French Camp, The Oldest Community in San Joaquin County

    French Camp, California

    French Camp is where the Oregon-California trail ended. The trail was used by French-Canadian trappers working for the Hudson Bay Company from around 1832 through 1845. Michel la Framboise, along with others, met fur seekers here annually, as they camped along the river with their families.

    During 1844 William Gulnac and Charles M. Weber endorsed the first white settler colony, "Rancho del Campo de Los Franceses," where French Camp was included along with the present site of Stockton. GSA's Western Distribution Center and the U.S. Army Sharpe Depot are both located in Fench Camp along with the San Joaquin County General Hospital. Interstate I-5 runs right through the middle of the town.

    French Camp Real Estate Listings

    Time stops in French Camp

    By Kate Fowlie Record Staff Writer
    April 24, 2004 12:00 AM

    'Hoods 'n' Hamlets FRENCH CAMP 
    Most residents of San Joaquin County's oldest town don't like change. Time seems to have stopped for some.

    French Camp native Pat Beattie and her sister were still running the market in 2004 their father opened in the early part of the 20th century at the corner of French Camp Road and Ash Street. In 2004, Beattie's Grocery was sparsely stocked and appeared to be more of a stop- in-and-chat spot than a business. On an outside wall, a faded advertisement still promotes the refreshment of Eskimo pies ("M-m-m-melts in your mouth". The place has bare, unfinished wood floors and a dusty feel. The unpainted wood display cases are mostly empty except for a few bags of chips and candy. There were some sodas and a few packs of cigarettes, along with some stray cobwebs hanging from the tin ceiling. Still, a few regulars dropped by, like Chris Teagarden of Stockton. He had been driving by the store for a decade and stopped in occasionally for a snack or soda. "It's was funky, man," he said laughing as he ate potato chips outside the store on a recent afternoon before the store closed. "It's was a nice store, but they didn't sell much. It was always that way." Though well-known as a community activist and staunch protector of the town's historical character, Beattie remained reclusive when it came to outsiders, as was her sister. The pair declined interviews.

    Residents in French Camp guard their small-town independence and identity. Unlike the ever-changing landscape in Stockton four miles to the north, not much has changed over the years in French Camp. There are large stretches of fields, no sidewalks and few traffic lights. Residents rely on wells and septic tanks. An occasional red rooster crosses the road. Despite increasing traffic along French Camp Road during commute hours, the town still remains quiet and peaceful, for the most part. Many residents say they want it to stay that way. French Camp's rural feel is what keeps native Thomas Colwell here. The 63-year-old man still lives in the house he was raised in just a mile from the post office, where he has worked for 26 years. He went to French Camp School a quarter mile north from the post office. "I have five acres, so I don't look out my window and bump heads with my neighbor," Colwell said recently from his post behind the counter. "We have chickens running loose and they actually use the crosswalk."

    County Supervisor Steve Gutierrez, whose district includes French Camp, said many of the residents fear their community will be overrun by growth from Stockton. "They don't want to be part of the city of Stockton," he said. "The majority like to maintain their rural style of existence, and I respect them for it." The community's downtown consists of a few blocks along French Camp Road occupied by the market, the French Camp Fire District fire station, French Camp School and the post office, which celebrates its 150th anniversary May 3.

    The post-office flagpole will be painted for the occasion, and Postmaster Rod Rodinsky hopes for appearances by local officials and the French Camp school band at the sesquicentennial ceremony. The post office "is the focal point for the community," said Rodinsky, who also has headed the French Camp Chamber of Commerce for nine years. "This is where people run into each other." If most of the town's permanent residents live east of Interstate 5, most of the jobs are on the west side, the site of the county jail and hospital, the Sheriff's Office, juvenile hall and a migrant-worker camp. The county hospital relocated to French Camp from Stockton in 1895 after a fire.

