Article 1

Published October 9, 2002, Oakdale Leader


In 1868, the California Pacific Company of Stockton made an agreement with the Stockton & Visalia Railroad (a newly organized quasi company) under which a railroad line was to be built from Peters, a stop on the company's Stockton-Copperopolis Railroad line, southwest to the Stanislaus River. The City of Stockton along with San Joaquin County had granted a $500,000 subsidy to the Stockton & Visalia Railroad Company to build this line.

The railroad engineers from the Stockton & Visalia Railroad began the search for the best route south from Peters and the best and safest crossing point on the Stanislaus river. They were approached by a group of enterprising landowners of the Camp Washington Township who had the foresight to see the benefits that would occur from a railroad to the area and were invited to survey their site. The engineers visited the area and found that it met their requirements so a decision was made to accept the offer.  Landowners Archibald Leitch (south of Valley Home), E.B. Beard (Dry Creek to Waterford), A. Burnett (south of Leitch's) to Stanislaus river), A. J. Patterson & A. E. Purcell (B to J streets) gave rights of way deeded to the Stockton railroad group. The last parcel of land was "loaned" to the railroad by Zora and F. M. Cottle (Burnett's to Beard's). Thus the town of Oak Dale was born.  The laying of track proceeded south from Peters to Farmington and then southeast to Cometa and on to the newly laid-out town of Oak Dale.

Shortly after operations were put into effect both the Stockton-Copperopolis Railroad and the Stockton & Visalia Railroad lines were absorbed into the Central Pacific Railroad system which in 1885 became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad lines.

Blocks and streets were laid-out parallel to the proposed railroad line through the center of the new town site on the south bank of the Stanislaus River. The chosen site was less than a mile west or downstream of the Stockton-Mariposa Military Road ferry crossing on the river. Suggested names for this new community included Oak Dale, Oak Grove and Live Oak. Oak Dale was selected as the most appropriate one because of the majestic oak groves located along the river  which were said to cover a strip of land three miles wide and fifteen miles long. Later the name was contracted to Oakdale at the request of the government post office.

Oakdale was formally born on October 3, 1871 when Postmaster Robert Sydnor of Langworth moved the U.S. post  from the nearby community his general merchandise store located on the northwest corner of West Railroad (now N. Yosemite) avenue and F street in Oakdale.  The town had been laid out with First and Sixth avenues as the west and east boundaries.  A and J  streets were the north and south boundaries  West and East Railroad avenues were located on each side of the train tracks  dividing the middle of town in a north to south direction.

According to the Stanislaus County Weekly News, the first locomotive of the Stockton & Visalia Railroad reached the southern bank of the Stanislaus River on November 12, 1871 at 3:00 A.M. The locomotive, named the Andrew Jackson, arrived at the railroad depot in the morning two days later following the tracks as they were laid down the center of the divided area between East & West Railroad Avenues.

At the time of Oakdale's founding, a reporter from a Stockton newspaper reported twenty-one buildings in the town which included a stable for Hardin, Schadlich & Hamlin. This is probably the J.B. Stearns blacksmith shop that still remains standing. This makes it the longest continually  operating  related business in Oakdale at same location. The list continues with Doctor Hazen's office, a barber shop, Buddington's saloon,  Robert Sydnor's  general merchandise store, a Chinese wash house,  Mrs. Dodson's rooming house (or hotel) and a skating rink.  Much of the business community of nearby towns soon moved to Oakdale.  The new town became a prosperous one in a very short time.  



2002 Glenn Burghardt, Oakdale, California