When Wayne Champlin Castle sold his family farm on French Camp Road, he was the fifth generation that had lived there since it was built in the mid-1800s.
And on Friday a handful of those who descended from one of Manteca’s first pioneer families gathered at the Manteca Historical Society to look at old pictures, hear old stories and in some cases, meet one another for the first time.
The special event, which happened while the museum was technically closed to the public, drew Castle family descendants from throughout the Western United States – drawing people from Oregon, Idaho, Arizona and all parts of Northern California to learn more about from whence they came and the people that share the lineage that they do.
And at the middle of it was Wayne– the “keystone” of an event that highlighted the background of some of the area’s first settlers and the man who for years maintained the family’s legacy by preserving the two-story home on the outskirts of town.
“I just eat things like this up – I didn’t get into researching my family history until after my parents passed away, but then I started learning about all of these different people and all of the interesting facts that I didn’t necessarily know,” said Mary Jane Barwick of Tulare – the great-great granddaughter of George Hastings Castle Sr. “It’s just a really fascinating story, and it’s great to actually come here to Manteca which plays such a big part in this story and the men who came out west not for gold, but to farm.
“And he (Champlin Castle) has really been the keystone in putting all of this together. A lot of us have been emailing and talking about doing this for a while, but this is the chance to faces and voices to those that we’ve been communicating with.”
For Larna Masnfield, who came down from Oregon for the family reunion event, the gathering served as an important chance for people of the same lineage to share stories about those that they’ve heard about in their past, and see some of the actual artifacts stored at the museum that belonged to their relatives.
“I think that it’s fabulous that we’re able to do something like this – we’re blessed to be able to have a place where we can all come together which has such significance for our family,” Mansfield said. “It’s a place where stories can be spoken because all too often they end up being lost or garbled over time. Wayne is one who remembers so many great things – he’s steeped in this knowledge – and he was kind of the keeper of the flame when it came to becoming another generation that took over the ranch.
“We’re really, really, really lucky to have somebody like him that has so much information and is able to share with all of us so we know a little bit more about where we come from.”
The original Castle family migrated to Manteca from Wisconsin in 1852 during the massive westward expansion of the United States. While many people headed for the hills to find their fortune, the original settlers put down stakes in a farming region and became some of the early shapers of a growing community.
George Castle was born in 1820 in New York and moved to Wisconsin at age 21.
In Wisconsin in 1846 he married Harriet Oliver . They came overland to California in 1852 and settled on French Camp Road. Their first home was a small log cabin. Their farm grew in size to 1,180 acres where they built the 10-room home which still stands today.
In 1869 George Castle was elected sheriff of San Joaquin County. Across the road from the main house was a race track where the family’s standardbred horses were trained and where from time to time trotting and pacing races were held. Harriet Castle died in 1883 while her husband passed away in husband in 1891. Wayne Castle is the couple’s great-grandson.
Even though he sold the family stead and moved to Stockton more than a decade ago, the man known as “Wayne” has fond memories of Manteca and said there isn’t anywhere else he would have wanted to grow up.
“It’s a good, friendly, nice and warm place to call your hometown,” he said. “It certainly has changed a lot since I was a kid, but I enjoyed my time here and it’ll forever be a big part of this family’s history.”
Several items from the family have been donated to the Manteca Historical Society Museum including the Tuxedo and Wedding Dress worn by Durrett Oliver Castle and Marybell Burgess Castle – Wayne’s grandparents – as well as the World War I uniform of Beverly Burgess Castle – Wayne’s father.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.