History of Concord by Leonora Galindo Fink and Ruth Galindo
Revised copy, 1968
May 14, 1968 Presented before the Contra Costa Historical Society, the Concord Chamber of Commerce, and the Concord Centennial Committee
We are here tonight to celebrate the Centennial of Concord's birth. But first I would like to take you back nearly 100 years before Concord's birth and give you a picture of this area when it was wilderness. The site of an ancient Indian village was very near where we meet tonight. Giant oak trees covered this valley. Tremendous herds of elk, deer, and antelope fed on the wild oats that grew taller than a man and grizzly bears roamed the hills. Salmon filled the streams and flocks of wild geese and ducks covered the tule swamps along the river.
This was the natural setting discovered by the Spanish explorer, Captain Pedro Fages, who in 1772 was the first to enter this valley. It remained a wilderness for another 60 years after its discovery since it was disturbed by only an occasional exploring expedition or punitive raid against the Indians by the Spanish soldiers from the Presidio of San Francisco. The first permanent settler was Don Salvio Pacheco.
Salvio Pacheco's ancestors were men who were closely associated with the first settlement of San Francisco and the Bay area. His grandfather came to California in 1775 as a soldier in the expedition of Captain Juan Baptista de Anza. These soldiers and their families were sent overland from the frontier presidios in Mexico to establish a presidio mission at San Francisco. Salvio's father was a soldier at the Presidio at Monterey and Salvio was born there in 1793. He served at the Presidios of Monterey and of San Francisco and while serving at San Francisco married Juana Flores. Then he was made a corporal of the Escolta, the mission guard, at Mission San Jose de Guadalupe. The Escolta protected the mission from Indian attacks and accompanied the padres of the mission when they traveled.
Don Salvio retired from military service to live with his family at the Pueblo of San Jose. There he took an active part in the government of the Pueblo. For over 20 years he held various official positions. Among them was that of Alcalde, comparable to the office of Mayor, Sindico, similar to that of City Treasurer, and Diputado, or representative to the territorial government.
Some time before 1828 Don Salvio first petitioned for a land grant. In order to obtain a land grant it was necessary to present a petition to the governor and to accompany this petition with a map called a diseno. This map marked the boundaries of any adjoining ranchos and showed natural landmarks such as hills, streams and springs. It was necessary to prove that the land was not already occupied or used by a mission for the grazing of cattle and sheep. On his map, or diseno, Don Salvio indicated the Arroyo de las Nueces, now Walnut Creek and the Laguna or lake which exists on the south side of Concord. These petitions and maps are now in Bancroft Library of the University of California and are one of the principal sources of our research on the rancho history of this area. Every Spanish land grant in California has been recorded and the documents include petitions for land, letters, maps, and other legal documents in both Spanish and English.
In 1828 Don Salvio Pacheco went to San Diego to present a letter to the Spanish Governor, Encheandia, asking for a grant of land. In this petition Don Salvio used the name Monte del Diablo in referring to the land he was requesting. He explained that this name had been given by the soldiers who came through this area in their first campaign against the Indians. These soldiers probably came from the presidio at San Francisco. When Don Salvio called this land Monte del Diablo he was not referring to Mt. Diablo. The Spaniards called Mt. Diablo the sierra de los Bolbones. The Bolbones were the Indians who lived around the mountain. Monte in Spanish means a willow thicket and the Monte del Diablo for which the Rancho was named referred to a willow thicket near the northern edge of Concord.
There are many legends explaining the origin of the name in our local histories. There is a story told by one of the early settlers on the Rancho which was repeated to us by his grandson, Karl Gehringer. When the Spaniards first came through here, the Indians warned them away from this willow thicket which was their burial ground. The Indians were very superstitious about this spot because at night they saw lights which they thought were the spirits of their ancestors. These lights were probably fireflies which early residents recall seeing. The Spaniards called this thicket Monte del Diablo, the thicket of the Devil. The name Monte del Diablo was not used to refer to the mountain until after the Americans settled here.
Don Salvio was granted this land in 1834 by Governor Figueroa, a grant of four leagues. When the United States government gave him title to the land, it was surveyed and found to contain 17,921 acres. These are the boundaries of the Ranch as it was surveyed: on the west the boundary line was the Arroyo de las Nueces, Walnut Creek; on the north the boundary line included within the Rancho the land where Phillips Oil Co. is located and excluded most of the tule and swamp land; on the east the boundary line goes through Clyde and follows along the base of the hills to and along Kirker Pass Road; on the south the line runs along the ridge of the hills separating Cowell and Ygnacio Valley, to Monument Boulevard and continues along this road to the Arroyo de las Nueces, Walnut Creek.
