San Lorenzo Creek Watershed Archive

Eden Township - 1877

The San Lorenzo Creek watershed occupies a large area of Eden Township in Alameda County. The early non-Indian history of the township presented here is an excerpt from Official and Historical Atlas Map of Alameda County, Oakland: Thompson & West, 1878. County atlases in the late nineteenth century were partially vanity publications. They were published on an advance subscription basis, with more affluent property owners paying additional money to have pictures of their homes and farms included. The history contained in these county atlases typically relied heavily on the personal recollections of oldtimers, with little verification through systematic, independent research.

The area of this township is about sixty thousand acres, much of which is mountainous and unfit for agricultural purposes, but suitable for grazing.

Upon the bay front there is a wide margin of salt marsh, through which numerous navigable sloughs take their tortuous way.

The topographical features of this township are similar to those of the valley in general -- marsh lands skirting the bay, a highly productive valley, from two to four miles in width, rising to the eastward into the foothills and mountains of the Contra Costa Range.

The San Leandro Creek separates this from Brooklyn Township, and the San Lorenzo Creek traverses it about midway between its eastern and western boundaries.

Smaller streams flow from the mountains at different points, thus rendering a supply of water adequate in any but years of drouth.

The climate is substantially like that of the western slope of the coast range throughout the valley, with perhaps a slight exception in its favor over the country swept by winds direct from the Golden Gate. At all events such is the state of climate and soil that Eden, in the department of horticulture, stands pre-eminent among the townships of the county.

The general settlement of this township was somewhat later than that of its neighbor, Washington, but having commenced was more rapid.

The better portion of the valley was covered by three Mexican grants, conveyed respectively to Jose Joaquin Estudillo, Francisco Soto, and Jose Jesus Vallejo. The Rancho de San Lorenzo, granted to Guillermo Castro, comprised about twenty-seven thousand acres, and included the present town of Haywards and what is designated on the maps as Castro Valley.

Upon the advent of the American settlers these grants were occupied by their respective owners. Estudillo, at or prior to 1837, settled upon the Rancho de San Leandro, his adobe residence being near the creek, and not far from the town of San Leandro.

Castro and Soto were neighbors, and lived near Haywards. Vallejo resided at the Mission San Jose.

The lives of these landed proprietors, like those of their race and occupation everywhere throughout the province, were passed in Arcadian tranquillity, until the flood of American pioneers encroached upon their domains, and harassed them with trespasses and vexatious lawlessness.

The valleys and hillsides were covered with their cattle, while their habits and customs were such that their wants were few and the means of gratification abundant. The Indians, though numerous, were friendly, and many were gathered about the owners of the ranchos, being employed in various capacities.

There were several rancherias in the township -- one near the County Infirmary and others on the San Leandro and San Lorenzo Creeks. A few scattered remnants of the once-populous tribes were living here as late as 1859.

The excellent opportunities afforded by the sloughs and marshes of the township for killing game was the inducement that brought hither the first settlers of Eden Township. Wild geese, ducks, and curlew were very abundant, and commanded from three to five dollars per dozen in San Francisco. With such inducements several gentlemen, who afterwards became permanent settlers and prominent citizens, of the county, engaged in the business of killing game for profit.

In the latter part of 1850, Captain Roberts, with his partner, Thompson, made their way up the slough past what is now Roberts' Landing, tied up their launch, or ship's boat, and commenced shooting waterfowl, with a success that would astonish sportsmen of to-day. At that time the first American settler had not located upon any portion of the township, except a Mr. Ward, who years before had married into the Estudillo family, and prior to 1862 there were less than a score of Americans in Eden Township. In fact, land had not, with scarcely an exception, been taken possession of for agricultural purposes.

William Hayward came in the fall of 1851, and located in the Palomares Canyon, where he expected the government would in due time make him the owner of one hundred and sixty acres of California land, but he was not long in finding out that he was a trespasser upon the propertv of Castro.

He was informed, however, by Castro that he was welcome to cultivate land on certain terms that were mutually satisfactory, and thenceforth the two continued on the friendliest terms while Castro remained an inhabitant of the county.

When Mr. Hayward pitched his tent in front of the hotel that bears his name, he does not remember that a single American was farming in the valley below, but before the close of the year 1852 the whole plain was dotted with squatters' tents and cabins. The Estudillo Ranch was the recipient of most attention at the hands of the squatters, and so numerous were they in the vicinity of San Lorenzo that the place for years was known as Squatterville.

This rancho was believed to be government land, but after years of litigation the grant was confirmed to the representatives of Estudillo. Less trouble was experienced on the other grants, although all of them were the occasion of more or less litigation.

From 1852 the population increased rapidly, and business soon fell into substantially the same channels it runs in today. The landings on the sloughs were established, and soon became busy with the transportation of the products of the farmers. Captains Roberts, Chisholm, Wicks, Barron, and Mulford were among the first to engage in this business.

Potatoes were largely cultivated at the first, and afterwards grain. The facilities afforded by the salt marshes for manufacturing salt were availed of, and the business became quite an extensive and important one. Horticulture may be regarded the leading industry of the township, not that the majority of the inhabitants are engaged in it, but that the most extensive fruit-growers of the county are located here, and that the soil and climate are eminently adapted to the production of fruit. The banks of the San Lorenzo Creek are lined with orchards and gardens than which it is probable no place in California can boast of better.

E. T. Crane, Esq., was first to inaugurate this business, and continues largely engaged in it, but the orchards of William Meek and E. Lewelling have acquired almost a national reputation. The lands of the township are cultivated with the greatest care, as indeed they must be to render them profitable at the valuation placed upon them.

The town is easy and convenient of access to market. The Central Pacific Railroad has three stations within the limits. Three landings upon the bay do the greater part of the heavy freighting. There are four towns in Eden Township, San Leandro, Haywards, San Lorenzo, and Mount Eden, the two former being incorporated.