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Home Of ‘The Big Valley’: Trivia About Places, People In San Joaquin County
San Joaquin

Victoria Barkley wouldn’t be too happy to see that San Joaquin County today is home to two massive intermodal railroad yards — the Union Pacific and Santa Fe railroads.

As far as she was concerned, the railroads were nothing but trouble.

We learned that from the first episode of the TV western drama series “The Big Valley” that aired from Sept. 15, 1965 through May 19, 1969 on ABC.

The fictional Barkley Ranch was nestled in the eastern edge of San Joaquin County near the Calaveras line and is part of San Joaquin County trivia.

The Barkleys were the wealthiest and largest ranch owners in the Stockton area in the mid-late 1800s.

The world was introduced to the Barkley family — Hollywood standards Barbara Stanwyk played matriarch Victoria Barkley, Lee Majors played son Heath, and Linda Evans daughter Audra — in the first episode  as they took on the railroads.

The script has the railroad hiring gunmen to force ranchers and farmers off their land. Obviously the Barkley family won as the closest a railroad came to their mythical ranch was Escalon where Santa Fe trains pass through today.

Speaking of Escalon, there are some who believe that is the fictional San Joaquin County town of “Charming” that was home to the outlaw motorcycle gang in the FX cable TV hit “Sons of Anarchy” that aired from 2008 to 2014.

“Charming” was supposed to have 14,000 residents which is double Escalon’s population. There were several “Sons of Anarchy” scenes that were shot in Stockton.

Escalon, by the way, is Spanish for “stepping stone” with the community roughly midway between Manteca and Oakdale along Highway 120 supposedly being named for being a stepping stone to the mines of the Gold Rush era.

The population of mythical “Charming” for the time period that it aired was spot on with Ripon’s population back then. Ripon may be charming but it’s not exactly a hotbed of outlaw motorcycle gang activity.

Ripon originally was Murphy’s Ferry — which is obviously how Murphy Road got its name. It then became Stanislaus City given it was on the Stanislaus River. In 1876 it was renamed for Ripon, Wisconsin that happened to be the hometown of the community’s first postmaster. The third name stuck.

Ripon, Wisconsin, was named after a city by the same name in the North Yorkshire area of England.

When Ripon aka Murphy’s Ferry first popped up the closest township was Atlanta centered at Due Road and Lone Tree Road. The namesake cemetery can be found farther to the west at Five Corners where Jack Tone Road intersects with French Camp Road and Lone Tree Road. Atlanta was founded in 1866 by Atlanta, Georgia native Lee Wilson who built a saloon and a store.

French Camp Road takes you to the community by the same name that is the oldest settlement in San Joaquin County.

French Camp proper was founded in 1832 as the southern terminus of the Oregon-California trail that brought French-Canadian trappers with the Hudson Bay Company into the Central Valley to hunt beaver, mink, and bear along what is today known as the French Camp Slough. Stockton wasn’t founded until 13 years later.

French Camp prospered during the Gold Rush since French Camp Road was built on quick draining soil that made it the only passable route for most for the year to reach the Southern mines. The alignment of the road follows the edge of less suitable soil for drainage just to the north. Aerial photographs today allow one to easily distinguish between the two soil types.

In the fall of 1850 there were as many as 70 wagons that would transverse French Camp Road each day from modern-day French Camp to where it joins the modern alignment of East Highway 120 midway between Escalon and Manteca.

By 1853 French Camp boasted five stage lines serving it and the community’s two hotels, four stores, five restaurants, and two hay yards. A post office was established in French Camp on May 3, 1854.

The first French Camp School was built in 1850 at a cost of $491. It also served as a town house and public gathering place.

A second story was added by the “Sons of Temperance”. At that point it was also used as a church.

French Camp School was only open three months for its initial year. The teacher was paid $30 a month.

San Joaquin, by the way, in the Spanish language is the name of Saint Joachim, the traditional name for the father of Mary (mother of Jesus). The county was actually named after the San Joaquin River and San Joaquin Valley that were named for Saint Joachim by the Spanish who were the first non-native folks to settle California.

San Joaquin County was founded on Feb. 18, 1850 as one of the state’s original 27 counties. There are now 58 counties.

San Joaquin County has 1,426 square miles of which 1.89 percent or 27 square miles is covered with water. There are more than 752,000 residents.

With $2.5 billion plus in annual farm production, San Joaquin is California’s — as well as the United States’ — seventh largest agricultural county. California is the top state at $45.2 billion followed by Iowa at $29 billion and Texas at $24.9 billion. That’s right. San Joaquin County by itself produces a tenth of Texas’ overall farm output. How about “them” apples, grapes, milk, almonds, asparagus, walnuts, pumpkins, corn, and — you get the picture.

Almost two-thirds of the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta where close to 70 percent of the water in the state passes through either on the way to the Pacific Ocean or Southern California faucets as well as massive farms in the Southern San Joaquin Valley pass through San Joaquin County.

There are 18 islands in San Joaquin County: Bacon Island, Bouldin Island, Empire Tract, Fabian Tract, Jones Tract, King Island, Mandeville Island, McDonald Island, Mildred Island, Rindge Tract, Roberts Island, Rough & Ready Island, Staten Island, Stewart Tract (River Islands at Lathrop), Union Island, Venice Island, Victoria Island and Woodward Island.

The last link of the Transcontinental Railroad was completed on Sept. 8, 1869 with the construction of the San Joaquin River bridge at the Mossdale Crossing in Lathrop.

The cities of Lathrop and Tracy are both named for Lathrop Josiah Tracy, a railroad director when Central Pacific Railroad was built.

Stockton is home to the oldest Jewish cemetery in continuous use west of the Rocky Mountains. It was founded in 1850.

Gurdwara Sahib Stockton — the Stockton Sikh Temple — was founded in 1912. It is the oldest Sikh temple in the United States.

Famous people connected with San Joaquin County include Benjamin Leroy Holt. He was an inventor who patented and manufactured the first practical tread tractor that revolutionized farming and changed warfare with the introduction of tanks in World War I.

Actress Janet Leigh was raised in Stockton as was labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta.

Warren Atherton — his grandson Mike Atherton got his name on Atherton Drive — was an attorney who was the national commander of the American Legion in 1943 and 1944. He is recognized as the architect of the G.I. Bill that’s officially known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944.

There are also lows and highs in San Joaquin County. The lowest point is 20 feet above sea level. The highest point is southwest of Manteca — Mount Boardman North at 3,626 feet near where San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties meet.