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A brief history of the Manteca Bulletin

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POSTED February 11, 2010 7:37 p.m.

The wind-blown sandy loam plains of South San Joaquin County weren’t exactly hospitable to farming back in 1908.

Water, though, brought by the Stanislaus and San Joaquin Water Co. from the Stanislaus River near Knights Ferry in the Tulloch Ditch some three years earlier was yielding some remarkable results from 3,000 irrigated Manteca acres. The dairy industry was booming, alfalfa fields were taking hold in the sandy plains and crop yields were up significantly.

It didn’t take much for visionaries to see what type of future irrigation offered the fledgling town of Manteca. To promote a large-scale water project that was the forerunner to today’s South San Joaquin Irrigation District, two men - F.L. Wurster and A.L. Cowell - joined forces to print the Irrigation Bulletin.

The first copies printed in November of 1908.

The Irrigation Bulletin was printed originally in Stockton. The initial editions were flyers that were distributed throughout the state extolling the virtues of irrigating the 70,000 acres of sandy loam soil around Manteca.

As interest in Manteca development grew, the South San Joaquin Chamber of Commerce to assisted in publishing the Bulletin. The Irrigation Bulletin grew into a standard size weekly newspaper on June 3, 1910 when it was moved from Stockton to Ripon.  

The earlier copies were simply glorified flyers that promoted commerce and the irrigation project, as well as offering general business news of the area.

The Ripon-based Bulletin continued to editorialize the positives of the formation of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District that was approved in an election on May 11, 1909. The Bulletin carried news of the impending bond sales to investors throughout California.

The boom was on. The South County population swelled from 3,000 in 1905 to 15,000 by the time the first SSJID water flowed in 1915.

The rapidly growing area gave birth to a series of newspapers: the Escalon Times started in 1910, the Manteca Enterprise published its first edition on Nov. 1, 1911, the Ripon Record in April of 1912 and the Lathrop Sun shortly thereafter.

The newspaper changed its name from the Irrigation Bulletin to the Manteca Bulletin on Nov. 6, 1914. The Manteca Enterprise merged with the Manteca Bulletin on March 22, 1918.

In 1923, the Murphy family started its 50-year span of ownership of the Manteca Bulletin that started with George Murphy Sr. entering a partnership with Louis Meyer. It stayed in the Murphy family until April 1, 1972 when George Murphy Jr. sold the Bulletin to Charles Morris and his family-owned Morris Multimedia.

The Bulletin is now in its 102nd year of publication as a seven-day-a-week newspaper still emphasizing local news.

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