Manteca California History


History of Manteca, California with Biographical Sketches - Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, CA - 1923

Manteca History

Manteca is one of the progressive towns of San Joaquin County and its progressiveness is shown in the fact that in 1910 with a population of 100 it now has a population of nearly 2,000. Like all of the county towns its first settlers were honest, hard working farmers, who located in the district to till the sandy soil and raise wheat, hay and barley, the profitable crops at that time. It is not positively known who were the first settlers, but a man named "Billy" Jenkins is said to have located in that section of the country as early as 1858 on 320 acres of land. About the same time Wm. H. Lyons, a young Stockton attorney, took up some land there on a soldier's warrant. He did not live there, but took up the land on speculation. Joshua Cowell in 1863 located a half-section of land which included the present town of Manteca and building a little home began raising wheat and barley. Later when those crops were unprofitable he and his fellow ranchers began raising rye. In 1864 Peter Clapp, James Reynolds, Alvin Shedd, and George and Orsemus Sperry and Cutler Salmon, located in that township and became prosperous ranchers. The settlers were few in number, and although neighbors they lived several miles apart, for each farmer eventually owned large tracts of land. They defined the boundaries of their lands by means of deeply dug ditches making an embankment on the inside.

A man named Martin in 1864 built a little residence of brick in that locality and later it was occupied by Peter Clapp. The house now sheathed with wood is in the limits of the town. Another old time building of sixty-seven years ago is the former home of George Sperry. The Southern Pacific in 1870 built a line of road from Lathrop to Ripon, then the center of the grain growing district. Joshua Cowell gave them the right of way and the company erected a small freight platform and station where now stand the present depot erected 1910. The station was known as Cowell's station. His brother had a warehouse about a mile below, called Cowell's warehouse, and as there was a confusion of names, the railroad company named the station Manteca, a Spanish word meaning butter. It had a prophetic meaning for today Manteca is the largest butter producer in the county.

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Manteca City Seal

Joshua Cowell, now eighty years of age, justly called the "Father of Manteca," started a small creamery in 1896. It was not a success. A merchant named J. J. Overshiner in 1898 erected a small building across the track from the depot and opened a general merchandising store, and in connection there was a butcher shop. The Manteca-Rochdale store was opened in 1901, and the following year a blacksmith opened, where now stands the Bank of South San Joaquin. Another butcher shop was opened corner Yosemite Avenue and Hogan Road. John A. Boberg in 1909 started the Manteca lumber yard and taking in Carl Palm in 1911 they opened the Manteca hardware store. The first brick building was erected by Joshua Cowell in 1911 on the southwest corner of Yosemite Avenue and Hogan Road at a cost of $9,000; the Odd Fellows leased the hall in the second story.

Cowell in 1913 erected a much handsomer two-story brick building diagonally opposite the first building, the one now occupied by the Jacob store. The Odd Fellows in 1913 purchased a lot for $1,200 opposite the Cowell building and erected a handsome building at an approximate cost of $12,000. Renting the lower story, the upper story was fitted up especially for lodge work.

The property is now valued at $20,000. As early in 1914 J. W. LeTourneau, Johnson & Carlon, McPherson & Son were in the general merchandising business; Woodward & Douglas, Olsen & Hansen, Woodward Hines, were selling real estate; Brow's drug store; Manteca Lumber Company; the Wiggin and the Manteca Hotels; Cowell's Stable; W. H. Harrell blacksmith; meat market; Cadwell's barber shop; bakery; paint shop; plumber; cannery and creamery; planning mill; Mrs. Baker's ice cream parlor; Dr. R. H Goodale, physician; Dr. Moore, dentist; telephone exchange, Wells Fargo agency, post office and two banks.

There are five different denominations and churches in Manteca, including the Methodist, Union or Baptist, Christian, Catholic and Christian Science. The Union Church, first used as a Brethren or Dunkard Church, was built in 1912 in North Manteca, the Manteca Improvement company having given them two lots for that purpose. It is now used as a Union Baptist Church, the present pastor being the Rev. A. P. Brown. The Methodist Church is on West Yosemite Avenue. On the same avenue stands St. Anthony's Catholic Church. The first services were held in Cowell's hall by Father McGough, this being a mission church in Stockton parish. The church was dedicated June 18, 1916, and Father Marchisio has been in charge since the dedication. In October, 1919, St. Anthony was set apart as a parish.

The first teacher of the district school was Miss Wodward, the school being some distance from Manteca. This was in 1867. She had pupils of all ages, one of them being Joshua Cowell, then a young man of twenty-five years. In the meantime Manteca had become quite a settlement, and in 1912 the school was removed from its former location on the river to the brick building now occupied by the Jacobs store. The building was erected by Mr. Cowell. A few years later a fine eight-room grammar school was erected at a cost of $30,000, and a large twenty-room Union high school is just completed in East Manteca at a cost of $200,000.

