Sacramento became a city built upon a city through extensive mid-19th century street raising project

Photo #1 Caption: The original street level of downtown Sacramento can be seen at the old Fulton’s Prime Rib Restaurant site at 906 2nd St. in Old Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The original street level of downtown Sacramento can be seen at the old Fulton’s Prime Rib Restaurant site at 906 2nd St. in Old Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part six in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

Within a quarter century of its founding, flooding had become the bane of Sacramento. It was a city born out of convenience rather than vision.
From 1839 to 1849, the area was known as “Sutter’s Embarcadero.”
According to local historian Barbara Lagomarsino’s essay, entitled “Sacramento on the Rise,” “A man named McVickar proposed around this time (1848) to build a grogshop right on the river bank – but in the limbs of a sycamore tree, about twenty feet up” and that “access was to be by ladder or canoe, whichever circumstances preferred.”
Sacramento City, as Sacramento was known during its earliest years, was founded by John A. Sutter, Jr., who despite his father’s wishes, established the town at the confluence of the two rivers, instead of on higher ground.
The more visionary John Sutter, Sr. had already planned a city, complete with engineered docks and canals in the more appropriate location of the current William Land Park area.
But the selected location of Sacramento City offered a sandbar that precluded the need for docks and piers. It also left the new city vulnerable to seasonal inundations.
The building of levees, the filling of creeks and the rechanneling of watercourses only set the stage for one of the most ambitious flood control efforts ever attempted.
The indomitable city now had the indomitable task of literally raising its streets above the level of serious flooding.
This endeavor would take time, money and a cooperative effort of paramount proportions.
Since prehistoric times, humans recognized that erecting their housing upon stilts could provide protection from rising waters.
But the concept of raising a large section of the city, including businesses that required walk-up traffic, was a challenge of unparalleled proportions.
The project began simply enough as businesses raised their buildings to protect their valuable merchandise.
The problem then became that a city built upon banks of mud was without sidewalks. And customers, during the muddy winter months and the searing heat of summer, had to trudge up flights of stairs just to reach entrances.
A solution was required that could accommodate customers and protect inventory and citizens from floods.
Stilts solved the problem of protecting the businesses from floods, but one still required a boat to go shopping during the rainy seasons.
The stilts were an insipient beginning, but the ultimate salvation was found in raising the city streets as much as about 15 feet and abandoning the first floor entrances in the business district.
Essentially, Sacramento was to become a city built upon a city.
In addition to stilts, in the 1850s, some street levels were modestly and independently raised on a business to business basis.
But it took the flood of 1861-62 for the citizenry to come to the conclusion that a massive street raising, fortification of buildings and a reconstruction of the sewer system was necessary.
The optimum level to which the streets would have to be raised for protection from flooding equal to the great flood of 1861-62 was referred to as “high grade.” This level varied from a few feet on the edges of the flood prone area to as much as 15 feet in the central business district.
According to an article, entitled “The Uptown Underground,” in the February 1998 issue of Comstock’s magazine, a March 18, 1862 vote determined that the grade level of J Street would be raised two feet above the high-water mark. The motion passed with only two dissenting votes.
And in Lagomarsino’s aforementioned article, she wrote: “Finally, in February 1863, the supervisors passed an ordinance establishing the official street grades of Sacramento’s business district well above all previous high-water marks. This monumental endeavor required a public/private cooperative effort of unprecedented magnitude for the young city.”
In the July 18, 1969 edition of The Sacramento Union, historian Ted Baggelman, in an article regarding the development of the K Street Mall, referred to the 1860s cooperative effort, as follows: “The city pledged to fill in between the bulkheads to the necessary level, pave the street, and construct curbs. The merchants obligated themselves to pay the construction costs for the portion of the eight foot bulkhead in front of his establishment, and bear the costs of raising or altering his building and restoring the sidewalk at the new street level.”
The impact and effect of raising the city’s streets was much more complex than simply hauling in soil and tamping it. It became a complex integration of altering buildings and the water and sewer systems, paving streets, and building sidewalks.
On Jan. 1, 1867, The Union published an article regarding this redevelopment.
It was noted in the article that some streets “have been raised to the ‘high grade’ on the level with the embankments on the waterfront, which necessitates building of bulkheads and raising or reconstructing buildings; and in many cases old buildings have been torn down and new ones built to correspond with the improvements around them.”
The article also mentioned that “the Pacific Railroad Company have (sic) also entered upon the work of filling up Sutter Slough, north of I Street, and grading the ground from First Street to Sixth (Street), for the purpose of erecting thereon buildings for machine shops, car manufactories, etc.” These are the same buildings in the “railyards” area that the city and state are preserving and developing as part of the California State Railroad Museum.
Building owners were forced to decide whether their structures were worth saving or how they could be adapted.
Baggelman considered the owners’ consternation, as he wrote: “Pity the poor merchant who had to move his store up to the second floor, which then became the first floor; or worse yet, the property owner who decided to have his building raised (to the new level), which, at one inch a day took four months to reach the required eight feet.”
An apparatus known as a “jackscrew” was the preferred method of raising buildings, and it was not always an easy or successful endeavor.
In Lagomarsino’s article, she mentioned a raised tenement structure that was on jackscrews in the Chinese section of town, and notes that it collapsed during high winds in 1864.
She also referred to an annex of the Union Hotel, which was located on 2nd Street, between J and K streets, as follows: “(The annex was) perched on dozens of jackscrews, eight feet above the ground, waiting for a new foundation. Before that could be supplied, however, in the middle of the night, most of the building collapsed, leaving a jumble of furniture, bricks and fixtures piled around the jackscrews.”
Fortunately, most of the buildings were raised without incident; although, the process could be expensive when performed by professionals.

Hydraulic mining had negative effect on Sacramento River, capital city

Editor’s Note: This is part five in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

