Americans Arrive – 1840s to 1890s

Mexican-American War
Although a small number of American traders and trappers had lived in California since the 1820s, the 1st organized overland party of American immigrants was the Bidwell-Bartleson party of 1841. Many others followed, and by the mid-1840s Americans outnumbered the Mexican Californios in the northern part of Alta California. In June 1846, a group of American settlers in Sonoma rebelled against the Mexican authorities, raised the "Bear Flag," and declared the "California Republic" an independent nation. The new country lasted less than a month.

In July, the United States, having declared war on Mexico, began a military occupation of California. In January 1847, the Californios surrendered to U.S. forces, and a year later, on February 2, 1848, the Mexican-American War ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which gave California to the United States.

Gold Rush
By an incredible stroke of timing, probably the most significant single event in the history of California occurred just 9 days earlier, on January 24, 1848, when James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, near Sacramento. At 1st, word spread slowly and those who flocked to the gold fields were mostly California residents. But by the beginning of 1849 word of the Gold Rush had spread around the world, and an overwhelming number of gold-seekers and merchants began to arrive from virtually every continent.

The largest group of "49ers" were Americans, arriving by the tens of thousands overland across the continent and along various sailing routes. It is estimated that almost 90,000 people arrived in California in 1849, of which about 50,000 to 60,000 were Americans. With this sudden surge in American population, California became the 31st state of the United States on September 9, 1850.

The little Village of Yerba Buena, founded in 1835 along the waterfront near Mission Delores, had been renamed San Francisco in 1847. Its population in 1848 is estimated at about 1,000; by the end of 1849 it had increased to 25,000. Ships landed here from around the world and the town grew rapidly to meet the needs of the swelling masses of gold seekers. Although the center of activity in the Bay Area was the port City of San Francisco, other parts of the region were not immune from the development pressures of the surging mass of humanity.

The Founding of Oakland
American squatters almost immediately began stealing land, cattle, and horses from the Peraltas. Three of them, Edson Adams, Horace Carpentier, and Andrew Moon, had come to California in 1849, and coveted the land near the waterfront along the estuary. They attempted to negotiate a deal whereby the Peraltas would later be compensated for any improvements made by the Americans. The Peraltas considered the offer but refused to sign, so Adams, Carpentier, and Moon, simply staked out claims to the land.

In 1851, they hired Swiss surveyor Julius Kellersberger to lay out a town plan. It featured a 110-foot wide central boulevard named "Broadway" running from the waterfront; all other streets were 80 feet wide, the blocks were 200 by 300 feet, and several blocks were set aside as public parks and squares. It would soon become the City of Oakland.

Purchase of Land
SubdivisionMap.gifIn addition to the plundering of their land, the Californios plight was worsened by legal problems, including questions about the validity of their land title under American law and family squabbling among the various Peralta brothers and sisters. The Peraltas began selling off their land to cover their legal fees. Vicente Peralta sold all but 700 acres of his rancho to 2 groups of investors for $110,000.

The 1st sale was a plot that included most of the land that Adams, Carpentier, and Moon had appropriated, which Peralta sold to John Clar and associates for $10,000 on March 3, 1852. Shortly thereafter, Adams, Carpentier, and Moon purchased the title to the property from Clar and associates, so they were now the legal owners of the land. Carpentier had been elected to the state legislature and, on May 4, 1852 he had a bill passed incorporating the Town of Oakland that encompassed the land now owned by himself, Adams, and Moon.

Town Plans
It extended from Lake Merritt on the east to the Bay on the west, and from the Estuary on the south to the "Corporation Line" on the north, where 22nd Street is today, about a mile south of the current Emeryville border. Kellersberger's map was the basis for the original town plan. On March 25, 1854 the Town of Oakland was reincorporated as the City of Oakland, with the same boundaries and plan.

Roots of Emeryville
The 2nd sale that Vicente Peralta made was for the greater portion of his estate to a group of San Francisco investors for $100,000 in August 1853. These investors then sold off plots within the estate. Perhaps the 1st American to settle in what later became Emeryville was Frederick Coggeshall, a native of Massachusetts who came to San Francisco in 1849 and purchased a 45-acre tract on the San Pablo road near where 45th Street is today. He and his wife Lavinia assembled a small house, which may have been shipped around Cape Horn, farmed the land, and raised pigs and cattle.

