Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

October 25, 2005 > A NEW BOOK


The latest book on the people and places in the town of Irvington is titled simply Irvington, Fremont. Jill M. Singleton, a landscape history writer and museum curator, teamed up with local historian and writer, Philip Holmes, to produce this exciting new book. It is published by the Arcadia Publishing Company as part of their "Images of America" series that celebrates the history of American neighborhoods, towns and cities.

Irvington is one of the former towns that united to make up the great City of Fremont. It started out as a busy crossing of roads that attracted settlers and merchants who formed a village called Washington Corners. The nearby fields of grain grown by the local farmers created the need for the repair and manufacture of farm machinery. Blacksmith and wheelwright shops were established to meet the need. Stores, lodges, offices, warehouses, a post office and railroad facilities followed. Residents even joined together to found the Washington College of Science and Industry in 1872.

Washington Corners was described in 1876 as a town of "two or three hundred inhabitants, centrally located, with such great educational facilities that several private families had recently located there." It also had the only Washington Township newspaper, one that was described as "one of the best local weekly papers in the state."

The town became Irving and finally Irvington and boasted the largest, most advanced winery in the state by 1890. "Beautiful Irvington" had earned the title as the home of orchards, dairy farms, baseball, race horses and gracious estates. Experimental airplanes came in the 1920s. Irvington became part of the City of Fremont in 1956 and its marshes and lagoons were transformed into Central Park and Lake Elizabeth.

This new book utilizes the resources of the Museum of Local History, located at 190 Anza Street in Mission San Jose and files and interview records of the authors. Many people supported this project and freely shared their knowledge, resources and photographs. Most pages of this 128 page book have two photographs with explanatory captions. Many of these photographs are being published for the first time. People who helped develop this book include the Museum Board, Don Dillon, Jim Chambers, Dorsi Diaz, David Munn, Earlene Walker, Diane Leys, Lila Bringhurst, Alberta George, Velma Valencia, Dr. E. M. Grimmer and the Inderbitzen family. Others are listed in the front of the book.

The first chapter of this Irvington, Fremont book is titled "Waves of Grain, 1847-1946." This chapter reviews the grain and hay period and the influence of the Horner family.

The second chapter, "College Town, 1871-1914" covers Washington College, Curtner Seminary and Anderson Academy, three types of educational institutions that successively utilized the same site. The teachers, ministers and others who worked in these schools had a dramatic influence on the town and the students who attended.

Chapter three, "Irvington the Beautiful, 1886-1914," is about orchards, the race horses, the dairies, homes and some of the people who helped to make this a wonderful place to live and nurture families.

"Fruited Plain, 1915-1946" symbolizes the change from grain crops to apricots, prunes and vegetables with the need to harvest, package and ship produce. Celebrations and parades were especially prominent and memorable in Irvington.

Chapter five, "Spacious Skies, 1947-1964," speaks to some of the experimental airplanes that flew the skies around Irvington. This chapter also leads to the dramatic period when Irvington residents helped found and develop the City of Fremont.

The last chapter is titled, "Irvington Places, 1965-2005." It reminds us of some events, celebrations, and people in the development of the City of Fremont. This chapter will be a reminder of the dedication, planning and effort it took to develop our great city. Most of all, it will be a reminder of a town called Irvington with a history enriched by the activities of many interesting people.

Irvington, Fremont is scheduled to be released for sale at a book signing at Pearl's Cafˇ 4096 Bay Street, Fremont (510) 490-2190 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 29.

Other planned book signings are:

Saturday, November 12
2 - 4 p.m.
Hiram Davis House (Pentaleri Home)
40846 High Street, Fremont

Sunday, November 13
5:30 p.m.
Golden Peacock Banquet Hall
3681 Peralta Blvd., Fremont
Museum of Local History Benefit Dinner
Call MLH (510) 623-7907 for dinner tickets

Friday, December 9
3 - 5 p.m.
Cynthia's Tea Garden
40985 Fremont Blvd., Fremont
Call Cynthia's (510) 490-7760 for same day tea reservations

Books purchased from the Museum of Local History, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, local partner shops or the authors will directly benefit the Museum of Local History.

Centerville Doctors

Centerville always seemed to have its share of physicians. Dr. J. M. Selfridge, who lived in Centerville, was the first Alameda County physician. He presented his first bill for $20.00 for examining two insane persons in 1853. He was said to be the first physician to take up regular practice in Washington Township. His house was reported damaged in the 1868 earthquake.

