LATHROP - McKee Boulevard at Mossdale Landing runs through agricultural land that was farmed for nearly a century by the family of Lathrop’s first and four-time mayor, Steve McKee, who took over the farming after his parents retired.
The name of this major thoroughfare running parallel to the San Joaquin River just a few feet to the west red-marks the Mckee family’s contributions to Lathrop’s history, from agriculture to politics.
Perpendicular to McKee Boulevard due north of River Islands Parkway is Barbara Terry Way, named after a member of the family that owned the large swathe of agricultural land that is now planted with new houses.
Farther back in the history of “the town that could” with a river running through it is yet another story that explains the genesis of another main thoroughfare in the city – Thomsen Road. Its oddity is that it’s the only one of all the streets between Lathrop Road to Louise Avenue that is designated as a road instead of a street. From the nomenclature of these streets in the city’s historic Old Town District – which, from Lathrop Road going south to Louise, follows a section of the alphabet and goes from H, I, J, K, L, N, and O – what was once M Street became Thomsen.
Fortunately, there was Dorothy Burchard who gave the story behind the missing M Street. Several years ago, she called the Manteca Bulletin because she wanted to tell the story of her pioneer family in Lathrop. She was already living in Stockton at that time but, even in her 80s at that time, still came to the Lathrop Senior Center to take part in the monthly square dances. A male friend and dancing partner was kind enough to pick her up each time.
Burchard said Thomsen Road was given that name when her grandparents donated part of their farmland for the building of a portion of Louise Avenue in Lathrop. The honor was bestowed upon the family “when my grandparents donated the land for Louise Avenue,” said Burchard in the interview five years ago. She was the granddaughter of Thomas and Eda Thomsen who, at the turn of the 20th century, owned 441 acres “right in the heart of Lathrop,” she said. She had more than a scrapbook’s worth of old pictures and stories that appeared in various publications including the Stockton Record which helped tell the story. She even took pictures of the “East Ranch house” as it looked before the family property was developed into a residential subdivision along Harlan Road just north of Louise Avenue. She then placed her pictures of the old house next to the family’s yellowed black-and-white photos of the same house as it looked then. Architecturally speaking, the house looked the same down to the side walls. She even took pictures of the structure in the back which has seen better days and was practically covered with thick vines. She said this wooden structure was the “garage” for the family’s horse carriage. She also took pictures of the huge barn located next to the horse-carriage building.
Another road in Lathrop tells the story of a family property that was displaced by the building of the Interstate 5 – or, at least, just the portion that was needed by the highway construction project. Manteca retired farmer Frank Mendes who now lives on South McKinley Avenue, knows this story very well. He grew up in an old farming property just a few yards south of Dos Reis Road, the thoroughfare that was named after the farming family of the same name which donated the real estate that was needed to build the section of I-5 in Lathrop. In fact, the old Dos Reis house had to be moved to make way for the highway. That building currently houses the Fireside Inn which is the bar on the southeast corner of Lathrop Road and Fifth Street. Mendes said his parents knew the Dos Reis family well because his family lived nearby in a Sear’s kit house that was constructed next to the levee with materials that were floated down the San Joaquin River. Unfortunately, that Sear’s house which was located near where Lathrop High School is now standing, fell victim to modern development. It went the way of the wrecking ball to make way for what would have been the Richland Master-planned community. But that’s another story altogether.
Then there’s River Islands Parkway. At one time, before the annexation of the Mossdale Village area, Louise Avenue extended west past Manthey Road and dead-ended to a point just a few yards east of the river, roughly where McKee Boulevard now intersects River Islands Parkway. The rest of the roadway was a gravel road that was part of the private farm houses located there. Once Mossdale was developed and the humongous project whose name started as Gold Rush, then Califia, and finally River Islands was underway, Louise Avenue on the west side of the freeway became the new River Islands Parkway, a major traffic corridor that will connect Lathrop on the east side of the river to the gargantuan and ambitious River Islands project.