Just as the indomitable Sacramento City was beginning to cope with and protect itself from the common natural disasters of flooding, man had a hand in placing new obstacles in the path of this growing city.
The Gold Rush brought population, prosperity and even the state Capitol to Sacramento, but it also resulted in new environmental challenges and a new source of flooding that ultimately led to dramatic changes in flood control.
These changes began with increasing the heights of the levees, filling in creeks and sloughs, rechanneling tributaries and expanding the breadth of the Sacramento River through the creation of weirs and bypasses.
The property and economic devastation of the flood of 1861-62 left the people of Sacramento with a feeling that nature and the rivers had done their worst. And then the unthinkable happened, as the American River rose to its highest level in 1867.
This same flood caused the Sacramento River and its many tributaries to overflow their newly created levees and destroy the hastily prepared dams and modifications that were put in by local districts and privates citizens.
These new high water marks established throughout the region called for a more coordinated flood control effort on the part of cities and agricultural areas within the Sacramento Valley.
One of the first big engineering endeavors was to take the big bend out of the west end of the American River that flowed into Sutter Lake, near the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers. This is part of the current location of the Union Pacific railyard, which is located north of the California State Railroad Museum.
The rechanneling project began in 1864 and was completed four years later.
As a result of this new channel, the American River met with the Sacramento River one mile further north.
Even after raising the levees and rechanneling the American River, the city experienced another flood.
The citizenry was perplexed in how the rainfall could be less, the snowmelt could be slower, the levees could be higher and yet the river could still overflow its banks.
The answer to this conundrum was found in the very phenomenon that gave the city its existence.
Gold brought wealth, people, and then it brought floods.
As the easy to reach placer deposits of gold dried up and deep hard rock mining became expensive, the miners turned to water power to seek their fortunes.
Hydraulic mining was used in small scale ventures in the 1850s, but by the following decade and into the 1870s, huge companies used enormous water cannons known as monitors to demolish large hills and even small mountains in their quest for gold.
After the gold was removed, the rest of the detritus was sent into streams, which flowed into larger waterways that filled the channels of the Sacramento River and its tributaries.
It became apparent to the engineers and many others that it was not rising waters that were causing the floods, but it was instead rising river bottoms choking the channels, causing the flooding and impacting navigation.
According to the 1957 book, “The Geography of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California,” by John Thompson, “By 1866, debris had ended the infamous side-by-side steamboat races along the Sacramento River.”
It also had a dramatic effect upon the farmers and their land, because the mining refuge left from the floods was not the same as the rich alluvium left by the natural annual rise and fall of the river that enriched the soil and increased production.
Instead what came down from the mines were rock fragments of varying sizes and elements. These waters carried mercury, cyanide and other poisons, which could sterilize the soil, kill crops and harm animals and even people.
Despite the obvious harm from hydraulic mining, the companies refused to halt or even limit this activity.
The hydraulic monitors allowed mine owners to hire a few men to perform work that once required hundreds of workers.
The friction created by this conflict of ideas caused a rift and debate among miners, farmers, environmentalists, navigation companies and recreationalists that lasted for decades.
Not everyone was going to be able to realize their objectives, so something would have to change.
The financially powerful mining industry and its strong political lobby was able to ignore the pleas of a concerned citizenry based on the concept that California and its Sacramento Valley were a state and a region born of the Gold Rush.
But as the waterways continued to fill with debris and mining slush, and levees failed and agricultural production decreased, it became apparent that channels, overflows and drains could not solve the problems created by hydraulic mining.
The unnatural flooding of the Sacramento River and its tributaries became a national, rather than a regional problem.
The mining interests were so powerful that they were able to defeat all legislative attempts to control the pollution and destruction. But 1878 became the proverbial “last straw.”
A city that had already endured several inundations and had gone to great lengths to protect itself from more flooding, once again found itself underwater, as Sacramento experienced another major flood on Feb. 1, 1878.
The 1880 book, “History of Sacramento County, California,” presented various details about this flood.
Included in the book were the following words: “At 2 o’clock on the morning of that day, a break was reported in the levee near Lovedall’s (sic) Ranch, on the Sacramento River, the city and Sutterville. Almost immediately thereafter, a section of the levee, some twelve feet in width, washed out, having been completed honey-combed by gophers. The noise of the torrent pouring through the crevasse could be heard distinctly at a great distance. (That evening), the Sacramento (River) was twenty-five feet, 2 inches above the low water mark, higher than ever before known.”
Sacramentans were tired of floods, tired of mining – which was no longer the center of economy – and tired of politics and politicians who thwarted meaningful attempts to control these unnatural inundations.
Concerned citizens found a way to circumvent the powerful mining lobby by controlling navigation rather than extraction to stop the devastation of the hydraulic mining. But it took another six years to accomplish.
How the city finally controlled the problem and one of the most exotic solutions of how Sacramento tried to deal with the problem will be covered in the next article of this series.

Sacramentans developed indomitable attitude toward floods in 19th century

This historic city of Sacramento map shows the city and its nearby vicinity during the great flood of 1861-62.

Editor’s Note: This is part four in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

As a city of two rivers, Sacramento has a long history of trying to protect itself from the very entities – it waterways – that provided its birth and its life’s blood for the future.
In explaining this point, The Sacramento Bee, on Dec. 11, 1861, published the following words.
“Ever since the planting of Sacramento at the confluence of two mighty rivers, she has had to fight for existence with an energy and constancy which have developed her nerve and muscle and proved her vitality beyond that of any city of modern times.”
Sacramento, which was once referred to as the “Levee City,” experienced about an eight-year period of prosperity in regard to avoiding major floods within the city limits.
The great flood of 1853 forced businesses and residents to acknowledge the dangers of Sacramento’s rivers overflowing their banks. But this period of inactivity and a lack of inundation lulled the citizenry into a false sense of security.
In 1861, this false sense of security, along with much property, dreams and visions for the future, were again awash in a flood, the likes of which had never been seen in historic California.
As a precursor to the great flood of 1861, the level of the American River reached its highest point since 1853 – about 18 feet above the low water mark on March 27 of the same year.
During that evening, the wing dam on the east side of the city at Rabel’s tannery was swept away and the levee at that site was damaged.
As a result of the same storm, water from Sutter Lake overflowed and cut a channel through Front Street to the American River.
Furthermore, bridges along the same river from the capital city to Folsom were either swept away or useless as a means to cross this waterway.
But surprisingly, this storm was considered to have produced only minor property damage and no loss of human life.
The lack of extensive loss was due to the fact that the floodwaters receded rapidly. But the damage done to the wing dam at Rabel’s tannery would come back to haunt the city.
The rains of December 1861 came faster and were heavier than any ever experienced in the Sacramento Valley.
Both the Sacramento and American rivers, as well as all rivers to the north, rose above their previously recorded high water marks.
Once again, the big bend in the American River at Rabel’s tannery became the weak link in the chain of Sacramento levees that some politicians suggested at the time had cost as much as $1.5 million.
The irony of the flood is that the levees that were built to protect the city became dams that held the waters within its boundaries and inundated the city.
On Dec. 10, 1861, The Sacramento Union described the disaster, as follows:
“Sacramento was yesterday subjected to suffering and damage from the deepest and most destructive flood of those to which she has been exposed. It came, too, with the rapidity of a hurricane. In a few hours after the water crossed the levee, the whole city was underwater. The flood precipitated itself upon us without warning, and found people totally unprepared. The levee is now an injury, instead of a benefit, as it confines the water in the city, and has caused it to rise higher by probably two feet (more) than it would have done had no levee existed on the south side.”
Only a few places of high ground were spared the destruction of the flood of mid-December to mid-January 1861.
These locations where the floodwaters did not intrude included Sutter’s Fort and Poverty Ridge, which was roughly located between 20th, 23rd, P and W streets. Poverty Ridge was given its name due to the impoverished appearance of the people who took refuge there with their belongings and their animals during Sacramento’s periodic inundations.
The third location was a small mound along 10th Street at the site of today’s Cesar Chavez Plaza.
The rest of the city found itself underwater, ranging from a few inches to several feet.
Because the wing dam had been washed away from the great bend of the American River at Rabel’s tannery, the river broke through the A Street levee on the north side of the city, rushed down Burns’ Slough, passed Sutter’s Fort until it washed up against the R Street levee on the south side of the city.
The R Street levee held back the waters, just as it was designed to do, only from the wrong side.
The continual rush of waters, fed by more and more rain, hit the levee and rebounded back into the city proper where it continued to swing back and forth between the north and south levees, causing Sutter Lake to overflow and leaving destruction in the water’s wake.
The aforementioned Dec. 10, 1861 edition of The Union reported: “Several persons were drowned; and, had the water broken in during the night, the loss of life must (sic) have been fearfully great. Horses, cows, hogs, fowls, etc. have drowned, but how many we have no means of ascertaining. The damage to property has been great and may be greater. Thousands tonight are houseless, while hundreds of families are in second stories, without the means of making fires.”
The waters calmed, but the rains did not abate until February 1861 and some of the puddles from the flood did not dry up until the following August.
It was during the flood that Leland Stanford had to be taken by rowboat to his inauguration as governor.
If the three previous major floods had only sparked a desire for protection, the great flood of the winter of 1861-62 opened the citizenry’s eyes to the death that could be brought from life-giving waters.
The “Levee City” had then become a community with indomitable spirit, which led to major changes in how Sacramento approached and prepared for flood control.

