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New mural spotlighting early Manteca industry

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New mural spotlighting early Manteca industry

A rendering of what the “Manteca: Early Industry” mural being painted at Library Park by Brian Romagnoli will look like.

Photo contributed/

POSTED February 18, 2012 1:40 a.m.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The muralist selected by the Manteca Historical Society to create the mural in Library Park that deals with Manteca’s industrial past researched the city’s industry history prior to submitting his proposal. The following is his research and how he intends to incorporate it into the mural. Altogether five murals are being added to Library Park.



Muralist from Ontario, Canada

Manteca has an impressive industrial heritage, particularly relating to agriculture. This is showcased in the mural “Manteca: Early Industry” in art deco style and muted colors to indicate the misty tule-fog of “winter.” In the middle ground are seven large circle vignettes featuring hallmarks of Manteca’s early industry from the late 19th century to mid-20th century. Smaller vignettes depict other industries such as (Celpril) Seeds, San Joaquin Light & Power, and Manteca Cheese Co. (1921, later Kraft, 1937-77.)


Prior to the dominance of railway transport Wells Fargo had a presence in Manteca with an Express Office and regular stagecoach stops. This all changed in 1873 when Central Pacific Railway purchased farmland from local pioneer Joshua Cowell to establish a railway through the area. Originally a small boxcar and freight platform called “Cowell’s Station”, it was later replaced by the Depot, which was built in 1910. Strategically situated a mile downtrack from the station was “Cowell’s Warehouse,” established by Joshua Cowell’s brother Wright Cowell.

Sugar Refinery

With a shortage of sugar during World War I, Spreckels Sugar began their search for a new plant location that allowed for easy railway access and ariable land suitable for a sugar-beet plantation. With several communities competing for the plant, local farmers petitioned until Manteca came out on top with an offer of nearly 450 acres of land southeast of town at below market price. Another advantage was the existence of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District canals which prevented summer drought. Completed in 1918, with its four 15-story sugar silos, Spreckels became a major employer, and for several decades the area was filled with the sweet odor of processed sugarbeets. Unfortunately, this ended in early 1996 when the plant succumbed to the pressure of offshore subsidies and cheaper production costs in the south-central U.S. but a large portion of the property is now home to multi-use Spreckels Park. Pictured in the foreground is an early 1040s stake truck used by Spreckels to transport harvested sugarbeets from the field to the sugar plant and waiting railcars.


Italian immigrant Achille Baccilieri began his Winnery around 1906 and constructed this brick building (Manteca’s oldest) to ferment and bottle locally-grown grapes. In the foreground, the vintner is using a hand-operated winepress of the period. In addition to the Winery, Baccilieri established Manteca’s first Waterworks, installing a 50,000-gallon wooden water tank in 1914 to supply businesses and residents. Depicted in a small circle vignette is another early wine pioneer, Gaspare Indelicato, who after immigrating here from Campobello, Italy, began planting grapes in the spring of 1924. A few years later, in 1935, the first grapes were crushed on a hand-driven press set up in the hay barn, which yielded 3,451 gallons, or 1,400 cases. Today, Delicato Family Vineyards continues to grow, as Gaspare’s grandchildren carry on the tradition started by their grandfather more than 85 years ago


The historic Mossdale Crossing Bridge, a vertical-lift draw bridge over the San Joaquin River, alongside present-day I-5 between Tracy and Manteca, near Lathrop opened on September 8, 1869 as the last link in the Transcontinental Railroad which joined the Union Pacific and Central Pacific to Sacramento, en route to San Francisco. Although rail-freight traffic increased until the mid-20th century, passenger rail began to decline in favor of the automobile, and new roads had to be constructed. Present-day CA-99 began its history in 1909 as a Ca State Hwy named “Legislative Route #4” (linking Sacramento & L.A. via Fresno and Bakersfield). In 1913-1914, the route was first paved, and during the 1920s, was re-designated as “U.S.-99”, and later dubbed the “Golden State Highway.” In the foreground is a Road Roller from the 1920- period.


The Manteca Canning Company, established in 1914 as the area’s first major employer was located on Oak Street by partners Achille Baccilieri, T.A. Nelson, F.M. Cowell and Louis Vistica. With an increase in fruit and vegetable yields as a result of new irrigation methods, Cannery production also grew to meet the demand, with Baccilierri’s adjacent Winery building converted into storage space. By mid-summer, 1914, the famous “Manteca Lady” brand of tomatoes began production, and prior to being known for its sugar-beets, Manteca was dubbed “Tomatoville.” The initial production of 19,000 cases was increased dramatically to 200,000 cases by 1918. Eventually the Cannery was re-organized as the Manteca Packing Company, pictured here with Baccilieri’s Water Tower, and continued production for 50 years until closing in 1964. In the foreground, is a cannery worker crimping can-ends on an early machine.


With the railroad came a building boom, and building suppliers began to establish here. In 1909, John A. Boberg started the Manteca Lumber Yard, which added a planing mill in 1914. In November of 1910, three Stocktonians – Newton Rutherford, Robert Inglis, and Charles L. Neumiller incorporated the San Joaquin Lumber Company, and located a lumber yard on West Yosemtie Avenue. Over the next 18 years, the company changed hands six times until being purchased by San Francisco-based Hills and Euphrat families. From 1956, the facility was managed by Tony Martin, followed into the business by bookkeeper wife Dorothy, and later son Edward. In the foreground is an early lumberjack unloading lumber to be milled.


Established in 1896 by Joshua Cowell, the Creamery provided local dairy farmers with a means to process and transport their milk by rail to the lucrative San Francisco market, and locally by horse-drawn milk cart. With improved irrigation, dairy farming became South County’s primary industry, and by 1923 there were 8,000 cows producing 25,000 gallons of milk daily. In the early 1930s, Floyd Richards and Roy Olson purchased the Creamery, and constructed an art deco-style ice cream parlor at the front of the building. By 1938, the Creamery was producing 395,000 lbs. of butter annually, wrapping 1,800 lbs. per day, and the ice cream freezing room churned out 10 gallons every six minutes. For several decades, the Creamery was a favorite stopover for travelers and locals alike until closing in December of 1965. B.R. 2011

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