Tracy, Banta, Ellis, Mountain House†California History

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

Tracy, Banta, Ellis, Mountain House

A busy, ambitious little village, about twelve miles southwest of Lathrop, at the junction of the Martinez and Livermore (or Niles) branches of the railroad, and was started in 1878 by the removal of Ellis to this point, at the time the junction was made by the building of the Martinez branch. The "West Side" railroad, standard gauge, it is said will soon be built by the Southern Pacific Company, from Goshen, on the main line, by way of Los Banos, to Tracy. When this is completed, an eating house will be established at this point, and possibly many trains will be made up here that are now made up at Lathrop. The branch to Los Banos is about sixty miles in length, and twenty-two miles of this is already built.

In Tracy there are now three large hotels.  The Tracy Hotel is conducted by Edward Wachsmuth, who has been in the hotel business since 1871. The San Joaquin House is managed by C. Ludwig, and he has had that since 1872. The Castle House was built during the summer of 1889, by Thomas Castle.

The greatest fire that ever occurred in Tracy was in 1879, which destroyed two stores and Castle's old hotel building, which he had removed from Ellis.

One of the principal business enterprises of Tracy is John Hay's manufactory of harvesters, which he has been running ever since the village was established. Faebian & Levinsky have a store and warehouse, who are the largest shippers ,  the principal exports being grain and live-stock.

The Catholics of Tracy, served by priests from Stockton the last Sunday of each month, erected a frame church building in 1887, at an expenditure of about $1,800.

The Presbyterian church at Tracy, was organized probably in 1886, with only three or four members; there are now about fifteen. In the fall of that year they built a house of worship at an expense of over $2,000.  The elders are J. M . Kerlinger and J. G. Dean. A Sunday-school is maintained.  The congregation is served by Rev. J. N. Hubbard, the installed pastor, who has been a resident here for fourteen years.

The Methodists held meetings at this point long before the town was started.  Rev. August Lemkau, who preached both in English and German, organized the first class here.  There are now about twenty members, consisting of both English-speaking and German Methodists, who united in 1887, and are now led by Judge W. B. Hay.  The meet in the Presbyterian church, and Rev G. J. Jaoser, of Stockton, is their present pastor.

A Lutheran minister from San Francisco, named Koenig, preaches in Tracy once a month.

Summer Lodge, No. 177, I.O.O.F., was first instituted in Ellis in 1871, with about sixty-eight or sixty-nine members. Since then the number has been even greater, but there are about sixty-eight now, and the lodge is in good financial condition. First officers: H. L. Atherton, N. G.; Maring Lammers, V.G.; Edward Wachsmuth, Sec. The first hall in which they met was burned down, and a neat wood building was substituted, which they moved to Tracy and enlarged. The present officers are:  Peter Smith, N. G.; George Luhrsen, V.G., and William Schultz, Sec.  The lodge meets every Saturday night.

West Side Loge, No. 118, K. of P., was instituted March 10, 1885, with about twenty-eight members.  The first officers were: Martin Loomis, P. C. C.; C. Ludwig, C.; J. S. Moulton, V. Co.; William Schultz, Pre.; William Pruser, Treas.  The present are William Ahlen, C. C.; Charles Canale, V C.; William Schult, Pre.; William Pruser, Treas.; D. A. Buschke, Sec.  There are now forty-four members, who meet Tuesday evenings in Odd Fellows' Hall.

Tracy Railroads

Along about 1878 the Southern Pacific Railroad built a branch road to San Francisco, by the way of Martinez, and extended the road along the West Side of Fresno, making a junction at Tracy. They made this a terminal railroad point and the "laying off" place of hundreds of their employees. This gave the town a permanent foundation, and nearly all of the inhabitants of Ellis moved their business houses and homes to Tracy. Among the first hotels were the Tracy Hotel, conducted by Edward Waschuth, the Castle Hotel moved up from Ellis and the San Joaquin Hotel, managed by Charles Ludwig. The town began to build up slowly, but sure, and in 1888 Front Street was almost solidly lined with business houses for nearly a half mile. A fire swept through June 19 of that year and destroyed entirely the business part of the city. Starting in Mrs. Mary Mannis' restaurant near the corner of North D and Front streets, it destroyed four buildings belonging to Mrs. Anna Fairchild, the Mann restaurant, Mrs. Kepler's vegetable stand, D. Silverstein, dry goods, Edward Curran, Commercial Hotel, Peter Kalni, saloon, C. A. D. Burschke, four stores, Lydia Cox, millinery, C. A. Deglisy, grocery store, and postoffice, Charles A. Slack, Arlington hotel, Fabian & Co., general merchandise, Henry Ludwig, saloon, Odd Fellows' building, Henry Statemeon, saloon, Grant Wilson, dry goods, Dr. J. L. Murrell's office, F. O. Housken's office and law library, Cunale Bros., general store, Mrs. Maurice Byrne's bakery, Ernest Gieseke, livery stable.