    French Camp gets its name from the French-Canadian fur traders who were the first white settlers in the area, arriving in 1828 after the discovery of a native beaver population. Known among California's Mexicans as El Campo de los Franceses, the area became French Camp after the Mexican government granted the land in 1844 to Guillermo Gulnac, who was a Mexican citizen by marriage. Gulnac and Charles M. Weber founded French Camp. Five years later, Weber founded the city of Stockton. Historical accounts report that by 1850, French Camp contained a store, saloon, freight depot and two hotels.

    Stockton businessmen used French Camp Slough to boat into Stockton during the rainy season when roads turned to mud. French Camp overshadowed Stockton as a transportation center until 1865, when the French Camp Turnpike, an all-weather toll road linking French Camp to Stockton, was finished. In 1879, French Camp's population hit 200. But the town's ascent stalled after Interstate 5 was completed and the old Lincoln Highway through town had been bypassed. With the decrease in traffic, several gas stations and roadside businesses closed along French Camp Road.

    The state recognized French Camp as a historical spot in 1959. As of the 2000 Census, the community's population was about 4,000, including 1,312 inmates housed at the county jail.

    French Camp residents such as Marie Stagno have watched, with a sense of growing unease, as massive housing developments continue to sprout up on all sides. Stagno owns the Stockton Livestock Auction that was built by her grandfather, Casey Stagno, in 1946. The Stagnos named it the Stockton Livestock Auction, because there was already another auction site called French Camp. Marie Stagno runs the place, where livestock is sold on Saturdays, with her two brothers. They also breed goats for meat. "This is a nice, small town. We want to keep it small," Stagno said. But, she added, "You can't stop progress." Progress is what French Camp needs, said longtime resident Bob Pico, 69, who sits on the fire district's board of directors. Pico unsuccessfully tried to push the townspeople to incorporate about 30 years ago. He also tried to convince residents to approve a deal to get their water from Stockton about 15 years ago. Residents rejected the offer, because they didn't want to be connected to Stockton or pay for water.

    French Camp's isolationist position eventually will be its demise, he said. "It is going backwards instead of forward. It needs to come into the modern age," Pico said. "The core (downtown will sit there and die on the vine, and French Camp will be just a memory some day."

    To reach reporter Kate Fowlie, phone (209 546-8296 or e-mail [email protected]


    Location in San Joaquin County and the state of California

    Area code(s) 209


    Valley Fever - Sunny Frazier, a former journalist, Navy Veteran and Narcotics secretary composes mysteries in California San Joaquin Valley settings. Her novels most often feature Christy Bristol, an astrologer along with a Sheriff's Dept. clerk. Additionally, Frazier is the acquisitions editor with Oak Tree Press. Having cyber marketing expertise and winner of short story contests, Sunny Frazier frequently speak at writers' conferences.
    The Lincoln Highway ran through French Camp. It passed the Lincoln Station, on the left, “built to serve motorists on the Lincoln Highway,” the archive caption says. “The station was operated by James and Cleveland Beattie. The Beattie General Merchandise store was on the opposite side of the street. In the late 1920s, this building replaced an old store building James Beattie had operated since early in the twentieth century.”


