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A chat with The Father of Manteca
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It’s Father’s Day on Sunday making this a perfect time to see what the Father of Manteca - Joshua Cowell - thinks about what’s going on today.

You would never find Cowell complaining about having to walk a ways to get somewhere. Kids today may roll their eyes when their parents tell them they had to walk a mile to school so there is no reason they cannot too. Cowell walked from the Carson Valley in Nevada over the Sierra to reach what today is Manteca back in 1863.

Cowell never complained about traffic at what is today Yosemite and Main even though it is smack dab in the middle of the ranch he bought. In fact, Cowell spent most of his life trying to increase traffic at the intersection.

He spent years helping other settlers come to the sandy plains to establish farms. He was among the visionaries who understood Manteca’s economic future and prosperity was tied into securing reliable surface water for irrigation of crops.

Cowell also was the driving force behind bringing the first Bay Area Transplants into Manteca. He welcomed them with open arms.

He was a merchant too as he was responsible for a lion’s share of Manteca’s original commercial buildings being built. Cowell understood the need for people to come together through government to provide essential services and key amenities as well as to band together as a community to promote economic prosperity and to help neighbors.

So without further ado, let’s call on the man upstairs who was the driving force behind creating what is today a teeming city of 69,000 on what wasn’t much more than a plain of sandy loam 149 years ago and get his thoughts on what’s going on in Manteca today.

QUESTION: “Mr. Cowell, it was so nice of you to be here today.”

ANSWER: “Just call me Uncle Josh. Everyone in town does.”

Q: “Ok, Uncle Josh. Here’s the first question: Some people say growth isn’t a good thing.”

A: “Really? Go tell that to the three people who died in the Flu Epidemic of 1918 and the half of the community who was seriously stricken. It took the community growing to afford the luxury of building a 30-bed hospital to attract a doctor to Manteca in 1919. And I see where growth has now afforded Manteca to use that hospital we built on the southeast corner of Sequoia and Yosemite avenues as a homeless shelter for families. Plus we have two hospitals today.”

Q: “But what about the impacts growth is having on farming?”

A: “Funny you should say that because most of the bellyaching I hear about farming practices today - the dust, the pesticides, the noise and the smell - are coming from many of the same people who are arguing Manteca and Lathrop are growing too fast and steps should be made to preserve farming. They can’t have it both ways. Heck, they even tell me Manteca has a right-to- farm ordinance that everyone is told about when they buy a home here yet they still squawk about farming.”

Q: “I think what people are saying is that there are too many people here.”

A. “It’s always interesting to hear folks say that, yet they complain about Manteca lacking shopping opportunities. Many a fine businessmen lost their shirts a hundred years ago because there wasn’t the population to support business. That’s why Manteca today is getting the stores, restaurants and amenities people want because the town is growing.”

Q: “Sir, I believe the point they’re making is that the town can’t keep up with needed services to accommodate growth.”

A: “Son, you aren’t getting my point. A community can benefit from growth and become a better place. Manteca is halfway there with a sound 3.9 percent growth cap. Besides, anyone who arrived here after I did in 1863 are contributing to the problems they say are caused by growth if you look at it that way.”

Q: “Any final thoughts?”

A: “Yes I do and it’s about the one thing that’s been bugging me for years.”

Q: “What’s that?”

A: “The so-called BAT problem. You know - Bay Area Transplants. People who blame the BATS for all of Manteca’s problems and think they should stay away should get a life. Manteca is about an opportunity to make a living and to raise a family. It’s a place to build a good life. I walked here over the Sierra, for crying out loud, from the Carson Valley to make a better life. That’s what all those people are doing who cross the Altamont Pass. Give them a break and don’t forget just about every last one of Manteca’s 69,000 residents, or their families, moved here from somewhere else over the last 94 years. There are only a handful of people here who are descendants of folks that lived here when we incorporated back in 1918. If you start looking at things that way, probably each and every one of the BAT hecklers are outsiders themselves.”

Q:  “Thanks for your time, Uncle Josh.”

A: “It’s my pleasure. You know I love these sandy plains.”

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.