Sacramento became “Levee City” in 1850

The flood of 1849-50 resulted in efforts that led to Sacramento City’s notoriety as the “Levee City.” Photo courtesy

The flood of 1849-50 resulted in efforts that led to Sacramento City’s notoriety as the “Levee City.” Photo courtesy

Editor’s Note: This is part three in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

When presenting a history of the city’s rivers, it is important to not only provide details about major floods, but also measures that were made to combat potential floods.
The 1880 book, “History of Sacramento County, California,” notes that prior to the great flood of January 1850, “nothing had been attempted in the matter of protection from flood or high water.”
Capt. John Sutter and the Indians, who showed him where to build his fort, recognized that the proposed location for the new Sacramento City was in a natural flood plain that was regularly inundated in the winter months.
Flood control became an immediate concern of the citizenry and politicians.
The Saturday, Jan. 19, 1850 edition of the Placer Times included the following words: “A week ago last night, our city experienced one of the most terrific southeast storms known in this region, which had the effect of swelling the Sacramento (River) by Wednesday afternoon, so that the water commenced running over the slough on I Street, at various points between First and Third (streets). On Thursday morning, the entire city, within a mile of the embarcadero, was under water. The damage to merchandise and to buildings and the losses sustained by persons engaged in trade is very great – vast quantities of provisions and goods having been swept away by the rushing waters. The loss in livestock is almost incalculable; many persons have lost from 10 to 50 yoke of cattle each, and horses and mules have been carried down the stream in great numbers.”
It was obvious to all people concerned that flooding in the area needed to be stopped and the waters held at bay.
But there were some people who found a “gold lining” in the inundation.
The Times also reported in its Jan. 19, 1850 edition that “large numbers (of people) have been washing gold within the limits of our city during the week, without any great degree of success.”
It was also noted in the 1880 county history book that “waters had scarcely begun to recede from the city (following the January 1850 flood) when surveyors were employed to survey lines for and make a location of the proposed levee.”
A levee commission was established on Jan. 29, 1850 and one of the commissioners was Hardin Bigelow, who on April 1, 1850 became Sacramento’s first elected mayor, largely because of his support of building levees.
The need for building levees was immediate, but the funds for doing so were nonexistent.
Bigelow arranged for the city to borrow funds beyond the city’s $10,000 limit, and he also provided $6,000 from his personal assets.
With this money, the city was able to construct temporary embankments, which held off the anticipated second flood of 1850 and demonstrated the need and efficacy of levees.
On April 29, 1850, voters approved a special $250,000 tax assessment for a permanent levee that was built between September and December 1850.
The contract for the levee was given to Irwin, Gay & Co. on Sept. 6, 1850 and the labor began several days afterward.
Although the levee was not yet completed by Oct. 25, 1850, on that date, the San Francisco newspaper, the Daily Alta California referred to Sacramento City as “our sister, the Levee City.”
The levee, which commenced to the south at the high ground near Sutterville, ran for about nine miles along the northern and western boundaries of the city. And with this levee, the people of Sacramento City felt safe.
But less than a year and a half later – on March 7, 1852 – new raging waters broke through the sluice gate at Lake Sutter, breached the levee and once again inundated the city.
As a result, Sutter’s Fort, the knoll at the current site of Cesar Chavez Plaza and Poverty Ridge on the southeast side of the city stood as islands in a lake that in low spots reached 12 feet deep.
While once again the economic devastation was extensive, according to an article, titled “Sacramento defies the River: 1850-1878” by Marvin Brienes, “No lives were lost, and warnings before the levees gave way enabled many Sacramentans to remove their most valuable goods to high ground.”
Three days after the city was flooded, Mayor James Richmond Hardenbergh called for a new levee to be constructed on I Street, from the Front Street levee to 5th Street, from 5th Street along the edge of Lake Sutter and then to the levee of 1850, along the American River.
The proposal was adopted by the common council and this $50,000 project was completed after about two months of labor in November 1852.
Although local citizens were once again feeling safe in the Levee City, this feeling lasted only three weeks, as the American River levee was broken on Dec. 19, leaving a 40-foot-wide crevice.
Eventually, 150 feet of the levee was destroyed and Sacramento City was under water.
In its Dec. 25, 1852 edition, the Daily Alta California reported the following: “The water was running through Eighth Street, some six feet deep. Several lives were supposed to have been lost. One man was seen floating down the river on the top of his house. At the foot of L Street, a whole block is afloat; the Eagle Saloon is washed away and is floating round.”
As mentioned in the previous article of this series, on New Years Day 1853, the water level of the Sacramento River was 22 feet above the low water mark and two feet higher than the great flood of 1850.
By Jan. 2, 1853, floodwaters once again entered the heart of the city.
Frustrations mounted for the city’s “burned out and flooded citizens,” as one local man described the area’s residents.
In an early January 1853 letter to the editors of The Sacramento Union, the man wrote: “Our city government has been in operation nearly three years, has expended more than two hundred thousand dollars upon the levee, and very large sums for other purposes. Our taxes have been greater perhaps than those of any other city in the world; our city debt is now very large; and after all this taxation and expenditure, the city has not received a benefit commensurate with the costs. We have received nothing like a fair equivalent for our money.”
On July 29, 1853, a city ordinance “for widening, altering and improving the levee, and providing for the payment of the expense” was approved by the mayor and common council.
The cost was set at no more than $50,000 and the work, which was completed by the latter part of 1853, was paid for in scrip known as the “Levee Scrip.” The levee along Burns Slough at the eastern end of the city and down R Street was separate from this approximate sum and was paid for through a loan.
The levee system, which later underwent various improvements, proved to be a successful barrier against major floods in the city for several years. But that level of prosperity quickly changed on Dec. 9, 1861.

