at what point your road will cross the Tuolumne River ?”  “I cannot say without a map, but it will be somewhere near Empire City .” Edward Moore then inquired: “At what point does your road intend to connect with the Western Pacific; any other point than Stockton ?” Adroitly Stanford replied: “The company will exhaust their franchise in building one road up the valley. It will form a part of the great trunk line connecting the Southern Pacific with Oregon . It is not the object of the company to overlook and ignore the business of Stockton , but rather their aim to enlarge it.” Then a conversation took place, the correctness of which is not positively known. It has been reported, true or untrue, the writer cannot say, that Mayor Hickman then inquired: “Governor, what do you intend to charge for freight and fares ?” Stanford replied angrily : “None of your —- business,” and immediately left the room. The council appointed a committee of three, George Evans, J. M. Kelsey and Edward Moore, to confer with Stanford regarding his proposal. They succeeded in having one interview. After that interview he was too busy to see them. What took place between him and the directors of the Stockton & Tulare Railroad is not publicly known, but they sold their franchise to the Central Pacific. During this time the Stanford road, passing outside of Stockton , reached the San Joaquin River . Surveyors had been locating a bridge across the Stanislaus River , and Turton, Know & Ryan with men, horses, carts and scrapers had been waiting orders to commence grading from Wilson’s, now Lathrop, or from Stockton . Some mysterious event settled the question, and the southern road moved on from Lathrop, but they, as well as Stockton, lost in the deal. Said Charles Crocker to a friend many years after: “We made a great mistake that we did not put our road several miles nearer the foothills and commence at Stockton .” The Santa Fe now covers that territory. The company built a large hotel at Lathrop and installed therein H. A. Bloss, who had run the restaurant and bar in their Stockton depot. The hotel was opened in May, 1870, with a grand ball and excursion from Stockton . The hotel was destroyed by fire May 10, 1871 , and, being rebuilt, was again burned in 1888. The town was named after Charles Lathrop, the brother-in-law of Stanford, and the Central Pacific did everything possible to establish a town as a rival to Stockton . A discrimination was made and freight and passengers were carried to Lathrop cheaper than to Stockton . This was years before the organization of the Railroad Commission.

The Stockton & Visalia Railroad

Believing that if Stanford built his road down the southern valley it would greatly injure the trade of Stockton , several citizens formed a company, incorporating as the Stockton & Visalia Railroad, intending it to parallel the Central Pacific’s road to Bakersfield . Bills were introduced into the Legislature by State Senator H. M. Orr and Assemblyman Hubner, authorizing the city council and the supervisors to call a bond election for the bonding of Stockton for $300,000 and the county for $200,000, said bonds to be issued to the Stockton & Visalia road. The bill passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor, although it was strongly fought by the Central Pacific, Western and Southern Pacific directors.

Stanford was not the only individual that was up to “schemes that were dark and tricks that were vain,” as Bret Harte said of the Heathen Chinee, for the Stockton schemers said, “The suburbs of Stockton will receive as much benefit from the new road as the city proper. Let us annex them to the city and make them pay their proportion of the proposed bond tax.” The railroad citizens wanted the outside assistance and one newspaper went so far as to declare that the building of the road depended upon the annexation of the suburbs. The “outsiders” were strongly opposed to uniting with Stockton in her fortune or misfortune, and in a mass meeting held in the Vineyard school house, October 16, 1869 , about forty persons present, Daniel Severy, chairman, only four voted for annexation. Another meeting was held January 3, 1870 , in which, like most political conventions, everything was “jobbed” previous to the gathering. The pro-railroad promoters allowed a free discussion of the annexation question, for they had everything “packed” and the vote was then taken with thirty-six yes, twenty-two no, and the meeting adjourned with three cheers for the Stockton & Visalia Railroad. In the Legislature H. B. Underhill and T. R. Moseley appeared as the representatives of the Central Pacific, opposing the bill, and Stanford appeared personally before the committee on corporations and argued against it, maintaining that Stockton had no right to bring his property into the city and tax it to help support an opposition railroad. His argument was unsuccessful and General Evans telegraphed to his partner, John H. O’Brien, June 25, 1870 , that Governor Haight had signed the annexation bill, the new territory being liable for no old city debts prior to February 1, 1870 . Notice that the city council wrangled for some length of time regarding the street through which they would permit the Central Pacific to run, and now they go two blocks east of the old city and bring in the road, thus compelling Stanford to pay city taxes. The annexed city one half mile on each side with boundaries at North, South, East and West Streets ( Pershing Avenue ), was not subject to the city old debts. An enthusiastic mass meeting was held in Hickman’s Hall April 6, called by 146 prominent citizens, and speeches strongly advocating the carrying of the bond election were made by Judge Cavis, W. S. Montgomery, Rev. J. H. Giles. James A. Daly, and Edward Moore, the later declaring that the directors of the Stockton & Visalia road would pledge themselves to commence work at once and carry it on until the Merced River was reached. The merchants all closed their stores on election day, deeming it of the greatest importance. The vote was for $500,000 bonds, city and county. The city voted for both municipal and county bonds, 1329 yes; 14 no; for the county bonds, 1357 yes; 17 no. The county vote was 1965 yes; 626 no. Woodbridge , Poland , Lockeford, Liberty , Tulare , and Union gave large majorities against the bonds. The result made happy the citizens and they believed the directors would faithfully carry on the work. The bill called for a railroad from tidewater in Stockton directly across the Stanislaus River to Visalia , and H. S. Sargent and Edward Moore were appointed as the trustees to receive the county bonds, and B. W. Bours, Geo. W. Kidd and J. M. Kelsey trustees of the city bonds. The council gave the right-of-way to the company down Hazelton Avenue , and in May Chief Engineer Bender began his survey to the Stanislaus River . Before he reached the river, he was recalled, for Governor Haight, as a constitutional lawyer, had given his decision in another case which might invalidate the Stockton bond issue. There was peculiar work going on somewhere in Sacramento for it was declared that the Stockton & Visalia road “will go on notwithstanding the combination of the Central Pacific, the Sacramento Union and Governor Haight.”

