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


PITTSBURG, with about six thousand people, is the second largest city in Contra Costa County. Its location is a logical one for the building of a manufacturing and distributing city, being at the point where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers join with the deep waters of Suisun bay, and also on the principal railways that radiate from the bay cities to all parts of the State and Nation, thereby having access to both river and ocean traffic.

The natural advantages of the present site of Pittsburg first attracted attention as far back as 1847, when the United States Army and Naval Engineers investigated it as a possible military and naval base. Their report was in every way favorable, but the project was never carried out.

A townsite was surveyed and christened "New York of the Pacific." Upon the discovery of coal near Mount Diablo, about fifty years ago, the place became known as Black Diamond. It is believed that a large coal field in that region still remains undeveloped. In 1909 the present name of Pittsburg was appropriately bestowed, the town having shown conclusively that it was to become a great manufacturing center.

It is interesting to note that in 1850 a strong effort was made to remove the State capitol, then at San Jose, to New York of the Pacific. The proposition was submitted to a vote of the people, but was defeated by a small margin. General Sherman, in his "Early Recollections of California," says: "I made a contract to survey for Colonel J. D. Stevenson his newly projected city of New York of the Pacific, situated at the mouth of the San Joaquin River. The contract also embraced the making of soundings and the marking out of a channel in Suisun Bay. We hired in San Francisco a small metallic boat with a sail, laid in some stores, and proceeded to the United States ship 'Ohio.' At General Smith's request we surveyed and marked the line dividing the city of Benicia from the government reserve. We then sounded the bay, back and forth, and staked out the best channel up Suisun Bay. We then made the preliminary survey of the city of New York of the Pacific, which we duly plotted."

About ten years ago Pittsburg began its industrial growth, which will undoubtedly continue until it ranks as one of the larger cities of California. Its previous support had been that of the coal mines and the fishing industry. The present industrial growth is largely the result of the industry and foresight of the late C. A. Hooper, one of the State's most successful financiers, who some years ago became the owner of the Rancho los Medanos, an old Spanish grant on which the town site is located. Mr. Hooper was a man of extraordinary vision as to the future, and believed firmly that Pittsburg was a city of destiny. In every way possible he fostered and promoted the town's upbuilding. At his death, in July, 1914, he was succeeded in the management of his enterprises and companies by W. E. Creed, his son-in-law, a well known lawyer of San Francisco. Mr. Creed, since assuming the management of the estate, has demonstrated that he too is deeply interested in Pittsburg's welfare and development, and is devoting himself with earnestness and vigor to that end.

As a deep water shipping point, Pittsburg possesses advantages unsurpassed by any other city on the Pacific Coast. Ocean going vessels, loading and unloading cargoes, are a daily sight at her docks. Her shipping facilities will be further enhanced by the dredging operations in Suisun Bay from Martinez to Pittsburg, a survey having been reported upon favorably by the chief of the Army engineers in January, 1916. With thousands of acres of level land stretching away from the waterfront, the town has every incentive for becoming a great manufacturing center.

Pittsburg has a payroll of more than two million dollars annually, with a list of industrial enterprises that have long since passed the experimental stage, and are in fact among the largest and most important of their kind on the Western Coast.

The transportation facilities of Pittsburg are unexcelled by any other city on the bay. In addition to the splendid shipping advantages noted above, Pittsburg is served by two main line railroads, the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe, and the interurban electric line of the Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Railway. There are forty two passenger trains daily. Several lines of river steamers also run to and from her docks, carrying freight and passengers.

Pittsburg takes great pride in her public schools. She has recently completed an eighty five thousand dollar grammar school, and employs the latest methods along every line for the mental, physical, and esthetic advancement and uplift of the children. The pupils receive instruction in music, athletics, folk dancing, and military drill. Thus their growing characters are rounded out in a manner equal to the results attained in much larger cities. The physical welfare of the pupils is carefully watched by a trained nurse, who daily visits the various classes, whose average daily attendance is 850 pupils.