A 95-acre plot sold to Louis Brugierre in late 1853 included the site of the Emeryville Shellmound. In early 1855, Brugierre sold the land to John McHenry, a judge in San Francisco, who had a new house erected on one of the smaller, lower shellmounds to the southeast of the large mound. McHenry sold the property to William Y. Patch, then San Francisco's Tax Collector, in 1858. A little over a year later, in 1859, Patch turned around and sold it to Edward Wiard, a Connecticut native, who later developed both an "amusement resort" named "Shell Mound Park" and a race track called the "Oakland Trotting Park."

Emery.gifJoseph Emery
Also in 1859 another pioneer developer, Joseph Stickney Emery, purchased a 185-acre tract south of Edward Wiard's property. He laid out a main east-west street (later named Park Avenue) and adjacent streets, and began selling lots. In 1868 he built himself a stately mansion at the northwest corner of Park Avenue and San Pablo Avenue.

Emery was born in Pembroke, New Hampshire on September 30, 1820, the son of Jacob and Jane (Gault) Emery. He came to California on the ship John Marshall by way of Cape Horn, arriving in San Francisco on September 18, 1850. He engaged briefly in gold mining in Butte County, but returned to San Francisco in 1851. A stonecutter by trade, he developed quarries on Yerba Buena Island and Angel Island, supervised the building of the San Francisco County Jail, and supplied the stone for the U.S. Mint.

In 1858, he moved across the bay to Oakland. In addition to many other endeavors, he was responsible for supervising the dredging of the channel that allowed ferries to run between San Francisco and Oakland. He was also an original director and later president of Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, where he is buried.

The Railroad Arrives
Besides Wiard and Emery, other early land owners included L. M. Beaudry, John Doyle, and James Landregan, who were later memorialized in Emeryville street names. Despite the grand intentions of these early real estate speculators, the area north of the City of Oakland remained mostly a sleepy farming community until the arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1869.

This railroad, the Central Pacific, did not pass through Emery and Wiard's land, but entered Oakland from the south via Niles Canyon, and terminated at a "mole" on the shore of the bay, where ferry service provided a connection to San Francisco. Settlers poured into the area from the east, and the population of Oakland almost quadrupled by 1880.

Oakland Trotting Park
To provide amusement for the growing population, Wiard built the Oakland Trotting Park in 1871. This massive mile-long racetrack, complete with elegant grandstand and extensive stable facilities, covered much of the area between Park Avenue (named for the Trotting Park) and Powell Street (built as part of Beaudry's tract), including most of the land occupied today by the Pixar and Novartis corporate campuses.

Temescal Creek was routed through an underground culvert to cross the racetrack property. The track featured harness racing and thoroughbred horse racing, and, of course, betting on the outcome. It gained national prominence on October 25, 1879, when President Ulysses S. Grant stood at the finish line as the legendary horse St. Julien smashed the 1-mile trotting record.

In 1896 the trotting park was extensively renovated and reopened as the New California Jockey Club. The racetrack operated for 40 years until 1911 when horse racing was outlawed by the state. (It was subsequently reinstated in 1933 but not until after the racetrack was demolished). For a few years following the demise of the horse races, the track was used for motorcar racing as well as airplane racing and aerial acrobatics. It was finally demolished in 1915, but caught fire and burned to the ground before demolition was complete. An industrial park was then built on the site.

Mansion.gifEmery Station
In 1871-1873, to provide access to his subdivision and Wiard's racetrack, Joseph Emery built the San Pablo Avenue Horse Car Line, which offered horse-drawn streetcar service from 7th Street in downtown Oakland, up Broadway and San Pablo Avenue, to Park Avenue.

Then, in 1876-1877, the Northern Railway was built along the shore of the bay just east of the old shellmound, connecting Oakland to Port Costa and Martinez to the north. A small shelter called Emery station, at the foot of Park Avenue, provided passenger train service to Emery's tract and a connection to the horse car line, and development of the area began in earnest.

