History of Manlo Park, California
From: The Story of San Mateo County, California
By: Roy W. Cloud
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.
Chicago, Ill 1928

MENLO PARK

Menlo Park is all that its name would indicate, a beautiful park set amidst a grove of trees. Nature was indeed prodigal when it fashioned the section embraced by this thriving community. Not only were many beauties placed there, but a climate was added which makes the place one of rare charm. Menlo Park was the second town of San Mateo County to incorporate. On March 23, 1874, an act of incorporation was passed. The incorporation at that date was made for the purpose of enabling the inhabitants to carry on a uniform system of street improvement, and when this need had passed there seemed to be little to warrant the further continuance of its corporate existence. Under the law of California as it existed in 1874 the governor of the state commissioned those who were to act as trustees at the beginning of the town after incorporation. They were L. P. Cooley, John T. Doyle, George C. Boardman, Charles N. Felton, and W. J. Adams. Their first meeting was held April 25, 1874, at which John T. Doyle was elected president and Robert L. Behre clerk. Mr. Boardman shortly afterwards resigned and E. P. Rowe was commissioned to fill the vacancy. Mr. Rowe then became clerk in place of Mr. Behre. On July 6, 1874, an election was held for the purpose of choosing a new board, at which time L. P. Cooley, Charles N. Felton, W. J. Adams, D. Kuck and R. G. Sneath were elected. Mr. L. P. Cooley was chosen president, and D. Kuck clerk. Menlo Park as incorporated took in a large portion of what is now known as Menlo Park and a great portion of the land that is now included in the city of Atherton, and all of the Ravenswood section, but because of lack of business disincorporation proceedings were had which finished the existence of the municipality.

In 1852 D. J. Oliver and his brother in law, D. C. McGlynn, lately from Galway, Ireland, purchased 1700 acres of land in the southern end of the Pulgas grant. The home town of these gentlemen was near Menlo Park, Ireland, and because of the beauty of this section and because of their fond memories of the old home land they christened the new section by the old home title. In 1854 these gentlemen laid out a subdivision in this tract. Later the title passed into the hands of Mr. Robert Johnson, who subdivided a portion of it into thirty acre lots and in turn other subdivisions were made. For many years the old gateway to Menlo Park stood upon the highway about one hundred yards south of Santa Cruz Avenue.

The early families who settled in Menlo Park were the Athertons, the Selbys, the Harts, the Adamses, Lathams, Floods, Donohoes, Meyers, O'Keefes, Monohans, Eyres, Hopkinses, Weedens, Avys and Carnduffs. One of the most beautiful of the homes was that of John T. Doyle. Hon. Milton S. Latham, governor of the state and later United States senator, also built a palatial home just across from the Southern Pacific depot. Then came the million dollar home of James Flood, Bonanza King, who located in Menlo Park. There was also the home of Hon. Charles N. Felton, another United States senator, whose broad acres are just now being subdivided. The following account of the late Senator Felton and his life was written by Mr. D. E. O'Keefe for a recent issue of the Redwood City Times-Gazette:

"There clusters around the old Felton home recently taken over by the California Exclusive Properties hallowed associations and memories of bygone days. It was here that the late Senator C. N. Felton spent happy days in entertaining the prominent personages of this country and the crowned heads of Europe. He loved the home of his youth and older years. It was sacred to him. He delighted in sauntering among the towering oaks that dotted the landscape in profusion, and walking along the beds of lilies, admiring the roses of every color and hue, and watching his grandchildren romp and play upon the green lawns that surrounded the mansion that was dismantled a short time ago. The dwelling was erected in 1870 by the late Senator Felton when he was a U. S. sub treasurer at San Francisco and at a time when he began to ascend the financial ladder. Felton was a pal of William Ralston in those days and the latter gave Felton tips on the stock market that brought big returns. Felton had social ambitions and desired to have a home second to none and so spared no expense in the construction of the new building. Every material of the very best was put into it so that when finished it was one of the big imposing dwellings of the peninsula. The beautiful grounds were in keeping with the dwelling. He was a splendid entertainer and loved to demonstrate his ability as such before his guests. He was lavish in his expenditures on those occasions, sparing nothing to properly entertain his guests. His charming wife was a great assistance to him, but she passed away in 1876. He never remarried. After the period of mourning passed, Felton launched into a high scale of entertainment. In the latter '70s Felton entertained King Edward of England, then the Prince of Wales. This was a big occasion at the Felton home. A special train conveyed the distinguished guest and his entourage to Menlo Park.

The old timers will recall the memorable occasion when President Harrison visited Menlo Park during the first portion of his term. He was a guest at the Felton home. The school children on that occasion met the President as he alighted from a special train, and sang their sweetest songs in praise of the event, but strange as it may seem the President scarcely noticed the patriotic efforts of the children, going directly to an awaiting carriage and drove away. For years afterward this slight was commented upon by the people of Menlo Park. It was explained subsequently that the President was in the hands of his friends and did not anticipate the program to be rendered. The President was also a guest at the home of Senator Stanford.

