Lathrop California History

History of Lathrop

The place was probably named after Ariel Lathrop, of San Francisco, one of the directors of the railroad company, and is beautifully situated. It is particularly a railroad town, as it is almost exclusively made up of railroad hands, being the end of divisions, and thus constituting a kind of headquarters for the men, of whom it is said there are about 500 making their home here. The more permanent population numbers something over 300.

Twelve passenger trains and forty-four freight trains arrive at or pass this point daily. The switch engine is run busily day and night. The Visalia division runs to Tulare and Los Angeles, and the twenty-mile branch to Modesto is a part of the old contemplated overland route to New Orleans. The most prominent Protestant religious denomination here is that of the "Progressive Brethren," known as "Dunkards," originally "Dunkers," this word signifying dippers. This word refers to baptism, in the administration of which they practice what is called "trine immersion," dipping the subject three times, one time for each name (person) in the triune God-head.

In reference to war, oaths, worldly display, etc., they are like the Quakers. Five members of this organization found their way into this county in the fall of 1860. In the fall of 1862 they held their first communion meeting in a grove on the east side of the San Joaquin river, where the Southern Pacific Railroad bridge now crosses it. At that meeting the first organization in the county of this denomination was perfected, with George Wolfe as elder, Felix Senger for minister, and Jacob Wolfe and Henry Haines as deacons, and fourteen members. Mr. Wolfe, now deceased, first located on the San Joaquin river, three miles south of Lathrop.

At present the church numbers perhaps about seventy members, and meet in a union house of worship in the central position of Lathrop, a neat frame structure, 30 x 60 feet in size, built eight or nine years ago, at at cost of about $2,000. H. Holsinger and a Mr. Bear have been elders; the present elder is Mr. Wolfe, son of George Wolfe, the pioneer of the church here.

The Catholic congregation at Lathrop was established in May, 1887, by priests from Stockton. The same year a good frame house of worship was erected, 50 x 100 feet in dimensions, at a cost of $1,500. Mass, however, had been held here from time to time previously. There are about 300 Catholics worshiping in Lathrop, meeting the third Sunday of each month. Rev. W. B. O'Connor, of Stockton, is the pastor.

There is a prosperous lodge of Knights of Pythias at Lathrop.

For the public school there is a neat, new frame building, in which two teachers are employed.

In Lathrop are three hotels and two restaurants. The two general stores are kept by Joseph Geraty and Mr. Sanguinetti, and Scarlett & Howland are the principal  grocers.

A stock company has commenced to sink an artesian well in the southwestern part of the village, which already furnishes fifty miners' inches of water and some gas.

At one time D. H. Berdine & Co., of Stockton, published the Lathrop Junction, and in 1888 a Mr. Bradley, also of Stockton, established and ran for a few months the Railroad Journal, which had a considerable amount of advertising and seemed to do well.


Lathrop is a town of the past, a silent reminder of the time when Stanford and Company endeavored to found a town as a rival to Stockton, but they did not figure on Stockton's waterway to the ocean, which built up the city to a population of 10,000 before there were any railroads in existence. The company laid out the town August 1, 1887, subdividing the tract west of the railroad hotel into sixteen oblong blocks.

Up to this time it had been known as Wilson's station. The company named it Lathrop in honor of Stanford's brother-in-law, Charles Lathrop. Every inducement was made to have settlers locate there, as it was a terminal point for trains, thus causing many railroad men to move their families there, and the stopping there for twenty minutes of each passenger train for meals in the railroad hotel. This hotel, one of the largest in the state at that time, was built at a cost of $50,000. It was placed in charge of H. A. Bloss, the popular hotel man, who had been conducting the eating place at the Stockton depot. The hotel was opened to the public May 10, 1871, with a grand ball and a sumptuous supper. Merchants and others began to locate there and some of them were not desirable residents to the company as they opened opposition eating places to the railroad house.