Salvio Pacheco did not move to his grant in 1834 because of his government duties. He remained at the Pueblo of San Jose and his eldest son, Fernando, who was 17 at this time, took charge of the cattle on the Rancho. In order to maintain the validity of a grant, the land has to be occupied and certain improvements had to be made. There were several Indian villages here and this part of Contra Costa was truly frontier country; the only inhabited part was the east bay shoreline. Indians from the San Joaquin Valley came through this valley on their way to Mission San Jose to steal horses and cattle. Felipe Briones was killed near here in a fight with the Indians to recover horses stolen from his Rancho near Lafayette. Salvio himself was shot by Indians when attempting to recover some of his stolen cattle from the Mitchell Canyon area.
About 1846 Don Salvio moved with his family to his Rancho Monte del Diablo; this was the year the United States took over the government of California. He built his adobe (now the Adobe Restaurant to the east of the Park and Shop). It looks now very much as it did then, a two-storied adobe with a balcony, and the old pepper trees still standing in front. Don Salvio built his home there because there were artesian springs to supply water. On the west side was built a brick-lined pool where later the children of Concord used to swim. On the north side there was a bull ring with a low adobe wall surrounding it. When rodeos and fiestas were celebrated, people came from all over the state and some guests stayed for weeks. There were horse races, bull fights and barbecues. Tables were set up outside and a dance platform was erected, covered with willow branches and decorated with Spanish shawls. The first church services in this area were held in the Adobe in a room set aside for that purpose. The priests came from Mission San Jose to conduct services there.
When Don Salvio Pacheco moved to the Rancho he gave his eldest son, Fernando, 1,000 acres of the northern portion of the Rancho and Fernando built his Adobe there. It is now used by the Horsemen's Association and is located north of the Mt. Diablo High School, on Grant Street near Olivera Road.
Francisco Galindo married Salvio's daughter, Manuela, and came to live on the Rancho about 1850. His grandfather had also come with the Anza expedition at the same time as Salvio's grandfather. Don Francisco was living in San Jose at the time Salvio and his family were living there. The Galindo and Pacheco families, at this time, had been colonists in California for over two generations. When Francisco moved to the Rancho Monte del Diablo, Salvio gave him over 1,000 acres of the southern portion. He bought additional land from Salvio until he owned over 5,000 acres. He built his home, a frame house, facing the Don Salvio Pacheco Adobe, which was a short distance to the north. His house was later remodeled for his son and is still occupied by the Galindo family.
These three men, Salvio Pacheco, Fernando Pacheco, and Francisco Galindo were responsible for the present town of Concord.
The rancho period in California ended about the time Don Francisco Galindo moved here. Up to this time each rancho consisted of thousands of acres; cattle roamed freely over the hills and life was leisurely and carefree. Then the Gold Rush brought thousands of immigrants to California from all over the world. Many of the gold miners were unsuccessful at the mines or became discouraged by the hardships of life there. Some found that it was as profitable to farm the land as it was to dig for gold, since supplies were in such great demand. In the 1850's many settlers came to Contra Costa County and began farming. One of the principal crops was grained and the best shipping point was at Pacheco. Warehouses and docks were built just north of Pacheco where the sloughs were deep enough for ships to enter and load. This town was named for Salvio Pacheco and a portion of it was built on his Rancho Monte del Diablo. Pacheco became the largest and most important town in the county.
But Pacheco had a very unfortunate history. There was a series of disastrous fires that burned several of the business buildings. The greatest disasters were the floods that caused serious damage. For a period of years there was such a heavy rainfall during the winter months that the town badly flooded. As the floods continued, silt was carried down in the streams and deposited in Walnut Creek and in the slough were the ships came in to dock. The docks were moved farther and farther to the north of Pacheco until they finally had to be abandoned. The stores and houses were raised in an attempt to get them above flood level, but as the floods continued the flood level raised. The merchants suffered severe losses from the floods, became discouraged and began to move out of Pacheco. Many of them moved to Martinez. A severe blow to the town was the earthquake of October 1868 that caused damage all over the Bay area. Some of the most substantial brick buildings in Pacheco were badly damaged.
Salvio Pacheco felt a sense of responsibility toward this town that was named for him. He decided to start a town on his Rancho where the merchants of Pacheco could move their businesses and be safe from constant floods. Salvio Pacheco, his son, Fernando Pacheco, and his son-in-law, Francisco Galindo hired Luis Castro, a surveyor from Alameda County, to come to the Rancho to survey a town for them near Don Salvio’s Adobe.