The buildings were all of wooden construction except the Odd Fellows' three-story brick. It was believed that this building would check the fire but the wind was so strong it carried the flames over and around the building and it was soon on fire in the upper stories. The Odd Fellows were among the heaviest losers as they lost all of their paraphernalia and furniture entailing a loss of over $15,000.

In 1910 the city was surveyed and laid off by City Engineer Robb and the plan was approved July 22 by the trustees. The town covered considerable ground, 6,600 feet north and south, and 4,500 feet, east and west. It was incorporated in 1910 as a city of the sixth class with a population of 2,000. The first city election took place in April and the following officers were elected: Abe Grunauer, mayor; Dave R. Payne, Wm. Schmidt, Charles Canole and James Lamb, trustees. In the second election, April 8, 1912, the women voted for the first time and the entire set of officers were re-elected. The officers elected in 1914 were: D. R. Payne, Nelson S. Dwelly, W. G. Lang, Thomas Garner, Fred Penny, O. E. Lee and W. J. McArdle, trustees; J. D. Van Ormer, treasurer; and Ben R. Clark, who later resigning, Geo. Frerichs was appointed clerk. The present officers are Nelson S. Dwelly, D. R. Payne, W. G. Lang, Thomas Garner, and Sullivan, trustees; Geo. L. Frerichs, clerk; and J. H. Canale, treasurer. The city hall, a very pretty two-story brick, was erected in 1917 at a cost of $15,000. In the rear of the city hall is housed the fire apparatus, a $6,000 La France chemical and motor pump, together with a large steam engine purchased from the San Francisco fire department for $150. It is held as a reserved engine and will play five heavy streams of water. They have a volunteer department, a fire alarm system and a siren run by motor power.

In 1868 a few of the families of Ellis met one day, says Thomas Garner, and organized the Willows district school, and by subscriptions built a small schoolhouse. In 1878 the school had an enrollment of thirty-six scholars. At that time the exodus from Ellis to Tracy took place and the inhabitants in moving took the schoolhouse with them. It was moved to a lot then owned by Dr. Luce. Sometime later the Pacific Improvement Company deeded the school trustees two lots for school purposes. The school was moved to those lots and in time an additional room was built. Still the cry was more room and it became necessary to rent outside rooms. In 1910 the trustees decided to call for bonds for an up-to-date building to cost in the neighborhood of $35,000. The bonds were voted by the citizens at a special bond election and carried by a big majority. On October 27, 1911, the cornerstone was laid by the Odd Fellows under the auspices of Summer Lodge No. 177.

The Tracy Carnival

The three days carnival in October, 1910, was only one of the many joyful events of the progressive city. The citizens had voted Vesta Ludwig as queen of the carnival, and she appointed Ruth Groinmett, Ella Miller and Lila Hart as her maids of honor. On arrival at the throne the Queen was welcomed to the city by the Rev. W. L. Fredrich and after the coronation C. G. Goodwin as chairman of the executive committee presented the Queen and her attendants purses of money as the gifts of the people. Mayor Abe Grunauer then tendered her the keys of the city and she then read her proclamation to the people bidding them have a good time during her reign as Queen, the fun ending Saturday with a masquerade ball.

The Presbyterians were the first religious denomination in Tracy, dating back to 1878, when the worshippers assembled in the homes of their members. In the fall of 1886 they erected a small wooden edifice at a cost of $2,000, and it was used as a union church for several years. Last year they erected a neat little brick edifice, the brick being obtained from the old brick pottery at Carnegie. The members and other persons assisted in the good work, and the building was erected at no great cost. The Methodists, either the German or English, held services in that district long before the founding of Tracy. After the Presbyterians erected their edifice of wood, the German and English Methodists united and held religious services in the Presbyterian Church.

The Catholics also had their services. Father O'Connor of St. Mary's parish visited Tracy once a month, and mass was celebrated in the railroad section house. In 1888 James Egan, Dennis Looney and Edward Kern, interesting themselves in the erection of a church, obtained subscriptions for that purpose and purchasing a lot a pretty little building was erected. St. Bernard's Church was erected on the site of the old building in 1911, Father Moran being in charge of the parish.

The Lutherans were holding services in Tracy twenty-two years ago, Rev. Koenig from San Francisco visiting the town monthly. They erected a small edifice, which was much too small for their use in 1921. In that year they erected a concrete house of worship at a total cost of $7,600, the building costing $6,000. It was dedicated in March, 1922, by the Rev. George C. Jacobson of Stockton, who was the pastor from 1908 to 1918.