As every passenger train arrived times were lively as the opposition hotels would solicit patronage. Then the company prohibited all solicitations on their property, and there were several fights and lawsuits. Passengers, however, continued to patronize the cheaper hotels. Then the company won out by running a long line of box freight cars on the sidetrack just before the arrival of every passenger train. Lathrop reached its highest growth in 1879. At that time it had a population of about six hundred, with three hotels, two restaurants, two general merchandising stores, a school, Knights of Pythias lodge, a Dunkard and a Catholic church. In February, 1886, the hotel caught fire and was totally destroyed by fire. The railroad then transferred their round­houses to Tracy and made that town the terminal. That was the death blow to Lathrop.

The Murder of David S. Terry

Soon after the rebuilding of the hotel Lathrop became famous through the killing of Judge Terry by David S. Nagle, a body guard of U. S. Supreme Justice Stephen J. Field. The two judges had been enemies since they sat together on the Supreme bench of California. Terry at one time publicly denounced Judge Field as "the most corrupt judge ever on the bench." In 1883 a woman named Sarah Althea Hill claimed by a secret marriage to be the wife of Senator William Sharon, a wealthy mining man formerly of Nevada. Sharon denied the marriage, and to prove it the case was contested in 1884 in the San Francisco court.

Her attorneys were David S. Terry and George W. Tyler, a former county judge in San Joaquin. She won out, as her marriage contract was declared valid. Sharon then removed his residence to Nevada, so as to bring the contest before the Federal Court, Chief Justice Field, presiding. Frank G. Newlands, the son-in-law of Senator Sharon, was a close friend of Chief Justice Field. In the meantime some curious events occurred. Sharon died in November, 1885; in the following month, Mrs. Cornelia Terry died broken hearted, and in less than two months, January 8, 1886, Terry married Sarah Althea Hill. Mrs. Terry now claimed Sharon's property as his heir, and the contestant was Frank Newlands.

The case was tried in the U. S. District Court before Justice Field in September, 1888. It was a curious condition of affairs, Terry pleading his wife's case against Sharon's son-in-law before Justice Field, Terry's sworn enemy, and Newlands' warm friend. During the trial Mrs. Terry sprang up from her seat and exclaimed, "Justice Field, are you going to order me to give up that marriage contract? We hear that you have been bought. How much have you been paid by the Sharon people?" "Marshal, put that woman out," commanded Field. Terry resisted the marshal and some witnesses say he drew his bowie knife. He was sentenced to six months in jail in the Alameda County prison. While in jail he said to some friends, "When I get out of jail I will horsewhip Judge Fields." "But he will resent it," replied his friend. "Then," answered Terry, "if he resents it I will kill him."

Terry was released from jail March 3, 1889, and went to his Fresno home. August 14, 1889, Terry and his wife and Judge Field and his body guard, David S. Nagle, unknown to each other were on the Southern Pacific train bound for San Francisco. As the train stopped at Lathrop for meals Field and Nagle entered the dining room and sat down to a table side by side. A few minutes later Terry and his wife entered the room, she without her handbag, containing a revolver, which she always carried.

They were conducted to a seat beyond Field, and as they passed Terry apparently took no notice of Field. Sitting down, Mrs. Terry whispered something to her husband, and immediately got up and left the room. In the meantime Terry arose from the table and approaching Field from behind slapped his cheek upon the right and the left side. This, according to the Southerner's code was the highest insult that could be given an enemy. Quick as a flash Nagle with his left hand shot Terry twice and he fell to the floor dead. The first ball pierced his heart and the second bullet pierced his ear as he fell.

At that moment Mrs. Terry entered the room bearing her handbag and falling upon her husband's breast appeared to take something from beneath his vest. There was where Terry always carried his dirk knife, according to his own statement. Nagle was arrested by the Lathrop constable and taken to the Stockton jail. A warrant was sworn out and served on Justice Field by Sheriff Cunningham, but immediately he was served with a writ of habeas corpus to produce Justice Field in the U. S. Court in San Francisco. Nagle was tried in the same court on the charge of murder and acquitted on the ground that he had only performed his duty

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