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August 6, 2013 > History: Our Villages

History: Our Villages

Many residents of Washington Township recognize Mission San Jose, Alvarado, Union City, Centerville, Irvington, Warm Springs, Niles, Decoto and Newark as the names of our eight villages before incorporation. They may not be as familiar with some of the other names given to these villages. We will discuss some of these names in the order used in the History of Washington Township written by the "Country Club" (i.e. Woman's Club of Washington Township).

Mission San Jose became the first town established in our area. It was some 20 miles from the city we know as San Jose, near the Guadalupe River, but there was a time when people apparently were confused about the location of our mission. Someone decided that they would solve the problem, so they erected a sign on the roof of our mission that read "Mission San Jose De Guadalupe". It took years to get rid of the sign and the words "De Guadalupe."

The original Union City was founded by John Horner on the banks of Alameda Creek. He even named his steamboat "The Union" and apparently named the town after his boat. Alvarado was the third town platted near the banks of Alameda Creek. The bill that created Alameda County designated Alvarado as the seat of justice and New Haven the county seat. Over time Alvarado absorbed both of the names, New Haven and Union City. They were revived by incorporation of Union City and the formation of the New Haven School District.

Near the center of Washington Township, midway between the mountains and the bay, where an important Niles road crossed the road to Alvarado, a settlement developed that was logically named "Centreville." This was the spelling that was used in the early days. The post office changed the spelling to "Centerville" in 1893. Sometimes the town was called "center city" because so many services and organizations were located there. It was also the "hub of the township" because of its location.

Irvington has had more than its share of confusion in developing its name. Two African Americans established a tavern and rest stop where the road from the Mission to the bay (roughly Washington Blvd) crossed the main Centerville-Warm Springs Road. Later residents changed the name from an offensive racial slur, to the more fitting "Washington Corners." This was such a long name that it was commonly shortened to "The Corners."

Not everyone agrees on what happened next, but all agree that the confusion continued. Some people still objected to the name. There was confusion with mail delivery and railroad officials were pressing the issue. Town meetings were held and people voted to name their town "Irving" after the noted author, Washington Irving. The railroad had been informed of the change, but somehow got confused and printed timetables and other literature listing the name as "Irvington." It must have been confusing for a while when the people called it Washington Corners, the post office was officially named Irving, and the railroad was using Irvington. Finally, in 1887, the post office was changed to Irvington and everybody agreed to use the same name. After nearly 30 years of confusion, Irvington finally claimed its name.

Warm Springs became an important part of the Mission when the warm waters were piped there for domestic use. The Spanish named it Agua Caliente (hot water) and knew it as a wonderful place to picnic, visit friends and wash clothes. Sea Captains called it Warm Springs Landing and then Warm Springs Resort. Abram Harris bought some of the land and it became Harrisburg. The Southern Pacific Railroad built through the area and named their station Warm Springs. Later the name was applied to the post office and small village. George Peacock erected a hotel and the place became known as Peacocks. Often the name depended on who owned the hotel. The school was named Higuera, then changed to Warm Springs. Finally it all became Warm Springs.

Rancho Arroyo de la Almeda was granted to Don Jose de Jesus Vallejo in 1841. He built an adobe flouring mill on the bank of Alameda Creek and then built a more advanced mill in 1853 or 1854. Adjacent houses formed a small village that was called Vallejo Mills. It was also sometimes written as Vallejo's Mill or Vallejo's Mills.

The Central Pacific Railroad changed the name to Niles when a new town was established at the railroad junction. The name was chosen to honor Judge Addison C. Niles, a prominent attorney and apparently a helpful friend of the railroad. It has been claimed that some Niles residents were pleased to have an American name to mark their independence from the earlier Spanish period.

Niles was nicknamed Gopher Town during a period when gophers were numerous and causing a lot of trouble. It has been called "the canyon city, "the playground city" and sometimes even the "town that would be Hollywood" because of the silent movies made there.

E. B. Perin bought land near Mayhew's Landing and incorporated a real estate project as the Green Point Dairy and Transportation Co. The firm operated a huge dairy and began to develop a town site named Newark in honor of the Perrin's New Jersey ancestry. The company faltered but was revived as the Newark Land Company, a narrow gauge railroad development at Dumbarton Point. The name Newark persisted through a series of plans and changes of ownership and was incorporated as the City of Newark in 1955.

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