    Historical Landmark NO. 437 First Landing Place of Sailing Launch Comet - First known sail launch to ascend San Joaquin River from San Francisco landed here autumn, 1846. It carried 20 Mormon pioneers who founded New Hope Agricultural Project on Stanislaus. A yoke of oxen and span of mules were driven from Marsh's Landing (Antioch) by two men who followed a crude map drawn by Merritt the trapper. Two years later Doak and Bonsell operated here the first ferry on San Joaquin River. Location: From I-5 take Manthey Rd interchange, take W side frontage rd, go N 1 mi to N bank of San Joaquin River, plaque located at entrance to Mossdale Crossing Park and Ramp, 2.0 mi N of intersection of I-5 and I-205
    California Historic Marker NO. 668 French Camp - Here was the terminus of the Oregon-California Trail used from about 1832 to 1845 by the French-Canadian trappers employed by the Hudson's Bay Company. Every year Michel La Framboise, among others, met fur hunters camped with their families here. In 1844 Charles M. Weber and William Gulnac promoted the first white settlers' colony on Rancho del Campo de los Franceses, which included French Camp and the site of Stockton. Location: On Elm St at French Camp School, French Camp
    California Chicory Works - 1672 W Bowman Rd, 2.2 mi W of I-5, French Camp - The partnership of C. A. Bachmann and Charles H. W. Brandt, formed in 1885, was the largest chicory supplier in America while operating at this site during the 1890s. Chicory roots are roasted, ground, and used as a mixture with or substitute for coffee. Using its own ship, The Dora, and the finest German equipment to process the chicory, the company shipped its product to market until about 1911. California Historical Marker No. 935
    J&L Gasoline
    8115 S. El Dorado
    J&L Deli
    8125 S. El Dorado
    Peters Market
    8150 S. El Dorado
    Club Maaco
    8175 S. El Dorado
    San Joaquin General Hospital - 500 Hospital Road. French Camp
    P.O. Box 1020
    Stockton, CA 95201
    Phone: (209) 468-6300
    Fax: (209) 468-6988
    Health Plan of San Joaquin - 7751 S. Manthey Road
    Stockton VA Clinic - 7777 Freedom Way, French Camp (corner of Matthews Road) - The Stockton VA Clinic is part of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. Clinic hours 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday - Friday, excluding holidays. Lab hours 6:30 am - noon, Monday - Friday Please note: NO EMERGENCY SERVICES at this location. Patients are strongly encouraged to call 1-800-455-0057 and speak with an Advice Nurse to schedule an appointment for their urgent medical needs to avoid long waits as a walk in. Available Health Care Services: General Internal Medicine Mental Health Clinic Smoking Cessation Social Work Service Substance Abuse Wellness Clinic
    French Camp Road & Ash - 1914
    French Camp  & Ash
    Beaties 1st Store
    Beaties Grocery, 2nd store. French Camp Rd and Ponderosa - The Lincoln Highway ran through French Camp. It passed the Lincoln Station, on the left, “built to serve motorists on the Lincoln Highway,” the archive caption says. “The station was operated by James and Cleveland Beattie. The Beattie General Merchandise store was on the South side of the street. In the late 1920s, the building on The North side of the street replaced an old store building James Beattie had operated since early in the twentieth century.”
    French Camp Post Office
    French Camp Fire Department
    Oasis Market
    Airport & French Camp Road
    Del Rio Taquera Market
    Airport & French Camp Road
    Togo's French Camp
    French Camp Elementary School
    French Camp
    Historical Landmark
    On the SE corner of French Camp Road and Ash is this gigantic Nopal Cactus The Nopal Cactus is a plant that originated the desert that Inhibits the enzyme that creates cholesterol and to stimulate the body to burn fat better. It is also rich in fiber quality. It helps slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. It can absorb water, thereby reducing appetite to help digestive system to normal and prevent hemorrhoids.
    River Mill - 1672 Bowman Rd, French Camp - The River Mill was built in 1873, and is located along the San Joaquin River in French Camp, California. Originally a processing mill for chicory to be used in coffee, it has seen many uses. The current owner purchased the property in 1972 and in the early 90’s, after extensive renovations, began offering The River Mill facilities for weddings, conferences, day-long seminars, luncheons, dinners and special events.
    San Joaquin County Jail Honor Farm - Matthews & Wolf Roads

    The Stockton Chinese Cemetery was established in 1927 and this the new modern gate. The original gate is still in use today 100 yards East. Manthey Rd & Matthews Rd. I-5, exit West Matthews Road, French Camp
    Stockton Livestock Auction - 140 E. French Camp Road - Marie Stagno a French Camp resident has watched, with a sense of growing unease, as massive housing developments have continued to spring up on all sides of French Camp.  Stagno owns the Stockton Livestock Auction that was built by her grandfather, Casey Stagno, in 1946. The Stagnos named it the Stockton Livestock Auction, because there was already another auction site called French Camp. Marie Stagno runs the place, along with her two brothers where livestock is sold on Saturdays.. They also breed goats for meat.
    Park View Cemetery Chapel - French Camp Rd & Highway 99


    Hotels / Motels: Lathrop

    French Camp is a census-designated place (CDP) in San Joaquin County, California, United States. The population was 4,109 at the 2000 census. San Joaquin General Hospital is located in French Camp.

