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Newark's Roots

The roots of our community are 150 years old. By California's statehood in 1850, landings along the Bay in the vicinity of today's City of Newark had already begun to appear. In 1853, Mayhew's Landing included warehouses for wheat, hay, and coal. This activity triggered interest in the surrounding area and by 1856 the Mayhew Ranch included 1,500 acres of farmland extending inland to present-day I-880. Less than 20 years later, the Perrin brothers had acquired the old Mayhews Ranch and extended their holdings to include property stretching from today's Jarvis Avenue on the north to south of Thornton Avenue. The Perrin brothers' "development project," the Green Point Dairy and Transportation Company, although slightly embellished, foretold of things to come for the area. It was the Perrin brothers who first drew up plans to subdivide the Green Point Dairy into a townsite (located in the general vicinity of Thornton and Jarvis Avenues).


A gentleman by the name of E. Beard started the early swamp reclamation project and patented the land in the area. Mr. Beard needed more capital and in 1872 sold 20,000 acres of swampland for $300,000 to Mr. J. Ross Browne. Mr. Browne was an entrepreneur (he was a secret agent for the U.S. government, diplomat to China appointed by Andrew Johnson, and a friend of Mark Twain). Mr. Browne outlined his swamp lands project before the State legislature on February 3, 1872. At this point, Mr. Browne referred to the proposed town site as "Cralvo" or "Cariboo." Mr. Browne created a circular that was distributed around Europe to promote the swamp lands project. An English capitalist bought an interest in the property and hired Mr. J. Barr Robertson (a Scotsman) to oversee his interests. Mr. Robertson was a director of the California Land Investment Co., Ltd., London, England. Mr. Robertson then bought out the interest that Mr. Browne had in the land. The name 'Newark' was chosen by Mr. Robertson, who named it after the castle "Newark" in Port Glasgow, Scotland (where the River Clyde enters the Atlantic Ocean).


Work actually started on a railroad through the townsite from Dumbarton Point in 1875. That project was under-financed and never progressed beyond initial grading. In 1876, the railroad, together with the Green Point Dairy, were purchased by a San Francisco capitalist, Alfred Davis, and a Comstock millionaire, Jim Fair. They not only completed the South Pacific Coast Railroad, from Dumbarton Point south all the way to Santa Cruz, but also moved the town site to coincide with the curve on the railroad where the tracks turned south toward San Jose. Soon, a railroad station, roundhouse, and railroad shop buildings were being erected in the center of Newark in the area between Thornton Avenue, Sycamore Street, and Carter Avenue. Eventually, the railroad was extended north from Newark to Alameda, providing direct ferry service to San Francisco.


The completion of the railroad precipitated additional development in Newark. Hotels and stores were soon erected, along with some of the first manufacturing industries, including a railroad car building firm operated by Thomas and Martin Carter and a foundry which later manufactured Wedgewood stoves. These enterprises joined the production of salt, which had been underway in the Newark area since the 1850s. Acquisitions and mergers of salt production companies throughout the Bay area ultimately resulted in formation of the Arden Salt Company, predecessor to Leslie Salt Company and today's Cargill Salt.

Throughout the years, residents in Newark have retained a strong sense of independence and community. Thus, it was no surprise when, in the early 1950s and subdivisions began sprouting throughout Southern Alameda County and talk of incorporation was in the air, leaders in Newark wanted to go it alone. In 1953, a group representing the chambers of commerce of Centerville, Irvington, Mission San Jose, Niles, Warm Springs, and Newark commissioned a study to incorporate all six communities into one city. However, during hearings on the matter, the Centerville and Niles proponents began pressuring Newark into accepting an industrial zoning for the entire town of Newark. Newark would therefore be the major industrial area for the new Southern Alameda County city. Having already fought and won zoning battles with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Newark's Chamber of Commerce was not now ready to roll over and lose its right of self-determination. Therefore, in the face of rapid progress toward the incorporation of all six communities into one, now being called Fremont, the Newark Chamber of Commerce began its own movement toward incorporation of just Newark. In September 1955, this effort paid off with the incorporation of Newark as the first new city in Alameda County in 47 years, and defeating the effort to incorporate Newark as part of the Fremont metropolis.