The history of Contra Costa County, California

In presenting this new history of Contra Costa County to the public, we do so in the earnest hope that it will prove to be the most complete compilation of local chronicles that has up to this time been offered to our citizens. The authenticity of the facts contained in the various articles is as absolute as the utmost care could make it. The data have been procured from the best-known authorities, and the biographical sketches, when completed, were subjected to the most searching examination for verification and correction. That no errors will be discovered in this production is too much to hope for; but we do most certainly trust that if any misstatements there be, either in number or by their nature, they will not be found sufficiently important to detract from that character for reliability which it has been our constant aim and endeavor to impart to this history.

In this new work the design has been to make clear the development of ideas and institutions from epoch to epoch. The social and economic conditions of the people have been preserved in the narrative, and much attention has been paid to describing the civil characteristics of the several towns and cities, both in the conduct of their local affairs and in the relation to each other and the county at large. It has been our object in this work to hew straight to the line, simply satisfied to furnish such information as we were able to gather concerning important matters or interesting events, and where the desired materials were lacking we have not attempted to supply the deficiency by filling in the vacant niches with products of the imagination. We have not striven for effect ; our object is merely to give an authentic account of facts recent and remote, disposed in a proper and orderly manner, so as to enable our readers to clearly understand the history of their community from its origin down to the present day.

This work is a collection of data by a staff of contributors consisting, of the most accurate and capable writers in their respective fields in the county, who here crystallize and preserve the material they have gathered from many sources.

Never, so far as I am aware, has any local history in any county been prepared as this has been. Each writer is in a position to speak with absolute authority upon the subject of which he treats, and it was the intention of the editor that each should present in the most attractive and concise form such material relative to the matter of which he writes as had not appeared in any previous publication. How far that hope has been realized the critical reader may judge. It has also been the aim of the editor to limit the sketches to a statement of such facts as will be of interest to the readers of today and bf importance to those of the years to come.

In sending forth this volume we trust that, in addition to its value as a depository of accurate information and useful knowledge, it will prove an effective instrument in creating a more lively public sentiment regarding historical subjects, and that it will especially foster an interest in the annals of our own county. If my collaborators and myself have helped to perpetuate the memory of the heroism, the fortitude, the suffering, and the achievement of the men and women who placed Contra Costa County, California, in the foremost rank of the counties of this State, we shall be content.


Table of Contents


Chapter I
The Indians 1

Chapter II
Early History of California 6

Chapter III
Mexican Land Grants Pen-pictures of Early Days 10

Chapter IV
Pioneer Citizens 19

Chapter V
The Bear Flag War 30

Chapter VI
Extracts from General John A. Sutter's Diary 66

Chapter VII
Settlement and Early History 79

Chapter VIII
Climate Soil Horticulture Agriculture 88

Chapter IX
Mines and Minerals 92

Chapter X
San Ramon Valley 97

Chapter XI
Central Contra Costa County 102

Chapter XII
Eastern Contra Costa County 116

Chapter XIII
Doctor John Marsh 133

Chapter XIV
Mount Diablo 136

Chapter XV
Summary of the County's Resources 141

Chapter XVI
Early Criminal History 145

Chapter XVII
Bench and Bar 194

Chapter XVIII
Educational 205

Chapter XIX
Library Development 229

Chapter XX
Religious 236

Chapter XXI
The Medical Profession 248

Chapter XXII
Banking 271

Chapter XXIII
Transportation 283

Chapter XXIV
Fraternal Societies 296

Chapter XXV
Martinez 309 Chapter XXVI
Richmond 326 Chapter XXVII
Antioch 355 Chapter XXVIII
Danville 381 Chapter XXIX
Pittsburg 383 Chapter XXX
Bay Point 390 Chapter XXXI
Crockett 393 Chapter XXXII
Oakley and Sand Lands 399

Chapter XXXIII
Knightsen 404

Chapter XXXIV
Rodeo 407

Chapter XXXV
Walnut Creek 412

Chapter XXXVI
Pinole 421

Chapter XXXVII
Port Costa 423

Avon 424

Chapter XXXIX
Byron 426


Biographical 431


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I came to California the first time many years ago, before the transcontinental railroads had laid their span across the Great American Desert, coming from New York to San Francisco by way of the Isthmus of Panama. There is as great a difference between the California of today and the California of the days of ox-teams and "prairie schooners" as there is between the aforenamed desert and the Garden of Eden as allegorically described.

Contra Costa Comity was at that time composed in the main of several large cattle ranches, owned by Spaniards, Mexicans, and Portuguese, with here and there a tiny country crossroads village. It shipped a little wheat and barley to San Francisco in a primitive way, by small sailboats; but agriculture was secondary to the live-stock interests. A cattle ranch in the olden days consisted generally of what might be considered now a fair-sized township, or even a county. There were miles upon miles of as good and fair land as ever lay out of doors then only a barren waste.