East Sacramento flooding prompts storm drain discussion

While the drenching rains of early December left many in our area perturbed, the problem was more pronounced for members of East Sacramento who saw storm drains overflow or in some cases not drain at all, causing spontaneous lakes to sprout in residential areas.

The flooding of several areas on Dec. 2 brought to the forefront the problem of unsatisfactory storm drains and sewer lines in East Sacramento, according to the McKinley East Sacramento Neighborhood Association (MENA).

According to Deane Dana, President of MENA, the storm caused not only the overflow of excess rainwater, but also a backflow of sewers into people’s water.

“East Sacramento used to have a combined sewer/drain system (and may still in some areas),” Dana said in an email. “This resulted in overflow and backflow issues and also left neighborhoods with combined systems with contaminated water in homes and yards.”

In order to fix the problem faced by numerous East Sacramento residents, MENA hopes to meet soon with city officials, including councilman Steve Cohn, city engineers and the city manager to begin discussing a massive re-engineering process for the area’s drains. The meeting has been requested with the city officials, but a date had not been set as of press time.

The replacing of storm drains across the entire affected area would be a very expensive process, according to Dana, and the project is expected to take place over a “10 or 20-year period” if approved, according to MENA.

Dana said that the drainage system is just too old to function properly anymore.

“I am aware of active flooding for over 30 years from 39th Street to McKinley Park,” said Dana.

This area runs adjacent to Burns Slough, which according to Dana collects large amounts of excess water and leaves during particularly lengthy downpours. The slough is another area of concern to Dana because it “was the path that the great flood of the 1800s took in inundating downtown Sacramento. The topography hasn’t changed a bit. It is a good example of homes being built without adequate safeguards or in the wrong place.”

Dana said that many homes along the slough route experienced basement flooding, home flooding, or were “surrounded by a running stream” on Dec. 2. Compounding the problem was the failure of a water main beneath D Street on Jan. 5.

“Persons experiencing flood damage have been encouraged to contact councilman Cohn’s office concerning damage claim forms,” said Dana.

“This is clearly a problem of deferred maintenance of our aging infrastructure. A plan needs to be implemented and shared with city residents,” said Dana.

He also shared that residents feel local government has been dismissive of the problem.

“We’re trying to open the dialogue (with city officials),” said Dana. “I’ve been involved in three years of active discussion.”

Dana hopes that rather than allowing the building of new homes in active flood zones, the city will work to fix the flooding problem itself.

American Red Cross to celebrate 130 years of service

The American Red Cross, the world-renowned, disaster relief, volunteer-led organization with a Sacramento chapter since 1898, is about to celebrate a special anniversary.
American Red Cross Capital Region Chapter members gather together at the chapter’s headquarters near Cal Expo. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

American Red Cross Capital Region Chapter members gather together at the chapter’s headquarters near Cal Expo. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

It was on May 21, 1881, thus nearly 130 years ago, that the ARC was founded by Clara Barton.

Furthermore, on a national level, this is currently a very notable time for the organization.

This month is Red Cross Month, a recognition that has been a tradition since President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was serving as the honorary chairman of the organization, first declared March as a special month for the organization in 1943.

Since then, United States presidents have continued to proclaim March as Red Cross Month on an annual basis.

As a fundraising campaign with a goal of collecting $125 million, the original Red Cross Month received an overwhelming response as the goal was reached in less than six weeks.

Further proving that the public did not recognize Red Cross Month as a drive with an expiration date, funds continued to be donated to the organization. By June 1943, the drive had resulted in donations totaling about $146 million.

Because of this initial success, Red Cross Month became a tradition that has assisted the Red Cross in fulfilling its mission, which reads as follows: “The American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and guided by its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross Movement, will provide relief to victims of disaster and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.”

Clara Barton, who was also known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” founded the American Red Cross in 1881. / Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross

Clara Barton, who was also known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” founded the American Red Cross in 1881. / Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross

Furthermore, the ARC described its role as an organization that “shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families.”

With a long history of responding to the nation’s needs, the ARC, which is strictly a charitable, non-government agency that relies on the volunteer support of the American public to perform its services, has grown with the times.

For all the good that the ARC does to assist others in needs, none of the many services of the organization would have been possible without the work of its founder.

And for this reason, it is important in any overview of the ARC’s history to highlight Clara Barton.

Born Clarissa Harlowe Barton in Oxford, Mass. on Christmas Day in 1821, Barton can be considered a holiday gift for countless people who have benefitted from the services of the ARC since its founding.

But in order to have a better understanding of how long Barton maintained a deep interest in assisting others in need, it is necessary to know that Barton was active in helping such people long before she founded the ARC.

With the beginning of the Civil War, little time passed before Barton was dedicating her time to helping soldiers in her home state.

Initially, Barton cooked for soldiers and also ripped sheets into towels and handkerchiefs for them.

But her efforts did not stop there, as Barton was dedicated to bringing comfort to the sick and the wounded from the battlefield, and fought for permission to bring food, medicine and supplies to soldiers on the frontlines.

An American Red Cross worker speaks to an injured soldier in a field hospital in Vietnam. / Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross

An American Red Cross worker speaks to an injured soldier in a field hospital in Vietnam. / Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross

Through these efforts, she received the nickname, the “Angel of the Battlefield.”

Following the war, Barton was commissioned by President Abraham Lincoln to search for missing Union soldiers and she also initiated a movement to have a national cemetery constructed for Union soldiers who died in the Andersonville prison – the Confederate prison of war camp, which was officially known as Camp Sumter – in Andersonville, Ga.

Barton’s goodwill nature and experience in helping those in need led to her founding of the American Association of the Red Cross – the name was later shortened to the American Red Cross – which evolved to become known as the nation’s premier emergency response organization.

In understanding that disasters result in human suffering, Barton, who served as the Red Cross’ first president, recognized a need for a volunteer organization that would be available during emergencies.

Barton, as well as the Red Cross symbol, became synonymous with the fact that comfort would be offered by the organization to those who suffered due to disasters.

The first American Red Cross chapter was organized at the Lutheran Church of Dansville, N.Y.

