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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Alamo in Contra Costa County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
 

The Railroad Put Alamo on the Map

 
 
The Railroad Put Alamo on the Map Marker image. Click for full size.
By Andrew Ruppenstein, May 13, 2020
1. The Railroad Put Alamo on the Map Marker
Inscription.  IN THE LATE 19TH CENTURY, local farmers, ranchers and businessmen began to campaign for a railroad into the San Ramon Valley. This plan came to fruition in 1890 when the Southern Pacific RR started construction of its San Ramon Valley line. The first passenger train ran on June 7, 1891. Among the original stations on the route was Hemme Station, later called Alamo Station. The depot was located only a few hundred feet from this spot.

The station was named for August Hemme, an immigrant, 49er and Alamo pioneer who was one of the active advocates for the railroad, donating parts of his own land and raising money to buy neighboring parcels, since the Southern Pacific RR refused to pay for right-of-way.

This park property was once part of the vast Hemme estate (originally 3,000 acres), which included wheat fields, four orchards of apples, pears and plums, herds of cattle, a mansion house, four barns, and a large warehouse along the railroad siding.

By making it easier for farm products to reach customers in San Francisco and beyond, the railroad played an important role in the development of the region. As roads improved and automobiles

The Railroad Put Alamo on the Map Marker - wide view image. Click for full size.
By Andrew Ruppenstein, May 13, 2020
2. The Railroad Put Alamo on the Map Marker - wide view
The subject marker is the closer of the two visible here.
became reliable and affordable, passenger traffic declined and ended completely in 1934. Hemme Station closed for good and was demolished in 1939. Southern Pacific ceased operations on the San Ramon line in 1978.

[Sidebar 1:]

All Aboard! A first ride on the new railroad
- From The Contra Costa Gazette, June 10, 1891

"The beauty of the country seemed to increase as the train sped on, and reached its height as Hemme's was approached. Here the train passes through the famous orchard of A. T. Hatch, and it is worth going a long journey to see. The trees are trimmed to a model with mathematical precision, and their luxuriant growth would attest the careful cultivation of the ground, were it not evident from ocular inspection. Not a suspicion of weed is to be noticed anywhere, and the finely pulverized ground is as smooth as a floor. As far as the eye can follow the long line of trees in any direction the same uniform system of careful attention is to be seen. The cars pass the rows so closely that in some instances the branches lightly touch them, and if the motion was slow, fruit could be picked from the windows. The Hemme ranch adjoining will also yield enormously, and others in the vicinity add to the attractiveness and proclaim the productive capacity of the soil. "

[Sidebar 2:]

Before the Railroad

Early Settlers

<i>Alamo Station, around 1912</i> image. Click for full size.
circa 1912
3. Alamo Station, around 1912
People have lived in the San Ramon Valley for at least 5000 years, but very little is known about them prior to the 18th century. At that time, the Tatcans, a Bay Miwok tribe, inhabited this part of the valley.

Spanish explorers and missionaries first arrived in the San Ramon Valley in 1772. In his diary, Father Juan Crespi said that they "came to three villages with some little grass houses." The next day he noted that the Valley had "level land, covered with grass and trees, with many and good creeks, and with numerous villages of very gentle and peaceful heathen."

Many Tatcans were intrigued by the newcomers, and in 1794, the tribe and neighboring Saclans moved to Mission Dolores in San Francisco. But an epidemic swept the Mission only months after their arrival and a great number of them returned home. For nearly ten years the Saclans and other nearby tribes fought against the Spanish.

Mission San Jose was founded in 1797. If not for the hostility of the natives, it probably would have been established in this county. However, its grazing lands extended throughout the San Ramon Valley. Ultimately, contact with the Spanish destroyed the tribal way of life. In the 1830s, the Mexican government secularized the missions and distributed their properties as land grants. The San Ramon Rancho (north) was deeded to Mariano Castro and his uncle Bartolo Pacheco. Both

Marker detail: <i>The Hemme Estate</i> image. Click for full size.
By Illustrations of Contra Costa County, California, with Sketch, Smith & Elliot, 1879
4. Marker detail: The Hemme Estate
men chose not to occupy their lands, however, due to the aggressive native tribes on Mount Diablo. By 1843, much of the area was granted to brothers Inocencio and Jose Romero as the Rancho El Sobrante de San Ramon. But, as frequently happened in the early years of statehood, the brothers lost their land rights in American courts in 1857 due to missing title papers.

Eureka!

The Gold Rush of 1848 transformed California from a sparsely populated Mexican territory to a bumptious and rapidly-growing American state. Prospectors, miners and land speculators quickly displaced the remaining natives, aided by prejudicial laws. But it was pioneering farmers that settled the area and founded most of the towns.

The original post office of Alamo was established on May 18, 1852 with John M. Jones as the first postmaster. In that same year August Hemme, fresh from the gold fields, bought his property.

[Sidebar 3:]

After the Railroad

The Shady Way Inn

Right on this site, facing the highway (now Danville Boulevard) there once stood a popular travelers' stop and local landmark called the Shady Way Inn. Founded in 1929, this establishment at various times featured a fruit stand, grocery store, fountain, restaurant, bar and gas station, and operated into the 1960s. These uses reflected the area's historical evolution. Ranches and farms

Marker detail: <i>...a Lively Party</i> image. Click for full size.
circa 1910
5. Marker detail: ...a Lively Party
"In its heyday, the Hemme Estate included a pleasure garden or picnic grounds. This contemporary picture captures a lively party, probably about 1910."
reached their peak during the heyday of Hemme Station and the railroad, suburbs grew in the automotive age that created the Shady Way Inn, and today a new park serves the residential neighborhood.

Iron Horse Trail

In 1986, conversion of the old railroad right-of-way to the Iron Horse Trail began and was completed through the San Ramon Valley in 2001. If you exit the park at the western gate and turn right on the trail, the old Hemme warehouse would have been immediately to your right after crossing Hemme Avenue. Walking north along the trail, the station would have been on your right about halfway to the bridge over the small creek!


 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceNative AmericansRailroads & StreetcarsSettlements & Settlers.
 
Location. 37° 50.464′ N, 122° 1.534′ W. Marker is in Alamo, California, in Contra Costa County. Marker is at the intersection of Danville Boulevard and Hemme Avenue on Danville Boulevard. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Alamo CA 94507, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Tatcan People (approx. 0.3 miles away); Hap Magee Ranch (approx. 0.4 miles away); Captain Pedro Fages Trail (approx. 0.7 miles away); Alamo Cemetery

Hemme Station Park sign image. Click for full size.
By Andrew Ruppenstein, May 13, 2020
6. Hemme Station Park sign
(approx. 0.7 miles away); Stone Valley (approx. ¾ mile away); Alamo Grammar School (approx. ¾ mile away); Site of the J.M. Jones House (approx. 0.8 miles away); San Ramon Union High School (approx. 1.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Alamo.
 
More about this marker. The marker is located in Hemme Station Park, near the restrooms.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 21, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 21, 2020, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California. This page has been viewed 77 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on July 21, 2020, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California.
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Mar. 6, 2021