Shellmound Park
In 1876, Edward Wiard built a rifle range across the railroad tracks from the trotting park, which was used by the Oakland Police for target practice. Picnickers enjoyed relaxing in the willow thicket at the mouth of Temescal Creek. In 1877, Wiard built a dancing pavilion on top of the shellmound, which was still largely intact, and Shellmound Park was born. Shellmound station, just north of Emery station, provided direct railroad access for park visitors.

In addition to pistol and rifle ranges, picnic grounds, and 2 dancing pavilions, the park featured beer gardens, a carousel, and a racetrack for foot and bicycle races with a 3,000-seat grandstand. During almost 50 years of operation, the park hosted hundreds of events for all types of unions, clubs, and societies, and an outing to the park typically was an all-day affair. In 1924, the park was closed and the ancient shellmound was leveled to make way for industrial development.

Meanwhile, the legacy of Rancho San Antonio endured in "Butchertown," an extensive enclave of stockyards and slaughterhouses that emerged in the 1870s north of the racetrack and Shellmound Park, where cattle, pigs, and sheep were brought from the nearby farms.

Focused along the rail line and Dalton Avenue (whose name was later changed to 65th Street), the area featured waterfront piers, 2 residential hotels for the workers, and its own railroad station, aptly named "Stock Yards." In addition to meat packing plants for beef and pork, the area also had tanneries, wool pulling plants, and a dairy.

Arguably Emeryville's 1st heavy industrial area, albeit of a lingering rural character, Butchertown endured into the 20th century, when it was replaced by steel mills and factories. The last meat packing company, Bayle Lacoste and Company located on Bay (now Shellmound) Street just west of the railroad, closed in 1989.

Early Industries
Thanks to the presence of the railroad line, other industries began to take shape in the later decades of the 19th century. Judson Iron Works was founded by Egbert Judson in 1882, at the foot of Park Avenue west of the railroad tracks, just south of Shell Mound Park. One of the largest industries in Alameda County, Judson Iron Works consisted of 28 brick and cast iron buildings on 9 waterfront acres, and employed over 300 men, many of whom lived along Park Avenue. Its rolling mill produced steel bars up to 40 feet long and its foundry cast bolts, rivets, and nuts.

Along the shoreline to the north, between the amusement park and Butchertown, 2 entrepreneurs converted a ramshackle barn into a paint and roofing materials plant. They made waterproofing products from asphalt, or "black paraffin," and called the business the Paraffin Paint Company. Later known as Pabco, its facilities eventually occupied 38 acres north of Powell Street and west of the railroad.

Rail & Transit
Railroad development and intercity public transit service flourished in the late 1800s. In the 1880s, Joseph Emery and other investors built the narrow-gauge California and Nevada railroad with grandiose plans to cross the Sierra Nevada and connect to the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad for service to Chicago. The line made it as far as Orinda, traveling east on Yerba Buena Avenue, up Adeline Street, through Berkeley and Richmond, and then looping back through El Sobrante and running south along San Pablo Creek east of the hills. The railroad never prospered, and was eventually acquired by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.

In 1885, the Northern Railway along the shoreline was acquired by Southern Pacific, which integrated it into its nationwide system. In 1886, Emery's San Pablo Avenue horse car line was sold to John Fair, who converted it to cable operation and renamed it the Oakland Cable Railroad. Then, in 1895, it was acquired by Francis Marion "Borax" Smith as part of his design for a transportation and real estate empire; Smith converted the cable cars to electricity in 1899 and eventually incorporated it into his Key System.

Park Avenue
In the later decades of the 19th century, Park Avenue emerged as the center of activity for the burgeoning community north of Oakland known as Emery's. With direct streetcar and railroad access from Oakland, and the lure of the nearby racetrack and amusement park, this district blossomed with hotels, card rooms, brothels, saloons, stores, and residences.

The 68-room, 4-story Commercial Union Hotel opened in 1888 at the foot of Park Avenue, next to Emery station. Following the town's incorporation in 1896, it served as the headquarters for the town government until 1903. It was destroyed by fire in 1910. The post office was located across the street, at the northwest corner of Park Avenue and Halleck Street.