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Manteca turns 95 as a city a week from today

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Manteca turns 95 as a city a week from today

A brick building in the 2300 block of East Yosemite Avenue as it appeared a year prior to Manteca’s incorporation in 1917.

Photo courtesy Manteca Historical Society/

POSTED May 21, 2013 2:02 a.m.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a six-part series taking a look back at Manteca’s first 95 years as an incorporated city. Voters approved incorporation on May 28, 1918.

May of 1918 was heady times on the sandy plains.

Four years prior, the South San Joaquin Irrigation District had started delivering water to covert the sandy soil into fertile farmland. It touched off a land rush as farmers flocked to Manteca from all over the West.

German sugar magnate Claus Spreckels two years later in 1916 chose Manteca for his next plant just outside the bustling trading center that had grown up around Joshua Cowell’s ranch at the intersection of modern-day Yosemite Avenue and Main Street as well as the railroad creamery station.

The start of World War I delayed the sugar refinery’s opening but by spring of 1918 it opened with upwards of 400 men producing a daily payroll of $600. Spreckels lured another 300 families to the Manteca area.

Growth backed by a large employer prompted a movement to turn Manteca into an official city to control its own destiny instead of relying on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors to govern the community.  A push to incorporate Manteca as a city failed in the winter of 1918. But by the spring as the Spreckels boom got underway a second vote was called for on May 28. The incorporation measure passed the second time as the 200 plus people who comprised Manteca proper wanted improved sanitation, secure water, and safer streets.

A certificate of incorporation was issued June 8, 1918. The first council meeting took place three days later. The first town board consisted of Joshua Cowell – who was unanimously elected president of the board to serve as Manteca’s first mayor – Andrew Veach, C.E. Littlejohn, F.M. Cowell, and Henry S. Estrad.

The board met initially in the offices of the Board of Trade - the forerunner to the Manteca Chamber of Commerce.

Other the ensuing several months the board cobbled together a municipal staff. Marshal Mario Litchfield was paid $100 to collect taxes and supervise the streets. J.R. Scott was hired as city attorney at $30 a month while George Singleton was appointed city recorder at $25 a month. The city’s first engineer - E.H. Jefferies - was hired for $15 a month.

At the July 15 meeting the board hired a worker to clean the streets, voted to build a jail and informed Yosemite Avenue businesses from Hogan Road (Main Street) to the railroad that curbs would be installed.

In August, the board ordered 15 mph speed limit signs to be posted at the city limits and warned motorists they had to “close their mufflers.”

The board also in August bought a fire bell that was placed at Cowell’s residence at Yosemite and Main where Bank of America stands today. The fire bell was also used to mark that curfew had arrived at 9 p.m. It was also the month that the city addressed inadequate fire concerns by ordering a dozen more fire buckets.

Sewer bonds were passed and work started in January 1919 on a $21,406.11 sewer system.

It was the year that Manteca became one of the first communities to hire a woman as an assistant marshal. The board changed the marshal’s salary to half of all the traffic fines he collected. That, however, didn’t last long. An uproar from citizens put the marshal back on a monthly salary two months later.

In 1919 the city changed the name of Hogan Road to Main Street and had that roadway paved as well as Yosemite Avenue. It was also the year that curbs and gutters were put in place, street signs placed at intersections and all municipal streets lighted. Ordinances were put into effect fining owners for not clearing their lots of weeds. Another ordinance barred the running of large animals on city streets, hitching posts were removed and dog licenses were required with males being charged $2 and females $4. The elected leaders also passed a law prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 from entering the pool hall.

In 1920 - three years after incorporation - the city bought its first vehicles. Included was a fire engine for $3,800 and a Chevrolet for city use at $716.32.

WEDNESDAY: Manteca deals with its first drought, first major economic downturn as well as flood and fires in the 1920a and 1930s.

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