A building of which the Tracyites may well be proud is their Union high school, erected in 1917. A union high school district was formed, namely, the Tracy, Carnegie, Naglee, Jefferson and Lammersville districts and cheerfully voted bonds of $100,000 for a high school. The building, the fourth of its kind in the county, was located on a twelve-acre tract east of the town and faces the State Highway. Built in the mission style of architecture it contained eighteen classrooms together with a large auditorium seating nearly 1,000 people and a meeting place for the Farm Bureau and any public and civic event. It was dedicated May 1, 1917, Dr. J. S. West, "the father of the West Side high school," receiving much praise for his untiring efforts for a broader and higher education. After a parade all marched to the new building and entered the auditorium. The president of the board of trustees, William Schlossman, as chairman of the meeting, called upon the Odd Fellows to dedicate the building. After the performance of the beautiful ceremony, Grand Master Clinton H. McCormick delivered an address appropriate to the occasion. On December 7, 1922, there was another interesting educational event, the dedication of Tracy's second fine grammar school building. Located in the western part of town, it is of brick construction finished in stucco and occupies an acre and a half of ground. It is designed in the unit system with a handsome assembly hall, class room, gymnasium and all other rooms in the latest improvement.

Sumner lodge No. 177, I. O. O. F. was instituted in Ellis September, 1870, by Grand Master C. W. Dannals, assisted by Past Grands Dean Woolf and Levinsky. It was instituted with five charter members, each one elected to office except John C. Bonney. The first officers were: H. L. Atherton, noble grand; Martin Lammers, vice grand; E. Wacksmuth, secretary, and E. B. Stiles, treasurer. That evening they initiated Phillip Fabian, R. A. Murphy, Jr., Olaf Nelson, William S. Law, and Charles Herring. September 1, 1921, they celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the lodge with a street parade, some seventy members in line, led by the Tracy band, followed by a program in their hall.

Few Odd Fellows have had the trials of Sumner lodge, their building destroyed by fire not once but twice, in 1875, and in the big fire of 1898. Their first home in Ellis was in a small wooden structure owned by Herring, the lodge renting the second story. This building vas burned in 1875. The lodge then erected a two-story building and moved it to Tracy in 1878. The lodge increased in membership and wealth, and in 1896 they erected on Front Street a handsome three-story brick, one of the prettiest buildings in the county. In the fire of '98 their building was completely gutted with a loss of $15,000 and only $7,500 insurance. As they had not paid in full for the building it was a severe loss, but with undaunted hearts they resolved to rebuild, and in time erected the present handsome structure. It was mortgaged in part to John Garwood of Stockton, but as soon as the crops of 1900 were harvested, Martin Lammers took over the mortgage, which was cancelled April 30, 1921, when the lodge celebrated the 102nd anniversary of American Odd Fellowship, the mortgage being burned with great ceremony.

The name of Samaria Rebekah lodge No. 193, was one of several names suggested by Past Grand Rudolph Gnekow, a very active Stockton Odd Fellow. While attending the installation of the officers of Sumner lodge in January, 1891, he observed that quite a number of the women of Tracy were the wives and daughters of the Odd Fellows. He suggested that they institute a Rebekah lodge in the county. It was instituted April 29, 1891, by Deputy District Grand Master George Schuler, assisted by Hoyle Greenwood as grand marshal and S. M. Spurrier, grand secretary. The following officers were elected and installed: Mrs. Mary Castle, noble grand; Ella McNeil, vice grand; Caroline J. Buschke, recording secretary; James C. Allen, financial secretary, and James Martin, treasurer. The officers were installed by District Deputy Grand President Mrs. Marion Greenwood, assisted by Etta Tinkham as grand marshal, both from Lebanon lodge, Stockton.

Tracy Parlor No. 1866, N. S. G. W., was instituted on Thursday evening, September 29, 1922, with the following officers: George L. Frerichs, past president; James E. Shields, president; Henry Brink, recording secretary; W. M. Lewis, financial secretary; W. S. Peck, treasurer; John Fredericks, marshal. A banquet was given at the San Joaquin Hotel, after the installation. Among the toasts offered as "Our State," W. B. Nutter, of Stockton, "Tracy Parlor, No. 186," J. E. Shields of Tracy; "Stockton Parlor," E. M. Bransford of Stockton; "How a Successful Parlor Should Be Conducted," Ewald M. Grunsky; "The Ladies," George Housken of Stockton.

West Side Lodge No. 118, K. P., was instituted March 10, 1885, with about twenty-five members. The first officers elected and installed were Martin Loomis, past chief chancellor; Charles Ludwig, chancellor; J. S. Moulton, vice-chancellor; Wm. Schult, pre≠late; Wm. Pruser, treasurer; J. S. Moulton.

