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1860 - 1870


Within a few short years, railroads began to inch their way through the area. January of 1860 saw grading completed over the entire length of the California Central, followed by laying of track and by April of 1860, rails reached the Half Way House. At this point, work stopped as the always financially strapped company had run out of money. It would not be until the summer of 1861 that Charles Wilson was able to raise sufficient funds to continue work. To cut expenses, the labor force was reduced from 150 to 90. Many laborers were Chinese who, in addition to their legendary reputation for hard work, honesty and endurance, would also work for considerably less money than their white counterparts. Wilson’s idea of using Chinese labor was later adopted by Charles Crocker when the Central Pacific Railroad was built across the foreboding Sierra Nevada Mountains. Laying rails to the townsite of Lincoln took place on Oct. 21, 1861, when once again money ran out.Construction was not able to begin again until December, 1866. In the interim, Lincoln, named for Charles Lincoln Wilson, would develop as a busy railroad terminal for the Central.


Charles Wilson Lincoln – City collection


Theodore D. Judah– City collection

While work was slowly progressing on the California Central in 1858, Theodore D. Judah surveyed a route for a proposed Auburn Branch Railroad. He also made a preliminary survey of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which convinced him that a practical route for a transcontinental railroad across this thought-to-be-impossible barrier could be accomplished. Three years later, Judah’s dream of a transcontinental railroad was realized with organization of the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California. A railroad bill, passing through Congress in July, 1862, led to a contract for the first eighteen miles of track with Crocker & Company on Dec. 27, 1863. Work commenced on the bank of the Sacramento River at the foot of K Street on Feb. 22, 1864. The route of the first eighteen miles of Central Pacific track would terminate at Tobias S. Grider’s old ranch where a new railroad town called Roseville would soon rise. Crossing the American River by a specially built railroad trestle, the Central Pacific entered Placer County via the “12 Mile Tangent” to Dry Creek which was spanned by four 55-foot bridge sections.

At Grider’s, the Central Pacific intersected with the California Central on Jan. 29, 1864. During this period, many local ranchers, including Henry Holt, James Astill and John Doyle, were engaged in teaming, or hauling materials, and making ties for the railroad. The place where the two railroads crossed was then appropriately designated as “Junction” on railroad maps.

The new tracks were quickly put into use. On April 6, 1864, the locomotive Governor Stanford, with a number of passengers, left the foot of J Street for the eighteen mile trip to “Junction”. This unheralded trip was the pioneer run of the railroad which was destined to become the nation’s first transcontinental line. By April 26, 1864, trains began running daily from Sacramento to the Junction.


Governor Stanford locomotive – City collection

Between that date and April 30, 1868, a total of 298 passengers paid $354.23 to travel Central Pacific rails over the 18-mile route. This sum represented the very first passenger revenues earned by the railroad company. By the end of December, revenue earned on this short run totaled $103,357. At Junction, the traveling public could transfer to trains on the California Central, with which the Central Pacific intersected on its way from Folsom to Lincoln and later Marysville. Passengers from Lincoln and Marysville could likewise catch the Central Pacific trains here back to the capital city. Completion of the Central Pacific Railroad to Junction on January 29, 1864, rendered that portion of the Central between Folsom and Junction obsolete and it gradually fell into disuse. In 1869, the Central Pacific acquired California Central holdings. Shortly thereafter, the tracks between Folsom and Junction were taken up and moved to Rocklin for use as spur lines between granite quarries there and the Central Pacific main line. Today, only a few traces of the California Central remain—a small section of road bed on the floodplain near Warren T. Eich Intermediate School and the old railroad cut on today’s Folsom Road between Dry Creek and Atlantic Street. The Central Pacific was absorbed by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company in 1887 and more recently (1996) by the Union Pacific. The historic wood-burning locomotive Governor Stanford has survived the passage of time and is now on permanent display at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento as a treasured symbol of our living heritage.

With completion of the Central Pacific Railroad through southwestern Placer County, a marked change occurred in that region. Towns sprang up; settlers came in rapidly; and a new era of prosperity was inaugurated. The region saw the arrival of many new faces that would later play an important role in its development.

