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Manteca Bulletin starting its 107th year of publication
The building housing the Bulletin today was Keppel Brothers Hardware in the 1940s. The Bulletin moved into the building in 1973. - photo by Photo Contributed

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 fledging 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 106 years ago in November of 1908 planted the seeds for a century of Manteca growth and prosperity. It also gave the Manteca Bulletin its roots.

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, Wurster approached the South San Joaquin Chamber of Commerce to assist in publishing the Bulletin. The chamber provided financial assistance and even occasionally assisted with the editing.

The Irrigation Bulletin grew into a standard size weekly newspaper on June 3, 1910 when it was moved from Stockton to Ripon. Fred S. Holman was the publisher. That first issue and all subsequent editions of the Bulletin through 2008 are on microfilm and are available through the Manteca Library. The bound copies are now part of the Manteca Historical Society collection.

The earlier copies apparently were simply glorified flyers that promoted commerce and the irrigation project as well as offered general business news of the area. No copies of the initial 19 months of periodic publication are known to exist.

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

Manteca had been subdivided with lots selling from $100 to $300 according to various ads in the Ripon-based Bulletin. 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 decision to locate SSJID headquarters in Manteca and not Ripon prompted Holman to pull up stakes. He moved the operations from Ripon to Manteca and into a building at 300 W. Yosemite in May of 1912. 

Finally on Nov. 6, 1914, the name was changed from the Irrigation Bulletin to the Manteca Bulletin. In an editorial on the same date, the Bulletin stated, “The name Irrigation Bulletin has been a watchword for several years and we can say in all justice that the paper has been of value to the irrigation district. But all papers of a local nature must of necessity be-speak their purpose in their titles. The Manteca Bulletin will pursue the same general policy and will expect to keep up its general advance in subscriptions.”

The Manteca Enterprise merged with the Manteca Bulletin on March 22, 1918.

In 1923, the Murphy family started its 49-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 published at the 300 W. Yosemite Avenue location for 45 years until 1957 when it moved into the old SSJID building on North Main Street just south of the FESM Hall.

The Bulletin stayed in the SSJID building until 1973 when it was moved to its present location on the northwest corner of Yosemite Avenue and Fremont Avenue.