An 1867 business directory listed H. D. Howell, Robert B. Hall and W. E. Ellis as Centerville doctors, but we have little information about them. Dr. Hall kept a few drugs for sale before there was a drug store here. This is also the year that Cyrus H. Allen came to regain the health he had lost as a surgeon in the Civil War. He spent most of his life tending the sick, even fording streams in his buggy. He became the most beloved physician in the area, and the Allan home was the scene of many social events, such as the Literary Club. Dr. C. H. Wills became his associate about 1904. He owned a Comet automobile that was winning races in 1909 and creating considerable excitement, but his daughter, Helen, created the most excitement with her world famous tennis playing.

An 1879 directory listed S. H. Buteau and Dr. Allen and noted that D. L. Fonseca was a physician and druggist. Fonseca moved to the C. J. Stevens homestead in 1880. An 1887 article recorded a surprise party by Centerville residents for the Buteaus on their 25th wedding anniversary. The Buteaus had a new residence on the Centerville road in 1879. Charles Shinn noted that Dr. Allen accompanied Dr. L. G. Yates on many of his explorations. The local paper noted that he was summoned by telegraph to aid an injured woman in 1879.

Centerville reported several physicians in 1904. Besides Dr Allen and Dr. Wills, doctors DuBois Eaton, Cabral, and Dr. H. W. Emerson lived there and had active practices.

Dr. Emerson had an early automobile that was both a help and a problem. He crashed into a cart in Irvington. A month later the car stalled on railroad tracks in Oakland and was hit by a train. Dr. Emerson wasn't hurt, but the car was badly damaged. Dr. Emerson was an active promoter of the Masonic Hall and was also interested in the Meara Construction Company that made the concrete blocks for the building in 1911.

Dr. Eaton owned property next to Fred Dusterberry. He sold a 60-foot lot to Joseph Mowry in 1914. Dr. Elon A. Ormsby came about 1914 and practiced here for 28 years. He advertised office hours of 1:30 to 4:30. Dr. G. S. Holeman succeeded Dr. Emerson and advertised an office opposite the Centerville Garage. He installed new equipment in 1924 that included two quartz lamps and special treatments for skin disease, nose and throat problems and tuberculosis. His office hours were 3-5 and 7-8 in 1925. Dr. J. B. deFaria advertised as a physician, surgeon and obstetrician with offices in the Gregoy Hotel. Other doctors of this period include W. L. McWhirter and J. M. Adams. Doctors Adams, Ormsby, McWhirter and Holeman all advertised on the same page of the Washingtonian in 1925. Mrs. McWhirter was president of the first Centerville P.T.A. in 1923. These same four doctors served the Centerville area in the 1930's. Dr. E. A. Westphal was advertising by 1939. He entered military service and never returned to Centerville. Dr. Elon A. Ormsby died in March 1942.

Dr. George and Mrs. Holeman sometimes welcomed community members into their home. A local reporter described a St. Patrick's dinner there in 1940. Dr. Holeman was the Washington Township chairman of the doctors and nurses during the war years. He was also chairman of the committee that planned the hospital district. He had a stroke in 1946 and couldn't practice any more. Dr. Guy Romito took over his practice and stayed for 35 years. (?) He was one of the nine physicians who helped plan the hospital. Dr. J. Merle Buehler established his practice at Centerville in ______. He was elected the first Chief of Staff of the Washington Township Hospital District in 1953.

Several physicians took an active part in forming the Washington Township Health Care District in 1948. They also assisted in the planning and building of the hospital. John Austin came to Centerville as "Fremont's first full-time optometrist" in 1953. Instead of advertising, he "pounded the pavement" and joined civic groups. His wife, Norma, helped run the two-person office. Dr. Austin retired in 2000 after 46 years service to his patients and the community.

The 1956 "Shopper's Guide" lists Henry Avon Edward Bauer, J. Merle Buehler, Richard Delfs, Thomas Everenden, Jerome Feldman, W. H. Horner, Paul Leyda, J. H. Lagonegro, W. F. Lichtman, K. P. Monson, Holger Rasmussen, G. J. Romito, Charles Ross, Jack W. Singleton, James Sylvester, W. G. Wilbur and W. L. Wright as physicians with Centerville phone numbers. Five listings were for Fremont Avenue, five for Mattos and six for Main Street. Reid Bros. in Irvington is listed as a source for hospital supplies, but there is no listing for any hospital. Doctors made house calls and sometimes attended patients at Alameda or San Jose hospitals.

Washington Township Hospital was founded in 1958 and was listed in shopping guides. The hospital served some 30,000 residents at first and has continued to develop and expand to serve a growing population and utilize advancements in treatments and technology.

