Reflections of Yesteryear
remembering the five villages that became Fremont, California
by Nancy Pratt
Commentary by Nancy Pratt with Jan Southworth and Randy Power
The Ohlone - culture flourished in the area for thousands of years. They knew of the great beasts that roamed the earth eons ago such as the sabre tooth cats that are fossilized in the Irvington Fossil Pits. A practical life of survival made the Ohlone respectful of the bay waters supply of oysters and the lands rich soils production of acorn yielding oak trees. The abundance of marshes provided tules used in building ruways and reed boats.
- Ruway - This tule reed thatched house is one type of home used for thousands of years by the Ohlone people. Several peaceful villages composed of ruways, shade shelters and sweat houses once dotted the landscape where Fremont stands today. Abundant wildlife and a mild climate encouraged a thriving native culture.
- Reed Boat -Tule Balsas were the most common form of water craft on pre-historic San Francisco Bay and its surrounding lakes and marshes. Spanish explorers first observed Indians paddling these buoyant well-built boats in the 1700s. In shallow conditions the Indian tule boats could out-maneuver and evade Spanish longboats. Excellent craft for fishing and hunting waterfowl, tule boats skillfully plied the waters of Stivers Lagoon long ago.
Mission San Jose-In 1797 the Franciscan Fathers established their 14th mission along the El Camino Real and nestled under the watchful eye of Majestic Mission Peak. Its compound provided the living quarters, workshops and storage areas of Franciscan Fathers and 1900 Ohlone converts. The Mission prosperity included 15,000 cattle, 14,500 horses, and 16,000 sheep that grazed in valleys extending to the present city of Pleasanton. Their enormous stores of grain, hide, tallow, wine and salt supplied the Russian colony of Fort Ross and Yankee sailing ships anchored at Yerba Buena (now San Francisco). The little hills area, today known as Coyote Hills, marked the Mission embarcadero on a navigable slough. Gold Rush steamers came through here if they didnt go up the delta. The Mission Pass (near 680 and Mission Blvd) was a main route to the Gold Hills. The town of Mission San Jose still has many shops and a hotel that accommodated travelers to the Gold Country.
Alameda Creek - flowed as a major river before reservoirs. Plentiful salmon and steelhead ran up the creek and made great fishing for the Ohlones. Later, settlers made Sneak Boxes to slip through cattails and tule reeds to hunt and fish along the creek.
|Niles -first known as Vallejo Mills, the town developed after Jesus Vallejo, who was granted the Mission property, built a water-powered flour mill on Alameda Creek in 1841. In 1869 the Central Pacific Railroad came through the canyon and the last golden spike was driven at Vallejo Mills to complete the transcontinental railroad to Alameda. Locomotive 171 was the first single engine to pass through on that transcontinental journey. In 1883, the small railroad town that sprang up was named Niles, after judge Niles, a Central Pacific major investor official. As many as 20 trains a day once passed through Niles. The 1904 Victorian columned depot of the Southern Pacific Railroad still remains. Following the railroad, the motion picture industry enlivened Niles. The Essany Studios produced 375 Bronco Billy Anderson western films and made the hit movie The Tramp with Charlie Chaplin.
Centerville - first known as the "Wild West" town of Hardscrabble. Sea Captain George Bond established a general store in 1852 for unsuccessful gold miners who took up farming in the area. They worked hard cultivating the rich soil and soon became the breadbasket of San Francisco during the Gold Rush. John Horner began the areas first produce ranches and the east bays first school. Todays Washington High School, built in 1924, evolved from those beginnings. The first Protestant church of Alameda County, Centerville Presbyterian recently burned and is scheduled to be rebuilt exactly the same as when first built in 1853.
Irvington - known as Washington Corners evolved from a boarding house and tavern (established by two freed slaves) for travelers during the Gold Rush. Irvington enjoyed a prestigious reputation for Washington College of Science and Industry which began in 1872 (the same time as UC Berkeleys South Hall). Clarks Hall, built by the Clark Brothers in 1879, served as a general store and post office downstairs and a town hall with a dance floor and stage on the second floor. The Irvington Monument, now in a little park across from Clarks Hall, welcomes visitors to the town just as it did after the First World War, when it also functioned as a traffic barrier.
Warm Springs - the Ohlone Indians came to Warm Springs area for the medicinal benefits long before the arrival of the Spaniards. In 1850 Clement Columbes established a vineyard and built his famous Warm Spring Hotel and spa, which eventually became a fashionable resort for wealthy San Franciscans. In 1853, American scholar and traveler Bajard Taylor wrote about Warm Springs "The national flag, which floats over a clump of sycamore and live oaks, announced a hotel, a pleasant retreat. A shady verandah opens upon a garden of flowers in midst of which a fountain played." Later, Governor Leland Stanford bought the area and established an extensive vineyard to supply wine for his railroad and resorts.
|Lake Elizabeth - a natural flood water ponding basin for the area provided a great bed of tules and hunting marsh for the Ohlones. Simeon Stivers, an early pioneer, settled near the lagoon and shot ducks and geese for San Francisco restaurants
Patterson House - This elegant Queen Anne style Victorian home, completed in 1889 is today part of Ardenwood Historic Park. Begun in 1857 as the modest farmhouse of George Washington Patterson, the house grew in size as farmer Patterson expanded his land holdings and wealth. Once 3,000 acres in size, the Patterson Ranch was on of the major 19th century farming enterprises in the south bay and the life of pioneer George Patterson is a colorful rags-to-riches story. Tours of the house are conducted Thursdays to Sundays, April to mid November.
- Gazebo - the lovely Victorian Gazebo representative of those elaborate structures prized by wealthy Victorians in the last century, stands picturesquely in the garden of the Patterson House at Ardenwood Historic Park. Although gazebos such as this one were often the scene of afternoon tea service, small concerts or romantic rendezvous, the Patterson Gazebo today is most often utilized as an elegant outdoor wedding site.
- Peacock - these vibrant blue and green birds with their 60 inch tails can be seen strolling the grounds and lending historic ambiance to Ardenwood Farm. In the last century peacocks and hens (native to India and Sri Lanka) were the popular ornamental pets of upper class Victorians.
Golden Eagle - with a wing-span of 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 feet this spectacular eagle is a striking site when observed by the lucky hiker as it soars over Mission Peak. Named for the rarely seen light golden patch on the back of the neck, the adult Golden Eagle is commonly a deep uniform brown in color.
Pacific Tree Frog - the smallest frog on the west coast, no larger than a quarter, can be seen clinging to cattails and tules at Central Park.
The Fremontia californicum - the common flannel bush, was chosen as the official city flower. It was named in honor of General John C. Fremont. It has five petals symbolizing the five communities incorporated into the city.
The City of Fremont - in 1956, these five villages were incorporated. The city was named after John C. Fremont who had camped near the Mission when exploring and charting California before the Gold Rush. His wife wrote, From the ashes of his camps will rise great cities, a fitting epitaph for a bustling city of 187,000 people.