Among the early service of the Red Cross was its assistance to victims of the Ohio and Mississippi floods of 1884.

It was also during the same year that Barton served as a delegate to the International Peace Congress in Geneva, Switzerland.
Nurses work at an American Red Cross recruiting station to field new members during World War II. / Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross

Nurses work at an American Red Cross recruiting station to field new members during World War II. / Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross

Five years later, the Sacramento Record-Union printed the following quote regarding Barton: “The sublime life of this plain, simple, unpretentious and self-sacrificing woman is one of the grandest monuments to charity and merciful kindness the world has witnessed.”

In 1898, the Red Cross played a very significant role in the Spanish-American War, as the organization assisted refugees and prisoners of war.

Since its early beginnings, the ARC has expanded to other cities across the nation, and today the organization, which also provides assistance in other countries, has many chapters throughout the nation.

Sacramento’s chapter, which was previously known as the Sacramento Sierra Chapter and is presently known as the Capital Region Chapter, was established in 1898.

The founding of the Sacramento chapter was very timely, considering that only seven years after its organization, the chapter was assisting in the relief efforts of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

This 1956 “On the Job” recruiting poster by John Gould is among the many posters that were designed to recruit American Red Cross volunteers. / Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross

This 1956 “On the Job” recruiting poster by John Gould is among the many posters that were designed to recruit American Red Cross volunteers. / Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross

The Red Cross’ local and national response to this disaster prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to describe the Red Cross as “the national organization best fitted to undertake the outpouring of the nation’s aide.”

The ARC also provided assistance during the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic and World Wars I and II.

Leftover ARC funds from the Great War were utilized to create the “Baby Clinic,” which became part of the Sacramento Health Clinic in 1927.

During World War II, the Sacramento chapter was a 24 hours per day operation, and overall, Sacramento contributed $468,037 to the National War Relief Effort.

The Sacramento chapter responded to five American River floods and the Yuba City-Marysville floods during the 1950s, and during the Vietnam War, ARC programs were expanded to assist the military and their families.

In more recent times, the ARC’s Sacramento chapter has continued to provide local and national assistance, including its aide to Hurricane Katrina.

Trista Jensen, communications and marketing director for the Capital Region Chapter, said that as a representative of the American Red Cross, she is pleased that the organization has been able to successfully operate with consistency for the past 130 years.

“I think what’s remarkable about the American Red Cross is that we are still doing the things that we started doing 130 years ago,” Jensen said. “We started serving people in the battlefield, responding to disasters and helping people in their greatest time of need. Whether that’s a house fire across the street, a hurricane across the country or a major disease breakout across the world, we’re still responding in the same manner that we were 130 years ago.”

lance@valcomnews.com

Edwards Break flood of 1904 caused sudden chaos for Sacramento residents in Pocket-Riverside

It has been more than a century since a sudden flood caught Riverside-Pocket area residents by surprise and left them with complete disillusionment as to where they would go from their flooded homes and how they would survive.
The Edwards Break flood of 1904 damaged many houses in the Riverside-Pocket area, including the home of Manuel Perry, shown above. To the right of the house is a toppled, wood-frame tower. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

The Edwards Break flood of 1904 damaged many houses in the Riverside-Pocket area, including the home of Manuel Perry, shown above. To the right of the house is a toppled, wood-frame tower. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

This flood, which was known as the Edwards Break, began at the sharp turn of the Sacramento River, near what is today the intersection of Sutterville and Riverside roads.

Four-legged levee destroyers

This tragedy happened as a result of a levee being weakened due to the burrowing of gophers and squirrels.

During a heavy storm on Feb. 27, 1904, water penetrated the burrows to the extent that the water’s force caused the levee to break and flood the area.

Due to the magnitude of the flood, news about this occurrence spread beyond the Sacramento area.

One such report was a Feb. 29, 1904 article in The San Francisco Call, which included the following words regarding the flood: “The fact is, simply, that there has been a bad break in Reclamation District 535 (later known as Reclamation District 673), south of (Sacramento), and that it has flooded probably 10,000 acres of the richest land in the state.”

This break was wide enough that large objects such as boats and a barge entered the opening of the break and flowed down into the Pocket.

In one incident, the home of Antone Perry, who resided on the present day Park Riviera Way with his family across from today’s Lewis Park, was struck by the aforementioned barge.

Traveling southward on the floodwaters, the barge made a sudden, swirling turn and then sharply struck the back corner of the Perry home, which was thus forced off of its foundation.

Present within the home during this incident were Antone, his wife Amelia, and their six children.

The 1904 Edwards Break flood isolated the Pocket home of Manuel Seamas. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

The 1904 Edwards Break flood isolated the Pocket home of Manuel Seamas. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Another very notable house in the Pocket was the home of Manuel Seamas, owner of the area’s well known Grangers Dairy.

As a result of the Edwards Break, the Seamas house was flooded up to the ledge of the first floor window, which was located about 5 feet from the ground.

The flood also toppled the ornate, white, wooden fence that bordered the Seamas property and ruined the family’s renowned, spacious gardens, where gala parties were held with many guests.

Selfless acts of heroism

Although the majority of the residents’ animals were drowned in the flood, fortunately, with the exception of a man who was killed at the site of the levee break, those living in the area were able to survive this tragedy.

This fact was made possible through the selfless efforts of various men of the area.

Upon seeing the water rising to a dangerous level, men in the Riverside-Pocket area used their rowboats to rescue people who were stranded in their homes.

One such man was John Machado, who was known as “Jaoa Alvert” (“John Albert”).

Taking his rowboat from an area near his front porch, Machado transported his wife and infant daughter to the Reichmuth dairy area on high ground, which is known today as South Land Park Hills.

Machado then proceeded back to the Pocket to rescue area residents and take them to higher ground on the levee, where others had their homes. One of these homes was the home of his in-laws, Antone Perry, Sr. – the father of the aforementioned Antone Perry – and Mary Gloria Perry.

Machado, who was a tall, strong man, joined other men from the area who rowed their boats throughout the night in their efforts to bring stranded residents to higher ground.

Individual emergency preparedness

Although the Edwards Break flood took Riverside-Pocket area residents by surprise, this did not mean that they were without preparation for such a tragedy.

Workmen on the Riverside-Pocket levee are shown in this early 1920s photograph. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Workmen on the Riverside-Pocket levee are shown in this early 1920s photograph. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

With an impending break of the levee in mind, the local rescuers referred to above, purposely kept their rowboats nearby their homes.

Additionally, most of the area’s homes were constructed with two levels with the lower level being for a cool storage area for perishable food and also possibly the kitchen area, which included a wood burning stove and perhaps a coal oil stove.

The upper level of such homes consisted of bedrooms, which were separated by a hallway that led to the front porch and stairway.

Some families in the area had their rowboats attached directly to these upstairs porches.