The Leal Family

The family of Antonio Silveira and Rosa Candida lived on the island of Faial, Azores, and attended the same church for generations. Their grandson, Joseph Silveira Leal was the first Leal to come to the U.S. He worked his way across the country to Mission San Jose where he eked out a living as a barber and sharecropper. He eventually saved enough to buy 27 acres near Mission San Jose.

In 1899 Joseph married Julia Perry, who also came from Faial. They lived on the ranch at the end of the road now called Castro Lane in a four-room home with no electricity, no indoor plumbing and spring water. A son, Joseph Clarence Leal, was born to the couple on September 7, 1900. He was to be their only child. Joseph and Julia worked hard raising cattle in the rough hilly area and growing and picking peas, potatoes and corn in the rolling hills. In the flatter land they grew a prune and apricot orchard and a small vineyard for wine making. Joseph had a fruit-butting/drying shed and a prune processing operation. All this ground was worked with horses.

There was another small house and a barn (on the eastern portion of the ranch). Julia's sister, Mary Perry Borge, and her husband set up housekeeping there in 1906 and raised a family; then Tony and Minnie Caldiera lived on this property for awhile. This part of the ranch was sold to Antonio Francisco and Alvino Santos on September 29, 1923.

Joseph and Julia sold a portion of the original property in 1923 and built a home on Mission Boulevard on the lower part of the ranch. This new stucco house, completed in 1925, was a beautiful home, an improvement over the smaller single-walled home on Castro Lane. It included a barn and a tank house with a windmill to pump water for the ranch. This is where the orchards were located.

When the depression and hard times hit, the family was forced to return to the smaller home in the canyon for a few years and rent the new home for much-needed income. It was a difficult transition for the family. Luckily, times got better and they were able to move back to the "new" stucco home in about 1944.

Joseph Clarence Leal met Bernice Costa at a Holy Ghost Festival in Mission San Jose. He was 27 and she was 17 when they married in 1927. They had two children, Bernadette and Bernardine, "Bernie."

Bernardine (Bernie) and his sister, Bernadette, attended Washington High School in Centerville. Bernadette worked part time at Silveira's Feed Store as a bookkeeper. Before summer vacation, Bernie would leave school 2-3 weeks early to work each summer on the hay press, baling hay for the Joe Telles family. After graduation, Bernie was hired at Joe Costa's Dairy in Irvington making $1 an hour with no benefits. Six months later he was hired at Leslie Salt (now Cargill) and worked there in various positions culminating in his role as Assistant Plant Manager 37 years later. Bernie retired from Cargill in 1988.

In the late 1940's new neighbors, the Ivaldi's, moved two doors away from Bernie's grandparents. During summer vacation, their granddaughter, Marlene, would visit her grandparents. Bernie had all kinds of reasons to go over to the Ivaldi's just so he could see Marlene. Such excuses as: "the cows got out and he had to look for them" or "the fence needed to be repaired." After a short time he ran out of reasons and just went over to see her. Marlene and Bernie dated about a year then married on April 26, 1952 at St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Oakland.

The first year of the couple's marriage was spent in the same stucco home on Mission Boulevard that Bernie's mother and father started their marriage in years before. Bernie and Marlene's first daughter, Brenda, was born in this home and after a year the little family moved to an apartment above the garage on the Ray Benbow property; rent: $75 a month.

After a couple of years at the apartment, Bernie and Marlene saved enough money to put a down payment on a new small four bedroom, two bath home on Durham Road, now called Osgood Road. The home in 1954 cost $9,900. Two other children, Janice and David were born there. After seven lears, the family sold the Durham home and bought a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home on Trenouth Street, Fremont Fields tract, for $14,500. Their youngest daughter, Allison, was born there in 1963. The family lived at the Trenouth Street home for 30 years. Bernie and Marlene's son, David, and his wife, also Marlene, bought the Trenouth home and lived there with their two children, Samantha and Daniel. During this time, Marlene Sr., worked as a manager for the San Jose College of Dental/Medical Assistants and for 17 years as an employee of the Fremont Unified School District, her last 13 years as an administrative secretary with the Fremont-Newark Regional Occupational Program.

After Bernie's stepmother passed away, Marlene and Bernie moved back to the original ranch site on Mission Boulevard where they currently reside at the hold home site on the upper portion of the ranch. After 53 years of marriage, Bernie and Marlene spend their time raising cattle, helping neighbors during roundups, tending the vineyard and making award-winning Zinfandel wine. Both are active members of the Sons of Italy and the Olive Hyde Art Guild. The family enters a covered wagon, restored by Bernie and his son, David, in several local parades.

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