There was already a small Spanish population that had grown up around his Adobe. Every rancho in those early days was like a small village. The people who worked on the rancho lived near the adobe home of the owner. There was at least one small store in the area and a Spanish school that was conducted by a man and his wife in their home. It had an enrollment of about thirty pupils. One of the busiest roads in the county ran near Salvio Pacheco’s Adobe. This was the road from Martinez and Pacheco to the coal mines at Nortonville and Sommersville, east of the town of Clayton.
The town was surveyed in August of 1868 and named Todos Santos, meaning All Saints in Spanish. Apparently the name, Todos Santos, was too strange for the new settlers, because it changed very soon to Concord. No one seems to know who chose the name Concord, or how it happened to be chosen. The only reference to its origin that we have been able to find appeared in an article in the Contra Costa Gazette. It is dated April 17, 1869 and reads: “Concord” is the name, as we hear, by which the sponsors have decided to call the new village that is to form the east extension of Pacheco town. For significance and euphony no finer designation could have been found, and, in the spirit of the name, we congratulate our neighbors on its adoption.” You will notice that this was written about eight months after the town was surveyed.
The town was surveyed into nineteen blocks and a Plaza. Salvio Pacheco donated the Plaza to the town to be used as a recreation center. He and Fernando Pacheco and Francisco Galindo offered free lots to the merchants of Pacheco who would move their businesses to the new town. Several of the merchants took advantage of this offer and some of the houses were moved from Pacheco also. One of the buildings that was moved in later years is the Odd Fellows Hall on Salvio Street. Samuel Bacon, the proprietor of a book and stationary store in Pacheco, was one of the first merchants to move to Concord. He opened a general merchandise store at the corner of Salvio and Galindo Streets and built a home next to his store.
The first important social event to occur in the new town was reported by the Contra Costa Gazette on May 15, 1869 as follows: (quote) The inauguration of the new town of Concord by a social party and dance at Bacon’s store took place on Tuesday evening last (May 11, 1869). The new store; 26’ x 52’ was filled with a ‘Merrie Companie’, gathered from all over the country round who gaily tripped the hours of night away an reluctantly took their several ways home in the grey, or bloom of morning” (end of quote).
Across Salvio Street from Bacon’s store, where Beede’s Variety Store is now, was the machine shop of Charles Lohse of Ygnacio Valley and Syranus Standish of Pacheco. Gradually other small stores were built along Salvio Street, one and two story buildings. There was a butcher shop, a millinery store and several saloons. Salvio Street became the business center of Concord.
The town livery stable was on Salvio Street across from the Plaza, just opposite the old Library that was torn down when the new one was built. The stage coaches stopped there on their way from the coal mines at Nortonville and Sommersville to Pacheco and Martinez. If you wanted to go to San Francisco in those early days, you took the stage coach to Martinez, then took a boat to San Francisco. Next to the livery stable, at the corner of Mt. Diablo and Salvio Streets, was the Concord Hotel, more commonly known as Klein’s Hotel after the owner, Philip Klein. It was a two-story building constructed within a year after the survey of Concord and is still standing at the same location. Other businesses grew up around the Plaza, blacksmith shops and two or three saloons. The town slaughter house was only a half block from the Plaza, on Mt. Diablo Street, in the very early days.
The Plaza was planted with evergreen and eucalyptus trees in 1876 and children were paid five cents a bucket to keep the trees watered. Then a picket fence was built to keep out the wandering cattle and horses while the trees were growing. Later a dance platform and bandstand were built in the center and all the town celebrations were held there. The Fourth of July celebration was the most important of the year, with a parade, barbecue, speeches and dancing. The eucalyptus trees grew to be tremendous in size and were removed in 1931. A redwood pergola was constructed around four sides of the Plaza and planted with Wisteria. All of the town organizations donated trees, shrubs and plants and a Wisteria Festival became an important annual event. A number of years ago the pergola was removed.
The most important organization in early day Concord was the local Volunteer Fire Department, called the Concord Hook and Ladder Company. It was organized in April of 1879 with a membership of 100 and dues were 25 cents a month. This was a social as well as a functional organization in which most of the men in town participated. Money for equipment was raised by means of dances, socials and suppers held in a hall over a saloon on Salvio Street. After the equipment had been purchased, additional money was raised for a Fire Hall. The Hall was erected in 1883 on Mt. Diablo Street across from the Plaza, near the location of Hilson’s Department Store. The upper floor was used for dances, musicals and other community affairs. In 1911 the Fire Hall was moved to the south side of Willow Pass Road to make room for the construction of the Concord Inn. For many years it was used as a City Hall and is now occupied by the Concord Chamber of Commerce.
Early in 1870 Salvio Pacheco and several other residents of the new town petitioned the County Board of Supervisors for a school. The Concord Grammar School was built the same year at the south east corner of Grant and Bonifacio Streets, on lots donated by Fernando Pacheco. It was a two story building containing two classrooms and a library. The teacher was Miss Annie Carpenter.