George Kirk Cirby, a Roseville pioneer of the 1860s, was born in Pennsylvania in 1826. He crossed the plains to California in 1849 and located in Sacramento in 1850 where he engaged in freighting operations to the mining regions. After his marriage to Mary Jane Newinglam in 1858, Cirby gave up the life of a teamster and moved to Roseville to become a farmer, eventually acquiring 800 acres of land (High Sierra View Ranch) south of town, extending on to the old DeKay place on what is now Sunrise Boulevard. With his wife and fourteen children, Cirby farmed extensively and at one point owned a large dairy business. He was a charter member of Roseville Lodge No. 203, I.O.O.F. and also served as a trustee for the local elementary school district in the 1880s and 1890s and for several years served as clerk of the board. Cirby died on Feb. 8, 1895 while his wife died twelve years later. The old Cirby ranch has remained in the hands of the Cirby family until most of it was sold to various real estate developers. Today, the ranch site is largely taken up by modern housing tracts and the sprawling campus of Oakmont High School. Cirby Way and George K. Cirby Elementary School perpetuate the memory of still another Roseville pioneer family.

John Doyle came to California in the 1860s and engaged in stock raising and farming on his ranch which extended from the area where Roseville Square is today. Doyle married Clara Mertes in 1874 and had two children. The family lived on the ranch until 1893 when Doyle purchased the fine two-story brick residence on Church Street built by William Sawtelle. While many other prominent names were selling their land and leaving town during the bad times of the 1890s, Doyle was content on buying up their land at cheap prices; he believed in the area’s potential for growth. One such acquisition was the bottom portion of the Odd Fellows Building on Pacific Street which he purchased from J.D. Pratt for ten dollars in 1896. Doyle would not live to see the town he had so much faith in boom, for he died on Feb. 11, 1910.In 1960, part of the Doyle ranch was sold to for the construction of the city’s first shopping center, Roseville Square.


W.J. "Bill" Doyle and sons Jack, Bob and Tom – City collection

In 1863, James William Kaseberg gave up the freighting business and went into business with Stephen A. Boutwell and William Dunlap raising sheep in the area northeast of present day Roseville. Kaseberg later bought out his partners and through additional purchases and leases created a ranch expanding an impressive 50,000 acres. His Diamond K Ranch was at one time the largest tract of land acquired in the Sacramento Valley, not based on Mexican land grants. Kaseberg died in 1905. His son, William, donated the land for the Kaseberg Elementary School, Roseville Union High School baseball diamond and Roseville’s Sierra View Country Club. The Kaseberg mansion now serves as the club hall for the Diamond K Mobile Home development.

The junction, located in the heart of a potentially rich agricultural area, was particularly well suited for one of the eagerly sought after freight stations springing up along the Central Pacific’s right of way. This fact did not go unnoticed by Sacramento entrepreneur O.D. Lambard who on August 13, 1864, laid out a new, but largely paper, city with numbered blocks arranged on both sides of the railroad – names were given only to Pacific, Atlantic, Washington, Vernon and Lincoln Streets. There were no commercial buildings, no private residences, and no man-made improvements. But Lambard was convinced the location of his city would soon attract investors. These investors, he reasoned, would build a prosperous community that, in turn, would attract still more investors, and he would make a great deal of money selling choice lots and blocks.Lambard’s reasoning was sound, at least at the beginning, and gradually a “real” town began to develop.

There are several versions of the manner in which Roseville acquired its name. One states that the town was named for nearby Rose Springs or the ranch of the same name. A second story maintains that the name was bestowed in honor of Rose Maberry, who supposedly was born on the site of Roseville. Still another version claims that the name was due to a dispute between railroad men over the charms of a pretty waitress called Rose. A fourth account was suggested by Walter F. Fiddyment, a pioneer of 1856. According to Fiddyment, (who admittedly was not present when the name was chosen) the people of the immediate area got together at a picnic to select a better name than Junction. After discussing the matter at some length, it was decided to name the town after the most beautiful girl present – a girl named Rose. However, the most acceptable explanation seems to be the one offered by Mrs. Cassie Tomer Hill, one of the town’s earliest residents. According to Hill, the name was chosen because of the many wild roses which grew profusely in ravines in and around town. Support for this version may be found in early newspaper comments which refer to the preponderance of wild flowers in the vicinity of Roseville. The first mention of Roseville in the newspapers by that name appeared during the presidential race of 1864. In November of that year it was disclosed that the people of Roseville and vicinity had cast 29 votes for the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, while the Democratic nominee, General George McClellan received 17 votes.

The first building to be erected at Roseville Junction was a crude, unpainted shed used as a depot and freight shipping station by Cyrus W. Taylor, who usually is referred to as Roseville’s first resident. It was located in the “Y” formed at the junction of the north and east bound lines of the Central Pacific Railroad. This pioneer edifice was the first building of any kind to be constructed by the Central Pacific Company and ranchers soon began utilizing its shipping facilities. No photographs of Roseville’s first structure have survived the passage of time.

Shortly after the establishment of the freight depot at Roseville Junction, Daniel Van Treese purchased lots in 1864 and the small building he constructed became Roseville’s first hotel. Van Treese stayed in Roseville less than a year before selling his properties to William Alexander Thomas and moving to Rocklin upon hearing that it was to be the division point for the Central Pacific Railroad.

Roseville’s pioneer store was opened in 1865 by W.A. Thomas, who for the previous 16 years had operated the 15 Mile House near today’s Sylvan-Corners. After the arrival of the railroad, which drastically reduced the teamster traffic to the 15 Mile House, Thomas sold the property and moved to the Roseville Junction in 1865 and opened The Old Thomas Store on the corner of Atlantic and Lincoln Streets. Besides the typical services of a pioneer store, Thomas’ store for a time provided the town’s post office and the second floor of the store offered rooms for rent. Thomas also acted as a buyer for the surrounding grain farmers as well as operating a wagon and carriage shop. His son Lee Dignis Thomas entered the mercantile business in 1870 and for many years the firm of W.A. Thomas & Son was one of Roseville’s three leading business establishments.


W.A. Thomas Store – City collection

In February of 1869, Jonathan D. Pratt took over the Thomas store while Thomas retained control of the hotel which he had operated in conjunction with his general merchandising business. Less than a month had passed before an announcement in the Placer Herald revealed that Thomas had re-entered the mercantile field at the same old stand. Pratt then commenced construction of a fine wooden building on the corner of Pacific and Lincoln Streets, and Roseville’s second store was officially dedicated on May 20, 1870 with a ball described as being “one of the largest and most pleasant ever given in the County.”


Jonathan Davis Pratt – City collection

While Roseville was going about the business of building a town, the community began to lay the foundation of its social structure.Prior to 1865, Roseville had no school of its own, but on October 16 of that year, classes were held regularly in a barn on the Dudley Ranch. A. Nash was the teacher of this pioneer school, receiving for his services a monthly stipend of $55 and board. By 1867, V.E. Bangs replaced A. Nash as school master. The town still had no school house of its own, but since school exhibitions were held at a building called Union Hall, it is not unlikely that classes moved there from Dudley’s Ranch.

School enrollment by 1869 had increased to forty children. Under the existing state law, when an area had fifteen children, a school district could be formed. Roseville, which until then was included within the limits of the Dry Creek District, made full use of its rights under the law, and a signed petition was presented to the Board of Supervisors requesting the formation of a local school district. The petition was approved and on May 3, 1869, the Roseville School District was created. With the creation of the Roseville School District, the need for a more permanent school became clearly evident. Talk circulated freely throughout the community about the possibility of erecting a good substantial school, which could also be used as a place of worship since the town had no established church.

Elder Woodruff served as the town’s spiritual leader at the time. Roseville’s first recorded marriage ceremony took place on Oct. 6, 1869, when Elder Woodruff joined Daniel and Melinda Baxter in holy wedlock. It is quite likely that Elder Woodruff also presided over graveyard services at the local cemetery, which was situated at what is now the corner of Douglas Boulevard and Folsom Road (site of the Roseville Square shopping center). When this pioneer cemetery came into existence is not known, but it is very possible that the cemetery was used by the settlers of the Dry Creek District and surrounding areas as far back as the 1850s.

