Support local news in Alameda. Give Now!

Aughinbaugh and Chipman Enjoyed the Fruits of Their Labor

When Gideon and Elizabeth Aughinbaugh arrived in San Francisco in 1850, Gideon had already decided not to pursue his trade as a carpenter. Instead, the couple went into the more lucrative grocery business, opening a store near today’s First and Mission streets.

Alameda Post - a black and white family photo
Don Antonio Peralta, seated at the far right with unidentified members of his family, sold the Bolsa de Encinal to Gideon Aughinbaugh and William Worthington Chipman for the tidy sum of $14,000 in gold. The Don inherited the land from his father, Don Luis Maria Peralta, as part of a 78-square-mile retirement package from the Spanish Crown. Photo courtesy Peralta Hacienda.

As they sold foodstuffs to their neighbors, the Aughinbaughs discovered a vein of gold that they hoped to mine. This gold was not in the far-away Sierra Nevada, but the fresh fruit right in front of them on their shelves. Gideon and Elizabeth were astonished at how much money people were willing to pay for peaches, apples, and cherries. They dreamed of a way to raise their own fruit, but knew they needed land to do this.

It’s likely that Gideon and Elizabeth visited the reading room and “intelligence office” on Clay Street just a block down from Portsmouth Plaza. There, they could keep up on news in the East by reading the newspapers. They struck up a friendship with Vermont native William Worthington Chipman, who also arrived in the city in 1850. Chipman had headed west early in life, first to Ohio where he worked as a school principal and studied law. Historian Imelda Merlin tells us that the Aughinbaughs would have found “newspapers from the chief towns in the United States and a ‘Miners’ and Strangers’ Register’” at Chipman’s office.



The Aughinbaughs told Chipman of their dreams. The men decided to visit some property across the Bay, a peninsula. At first, Aughinbaugh and Chipman subleased 160 acres fronting on San Francisco Bay from Joseph Depassier and Balthazar Maitre, who, in turn, had leased a larger portion of this property from Don Antonio Peralta.

The men told Elizabeth that they liked what they saw and hoped to purchase the entire peninsula. Elizabeth agreed they could sell their store. The timing was also right for William. His business partner had decided to move to Sacramento, and they also sold their business.

Alameda Post - a black and white photo of The Plaza Intelligence Office
The Plaza Intelligence Office on San Francisco’s Kearny Street is sandwiched between a stage-coach office, whose coaches line the street, to its left and the post office on its right. Kearney intersects with Clay Street on the right, where William Worthington Chipman had his intelligence office on Clay Street. He closed his office in 1852, three years before this photograph. Photo G. R. Farndon.

Gideon and William approached the Don at his home about two miles away. Peralta told them that the land could be theirs for $14,000 in gold coin. The pair turned to friends, investors, and banks to be assured they could sign a note for that money, worth about $325,000 in 2024 money; or even more when you consider gold was changing hands. On October 22, 1851, they signed that note, and the Don gave them the deed to the peninsula he called “Bolsa de Encinal.”

The deal did not include any of the marshlands. It also did not involve the uplands to the southwest surrounded by more marsh. Don Antonio was likely not aware of the land that Ohlones often visited to gather eggs from the rookery there. They called the place “Wind Whistle Island;” we know it as “Bay Farm Island.”

Join Alameda Post’s Dennis Evanosky and Adam Gillitt  this Saturday, March 23, or the following Sunday, March 31, for a walking tour of the Original Town of Alameda. Meet them at the fountain at Encinal Avenue and High Street at 10 a.m. Tickets are $20 and available online. We will also hold a one-hour Zoom lecture on the topic on Thursday March 21 at 7 p.m. More information is available on our Tours page.

Aughinbaugh later told the Alameda Argus how they ordered 1,000 fruit trees, which arrived in May 1852 in an express shipment. By July the partners had their first peaches; in September they were ready to bring fruit to market.

The partners sold portions of their land to other enterprising Yankees but kept the East End for themselves. They hired J. F. Stratton to survey the Town of Alameda and lay out streets on the East end of the peninsula. They named the first byways running east-west for the three men whose efforts created the state of California: Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster. The presidents came next in running order: George Washington to James Monroe to Martin Van Buren.

Alameda Post - an early map of the peninsula and who each section was sold to, including Chipman, Aughinbaugh, Hibbard, Foley, and others
Imelda Merlin’s map defines how Gideon Aughinbaugh and William Worthington Chipman sold the portion of the peninsula that is now the island of Alameda to raise money to pay Don Luis Maria Peralta’s bill. Buyers included San Francisco Sheriff Jack Hays and his deputy John Caperton; James J. Foley; James E. Hibberd; and William Sharon and Henry Fitch. Photo courtesy Friends of the Alameda Library.

Names for the north-south streets reflected the pair’s enterprises: Peach, Market, and Park to name just three. Chipman and Aughinbaugh set up a prefabricated home near today’s Park and Adams streets. Almost 20 years later, the merging of the Town of Alameda with two other towns brought about change that included renaming streets: Park became Post Street. Webster was renamed for President Millard Fillmore. The train and streetcar brought two more changes: Monroe Street became Encinal Avenue and Jefferson Street, San Jose Avenue.

Imelda Merlin relates that in 1909, Mr. M. W. Peck, a master sailor from Rhode Island, told the Oakland Tribune that he remembered the first home in Alameda near Madison and Mound streets. Peck had lived in the town since its inception. He made his living ferrying passengers and freight around San Francisco Bay.

Peck described the dwelling as an “adobe pile” belonging to “a French fisherman named ‘Parfé’ (Peter Parfait) and his Indian wife.” Merlin says that Parfait built his home sometime in 1848. He had Don Antonio Maria Peralta’s permission to live there, “keep a garden, cut firewood for his own use, and kill such livestock as he could use himself.” Parfait died in 1865, his wife, whose name we do not know “buried (him) on the island (and) thereafter disappeared.”

Chipman and Aughinbaugh lived in what Merlin described as a “knocked-down house brought around the Horn,” a two-story, seven-room affair near present-day Peach and Washington Streets.

As they settled in, Gideon decided to turn to farming ground crops, especially berries. William turned his attention to incorporating the town. They had plans to entice the voters to bring the County Seat to their peninsula. We’ll learn how all that turned out next week.

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

KQED Curated Content

Support our mission to provide trustworthy news and information for Alameda every day.

Thanks for reading the

Nonprofit news isn’t free.

Will you take a moment to support Alameda’s only local news source?