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Rancho Del Puerto And The Patterson Colony

Editorial section submitted by Claude Delphia, The Patterson Historical Society and the Patterson-Westley Chamber of Commerce

Picture the San Joaquin Valley as it was in 1800. A vast sea of native grasses and oaks growing near the rivers, and miles apart native Yokut Indian settlements were the only inhabitants. Over the hill at the south end of San Francisco Bay, in the Santa Clara Valley, were two missions that served this area, Mission San Jose and Mission Santa Clara.

As the Mexican Colonial period neared its end in 1846, two brothers, Mariano and Pedro Hernandez, Californios descendants of the DeAnza efforts to colonize the coastal area, wanted their piece of San Joaquin Valley and received a land grant on January 20, 1844, by Manuel Micheltorena, Governor of the Californias headquartered in nearby Monterey.

So begins the first recorded history of this area, a Mexican land grant whose later legal U.S. patent description starts: “Beginning at a Willow tree 18 inches in diameter marked P. No. 2 and P. No. 1, being a corner of the Rancho El Pescadero and Corner No. 1 of this Rancho (Rancho Del Puerto), thence meandering up the center of the San Joaquin River…”

This Mexican Land Grant was acreage stretching mostly east of the present day Hwy 33 to the San Joaquin River. The northern boundary was Del Puerto Creek and the southern boundary was just south of Marshall Road. The brothers didn’t occupy the land for long, as they were harassed by native Indians who made it impossible to live on the grant. They were required to live on the land for a specified period of time.

After California became a state, it was necessary for the Mexican land grants to be legalized by the U.S. Samuel G. Reed and Ruben S. Wade made claim to the Rancho Del Puerto and, on January 7, 1855, a patent encompassing the land grant was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. (It is said that Lincoln’s clerk was off that day, thus Lincoln himself signed the document now in the hands of the Patterson family.)

Reed and Wade received title to 13,340 acres on August 15, 1864. They sold the grant to J.O. Eldredge on June 18, 1866, for $5,000. He held the title only two months before selling it to John D. Patterson of New York state on August 14, 1866, for $5,400.

John D. Patterson added land, and at his death on March 7, 1902, a total of 18,462 acres was willed to Thomas W. and William W. Patterson, executors of his estate, and other heirs mostly in the East. Patterson’s estate was large by any standards at just under a million dollars. He also owned thousands of acres in two other farms in California, in addition to New York state assets.

In order to maximize the assets for the heirs, it was believed that the Del Puerto land grant area needed to be commercialized. Heirs Thomas W. Patterson, a Fresno bank president, and cousin John Patterson from Canada comprised the principles of the Ranch Company investment group and developed a plan to subdivide the land into ranches of various sizes, most 10 to 20 acres, and to create a town to serve as a community hub for the land buyers.

The Patterson area land was sold to the Patterson Ranch Company on May 16, 1908, for the sum of $540,000 cash gold coin and the layout of farms, irrigation and a town were begun.

For irrigation, T.W. developed a unique system that successfully pumped water to the dry land from the San Joaquin River, transporting it to the fields by a series of lifts and canals. This system still delivers water to the area mostly east of Hwy 33.

On a day in June 1909, T.W. Patterson and an entourage met near Salado Creek and the railroad tracks with W.W. Cox who was farming thousands of acres of the Patterson-owned land. He told Cox, “Will, I want to start a town here...” T.W. wanted the grain harvested as soon as possible so he could layout the colony. Those famous words announced the start of the community and later city of Patterson. By that fall, Patterson streets were being surveyed and laid out with construction of key buildings started by the beginning of 1910.

Determined to make Patterson different from the other towns along the west side, he modeled his city after Washington, D.C., and Paris, France, by using a series of circles with radiating streets. Major avenues and streets were planted with Palm, Eucalyptus and Sycamore trees. Some seven miles along Sycamore Avenue were lined with trees of the same name and interspersed with Oleander bushes featuring a diversity of colors. The trees and bushes of this avenue have almost disappeared.

Las Palmas Avenue was once lined with Eucalyptus between the Palms. Only the Palms remain, now designated one of three state-registered historical landmarks in the Patterson area. The other two landmarks are the Center Building (now the museum) and the Hotel Del Puerto across the street (burned in 1996). The parks east of the Center Building were developed by T. W. Patterson.

Once the Patterson Colony map was filed with the Stanislaus County Recorders office on December 13, 1909, sales of ranches and city lots began. Patterson was incorporated as a city in late 1919.

Patterson & Westley Today

Today, the communities of Patterson and Westley are part of the fast-growing northwestern San Joaquin Valley. Together they host more than 21,000 residents – the majority of which reside in Patterson*.

Patterson and Westley are fortunate to have ready access to the big-city conveniences of nearby Modesto, yet maintain a uniquely bucolic, small-town atmosphere. The area is encompassed by an agricultural landscape, with such products as apricots, almonds, walnuts and various row crops leading the local economy. While modest in size, Patterson and Westley are well-served by several outstanding healthcare and educational providers, and together feature a collection of well-maintained park sites, an award-winning golf course and plenty of exciting community events – among the most popular being the Patterson Apricot Fiesta.

Life is truly at its best here. Come see for yourself what makes the Patterson-Westley community such a great place to live, work and visit!

*Patterson is home to 20,413 residents, while Westley houses 603. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census)

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