A long-drawn-out lawsuit now began. On June 16, 1870 , J. A. Jackson, of the Stockton & Visalia road, demanded of the common council that they levy a tax to meet the payment of the interest on the bonds due in July. The council refused the demand and June 28th they were served with a notice from John B. Hall and John McConnell, for the Stockton & Visalia, that they had applied to the Supreme Court for a peremptory writ of mandamus to compel the council to levy the tax. The council put their case in the hands of the city attorney, W. S. Montgomery, authorizing him to push the case to a final conclusion, but what was the surprise five months later to learn that four of the most eminent lawyers of the state were pleading Stockton ‘s case, and filing briefs asking the Court for a continuance. “How is this?” the council asked of Montgomery . “I don’t know,” he replied, “the only city representative to my knowledge is the attorney-general, Joe Hamilton.”

The directors of the Stockton & Visalia railroad held their annual meeting December 2, 1870 , and elected as director for the year, Austin Sperry, Louis Haas, Edward Moore, A. W. Simpson, Geo. W. Kidd, J. M. Kelsey, James A. Crow, John Sedgwick and Frank Stewart. The road was turned over to the California Pacific in August, 1871, and by August 25 they had built a road from Peters to Farmington . Continuing on it reached Oakdale, October 1, and October 13 the Champions of the Red Cross gave an excursion to Oakdale over the so-called Stockton & Visalia railroad. Three days later, October 16, 1871 , the council met, and Edward Moore, as president of the Stockton & Visalia road, presented a request accompanied by a statement sworn to before a notary public, that the Stockton & Visalia Railroad had been laid from tidewater in Stockton for a distance of fifteen miles, and that cars and engine were running on said road. The request asked the council by resolution to accept said road, but in committee of the whole November 6, 1871 , the council declared: “We consider the same insufficient to warrant the council in passing said resolution.” The councilmen were: T. B. Buck, C. S. Eickelberger, R. E Wilhoit, R. B. Lane , J. S. Davis, J. W. Hammond, J. C. Gage, Wm. Inglis, John Robertson, and John Nicholas. Suit was then commenced against the company by City Attorney James A. Louttit for unlawful usury of franchise. In the following month, the Central Pacific Railroad Company appeared as the owners of the road. The suits, regarding the bonds of this road and those of the Western Pacific road were carried on for twelve or fifteen years and finally terminated in a compromise.

Projected Road to Visalia

Foiled, but not disheartened, a third attempt was made to run a road from Stockton to Visalia, and February 3, 1873, the Stockton & Tulare, narrow gauge, was incorporated, with B. W. Bours, president; Frank T. Baldwin, secretary; and T. K. Hook, treasurer, and the following directors: R. E Hyde, E. Jacobs, Tulare; H. C. Daulton, Fresno; C. M. Blair, Merced; A. Leach, Stanislaus; and B. W. Bours, T. K. Hook, Dr. Charles Grattan, George F. Smith, and R. C. Sargent, San Joaquin. A mass meeting had been previously held, and $5,500 had been subscribed on the spot for the people’s road. The people along the entire route were anxious for a railroad to the waterfront and they promised to give dollar for dollar with Stockton . The proposed line of road ran near Modesto through Merced and Snellings to Visalia , the road to run parallel with the Southern Pacific five miles nearer the foothills. Archibald Blair was selected as chief engineer, and with a surveying corps comprising James Thorburn, transit-man; James Sharrott and George H. Tinkham, chainmen; Henry Smith, axeman; Lon McCloud, teamster, and Joe White, cook, the party began their tramp for Visalia , 160 miles. According to orders the chief surveyed a line not exceeding a one per cent grade, sixty feet to the mile, and completed the work in five months. The cost was found so great, especially in “fills and cuts,” that the work was given up.

Twenty-five years passed and the greater part of the pioneers of state and county had lain down their burdens. The Central Pacific and its southern branch had brought thousands of immigrants into California , new homes were founded, new lands developed, and new cities builded. The population of San Joaquin had also largely increased—from 11,000 to 28,000, and lands that at one time sold for thirty-six dollars an acre had tripled in value. County and city had grown, not because of the railroad, but in spite of it, for in every manner possible discriminations were made against Stockton ‘s trade and transportation facilities. The Central Pacific endeavored to injure the city “from pure cussedness” as a newspaper put it, compelling persons travelling East to go to San Francisco to purchase their tickets and Pullman berths; compelling all Westward travelers to buy tickets for Sacramento or San Francisco; compelling all west-bound freight to be carried to San Francisco and returned at extra cost; carrying wheat from the south to Port Costa, cheaper than to Stockton, although fifty miles greater in distance; prohibiting the sale of local newspapers on their trains, and their employes from residing or purchasing goods in Stockton; publishing railroad maps and distributing freely throughout the East, with Stockton’s location a blank place on the map; working most persistently “to make the grass grow in the streets of Stockton.” But beautiful may the flowers yearly bloom over the graves of Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker and C. P. Huntington, for they accomplished a magnificent work for California , and although they are in peaceful rest, Stockton still lives.

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