    ZIP code 95231


    Area - Total 3.1 sq mi (8 km2) - Land 3.1 sq mi (8 km2) - Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)

    Elevation 20 ft (6 m)

    Coordinates: French Camp is located at 37°52?58?N 121°16?47?W? / ?37.88278°N 121.27972°W? / 37.88278; -121.27972 (37.882742, -121.279788).

    According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 3.1 square miles (8.0 km²), all of it land.

    As of the census of 2000, there were 4,109 people, 576 households, and 438 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 1,324.5 people per square mile (511.8/km²). There were 598 housing units at an average density of 192.8/sq mi (74.5/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 44.20% White, 11.97% African American, 0.80% Native American, 4.45% Asian, 0.46% Pacific Islander, 32.12% from other races, and 5.99% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 44.95% of the population.

    French Camp California

    There were 576 households out of which 37.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.4% were married couples living together, 15.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.8% were non-families. 19.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.14 and the average family size was 3.57.

    In the CDP the population was spread out with 24.5% under the age of 18, 14.9% from 18 to 24, 39.2% from 25 to 44, 15.2% from 45 to 64, and 6.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 182.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 192.1 males.

    Population (2000) - Total 4,109 - Density 1,325.5/sq mi (513.6/km2) Time zone PST (UTC?8)

    The median income for a household in the CDP was $28,295, and the median income for a family was $29,034. Males had a median income of $30,556 versus $17,083 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $9,945. About 27.1% of families and 40.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 40.3% of those under age 18 and 12.9% of those


    Colleges: Stockton is home to several well known higher educational institutions including the University of the PacificCalifornia State University Stanislaus-StocktonSan Joaquin Delta Community College •  Humphreys College and School of Law, as well as a variety of private and vocational schools. California Colleges •  USA Colleges

    Schools: Manteca Unified Schools 


    - Senate Michael Machado (D)
    - Assembly Cathleen Galgiani (D)
    - U. S. Congress Dennis Cardoza (D)


    Notable Residents:

    Gilbert "Magú" Luján Scott Brooks- Head Coach of Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA)

    Real Estate:

    The French Camp real estate market is full of affordable opportunities. Single-family homes are available from the low $100,000s to the $700,000s for traditional homes with varying amenities. Historic homes of the early 1900s are available on lots with beautiful mature trees in the central part of Stockton. Newer areas in north Stockton and also in south Stockton can include community lakes swimming pools, tennis courts, and clubhouses. Farm and ranch properties come on spacious lots, many with horse pastures and barns. Custom estate type homes near the Brookside Country Club can run as much as $1.5 million or more.

    San Joaquin County

    Stockton, is the seat of San Joaquin County (the 5th largest agricultural county in the United States). According to 2005 estimates by the California Department of Finance, Stockton has a population of 289,800 and is the 13th largest city in California. Stockton is also the fourth largest inland city in California, behind Sacramento, Fresno, and Bakersfield. According to the California State Department of Finance January 6, 2006 estimate, 668,265 people live in the Stockton Metropolitan Statistical Area.

    San Joaquin County: San Joaquin County

    San Joaquin County Government:

    San Joaquin County Preliminary Flood Maps


    Airport: Stockton Airport (Photo)California International AirportsUSA International Airports

    Amtrak: Stockton Amtrak (Photo)

    Highways:Highway Road Conditions Map

      Interstate 5
    Highway Markers
    Sign Resource Manual

    External links

    Suggested Central Valley Books