Area families were also educated with the knowledge of how to help save their homes during a severe flood.

One such method was to lean out a home’s upper windows or porch and break the lower windows with heavy objects or tools that were tied to long ropes.

The purpose of this action was to purposely flood the first floor, instead of running the risk of having the house carried away in the floodwaters.

The Dredger Argyle, shown in about 1915, was one of the dredgers that worked to raise the level of the levee in the Pocket area. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

The Dredger Argyle, shown in about 1915, was one of the dredgers that worked to raise the level of the levee in the Pocket area. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Built on higher ground

In addition to the construction of ground level, two-story houses in the area, some people in the area also prepared for possible major floods by bringing in soil and building their homes on mounds.

On some occasions, soil for such houses was provided via dredgers that were used to build and repair the local levees and keep the river channel open for passenger and freight boats.

A dredger’s leverman would swing the boom, which transported large buckets of silt and soil, over the top of the levee and deposit the soil on the property.

The soil would then be leveled to the desired height of the home builder.

Pocket historian Dolores Greenslate said that she believes that among the area’s residents who built their houses on mounds was a Portuguese man, named Joe Lewis. This belief appears to be factual when considering that Lewis was known by the nickname, “Joe da Cabeco” (“Joe of the Top of the Hill”).

Following the break in the levee, several weeks passed before the floodwaters finally receded and people were able to return to their homes.

The most fortunate people of the flood proved to be those who prepared themselves by having their entire living quarters on the second level of their homes.

For those who kept their homes in this manner, their post flood work only involved repairing the foundations of their houses and their ground level, cool storage area.

Fortunately, unlike the people who resided in the Riverside-Pocket area during the flood of 1904, with the strengthening and higher level of the levees, people living in this area today are no longer constantly worried each winter about the possibility of major flooding.

lance@valcomnews.com

Progressive, Pioneer Congregational Church founded in 1849

It is quite fitting that directly south of Sutter’s Fort – the 19th century establishment that predates the founding of the city of Sacramento – sits a church that was established when the fort was only a decade old.
A Christmas service is held in the church’s 5,500-square-foot sanctuary in this c. 1950 photograph. / Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

A Christmas service is held in the church’s 5,500-square-foot sanctuary in this c. 1950 photograph. / Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

Presently located at 2700 L St., this church – the Pioneer Congregational Church – was organized on Sunday, Sept. 16, 1849 in a schoolhouse on the northwest corner of 3rd and I streets.

During this time, the church was known as the First Church of Christ and was led by its pastor, the Rev. Joseph Augustine Benton.

Benton, who served as the church’s pastor for all of its first 14 years, with the exception of an 18-month leave of absence, boarded the California-bound ship, Edward Everett, in Boston on Jan. 12, 1849.

Aboard the ship was a group of 150 men, of whom Benton was their chaplain.

After reaching Yerba Buena (present day San Francisco) seven months later, Benton spent only four days there before making his way to Sacramento.

Despite reaching Sacramento on July 14, 1849, Benton arrived sick and was unable to immediately preach.

Yale grad pastorAn early record of the church shows that Benton, who was a graduate of Yale College (present day Yale University) and the Yale seminary, preached in a grove near the southeast corner of 3rd and K streets on July 22, 1849.

Following this sermon, Benton spent about two weeks along the Mokelumne River and in his journal he noted the high costs of food in the area during these Gold Rush times. These prices included $5 for a loaf of bread and $1.50 for a pie.

About five weeks after returning from the Mokelumne River area, Benton served as chairman of the aforementioned Sept. 16, 1849 gathering that established the church to “embrace all Congregationalists and Presbyterians.” The policy of the church, however, was Congregational.

A report of the church’s early activities names 27 members of the church in 1849. The only female member of the church at this time and for its first two years was Mrs. James Alexander.

Two months after the church’s founding, a lot was purchased on 3rd Street, near M Street for the purpose of constructing a chapel.

The chapel was never built at this location, however, and the $1,500 invested in the property was exchanged for a 40-foot by 80-foot parcel on the west side of 6th Street, between I and J streets.

The Rev. Joseph Augustine Benton, shown in this historic drawing, served as the church’s first pastor from 1849 to 1863. / Image courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

The Rev. Joseph Augustine Benton, shown in this historic drawing, served as the church’s first pastor from 1849 to 1863. / Image courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

1850 misfortunes

A natural disaster occurred in Sacramento on Jan. 8, 1850, as floodwaters spread from the embarcadero to Sutter’s Fort. And as a result of the flood, religious services in the city were suspended for the following two months.

On April 7, 1850, a committee was formed to raise funds to have a church structure built on the 6th Street property.

After the frame of a building was purchased and arranged to be delivered to Sacramento for the future church, the main part of the frame was burned in a fire in San Francisco on May 3, 1850.

First cornerstone laid

The following month, a parsonage was constructed on the property and the cornerstone was placed for the new church on Sept. 4, 1850.

When completed, the Grecian-style church building measured 30 feet by 60 feet and included a tower and a gallery for the choir.

Ironically, the church’s Ladies Benevolent Society was established on July 13, 1853, which was exactly one year prior to one of the most tragic times in the church’s history.

1854 fire

The church, which had a bell added to its features and had been enlarged by 12 feet, was destroyed in the July 13, 1854 fire that began shortly after 1 p.m. at the back of B.C.

This flyer advertises for the Jan. 11, 1865 lecture by the church’s second pastor, the Rev. Isaac Edson Dwinell. The event raised funds for the purchase of the church’s organ, which was acquired during the following month. /Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

This flyer advertises for the Jan. 11, 1865 lecture by the church’s second pastor, the Rev. Isaac Edson Dwinell. The event raised funds for the purchase of the church’s organ, which was acquired during the following month. /Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

Newcomb’s furniture store at 77 K St., between 3rd and 4th streets. The fire continued to 7th and I streets, where it destroyed the county courthouse.

Only two weeks passed before efforts were made to build a new church building.

In the meantime, services were held at a pair of alternative sites, including at a theater building on 3rd Street, between I and J streets.

Second cornerstone laid

On property purchased by the church, almost directly across from the old church on the northeast side of the alley between I and J streets on 6th Street, the cornerstone for the new church building was laid on Sept. 21, 1854.

A dedication service, which included a sermon by Benton, was held on Dec. 31, 1854.

Presbyterian exodus

1950s members of the Pioneer Congregational Church’s all-female Tri-S Club, which was founded in 1932. (Left to right) Mary Stacy, Lois Sucher and Marjorie McKesson. / Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

1950s members of the Pioneer Congregational Church’s all-female Tri-S Club, which was founded in 1932. (Left to right) Mary Stacy, Lois Sucher and Marjorie McKesson. / Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

By early 1856, all but two Presbyterians left the church to assist in establishing the First Presbyterian Church in Sacramento.