The West Side Irrigation District began operations in 1918. The total cost of construction was $495,000. It has a bonded indebtedness of $42.26 an acre. Its source of supply is Old River, really the San Joaquin. The intake canal is 550 feet in length, 25 feet wide on the bottom and carries a depth of 6 feet at low tide. The upper canal pumps, four in numbers each throws 10,000 gallons an hour, with a combined capacity of approximately 125 acre feet every 24 hours. This canal is seven miles long, 10 feet wide on the bottom and has 14.41 miles of laterals. At the lower canal are three more huge pumps with a capacity of 96 acre feet every 24 hours. This canal is nine miles long, with a six-foot bottom and has 10.71 miles of laterals. The water from these canals will irrigate over 30,000 acres of land in what is known as the West Side, Naglee, Burk and the Banta Carbona districts. To celebrate the event the Tracy Chamber of Commerce sent out invitations to all the country round about and to the leading irrigationists of the state. It was a great May 22, 1921, and after the visitors had been taken over the thirty-five miles drive in viewing the canals they assembled at the high school building, where the following program was given: Selection by high school orchestra; address of welcome, Assemblyman B. S. Crittenden; address, A. L. Cowell of Stockton; selection, high school orchestra; address, R. T. Evans, treasurer Federal Land Bank of California; address, Dr. Elwood Meade, chairman land settlement board of California; selection, high school orchestra; address, C. E. West, appraiser Federal Land Bank; address, Frank Adams, irrigation manager of Department of Agriculture.

Transcribed by Carolyn Feroben

Banta California, a little unincorporated town located within San Joaquin County. The community was named for Henry Banta, settler. Historically, at one time it was a key interchange point among the Southern Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads. It was on the transcontinental railroad route from Sacramento and to the San Francisco Bay Area using the Altamont Pass and Niles Canyon prior to the Central Pacific acquiring the California Pacific route which was north from the Carquinez Strait and ran to Vallejo. The Central Pacific rerouted the California Pacific route to Benicia, California and created a railroad ferry running across the Carquinez Strait between Benicia and Port Costa.

Somewhere in this history It was said that railroads can build up or ruin a town. Ellis, which gave Tracy its initial growth, is an illustration. Today you can scarcely see where stood the town, but it is a part of country history and briefly we will notice it. Ellis received its beginning from a place called Wickland. It was a small settlement founded in 1861 on Old River; and was the point where vessels came to load with coal, and the inhabitants of Wickland believing that Ellis would soon be a prosperous town moved to that point. The town grew quite rapidly and in November, 1870, it contained some forty-five or fifty buildings of all descriptions, including two hotels, a store, blacksmith shop, warehouse, saloon and livery stable, but ten years later it was practically deserted.
Mountain House
The Northern Valley Indian Yokuts Cholbon triblet originally inhabited the area of Mountain House. Their territory ran along Old River and just to the west of Bethany.

During the late part of the 18th century Juan Bautista de Anza, a Spanish explorer traveled the region from San Francisco on to the San Joaquin, Sacramento Delta. However, the Spanish never inhabited the area and the land generally was utilized for agriculture and trade and transportation stopping off points.

The Mountain House name originated during the Gold Rush. As miners traveled from the Sierra foothills to San Francisco, often they wound rest about half way at a house they called "Mountain House" which rested at the foot of a hilly range. The first structure in Mountain House was simply a blue tent which was erected by Thomas Goodall in 1849. Then, with the assistance of areal American Indians, Goodall constructed an adobe house upon the site and subsequently Mountain House developed into a rest stop of stockmen, miners,, immigrants and rancheros.

Simon Zimmerman later acquired the stop and in the course of his hard labor Mountain House turned out to be a well-known way station stop on the way to Stockton. During the mid-1850's, a place called Mohr's Landing was built-up surrounding Old River to sustain trade and commerce. Unfortunately, flooding of Old River during the early 1860s ruined Mohrís Landing. An area farmer, Eric Wicklund, laid out a new town close to the present site of Mountain House. The town of Wicklund developed into the trade and transportation center for the region. However, with the coming of the Central Pacific Railroad during the 1870's allowed faster shipment of goods and subsequently Wicklundís commerce waned. The first train stopped at the Bethany Railroad Station in 1878 and Bethany was transformed into a new trade center.

To handle the growth, in 1916 the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District was created to carry water, which alleviated dependency upon dry farming. During the 1920's, Bethany expanded to include a post office, general store, blacksmith shop, church, bar and dancehall,. During this period, the Mountain House School was erected in the area foothills. The last standing Bethany building the Post Office was leveled In 1940. Since that time, the Mountain house region land had mainly been agricultural use until the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors was officially launched a new Mountain House in November of 1994.

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