By DENNIS WYATT
Woodward Park. Woodward School. Woodward Avenue. Woodward Reservoir.
Just who is this Woodward who has so many things named after him in the Manteca area?
Walter Woodward is considered among the top 12 prominent pioneers in Manteca history.
Woodward was Manteca’s first real estate agent and an early advocate of irrigation.
Born in Vermont in 1858, Woodward’s embracing of the economic value of irrigation was gleaned on stops on his way to eventually moving to Manteca in 1905.
As a boy he dug ditches to convey irrigation water to his father’s farm in Colorado. In 1893, he moved to Los Angeles where he went to work for a pipe company. Business trips took him to the Pacific Northwest where developers of irrigation projects helped hone his understanding of the process.
His company was hired to lay the first pipe system to move water from the Colorado River to Los Angeles by crossing the Mojave Desert.
It was during the laying of that pipe that Woodward invented and obtained the patent on a molded redwood plume used to carry water over steep desert terrain.
Health problems prompted an early retirement. He chose Manteca based on travels that had taken him through town.
In 1905 settled down to farm on 160 acres near the present day intersection of Airport Way and Woodward Avenue.
Then in 1907 he opened the community’s first real estate office in what is today the 500 block of West Yosemite Avenue.
Woodward and his future partner E.E. Douglas were in on the first land boom after irrigation came to the South County. Farmland sold as fast as it was subdivided. The boom helped lead to the incorporation of Manteca.
Woodward joined the irrigation board. He spent many months laying out the system. It was his suggestion that the South San Joaquin Irrigation District distributed water to reach every 40-acre parcel instead of just the larger ranches. That allowed more than 71,000 acres to come under irrigation.
The board decided to name the reservoir that was completed in 1917 some 16 miles east of Manteca in his honor.
Woodward was described by those who knew him as an introvert, quiet, honest, a reader, a man ahead of his time, a great lover of cats, and a dedicate fan of classical music, particularly opera.
Family members told of stories where his wife Fannie — tiring of him playing Italian opera tenor Enrico Caruso’s records over and over again — would seek refuge in the Goodwin house net door.
In 1939 Woodward won a $25 check from the Manteca Chamber of Commerce in its contest to come up with the “most descriptive slogan” for a community theme. His winning submission was “The Heart of Creamland.”
Woodward died on Sept. 21,1939. He is buried at Park View Cemetery with his wife.