Maintenance of law and order for the embryo town was under the direct supervision of township officers. James Hovey and R. Fletcher, who served the Roseville area in 1865, were probably the town’s first township officers. By 1869, township officers for Township No. 1, which included Roseville and Allen’s District, were R. A. Woodruff, voting inspector; B. W. Neff, judge; Thomas Dudley, judge; C. W. Schellhouse, first alternate; R. J. Fletcher, second alternate; and Daniel Coleman, third alternate. These township officers were the forerunners of hundreds who would follow in ensuing years.

The first crime to be recorded in the vicinity of the newly established town of Roseville occurred in January of 1869, when Mr. Cross, proprietor of the nearby 15 Mile House, reported being robbed of $100, his watch, some jewelry and other miscellaneous items. Law enforcement for the most part, however, proved to be relatively simple, for Roseville was inclined to be a peaceful community. However in an era when there was a great deal of free, unfenced government land to be had for the asking, and boundaries not clearly defined, conflicting land claims were the rule, rather than the exception. Several cases of “jumping ranches” were reported in the vicinity of Roseville in 1868-1869. One writer reported three claims in his immediate neighborhood that had no less than six people claiming ownership.

Increased agricultural development in 1869, coupled with an accompanying increase in business activity for Roseville’s pioneer merchants, stimulated a wave of new business development for the town. Roseville displayed signs of becoming an important shipping center for a rapidly growing agricultural district. Among the more prominent businesses to be established in 1869 were the Roseville Hotel and Charles Keehner’s blacksmith shop.

Established by Daniel S. Neff in 1869, the Roseville Hotel served as one of Roseville’s two leading hostelries throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century.Neff operated the Roseville Hotel until 1878, at which time he sold out to J.B.R. Davis. The year 1869 also saw the establishment of a blacksmith shop on the corner of Vernon and Lincoln Streets by B.W. Neff, which later became widely known under the name of Charlie Keehner’s Blacksmith Shop. After two years of working for Neff, Keehener bought out his former employer. For 30 years, Keehner operated the blacksmith and systematically bought up business lots along Vernon Street, which he later sold when the railroad shops were being moved to Roseville from Rocklin in 1907.


Daniel S. Neff - City Collection

Of all the new towns cropping up along the railroad, Roseville’s future seemed brightest. Located at the junction of two railroads with plenty of open land for future expansion, Roseville appeared to be ideally situated for a major railroad center replete with roundhouses and other facilities. This was Theodore Judah’s view point when he ran his survey through the area. O.D. Lambard expected this too when he purchased the site for a town. Businessmen like Thomas and Van Treese also believed in Roseville’s potential when they moved their places of business to the new town. Numerous investors who bought up choice lots and, on occasion, entire blocks for investment purposes likewise had high hopes for Roseville’s future.

It came as a shock then when Rocklin, not Roseville, was selected as the site for the major railroad facility in Placer County. On Nov. 2, 1863, Theodore Judah, chief engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad died in New York as a result of fever contracted while crossing the Isthmus of Panama. His successors, the “Big 4” of railroad fame (Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker, and C.P. Huntington) ignored Judah’s recommendation in favor of Rocklin. As a result of this fateful decision, Rocklin would develop as Placer County’s major railroad center and a city of importance second only to Auburn. Roseville, on the other hand, would find its growth severely curtailed, limited primarily to being just another one of the ubiquitous railroad shipping stations along the railroad’s right-of-way.

The question then arises, “Why did the railroad locate its roundhouse and other terminal facilities at the less desirable Rocklin site, some four miles distant from the junction, instead of at the more logical Roseville site?” The reasonable conclusion is that Rocklin was chosen because the foothills begin there, where helper engines were attached to trains for the long haul over the Sierras’ summit. Major consideration was also given to the fact that Rocklin’s extensive granite deposits, largely untapped before the arrival of the railroad, could provide considerable revenue for the then financially strapped railroad. From the beginning, however, it was obvious the “Granite City” was far from being an ideal location. But it was not until 1906 that a two-year transfer of terminal facilities from Rocklin to Roseville began, thus putting Roseville on track to becoming the major rail center Judah had prophesied some 43 years earlier. Fate sometimes has a strange way of affecting history. Judah’s premature death kept Roseville from becoming one of the most important railroad centers on the West Coast for nearly half a century.


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