History of Pinole, California
From: The History of Contra Costa County, California
Edited by: F. J. Hulaniski
The Elms Publishing Co., Inc.
Berkeley, California 1917


THE town of Pinole, situated on San Pablo Bay, twenty three miles from San Francisco, has a population of fifteen hundred, and is one of the thriving manufacturing towns of western Contra Costa County, being adjacent to the Hercules powder plant, the largest explosives concern west of the Rockies. The town has excellent shipping facilities by rail, both the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific roads passing directly through it.

Pinole is one of the oldest towns in the county, the first settlers locating in the year 1839, when the Mexican Government held sway over California. A great many old Spanish families resided in the beautiful fertile valley a short distance to the southeast of the town's present location. Here were built many adobe mansions by Spanish grandees, whose landholdings were very extensive.

Just before the "Gringo" came Pinole and its valley were the hunting and recreation grounds for the Spanish soldiers stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco. Deer and other wild game abounded in the valley, and it was during these expeditions in quest of game that the settlement received its name. The hunters carried little sacks of ground parched corn, in the early days considered a delicacy in the food line. The corn in its prepared state was called pinole, and no traveling equipment was complete without it. While going through the thick underbrush in the hills and valley many of these sacks were torn and a large quantity of pinole was lost. This circumstance occurred so frequently that the hunters, when referring to an expedition, invariably used the word pinole in designating their favorite hunting locality. Hence the present name, Pinole.

With the advent of the California Powder Works the town grew in size. In 1896 Pinole was incorporated, and it now has a fine sewer system, macadamized streets, cement sidewalks, a fire company, and excellent lighting and water facilities.

The Bank of Pinole, established in 1905, is one of the staunchest banking institutions in the county. A fine new banking building was erected in 1915. and this structure, and the Downer, Ruff, and Pinole Theatre buildings in the center of the business district, are some of the latest valuable improvements to the town. Pinole also has a large department store, numerous smaller stores, an opera house, a union public school, and two churches. St. Joseph's Catholic Church was erected in 1889 and remodeled in 1915. The Methodist Episcopal Church was constructed in 1886, and has since been extensively improved.

The Pinole-Hercules school building is one of the largest in the county, and was erected on an imposing site in 1907. Several new rooms and an assembly hall have recently been added to the building. A corps of nine teachers is now employed.

Those principally identified with the early history and advancement of the town were the late Bernardo Fernandez, who settled in Pinole in 1849, and conducted a general merchandise store and a large hay and grain business; E. M. Downer, the present mayor of the town and president of the Bank of Pinole, and J. Bermingham, Jr., superintendent of the old California Powder Works.

There are many beautiful residences in Pinole, among which are the Downer, Fernandez, Poinsett, and Ellerhorst homes.

The Pinole Times was established in 1894 by E. M. Downer and Doctor M. L. Fernandez, and was issued in pamphlet form from the press of a job printing office at Martinez. About six months later the paper was enlarged to a six column folio, and printed in Pinole, Downer assuming full control. A few years later John Bermingham, Jr., superintendent of the California Powder Works, took over the management of The Times and issued the paper for a period of two years. In 1901 the present editor and manager, E. C. Ebsen, took charge and is now issuing the paper. The Times is the pioneer newspaper of Western Contra Costa, and, with the exception of the Antioch Ledger and the Contra Costa Weekly Gazette of Martinez, is the oldest newspaper of continuous issue in the county. As regards political affiliation, the Times is, and always has been, Republican.

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