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Aughinbaugh and Chipman Enjoyed the Fruits of Their Labor – Part 2

Alameda Post - Thompson and West map of the Original Town of Alameda from 1878
1878 Thompson and West map of Alameda. Image Alameda Museum.

In last week’s story, we described how the Old Town of Alameda got its start. Gideon Aughinbaugh and William Worthington Chipman purchased the Bolsa de Encinal (“Oak Tree Purse,” so called because the shape of the peninsula reminded the Spanish mapmakers of a purse) from Don Antonio Peralta.

They found investors willing to buy some of the real estate and hired James T. Stratton to survey and lay out a town. The pair settled into a “knocked-down house,” and ordered 1,000 fruit trees. This week, thanks to Frank Contreras on Facebook, we learned that only 600 of these trees made it to Alameda—400 of them were stolen!

“(The trees) were taken from the Steamboat Hotel on Long Wharf and were doubtless carried off by some person in a boat. These rare and choice selections were highly prized, and valued at between six and seven hundred dollars,” the March 8, 1852, Daily Alta California article that Frank shared with us read. “A horticulturist in Santa Clara Valley is suspected of having appropriated those articles to his own use.”

Alameda Post - an engraving of San Francisco's Long Wharf
San Francisco’s Long Wharf once stretched into San Francisco Bay from a dock at today’s Davis Street. It was from this dock that thieves helped themselves to 400 of William Worthington Chipman and Gideon Aughinbaugh’s fruit trees. Image courtesy California History Room, California State Library.

The map Stratton completed showed Monroe Street (modern-day Encinal Avenue) as the northern boundary of the new town. Chipman and Aughinbaugh ran High Street straight as an arrow from their wharf (at today’s Fillmore Street), through their new town, north to today’s Central Avenue and over the marsh. Monroe and High streets served as a crossroad that divided the town in a most interesting way. The land on the north side of Monroe east of High Street was planned for orchards.

The founders had grand plans for the property on the west side of High Street north of Monroe: The County Seat. They knew there were other contenders for this plum, but Aughinbaugh and Chipman were sure of themselves. At first, they wanted to name their town after the Peralta family, then for Gideon’s wife, Elizabeth. But then, this idea struck.

What if they offered the land north of Monroe and west of High to the newly formed Alameda County? The County could have their courthouse on Court Street and a fountain in front of the building on Fountain Street. The two went so far as to name their new town Alameda, after the new county. How could they say no?

Unfortunately for Chipman and Aughinbaugh, the new county’s bigwigs wanted the county seat along the creek they had named the county for. They were quite proud of the waterway—Alameda Creek—that they obtained when the state of California carved Alameda County from a large chunk of Santa Clara County. The new county boasted of an even larger slice of Contra Costa County. At first, the small town of Alvarado became the county seat, largely because it was on the shore of Alameda Creek.

Alameda Post - 611 Taylor, a small ranch house. former home of Alameda co-founder Gideon Aughinbaugh.
611 Taylor Avenue, former home of Alameda co-founder Gideon Aughinbaugh. The cottage was built in 1879 by Aughinbaugh himself, and he died here on July 7, 1897 from an overdose of morphine. Photo Steve Gorman.

As time went on, Alameda watched from the sidelines as first San Leandro, then Brooklyn, and finally Oakland took the honors as the county seat. (Brooklyn was once a town east of Oakland named for the Brooklyn, the ship that carried the Mormons from New York to San Francisco in 1846.)

When Aughinbaugh and Chipman realized all hope of securing the County Seat was lost, they incorporated the Town of Alameda. The state gave its stamp of approval on April 19, 1854. In 1872, residents decided to join the towns of Encinal (centered at the foot of today’s Grand Street), Woodstock (centered near today’s Pacific Avenue and Fourth Street) with the Town of Alameda. They chose to name the conglomerate the Town of Alameda. Thus arose the second Town of Alameda.

Regardless of what you might read other places, the City of Alameda was not incorporated on April 19, 1854. That is the date the first, original Town of Alameda was incorporated. The City of Alameda traces its roots to December 27, 1884, when the Town of Alameda became a charter city.

This idyll was not to last.

Alameda Post - a black and white portrait
William Worthington Chipman (1820-1873), co-founder of Alameda. He and Gideon Aughinbaugh purchased the peninsula in 1851 that would eventually become the City of Alameda. Photo Alameda Museum.

The winter of 1861 and ’62 brought torrential rains to California. People remembered the storms that incessantly marched in from the Pacific from November 1861, to March 1862, as the Great Flood. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub writes that these storms were “referenced frequently, as being equal to the 1906 earthquake and fire in terms of California natural disaster lore. Historic records suggest the Great Flood of 1862 deserves more respect.”

These storms no doubt played a role in slowing, even stopping, the Town of Alameda’s development, affecting ground crops like strawberries and blackberries and all those valuable fruit trees. Two years after these storms, A. A. Cohen’s railroad skirted the town, sending growth and attention to Park Street and away from the Original Town.

Frank shared another link with us, an August 28, 1854, description of Alameda from the Daily Alta California. Let’s end on a happier note with this summer of 1854’s description of the budding Town of Alameda.

“Alameda is a little town of some fifty or sixty houses containing a few hundred inhabitants, built (the houses not the inhabitants) most of them under the shade of the oak trees and embosomed among them, laid out in wide and shaded streets, and looking more like one of our pretty New England towns than anything we have seen before in California. We had been invited by Messrs. Chipman and Aughinbaugh, the originators of the town and principal owners of the land, to call at their houses and partake of some of the delicious fruits growing in their gardens.

“These gentlemen have selected this beautiful spot and have built themselves homes there, where they are surrounding themselves with all the comforts of life. In Mr. Chipman’s orchard we found some three hundred bearing peach trees, most of them laden with the delicious fruit, now rapidly ripening. To say that we did ample justice to the invitation to pick and eat would but faintly express the manner in which we transferred the rich pulpy fruit from the trees to our masticating organs.

“To show the speed with which fruit trees grow here, Mr. Chipman informed us that these trees, some of them now bending beneath their weight of luxury, were set out in the spring of 1852. In ’53 they bore fruit, and this, their second season, has laden them with it again. Apples and pears are growing there also in rich prolusion. We were satisfied from what we saw, and what we ate, that California may be made a great fruit-growing State.

“Alameda is to be the seat of an institution of learning, under the charge of the Methodists, “The Alameda Wesleyan Institute,” ten acres of ground being appropriated to that purpose, and ten acres more have been sold to the Academy of Natural Sciences, who are about establishing a botanical garden there.

“The proper embarcadero of Alameda is on the Bay of Sea Francisco, and only an eighth of a mile from the town, but the tea kettle power steamer that was put on there burst its boiler one day, and is soon to be replaced by another, when the travel there will be a pleasant steamboat ride of about eight miles. A road is also being laid out, by which the distance by stage to Stockton will be shortened some eight or ten miles.

“The lengthened shadows of evening were crawling up the sides of the spur of mountains which extend from the coast range along the bay, when after another pleasant ride to the embarcadero with our Yankee friend, we jumped aboard the boat again, and an hour afterwards found ourselves scribbling away at the editorial desk, occasionally stopping at the remembrance of the delicious flavor of the peaches in the Alameda gardens.”

Dennis Evanosky is the award-winning Historian of the Alameda Post. Reach him at [email protected]. His writing is collected at

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