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Stockton City

Stockton City Hall is located at 425 North El Dorado Street, Stockton CA 95202; phone: 202-937-8212.

Beginnings [1]

Captain Charles M. Weber, a native of Germany who came to California with the Bidwell-Bartellson party in 1841, is generally recognized as the founder of Stockton. Weber first settled in San Jose, where he met William Gulnac, a naturalized American citizen. The two men formed a partnership to establish a colony in the San Joaquin Valley; and to this end Gulnac obtained a tract from the Mexican government, about 50,000 acres, including the site of Stockton. Gulnac led the first group of settlers to the area, which they called El Campo de los Francesces (French Camp), but in 1845 he became discouraged and sold out to Weber for a $60 grocery bill.

Weber remained in San Jose, though in 1847 he founded the town of Tuleburg on the site of the levee of that name. He built corrals, planted wheat, and set up houses for ranchers. After discovery of gold in 1848, Weber moved to Tuleburg, which he planned to promote as a supply post for miners. He surveyed the town in 1849, renaming it Stockton for his friend, Commodore Robert Stockton.

The Gold Rush took Stockton by storm. Bayard Taylor, noted author and traveler, found in 1849 a canvas town of a thousand inhabitants, and a port with 25 vessels at anchor. The mingled noises of labor around — the click of hammers and the grating of saws — the shouts of mule drivers — the jingling of spurs — the jar and jostle of wares in the tents — almost cheated me into the belief that it was some old commercial port ... four months had sufficed to make the place what it was." One of a dozen new wholesale firms already had done $100,000 worth of business. A lot 80 by 100 feet sold for $6,000; a common, one-story clapboard house cost $15,000 to build.

In 1850 Stockton became the county seat, and within 3 years the population grew from a few hundred to 5,000. Between the time he became an outlaw in 1851 and his death in 1853, the Mexican bandit Joaquin Murrieta ranged as far north as Stockton. On one occasion he rode into town, noticed a sign offering a rewards for his capture, wrote underneath it "I will give $10,000—Joaquin!" then galloped off through the crowd, unmolested. A fire in 1851 destroyed many structures, as a result of which Stockton has few historic landmarks.

The settlers of Stockton built churches and schools as early as 1850, despite the gold rush. The introduction of irrigation after the 1860's and the decline of the gold mines turned attention once again towards agriculture. Grain poured into the city's warehouses to await shipment by the railroad which first reached the city in 1869. This increased the demand for farm implements, and Stockton began production of tractors, harvesters, and other farm machinery. The caterpillar tractor, first machine to use the track-laying traction principle, originated in Stockton; the device employed in these tractors was later applied in the development of the military tank, first used in the World War.

  1. Federal Writers' Project, Works Progress Administration, California: A Guide to the Golden State, American Guide Series, Hastings House, Publishers, New York, 1939.
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