General Grant was a guest of the Felton home in the '80s. This was a big event as the general was at the apex of his glory at that time. It was after his visit to China.

Admiral Schley, after the famous naval battle of Santiago, was a visitor, remaining here for two days. A frequent guest at the home was Judge McKenna, recently retired from the United States Supreme Court. Felton and McKenna were close friends who worked together politically. Many political programs and measures were arranged in the spacious parlors in one corner of which was a delightful sideboard. Here the two would talk on state and national affairs until far into the night.

President Harrison appointed McKenna a district judge in San Francisco and when his friend William McKinley, with whom he had served in Congress, became president, he made McKenna his attorney general, later appointing him an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, a position he filled for thirty years, retiring recently at the age of eighty four. Felton was his friend, and much of his success was due to Felton.

Felton in his day was a power in politics of the state. In 1878 he became a candidate for assemblyman of this county and was elected by a big vote, after a bitter contest. The night after election he invited the voters to his home. They came in great numbers. The Redwood City brass band was present and discoursed martial music. Felton stood on the steps of his home, making a delightful speech of thanks. The "boys" were then invited inside where refreshments were served and where speeches were indulged in. Felton often said afterward that that was the happiest night of his life. The Flood building was then in course of construction. Hundreds of workmen were in town at the time and all attended the affair, celebrating the election of Felton in a royal manner.

Felton was elected two terms as an assemblyman and later went to Congress, for two terms, each time defeating Frank J. Sullivan, brother in law of James D. Phelan. At the death of Senator George Hearst, Charles N. Felton was chosen by the state Legislature then in session at Sacramento to fill the unexpired term. This was a bitter fight, M. H. De Young leading in the balloting. Several men were in the race, Felton entering with but one vote. As the balloting progressed it was seen by the wise ones that no choice could be made. It was a deadlock. Felton was then taken up as a dark horse and elected. The next Legislature being democratic, Felton did not return to Washington, he being succeeded by the late Stephen M. White.

Senator Felton had a long political career in the state, wielding a wonderful power in his time. It has been said that he secured more political positions for his followers than any other politician in the state before or since. He was loyal to his friends and always kept a promise.

In his declining years he loved to walk around his gardens and sit on his spacious porch to converse with old friends of bygone days.

Felton was at the Plaza at Portsmouth Square in San Francisco the day that Col. E. D. Baker, California's matchless orator, delivered his celebrated eulogy over the body of his friend, Senator Broderick, who was killed in a duel in this county by Judge David S. Terry. Felton stood with uncovered head beside the late Alexander Gordon of Redwood City, with tears streaming down his face; listened to the eloquent words of the Colonel, who afterwards lost his life at the battle of Balls Bluff, defending the flag of the country he loved so well.

Senator Felton passed away at the old home here in 1913 at the age of eighty four years. He was born in Erie County. New York. He was survived by a son and a daughter. the former passed away some years ago. The daughter early in life married Mr. Elkins, son of the railroad magnate of Philadelphia. She is now residing at Burlingame.

The old home with all its hallowed memories, like its builder, will soon be no more. Other dwellings will dot the attractive tract, which is to be known as "Felton Gables."

During 1878-79 James Flood, who with Mackey and O'Brien amassed a tremendous fortune on the Comstock, bought a tract of land northeast of the Middlefield Road, and commenced thereon the erection of the most magnificent home in northern California. This great white mansion with its many gables surrounded by its acres of wonderful lawn has since been the show place of San Mateo County. At the death of Mr. Flood he left this wonderful mansion and the hundreds of acres surrounding it to his daughter, Miss Jennie Flood. Miss Flood finding it too large for her needs gave the place to the University of California and for a time it was the property of that institution. It was found, however, by the university authorities that the property was not income producing and because of sentiment attached to the place Mr. James L. Flood, son of James Flood, Sr., purchased it from the University for a sum in the neighborhood of $300,000 and then added to the original holdings by buying out toward the bay and later purchasing all of what was known as the Adams tract. Mr. Flood then built a brick fence for the entire front of his property, along Middlefield Road. The gateways, however, were always left open during his lifetime so that those not so fortunately situated as he might walk or ride through his beautiful estate and enjoy the wonders of nature and those "other wonderful things which the hand of man had wrought. Mr. James Flood passed away in 1926 and just at the present time the estate is being sued by a young woman who claims to be the daughter of Mr. James L. Flood by his first wife.