Turning to Pittsburg's various industries, we find that one of the earliest established plants was that of the Redwood Manufacturers Company, which has a capitalization of one million dollars and operates here one of the largest woodworking plants in the world, making into finished products redwood and pine lumber, which is brought in by coastwise vessels from the great forests of the northern coast. The company also carries large stocks of northern fir and other woods. The manufacturing facilities of the Redwood Manufacturers Company is second only to their immense stock, and its product finds a ready market in almost every civilized community in the world where wood products are used.

Residents of Pittsburg are justly proud of the modern plant of the Columbia Steel Company. Many improvements have been made since the establishment was founded, about seven years ago, the company having recently made extensions that will increase its capacity by fifty per cent. By its modern and efficient methods of manufacture, the Columbia Steel Company has secured the bulk of the steel casting trade on the Pacific Coast, and by continually improving its plant and keeping up a high order of skill among its employees, of whom there are five hundred, there is no prospect of anything but progress and advancement.

A few years ago almost all steel castings were made in Eastern foundries and shipped out to the coast, thereby entailing much expense and delay to the customers. Now it is possible to obtain quick deliveries and excellent quality at lower prices than was ever before possible. As a consequence the whole Pacific Coast has been benefited, and the industries using this product have been greatly stimulated.

Again we use a superlative in describing another of Pittsburg's interests. The Bowers Rubber Works is the largest factory for the manufacture of rubber products west of Chicago. Fire hose, belting, packing, automobile tires, and several other products comprise the output of this concern. Its plant is equipped with up to date machinery, and the buildings and grounds cover a considerable acreage. The plant is a model of neatness and is located on the water front, giving the plant access to both water and rail transportation. A ready market is found, not only in the principal cities of the United States, but in many foreign countries. About 250 men are employed in the work. Bowers Rubber Works is a valuable asset to the county, and Pittsburg in turn is proud to be its home.

The only electro-chemical plant on the Pacific Coast is in operation at Pittsburg. There is no other plant of this kind west of Detroit. The Great Western Electro-Chemical Company is the name of the organization, which is capitalized at two and a half million dollars. Caustic soda and chloride of lime, commonly known as bleaching powder, will be manufactured at the plant. Caustic soda, or lye, enters largely in the manufacture of soap, and is also an important adjunct in the refining of oil and the preserving of fruit. There are many uses for chloride of lime, but the largest demand for it arises from the fact that it forms the base of a large number of fire extinguishers. Salt and burnt lime are important agencies in the manufacture of these chemical products, and as both are found in large quantities around the bay section, the selection of Pittsburg as a site for the plant was a fortunate one. As the name, electro-chemical, implies, electricity is used as an aid to the mechanical manufacture of the chemical products. Two hundred or more men are employed in this plant.

Pittsburg has as one of its water front industries the plant of B. P. Lanteri, shipwright and dredger builder. His plant is situated on the south banks of what is known as New York Slough, about three quarters of a mile east of the city of Pittsburg. The location is particularly well adapted to this plant, inasmuch as it is close to the delta country, where dredgers are extensively operated, and also on account of its shipping facilities, with spur tracks from two transcontinental main lines in the yard, with deep water so that steam schooners and sea going vessels can discharge lumber and materials on the wharf, making a minimum cost for cartage and handling. Here have been built six of the largest clam shell dredgers in the world, some of them swinging 230 foot booms, which until the present had never been attempted. Although this firm does considerable dredger building and repairing, it also does all kinds of boat and barge building and designing, having designed and built some of the best gasoline towboats in and about the bay regions, and having just completed and launched from its ways the ferryboat "City of Seattle," which is to operate between Martinez and Benicia.

On account of the rare facilities found here for distribution, Pittsburg is made the base of operations for the largest fish concerns on the coast, and is the center of the fishing industry of the rivers of the State. Fully a thousand men devote their entire time to the catching of fish, and to this class of labor half a million dollars is paid annually. The fish chiefly taken from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers are salmon, striped bass, shad, and catfish. In order to give some idea of the extent of this industry, it is only necessary to state that during the canning season three tons of shad roe (fish eggs)! are obtained daily by one firm from that one kind of fish. Shad roe is a new by product that is being extensively developed and for which there is a growing demand.