The town has two banks, each being located in its own brick building on Yosemite Avenue. The first Bank of Manteca was located in a brick building erected by Joshua Cowell. It was incorporated November 28, 1911, with a paid up capital of $25,000. The first president was Joshua Cowell and the directors, Fred Norcross, Joshua Cowell, J. N. Norcross, Ed Powers and John Boberg. Some two years ago the bank increased their capital stock to $100,000 changed the name to First National Bank, and moved to a building erected especially for their use. The Bank of South San Joaquin was incorporated May 18, 1918, with the following officers: Frank Guernsey, president; P. L. Wisdom, vice-president; Hugh Campbell, secretary, treasurer and cashier; Arbor Barth and George Williams, assistant cashiers; and J. J. Overshiner, J. M. Lindsey, John A. Boberg, J. J. Napier and the officers as directors.

The town has several secret societies, including Tryon Lodge of Masons, who meet in the hall of the pioneer Cowell Building; the Woodman of the World, organized March 11, 1921; the Loyal Order of Moose, instituted August 25, 1920; the Odd Fellows organized December 2, 1911; Phoebe A. Hearst Parlor, N. D. G. W., instituted April 12, 1919, and Manteca Rebekah Lodge No. 332. These lodges all meet in the Odd Fellows' Building. The Phoebe Hearst Parlor officers were installed by Grand District Deputy Mamie Peyton of Stockton and her grand officers.

The Manteca water works was started by A. Bucilleri, who used large quantities of water in his cannery; a large iron tank was erected on the west side of the railroad together with a pumping plant and arrangements made to supply the citizens with water for domestic and fire purposes. Three-inch pipes were laid to the street corners and to these pipes hose can be attached. The present fire department is composed of two companies with Elwood Leventon chief engineer and E. W. Sullivan and A. G. Pennebaker, assistants. Including these officers the following are the fire fighters: George W. Swanson, George E. Buthenuth, Benny Fauls, L. F. E. Costa, J. C. Kerr, J. W. Parr, John Jewart, Henry Hyman, Budd Hinkson, C. E. Field, Milo Monson, L. J. Delmege, Jack Greenberg, M. Litchfield, D. E. Stewart and H. B. Alger.

Fred W. Wurster, a Stockton boy, published at Ripon a little newspaper called the Irrigation Bulletin. It was devoted almost entirely to irrigation projects. In 1909 the plant was removed to Manteca and sold the following year to Fred Holman. He changed the name to the Manteca Bulletin. A rival newspaper called the Enterprise was started in 1916 by J. B. Dixon, who sold out in 1917 to a Mr. Bessac. In 1918 the paper was consolidated with the Bulletin. The Bulletin is a four-page weekly with a circulation of 1,000 copies and is at present owned by J. D. Dean, who bought the plant in May, 1918.

East Union Cemetery, where lie the bodies of many of the pioneers who located in Manteca section, was set apart for a burial place in 1872, Alvin Shell at that time giving to the association a small tract of land. Some twenty years later, 1893, Joshua Cowell deeded land just opposite the cemetery for a church, and the Union Church Society erected a small temple of worship. The society was organized in 1887 with Mrs. Emily F. Cowell, president; Mrs. Luda S. Reynolds, secretary; and Mrs. Anna Reynolds, treasurer. Burials were made in the cemetery from time to time, but as the years passed no care was taken of it and it became a disgrace to the community. Finally the society determined to improve the grounds, they having in the meantime obtained the church lots, making five acres in all. Obtaining money by subscription the grounds were cleaned up and a handsome gate and arch of cement and marble erected at the entrance. In the pillars supporting the arch there are marble tablets on which are engraved the family names of sixty of the pioneers.

The progressive citizens of the town wisely, as early as 1909, organized a Board of Trade with the following officers: F. F. Langford, president; F. M. Cowell, vice-president; E. N. Pierce, secretary; and Joshua Cowell, treasurer. Through their efforts in 1818 Manteca was incorporated as a city of the sixth class. The first elected officers were: Joshua Cowell, mayor; C. E. Littleton, F. M. Cowell, Andrew Veach and H. S. Erstad, trustees; George H. Singleton, clerk; J. F. Scott, attorney; E. H. Jeffries, engineer; John Boberg, treasurer; and Maro Litchfield, marshal and tax collector. In the second election R. E. Leventon was elected mayor and E. Kepple, F. E. Stetler, R. P. Fuller and J. E. Heeber, trustees; F. M. Roundtree, marshal and tax collector; E. Powers, treasurer; Daisy E. Duvall, clerk.

Were it not for irrigation this article of Manteca could not have been written. It is true that the Spreckels $2,000,000 beet sugar mill, employing some 300 men during the beet grinding season, gave Manteca an uplift, but it was the water that came flowing into their fields in 1903 that meant prosperity. On November 21 they celebrated the event at a small station five miles southeast of Lathrop. It was a proud day in the life of H. W. Cowell who, with Nate Harrold, spent his fortune in pushing ahead the project. The farmers from the surrounding country came in crowds to the celebration, and over 200 Stockton citizens attended, accompanied by a band.

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