Early Antioch

ANTIOCH HISTORICAL SOCIETY

                                        

EARLY ANTIOCH

       Like most early settlements, Antioch has gone through many changes.  On September 16, 1850, settlers arrived at the foot of what is now F Street. They camped under the oaks in tents where they could watch herds of tule elk and antelope grazing on the plentiful grass.  Several wrote of shooting an animal of 300 pounds to feed the new arrivals.

    Captain Kimball developed the early town site and laid out the town in blocks.  He gave some organizations and individuals lots and blocks, which entangled all in 17 years of land disputes.  From their camping spot the settlers planned their homes. Five houses were built that first fall and winter, running west from the “F” Street landing along what is now Second St.  The most of these was Captain Kimball’s, located on the southeast corner of what is now Third and F Streets. Later homes, built in the 2nd and 3rd year of town development, extended eastward to about the intersection of the Sixth and A Streets of today.

    The settlers planted their fields in 1850 only to be struck by one of the worst droughts ever recorded in California.  They were forced to move to the Kirker Pass area where they cut the wild oat grass and took it by scow to San Francisco where they received $60 a ton.  This bought much-needed supplies to help hold them over until a harvest in 1852. While some of the original Antioch settlers decided to stay in the Kirker Pass area, most of them returned to their homes in Antioch.

    On July 4, 1851, the settlers held a picnic at Reverend Smith’s home on a bluff overlooking the San Joaquin River.  It was on this occasion that the thirty-to-forty people attending chose the name of Antioch for their new community.  It was named after the Antioch of Syria, and in memory of Reverend Joseph Smith, brother of W.W. Smith, who had died in this area in February of 1850.

    From 1850 to 1880, the river was the only means of transportation and communication with the outside world.  Antioch boasted three miles of frontage on the river, with 40-foot deep water three quarters of a mile wide to accommodate shipping.

   Spanish land grants caused a great deal of trouble for the settlers of Antioch.  W.W. Smith spent years in court before being awarded ownership of his claim in November 1869. Captain Kimball, after seven years in court, found the Los Medanos claim honored in 1872. He was forced to buy back some of his original property, mainly his home block (E to F and Third to Fourth Streets). During the years in court, the Captain purchased, and lived, on Kimball Island, where he set up a dairy business and asparagus culture that was run by his son Edgar.  Later, on March 16, 1884, Edgar became the father of the first twins born in Antioch.

    In the early 1870s there had been some talk of dividing Contra Costa County and naming the new county Montezuma, with Antioch as the county seat.  With the arrival of the now Southern Pacific Railroad, Antioch was told that travel to Martinez would be less than two hours. The idea of county division was dropped.

    As in any new community, some of the business ventures thrived, while others flared, but soon died out.  Antioch was no different. A number of early industries and business enterprises were established in Antioch from time to time, including brick kilns, coal mining, a copper smelter, several potteries and a distillery.  In 1889 Mr. Keeney built a paper mill on the west side of L Street, north of Fourth Street. This business was operated by Fibreboard for a number of years. The site is now the location of the Antioch Police Department.

    With incorporation in February, 1872, the town began to develop in a more orderly fashion.  The organization of the fire and police departments gave the people a feeling of safety, with more time to devote to the nurturing of a healthy, growing community.

The town limits were the San Joaquin River at low tide on the north, A Street to the east, Tenth Street to the south and O Street to the west.  This was fine until people started moving south of Tenth Street around 1900, assuming they were still in Antioch. The boundaries were finally changed in the 1930s when it was brought to the attention of the City Council that the original boundaries had never been changed or recorded in the county records.