A week following Benton’s 10th anniversary sermon on June 14, 1859, he took his aforementioned leave of absence, as he traveled around the world. This trip included time spent in China and the Holy Land.

After his return to Sacramento, Benton gave lectures about the Holy Land and other places he had visited.

The winter of 1861-62 brought a devastating flood to Sacramento and as a result of this flood, 14 inches of water sat on the church’s floor before it was raised.

On Feb. 22, 1863, Benton preached his farewell sermon, as many tears were shed.

Benton, who passed away on April 9, 1892, was buried in a cemetery at the corner of 13th and Clay streets in Oakland.

Second pastor

Succeeding Benton as pastor was the Rev. Isaac Edson Dwinell, who served in this position for 20 years.

 

About a year after Benton’s departure, a well documented drive was conducted to obtain an organ for the church, which was then often referred to as the Sixth Street Congregational Church. The church was officially incorporated as the First Congregational Church of Christ on June 20, 1899.

The organ drive resulted in a Boston-manufactured organ, which The Sacramento Union later called “the largest and finest instrument of the Pacific Coast outside of San Francisco,” being purchased and transported to the church from Massachusetts. The first concert using this organ was held on Feb. 23, 1865.

In 1905, the church building underwent an extensive interior renovation, which included the laying of new carpet, the placement of new stained glass windows and the remodeling and enlargement of the organ through funds provided by the heirs of Charles and Mary Crocker.

The renovated church was the site of local aid given to refugees of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, as cots were provided in the basement and food and clothing were distributed.

In June 1910, Cornelia E. Fratt donated the northeast corner of 15th and P streets to the church and discussions were held regarding the possibility of the construction of a new church building. The church, however, decided not to build a structure at this site.

In 1923, the church’s 6th Street property was sold for $35,000 and despite a movement by Mayor Albert Elkus to save the old church building, which had also served as the city’s only auditorium, the structure was eventually demolished.

Although the church purchased property at 29th and J streets, it was discovered that the site was too small for its planned church building.

As a result, property was acquired just west of the church’s then-temporary meeting site – the Tuesday Clubhouse at 2722 L St. – for the construction of the present church building.

Third cornerstone laid

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new church building were held on March 30, 1926 and the cornerstone was laid six days later.

Pastor Phil Konz has been serving as the church’s settle minister since last August. He will officially be installed as the church’s pastor on Feb. 27. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Pastor Phil Konz has been serving as the church’s settle minister since last August. He will officially be installed as the church’s pastor on Feb. 27. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The current church building, which was constructed by the McGillivray Construction Co., was dedicated on Nov. 21, 1926. It was also during this time that the church became known as the Pioneer Memorial Congregational Church.

Part of the historic Crocker organ was placed in the church structure and Mary E. Noyes donated the church’s large lantern lighting fixtures.

Centennial in 1949

In celebration of the church’s 100th anniversary, a “Centennial Week” was held from Sept. 11–18, 1949. The event concluded with a historical pageant on the Sutter’s Fort lawn, directly across from the church.

The church celebrated its 125 anniversary, beginning with the Wild West Picnic in Elk Grove Park in 1974.

A unique moment in the church’s history occurred during Queen Elizabeth’s 1983 tour of Sacramento.

During the queen’s visit to Sutter’s Fort, members viewed the event from the church, while the church’s bell announced and welcomed her arrival.

It was also during 1983 that the Rev. Lewis Knight, who is best remembered for his ministry with Francis House and AIDS patients, was installed as minister.

In 1992, George Meir, who according to the church’s history is “charged with leading the congregation toward renewal and revitalization,” began his pastorate at the church, which developed its mission statement: “Spiritual Pioneers caring for God’s diverse community.”

Progressive church

The church’s settle minister since last August, Pastor Phil Konz, 60, recently described the church as “always being on the cutting edge.”

The Pioneer Congregational Church sanctuary is shown in this recent photograph. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The Pioneer Congregational Church sanctuary is shown in this recent photograph. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

“As you come into the sanctuary, there’s beauty and serenity, but there’s also a sense of history and tradition, while at the same time, everything that we do from the preaching and the activities in the congregation and the community is progressive,” said Konz, whose official installation as the church’s pastor will occur on Feb. 27. “While churches were arguing in the 1960s about ordaining women, our forebearers were doing that in the 1850s. While integration was a big issue in the 1960s, our forebearers had already done that in the 1700s. Where ordaining gay clergy is a big issue today, we passed that barrier 30 years ago and we ordain gay clergy now. So, always being on the cutting edge has been part of this and having a traditional-looking sanctuary helps us to be rooted in the past, but it also frees us to go on and become pioneers in spiritual issues.”

In summarizing the church’s many changes, Konz, who was born in Nigeria and was the son of a Lutheran missionary, said, “We like to say our faith is 2,000 years old, but our thinking is not.”

Konz added that the church, which is a United Church of Christ denomination, “concentrates on unities and not divisions and the things that unite us as human beings.”

Today, the church, which has less than 100 members – a vast difference compared to the about 1,600 members that were on the church’s rolls during the 1950s and early 1960s – shares its building with the Spiritual Life Center, an independent interfaith church.

For additional information regarding this historic Sacramento church, visit www.pioneer.ucc.net.

lance@valcomnews.com

The current, gothic-style Pioneer Congregational Church building was constructed in 1926. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The current, gothic-style Pioneer Congregational Church building was constructed in 1926. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Lisbon schools served early Pocket area students

 

 

 

 

Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a two-part series featuring the history of the Lisbon schools of the Freeport and Pocket areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The history of elementary schools in the Pocket area reached a special anniversary this year, as the predecessor to the first school in the area – Yolo County’s Lisbon School – first opened its doors to its students 140 years ago.

The Lower Lisbon School, which replaced the converted barn/original Lisbon School in the Pocket, is shown in this c. 1912 photograph. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

The Lower Lisbon School, which replaced the converted barn/original Lisbon School in the Pocket, is shown in this c. 1912 photograph. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

The name Joseph S. Miller (born José Souza Neves) is synonymous with this early school, which was located toward Babel Slough in the area known as Freeport in Yolo County, directly across the Sacramento River from the Pocket area.

This one-room schoolhouse opened on May 4, 1870 on donated land on a corner of the Glide Ranch, about two miles north of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Miller, who was born on March 6, 1822 in the Azores Islands of Portugal and was the original Portuguese person who settled in the Freeport (Yolo County) area, was a neighbor of J.H. Glide, a large landowner in the area.

Because more people were settling in the Freeport area, there became a need for a school to educate the area’s children.

Miller was not new to the idea of starting a school, since he had previously had a log cabin-type school building constructed on his property and he hired teachers to instruct his children in this structure.

This school building, however, was not large enough to support a new school for the growing area’s children.