Others having beautiful homes surrounding the Flood property were Mr. Joseph Donohoe, son of pioneer parents. Mr. J. Leroy Nickel, son in law of the late Henry Miller of Miller & Lux fame. John T. Doyle was one of California's foremost lawyers and the man who brought the Pius Fund cases to a successful completion. Mr. William Frank, whose property came into the ownership of Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Weir. H. Marcus, for years president of the Frank Tanning Company, and whose son, Frank, is now connected with that institution. James D. O'Kane, Mrs. John F. Merrill and her son Charles H. Merrill, Charles Holbrook, Colonel Barney and many others who in the golden era of San Mateo County longed for a place where they could be out among the pleasures of nature and enjoy life as a man in the country should.

In the business section of Menlo Park M. J. Doyle & Company, and then Duff & Doyle, were the principal merchants of the town. Lewis Golder conducted the first hotel, which was closed in 1879. For years there were two hotels, that of Martin Kuck known as the Menlo Park Hotel, a fine two story edifice which stood by the side of the railroad track just north of Oak Grove Avenue on whose spacious grounds the residents of San Francisco in days gone by delighted to spend their summer vacations. Just across from this was the Oak Grove Villa Hotel, first conducted by J. Fletcher, and later by John McBain, who for years was supervisor of the Third Township of San Mateo County, and who was known as "Honest John," and whose death occurred early in the present year, 1927. Mr. McBain was succeeded in the business by Mr. M. Fitzgerald, who conducted it until his death some years ago, when it passed into other hands. P. Linehan also conducted a hotel on the east side of the track on Oak Grove Avenue until the time of his death, when it was continued by members of his family

The Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park was for years the place of worship of Senator and Mrs. Jane L. Stanford. It was organized on November 30, 1873, with Rev. Doctor Stewart in charge. Rev. S. P. Herron followed and served for two years. During the summer of 1874 a beautiful site on Santa Cruz Avenue was donated, and on October 3, 1874, the new church was dedicated. Dr. H. P. Coon was the treasurer and secretary of the board and Mr. L. P. Cooley president. John McBain, from the time of his arrival in Menlo Park, was one of the most influential members of the congregation. A large part of the expense of the church however was borne at all times by Senator Stanford during his lifetime. The fraternal organizations of Menlo Park will be dealt with in another chapter.

In 1917 the Government, looking for a suitable place for a large concentration camp where the soldiers coming from the Philippines might be located for a time and where recruits both drafted and enlisted might be sent for training to become soldiers, selected Menlo Park because of its location and because of its climate, which the Government at that time said was one of the three best places in the world. During the year and one half that Camp Fremont was located at Menlo Park there were thousands of soldiers daily encamped there. The number reached its peak when there were in the neighborhood of 43,000 men. All lines of training were conducted at Menlo, the infantry was there both in new and old regiments, cavalry was stationed there with new recruits learning all of the arts of modern horsemanship from grizzled veterans and West Point graduates. Men who had seen service at the front in Flanders and in France were brought to Camp Fremont to teach men how bayonet charges should be made. Trenches were dug in order that those who were about to offer themselves up might know how hand grenades and small bombs should be thrown. Big cannon practice was indulged in and daily throughout this section of San Mateo County could be heard the boom of the big cannon as it was fired at some object on the hillside miles away. The quartermaster and medical corps were also located here. The Knights of Columbus and the Y. M. C. A. maintained headquarters. Schools were conducted, and every line of modern warfare was portrayed. Camp Fremont was situated on property between Glenwood Avenue and the San Francisquito Creek and all of the property of the Johnson estate, the Drexler property and parts of other private estates which were turned over without let or hindrance. Camp Fremont covered an area of over a thousand acres and extended back as far as East Greenwood Avenue and on up past Santa Cruz Avenue, where it turns at the Catholic Cemetery and then spanned the San Francisquito Creek and spread over upon the Stanford estate. With the close of the great World war it was thought that Camp Fremont would be made a permanent location for the training of United States troops, but soon the infantry companies were taken to other stations, the cavalry went in the same way and all that remained was the quartermaster corps and replacement companies where men were sent for a short time to learn some of the things that they needed for their training so that they could be placed in regular divisions. By the middle of 1919 Camp Fremont had become almost a deserted post and by the end of that year all of the activity had ceased and Camp Fremont became only a name and a remembrance to the people of Menlo Park and vicinity.

November 15, 1927, Menlo Park decided by a vote of 308 to 194 that the territory should be incorporated as a city of the sixth class. The officers elected at the incorporation election were Alfred E. Blake, J. C. Ellis, J. C. Brown, J. H. Hetzel and J. J. Harcom, trustees; Fannie I. Kurtz, clerk; J. William Ryan, treasurer.


Return to [ California History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ] [ California Biographies ]


California Counties at this web site - Colusa County - Contra Costa County - Imperial County - Marin County - Mendocino County - Napa County - Riverside County - San Mateo County - Santa Clara County - Solano County - Yolo County -


All pages copyright 2003-2013. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy