Who are the peo­ple whose names are on streets, schools, parks in Manteca?

Riverbank News - - 209 LIVING - By DEN­NIS WY­ATT

Wal­ter Wood­ward was quite a guy. It helps ex­plain why Manteca’s largest park, a ma­jor street, an ele­men­tary school, and a reser­voir crit­i­cal to sup­ply­ing farms and city res­i­dents with wa­ter are named in his honor. Just who was he? Wood­ward was one of 12 pi­o­neers con­sid­ered im­por­tant enough to be pro­filed in Eve­lyn Prouty’s au­thor­i­ta­tive book on lo­cal his­tory “Manteca: Se­lected Chap­ters from its His­tory.” It con­sisted of col­umns she penned while work­ing for the Manteca Bul­letin.

Of the 12, five were hon­ored by their peers or civic lead­ers that fol­lowed them by hav­ing their names grace Manteca and South County build­ing, streets, parks, and land­marks.

But no one was rec­og­nized as much as Wood­ward.

Ar­riv­ing in Manteca from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in 1905 and set­tling on 160 acres of land near present- day Air­port Way and Wood­ward Av­enue, Wood­ward be­came Manteca’s first real es­tate agent in 1907.

Born in Ver­mont in 1858, he grew up and mar­ried in Colorado, he brought his wife and four chil­dren to Cal­i­for­nia in 1893. He was per­haps the only res­i­dent of Manteca who had any prac­ti­cal knowl­edge of how an ir­ri­ga­tion district should be op­er­ated, hav­ing grown up in an ir­ri­ga­tion district while in Colorado.

It led to his in­vent­ing and se­cur­ing a patent for a molded red­wood flume that car­ried wa­ter through steep South­ern Cal­i­for­nia ter­rain in the late 1800s for Los An­ge­les. He used his knowl­edge of ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems to help de­velop the South San Joaquin Ir­ri­ga­tion District in 1909 and served on its first board of di­rec­tors.

Wood­ward was in­stru­men­tal in lay­ing out the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem which brought wa­ter to over 71,000 acres. In 1917, the SSJID board named a stor­age reser­voir near Oak­dale Wood­ward Reser­voir in ap­pre­ci­a­tion of his ser­vices for the ir­ri­ga­tion district.

Con­tin­u­ing with his real es­tate busi­ness, Wood­ward fi­nally re­tired in early Septem­ber, 1939. Just two weeks later, he died at his home on Jessie Street.

Wood­ward’s ex­per­tise in plan­ning ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems and his tire­less pro­mo­tion of the Manteca area were key fac­tors in turn­ing the sandy soil and tiny rail­road sta­tion into the prime agri­cul­tural land and bustling city that ex­ists to­day.

Joshua Cow­ell, ‘Father of Manteca’

Joshua Cow­ell is the only other none­d­u­ca­tor be­sides Wood­ward and Brock El­liott to have their name grace a school in Manteca.

El­liott was the first of 18 Manteca young men to die in the Viet­nam War.

Cow­ell was the man who es­sen­tially founded Manteca.

Cow­ell was born in Tioga, New York, on Jan­uary 2, 1842, the son of Henry and El­ida McMaster Cow­ell. His grand­fa­ther, Joshua, served in the War of 1812. In 1845 the Cow­ell fam­ily moved to Grant County, Wis­con­sin. Nine years later the mother died.

In 1861, Cow­ell came west with his brothers but Joshua did not come on to Cal­i­for­nia as they did; he stayed in the Car­son Val­ley of Ne­vada, re­main­ing there two years.

He walked over the Sier­ras to San Joaquin County, ar­riv­ing here in Jan­uary of 1863, and im­me­di­ately pur­chased the ranch he con­tin­ued to live on un­til his death, which in­cluded most of the present City of Manteca. His home was where Bank of Amer­ica is lo­cated to­day on the south­east cor­ner of Yosemite Av­enue and Main Street.

At one point he owned 1,000 acres in Manteca and rented an­other 1,000 acres.

He was in­stru­men­tal in ar­rang­ing for the rail­road to make a stop here so farm­ers could get milk and other prod­ucts to mar­ket. At first, the lo­cal pop­u­lace wanted the stop named Cow­ell Sta­tion. But the rail­road nixed the idea as there was al­ready a Cow­ell Sta­tion on the line. That’s when Manteca came about. The ac­tual name of the stop – as the story goes – was sup­posed to have been the Por­tuguese name for but­ter or Mon­teca. The rail­road mis­spelled it and the name Manteca, which is Span­ish for lard, stuck.

Cow­ell was one of the first ad­vo­cates of an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem and many in the com­mu­nity agreed with him. But most just laughed at the idea and Cow­ell, along with oth­ers in­volved in the project, lost for­tunes that they had in­vested.

Cow­ell had tried to dig a ditch from Knights Ferry to the cen­ter of Manteca, a dis­tance of 45 miles. Af­ter farm­ers re­fused to co­op­er­ate, Charles T. Tul­loch took over the project and Cow­ell was con­tracted to just build the ditches. Hence, Tul­loch was given the credit for the early sys­tem and the new dam was named in his honor.

Cow­ell built the build­ing which housed the first Cen­tral Drug on the south­west cor­ner of Yosemite Av­enue and Main Street, and the build­ing across the street on the north­east cor­ner.

Cow­ell be­came di­rec­tor of a num­ber of es­tab­lish­ments in the new city. He took over the Manteca Rochdale store when it was about to go un­der and for a while it also served as the post of­fice. For five years he was pres­i­dent of the Cow­ell Sta­tion Cream­ery, Manteca’s first en­ter­prise. He was di­rec­tor of the First Na­tional Bank of Manteca.

In 1918 when Manteca was in­cor­po­rated as a city Cow­ell was elected as its first mayor. He was the hon­ored guest at the lay­ing of the cor­ner­stone for the new City

Fan­nie and Wal­ter Wood­ward were among Manteca’s prom­i­nent pi­o­neer fam­i­lies. Wood­ward Reser­voir, Wood­ward Park, Wood­ward Av­enue and Wood­ward School are named af­ter Wal­ter Wood­ward.

Joshua Cow­ell, third from left, with three other men prom­i­nent in the de­vel­op­ment of Manteca: A. Bac­cilieri, for whom the park at Stock­ton and Wet­more streets was named; Ben Good­win, for whom Good­win Dam on the Stanis­laus River above Knights Ferry is named; and Ge­orge Wether­bee.

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