The ‘Y’ gives life to Lathrop

Escalon Times - - PERSPECTIVE - By DEN­NIS WY­ATT 209 Liv­ing

Lathrop and Tracy share the same blood­line — the en­gi­neer who Le­land Stan­ford hired to lay out the Cen­tral Pa­cific Rail­road tracks in the val­ley.

The en­gi­neer opted to name both points on the rail­road he was de­signed af­ter a friend by the name of Lathrop J. Tracy.

While the rail­road gave Lathrop its first big eco­nomic boost with the cre­ation of the “Y” used to switch trains as well as its deadly foot­note in 19th cen­tury Cal­i­for­nia his­tory in­volv­ing the slay­ing of a for­mer State Supreme Court jus­tice, it started as part of Cap­tain Charles We­ber’s land grant.

John Mor­ri­son pur­chased eight sec­tions of 2,560 acres from We­ber on Sept. 20, 1853. It in­cluded 160 acres that con­sti­tute the heart of Lathrop.

It orig­i­nally was named Wil­son’s Sta­tion. Its name­sake — Thomas A. Wil­son — was among those that opened the Le Baron & Co. store in French Camp.

While the Cen­tral Pa­cific and Union Pa­cific meet­ing on May 10, 1869 at Promon­tory, Utah, brought the lines that started in Sacra­mento and St Louis to­gether, the transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­road’s fi­nal link to go from the East Coast to the San Fran­cisco Bay wasn’t com­pleted un­til Novem­ber 1869 un­til the bridge cross­ing at Moss­dale (which is now part of Lathrop) was built over the San Joaquin River. For a num­ber of months pas­sen­gers go­ing coast to coast had to dis­em­bark trains go­ing ei­ther di­rec­tion and take a ferry across the river.

Stan­ford — act­ing in con­cert with his Big Four part­ners of Col­lis Hunt­ing­ton, Chares Crocker, and Mark Hop­kins – sought to se­cure per­mis­sion of Stock­ton of­fi­cials to lay out tracks for the West­ern Pa­cific Rail­road in the re­gion af­ter the transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­road was com­pleted in 1869. When Stock­ton turned him down, he moved his route south to Wil­son’s Sta­tion.

The “Y” – whose tracks are still in place to­day — was used for switch­ing and form­ing trains. It was cen­tered round a round­house with space to ser­vice 12 en­gines. Al­though only the tracks re­main to­day, it was the largest “Y” and round­house op­er­a­tions in Cal­i­for­nia at the time and one of the largest west of the Mis­sis­sippi River.

In 1871 Stan­ford opened a grand res­tau­rant in a two-story build­ing to serve rail pas­sen­gers dur­ing train stopovers in Lathrop. He also laid out the town.

In the 1870s Lathrop was the big­gest set­tle­ment in the South County. There were 1,500 res­i­dents, three ho­tels, seven sa­loons, five gen­eral stores, three ho­tels, a bak­ery, two black­smith shops and sev­eral dray­ing and freight com­pa­nies. It also had a large school­house where the Methodists, Ger­man Bap­tists and Dunkards met.

Dur­ing the 1870s a 2,100-pound Cal­i­for­nia Griz­zle Bear dubbed “Sally” was kept in a cage at the Lathrop de­pot for the amuse­ment of pas­sen­gers. The bear was even­tu­ally sold to a butcher in San Fran­cisco when it be­came un­con­trol­lable for 50 cents a pound.

Stan­ford, in a bid to grow a pop­u­la­tion base to boost busi­ness in his var­i­ous com­mer­cial en­ter­prises in Lathrop, low­ered both pas­sen­ger and freight rates for those that opted to set­tle in Lathrop.

That ended up be­ing the early un­do­ing of Lathrop.

Soon other busi­nesses popped up com­pet­ing with Stan­ford’s in­clude a num­ber of ho­tels that un­der­cut Stan­ford’s prices to get the lu­cra­tive din­ner trade from pas­sen­gers on train lay­overs. They even pro­vided free trans­porta­tion from the sta­tion with what news­pa­per ac­counts re­ferred to as “dandy buck­board wag­ons.”

That con­tin­ued for a pe­riod of time un­til Stan­ford or­dered a long line of box cars to be placed on the sid­ing to pre­vent the ho­tel own­ers from hav­ing easy ac­cess to the sta­tion. The box cars were even­tu­ally re­placed by a long board fence.

Then in 1886 Stan­ford or­dered the ter­mi­nal and round­house moved to Tracy. Lore has it that he also or­dered the round­house and other struc­tures in Lathrop ex­cept for the rail­road ho­tel and sta­tion burned to the ground. The fire co­in­cided with the com­ple­tion of the trans­fer of rail­road op­er­a­tions to Tracy.

The near death of Lathrop that the move cre­ated gave life to Tracy.

Judge David Terry was shot to death on Aug. 13, 1889 in the rail­road ho­tel where rail pas­sen­ger were hav­ing break­fast. He had hap­pened o cross the path of Jus­tice Stephen Field and his body­guard David Na­gle.

Terry back in 1859 as a sit­ting judge on the State Supreme Court met in a duel in San Ma­teo County with David Brod­er­ick who was one of the two Cal­i­for­nia U.S. Sen­a­tors and had slammed the high bench judges or all be­ing bad ju­rists.

Terry shot Brod­er­ick but no one thought the wound was se­ri­ous un­til he died the next day.

Terry was charged with mur­der but ul­ti­mately the case was dis­missed.

Terry in 1884 be­came an as­so­ci­ate lawyer in a ma­jor di­vorce case of the day in­volv­ing a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire for­mer se­na­tor form Ne­vada who was be­ing sued by his wife for di­vorce in San Fran­cisco.

Field was one of the judges who had nu­mer­ous run-ins with Terry dur­ing the case.

In a fol­low-up case af­ter Sharon’s death that made it to the state supreme court here Field had be­come the pre­sid­ing judge, thins be­came so ac­ri­mo­nious a brawl broke out in the court­room and Terry along with his wife were ar­rested.

Terry got six months in prison and his wife three months. Terry threaten to kill Fields when he was re­leased.

There are var­i­ous ac­counts of what tran­spired on Aug. 13, 1889 in Lathrop. Mist agree on two things: Terry ad­vanced on Field and Na­gle shot Terry.

Lathrop, af­ter the bulk of the rail­road op­er­a­tions moved to Tracy, be­came a quiet vil­lage of sorts with churches, Sun­day pic­nics and base­ball games with sur­round­ing towns.

Photo con­trib­uted

Sev­enth Street in Lathrop as it looked in 1905.

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