The newly-built Lower Lisbon School is shown in this 1909 photograph. The rural atmosphere of the area is evident by the dog on the left side of the photograph and the chicken on the right side of the photograph. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

The newly-built Lower Lisbon School is shown in this 1909 photograph. The rural atmosphere of the area is evident by the dog on the left side of the photograph and the chicken on the right side of the photograph. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Lisbon School District formed

Because of this, Miller formed the Lisbon School District, which had a larger, one-room schoolhouse built that was nestled next to the levee in order to avoid floodwaters.

Originally the school consisted of primarily Portuguese students ranging from first through sixth grades.

Later, a second room was added to the schoolhouse to accommodate eight grades.

During this era, most children attending the school walked to school on an unpaved road atop the levee.

The school was suspended on very rainy days, since the children could not navigate the muddy road for any great distance.

Student transportation

Among the chldren attending this school was a young girl who rode several miles to school on her horse. Sacked hay was tied to the side of the horse, so it could be fed throughout the school day.

Additionally, two or three children rode to school in a horse and small child’s buggy that also carried hay.

The buggy would be unhitched and the horse would be placed in a stall in a shed-type structure, which was located in front of the school and closer to the levee.

Some children from the Pocket area were rowed across the river or crossed on the Glide free ferry to attend the school while their parents were involved in farming on both sides of the river.

Among the teachers at the school were: Mr. Raindollar (primary grades), Mr. Harding, Mrs. McLaughlin, Mrs. Foley, Arthur Mills, Mrs. Masterson, Miss Day, Miss Mathews, Miss Marshall, Miss Lighthouse, Miss Reasoner, Miss Lightcap, Julia McWilliam (grades 1-4 from 1894-1900) and Maggie McWilliam (grades 5-8 from 1890-1900).

Julia and Maggie McWilliam, who were sisters, boarded with the Kirtlan family in the Freeport area, and other teachers boarded with the Contente family, who resided about a mile north of the Kirtlan’s ranch.

The original Lisbon School in the lower Pocket was a converted barn that was in operation from about 1884 to 1904. Shown second to right in the photograph is the school’s teacher, Miss Agnes Devine. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

The original Lisbon School in the lower Pocket was a converted barn that was in operation from about 1884 to 1904. Shown second to right in the photograph is the school’s teacher, Miss Agnes Devine. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

First ethnic school

 

 

On Jan. 21, 1873, a group of Portuguese-Americans, led by Manuel E. DaCosta, petitioned the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to establish their own school district.

Due to the large influx of Portuguese-American families, who had settled in the Pocket area in the early 1850s, there was a need for a school in the Pocket area that would serve the children of these families.

Among these families were the DaCostas, the Waxons, the Perrys, the Garcias, the Peters, the Williams and the DeCostas (no direct relation to the DaCostas).

When the school opened in the 1870s, it became the only ethnic public school in the Sacramento area. This status continued until 1945.

The first schoolhouse in the Pocket area was a converted barn that was located near the drainage canal in the southeast portion of the Pocket.

This school was the first Lisbon School and was later known as the Lower Lisbon School when a second Lisbon School, known as the Upper Lisbon School, was opened in about 1890.

Providing education for students of the first Pocket area school was its teacher Miss Agnus Devine.

Pocket native Dolores Greenslate said that her grandmother, Clara Perry, used to tell her stories about walking to the first Lisbon School.

“I remember my grandmother speaking of walking to school on top of the levee for about a mile and she would have to come down from the levee across the fields and sometimes she couldn’t maneuver it because of the mud. On such occasions during the wintertime, she would have to turn around and return home. I asked her if she was disappointed that she couldn’t go to school and she said, ‘No, I enjoyed staying home more, so I could come home to a warm house and do what I wanted to do.”

The Edwards BreakThis first Lisbon School continued to serve local schoolchildren until the 1904 flood, known as the Edwards Break, which destroyed the school and flooded the area with about 5 or 6 feet of water.

Following the flood, a temporary schoolhouse was constructed on the Rogers ranch, about three-quarters of a mile north of the demolished school.

Manuel Ferreira, the carpenter of the Pocket area who was known as “Shopinha” and local farmers constructed a shed-like building to be used as a temporary school.

An old stove was transported to the structure and classes were resumed at the school, which was taught by Mr. McCormick.

McCormick, who lived in a cabin near the school on the Rogers ranch, continued to teach at the school until about 1906.

Sometime from about 1907 to 1909, students from the temporary school were transferred to the newly-built Lisbon School – later known as the Upper Lisbon School – which was located in the area of today’s Park Riviera Way.

The students from the lower part of the Pocket continued their education in this school until 1909, when the new Lower Lisbon School, a one-room schoolhouse, was built near the original barn-structure Lisbon School.

lance@valcomnews.com

Lilly Jones, who was born in 1892, was the first teacher of the 1909 Lower Lisbon School building. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Lilly Jones, who was born in 1892, was the first teacher of the 1909 Lower Lisbon School building. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Supervisor urges residents to report storm damage

Winter weather storms can cause challenges for motorists so Supervisor Susan Peters is urging drivers to report all problems to the Sacramento County Department of Transportation regarding any obstacles or conditions putting travelers at risk on roadways in the unincorporated area portion of Sacramento County that are maintained by SACDOT.

Traffic problems caused by recent storms can be reported to SACDOT’s Customer Service Center by either calling 916-875-5171 or faxing 916-875-5773. Online reporting also is available via e-services at sacdot.com. (Photo by Ryan Rose)
Traffic problems caused by recent storms can be reported to SACDOT’s Customer Service Center by either calling 916-875-5171 or faxing 916-875-5773. Online reporting also is available via e-services at sacdot.com. (Photo by Ryan Rose)
“SACDOT is prepared this winter to provide quick response to roadway maintenance incidents that may result from mild to severe weather conditions, said Peters. “While SACDOT crews provide year round 24/7 response for weather related incidents, Sacramento County can still use the assistance of residents–especially during bad weather conditions–to report problems affecting local roadways.“

The winter storm season usually can impact County roadways with a number of problems like fallen trees or branches, flooded streets, plugged storm drains, inoperative traffic signal lights, down street signs, non-working street lights, etc.

Problems can be reported to SACDOT’s Customer Service Center by either calling 916-875-5171 or faxing 916-875-5773. Online reporting also is available via e-services at sacdot.com.

For the convenience of County residents a special “Winter Road Maintenance” section has been added to the Department of Transportation’s website sacdot.com discussing weather related roadway issues including departmental response procedures for clearing  debris from roadways, dealing with flooded streets, and clarifying responsibility for trees or branches that fall on private property.

“Having residents assist us by reporting problems this winter will help keep our roadways clear, functional and safe which is important to everyone travelling in a storm regardless of their mode of transportation,” added Peters.