Concord’s first postmaster was Samuel Bacon, one of the town’s earliest businessmen. He was appointed March 28, 1872 and the first post office was located in his store and later in his home adjacent to the store.
The first church in Concord was Queen of All Saints Catholic Church. Construction began in 1873 at the south west corner of Salvio and East Streets, the land having been donated by the Pacheco and Galindo families. The church was dedicated November 5, 1876. The second church was the Presbyterian Church, organized December 9, 1882 and the building was located on the west side of Galindo street just north of Pacheco Street. Land for this church was donated by Samuel Bacon. The first bank in town was the Bank of Concord, established January 1, 1901 by Melvin E. Lyon. It later became the Bank of America.
The citizens of Concord finally felt the need to have such improvements as water and lights, so Concord was incorporated in 1905. On February 4, 1905 an election was held and the voters elected five trustees, a Town Treasurer, a Town Clerk and a Town Marshall. The Trustees met and elected a President of the Board, who corresponds to our mayor. The first President of the Board was Joseph Boyd, the owner of a blacksmith and carriage shop. The other Trustees were Myron Breckenridge, who owned a hardware store; Henry Bott, also the owner of a blacksmith shop; Herbert Elworthy, later one of the town bankers, who was in the cattle and butcher business; and M. E. Lyons, a businessman who owned several of the business buildings in Concord. Frank Foskett was the Town Treasurer and was associated with Mr. Elworthy in the cattle and butcher business and in banking. George Keller, the Town Clerk, was a druggist. John Guy, the Town Marshall was also the town undertaker and the carpenter who built the Fire Hall.
The Board met once a month in the Fire Hall. A few months after the town was incorporated street lights were installed, one light at each of the main street intersections. The first electric bill paid by the town was for fourteen dollars. A few months later water hydrants were installed and for the first time the town had an adequate water supply for fire protection. Town expenses averaged from one hundred fifty dollars to two hundred dollars a month, principally for water and lights and gravel for the streets. There was a Street Poll Tax of two dollars for each man living within the town limits which some paid by putting in a day’s work on the streets.
One of the most disastrous events in the history of early day Concord was the 1917 fire. By this time some of the original wooden store buildings had been replaced by more modern, substantial buildings on Salvio and Mt. Diablo Streets. Early in the morning of April 25, 1917 a fire started in the basement of a store on Mt. Diablo Street. Before it was discovered it had spread so rapidly that the Fire Department was unable to control it. Practically the whole block burned with the exception of a few buildings on the Galindo Street side. Several years before the fire a hotel had been built on Mt. Diablo Street that was considered one of the finest hotels in this part of the county. It was called the Concord Inn, a name that is familiar to us now. It was a two story building with entrances on Salvio Street and Mt. Diablo Streets. This hotel was completely destroyed by the fire, in addition to the Bank of Concord, the Concord Mercantile Company of Francisco Galindo, several other businesses and the Post Office. This fire was a great loss to the community and many of the businessmen suffered heavy financial losses. Some businesses, such as the hotel, were never rebuilt and it was many years before that art of the business section of town recovered from the fire.
Concord remained a small farming community. In the very early days the farms were quite large. The first settlers on the Rancho Monte del Diablo bought large acreage as land was so cheap. Most of the settlers had no money to buy land but they paid for it by giving Salvio Pacheco a share of the crops that they had raised. The farms averaged two hundred to six hundred acres with several being over one thousand acres. Francisco Galindo farmed over five thousand acres of the Rancho and raised large number of sheep on part of his land.
As more and more settlers came into this area, the large farms were broken up into smaller and smaller farms. In the early days hundreds of acres of wheat were raised on the east side of Concord. As the farms became smaller, orchards and vineyards were planted. The population of Concord did not increase very rapidly. In 1910 the population was 700. Then industry began to develop along the river and people in Concord found jobs in these industries. But the town itself did not grown very rapidly in size. In the early 1930’s the population was only about 1,200. It was only after World War II that the population expanded so rapidly and the town expanded. Concord changed from a small farming community to a large suburban community. As the size of the town has changed, the character of the town has also changed.
Change is a part of progress, but in the course of progress often our valuable historical heritage is sacrificed. Progress in many of our communities has resulted in the destruction of important historical buildings. We are particularly fortunate to have in our community two State Historic Landmarks, the Salvio Pacheco Adobe (the Adobe Restaurant) and the Fernando Pacheco Adobe (the Horsemen’s Association Clubhouse). The Plaza and our tow Adobes represent a rich heritage of Concord’s historical past which we should appreciate and preserve as best we can.
Labels: historical documents