While the principal offices of some of our fish concerns are located in San Francisco, the business of packing and distributing the products is carried on at Pittsburg because of the superior advantages found here for shipping. The fishing business is followed largely by Italians, whose large families have supplied much of the labor employed in other industrial lines. The business of fishing is carried on in such a quiet way that the casual observer has no conception of the magnitude of the industry, covering, as it does, shipments to all parts of the world.

Among the large operators of the fishing industry are the American Fish & Oyster Company, and the F. E. Booth Company, the latter employing from two to three hundred men several months in the year in their canning operations, in addition to their packing business.

The Los Medanos Rancho, a tract of land of approximately ten thousand acres, was originally granted by the Mexican Government in 1835 to Jose Antonio Mesa and Jose Miguel Garcia, or Mesa, and was finally patented October 8, 1872, by the United States Government to their successors, Jonathan D. Stevenson et al. In 1849 and 1850 the Mesas conveyed the ranch to Stevenson and others, who laid out upon it a site for a city, known for a long time as "New York of the Pacific." From this circumstance it derived the name "New York Ranch," by which it is sometimes known. Its true name, "Los Medanos," is derived from the sand hills that sweep down to the river adjoining the eastern boundary of the ranch; the word "Medanos" means sand drift, or sand hill, or what is commonly known as a "sand spit." Stevenson and his associates disposed of the property to one of the pioneer banking concerns of San Francisco, namely, Pioche, Bayerque & Co., who after a term of years in turn transferred it to L. L. Robinson, a California pioneer railroad builder and mining operator, and he at his death bequeathed the property to his sister, Mrs. Cutter, of San Francisco, from whom the title passed to the present owners, C. A. Hooper & Co.

The tract as a whole is a rich agricultural property, and during early years and up to the ownership of L. L. Robinson was devoted to grazing and stock growing. Robinson during his lifetime divided the property into farming subdivisions containing from three hundred to six hundred acres and leased them to farmers, some of whom are still on the property, having found it both a pleasant and profitable place to live.

There has grown up on the rancho, on its water front, two considerable towns - Antioch, on its eastern boundary, and Pittsburg, about midway. With the rancho's central location at the confluence of the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, and at a point where the traffic from the interior of the State and country passes to and fro from the cities around San Francisco Bay, very likely it will not be long until its acreage will pass from agriculture to an industrial manufacturing and distributing center and furnish homes for a large mercantile and industrial population.

Pittsburg has about twelve miles of paved and macadamized streets, well lighted, and every street in the improved area is sewered and macadamized. Contrary to the general rule of the newer towns of the Pacific Coast, Pittsburg is compactly built, although in no way congested, thus enabling it to have every street fully improved.

A hotel (The Los Medanos) has just been completed on Cumberland Street between Eighth and Ninth streets, which doubtless marks a new era in the development of the town. The building will probably cost $60,000. It is to be one of the best hotels on the Pacific Coast outside of the larger cities, and will be modern in every respect. Every convenience necessary is to be had. Every room has hot and cold water, electric lights, telephone, steam heat, and rooms en suite with private baths. The hotel is to be luxuriously furnished throughout.

Within the last two years there have been erected in Pittsburg many brick business blocks, and there are now planned several more. Also within the year there will be under way the building of the new Catholic church, at a cost of from $25,000 to $30,000, the site having already been secured.The Congregational people have also planned a new building, and intend to spend an equal if not greater amount in their improvement.

The Pittsburg Dispatch, of Pittsburg, California, was financed and launched by A. P. Betterworth, recently postmaster at Elk Grove, and H. C. Jackson, reporter of the Sacramento Union, the first issue being published January 3, 1917. For one week the experiment was tried of publishing a daily, but at the end of that time the owners decided that the field was hardly ready for such a publication, hence the sheet was placed on a semi weekly basis. The plant of the Pittsburg Dispatch is well equipped, and as soon as the growing business of a growing town justifies the move the publication of the daily will be resumed.

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