October 24, 2006 > Landings
The Spanish hauled freight 65 miles from Mission San Jose to the San Francisco Presidio on pack trains that slowly struggled around the Bay. The Mission padres found it much easier to carry their products to the edge of the Bay and load them on launches that sailed out to barter with foreign ships.
Landings were at the heads of sloughs south of Coyote Hills and near the mouth of Alameda Creek. Rancheros used these same landing spots to ship their hides and tallow.
The flood of American immigrants really brought the landings to life. There were several in Washington Township, but Alameda Creek provided the only spot that grew into a city. Most of the crops of the early Americans were shipped from this landing.
John Horner built docks and warehouses in his town of Union City. Several pioneer captains ran small boats, schooners and scows regularly to the landing. He bought the steamer Union and hauled passengers.
Capt. Trefry recalled that the steamer carried up to 150 passengers a trip at $5 each, plus $1 for dinner on the boat. Richard Barron later operated his landing here but was forced out by the decline in freight business and a wind that demolished his warehouse.
Henry Smith also built docks and warehouses in his town of New Haven (Alvarado) half a mile upstream. Smith's Landing became the site of the first county seat.
Coyote Hill Slough is shown in the 1878 Atlas of Alameda County leading inland just north of Coyote Hills to Anderson's Landing. No information is given about this landing, but the landing of G. W. Patterson is pictured. These two landings appear to be at the same location and may be the same. The Patterson family used their landing for both shipping and transportation.
Another old landing was just south of Coyote Hills, on one of the largest and deepest sloughs in the East Bay. Charles Shinn said it was used so much by the Russians trading with the Mission that it was called the Russian Landing. Elias Beard improved the landing and increased the export tonnage by using a flat-bottom hay scow. He was the largest shipper here, so the docks became known as Beard's Landing.
Captain Oscar Pease bought Beard's Landing and built the first house there. Capt. Jonathan Mayhew purchased the landing and built warehouses, schooners, docks and a lumber depot.
Mayhew's Landing became our most important one. The Jarvis family bought the property in 1865 and moved in its own fleet of scows, and the place became known as Jarvis Landing.
Plummer's Landing was at the head of Salt Works Slough. It was a special landing for shipping salt from the Crystal Salt Works.
Origin Mowry sailed up a slough south of Beard's Landing, took up a ranch, built a road through the tules and established Mowry's Landing.
The wharves, homes and two stores formed a little community that provided economic and social ties for the farmers, landing workers and duck hunters. Most of the grain from our area was shipped from here. There were no warehouses at first, and wheat was piled on the wharf when no schooner was in for loading.
The schooners were small and could make a round trip to San Francisco in 48 hours when the winds were favorable, but they could only navigate the sloughs when the tides were up. Capt. Larkins acquired the land on Mowry Slough, operating schooners, and it became Larkin's Landing.
The Mud Creek branch of Coyote Slough went closer to the hills than any other slough. Capt. Calvin Valpey established Warm Springs Landing here in 1860. Josiah Chadbourne built a wharf and operated hay schooners for many years. M. W. Dixon built Dixon's Landing to the south, near the county line. The earthquake of 1868 destroyed one of the warehouses, and spilled 5,000 sacks of grain sank into the slough.
The 1898 Special Edition of the Washington Press covered the industries of Washington Township and noted that there were several landings on the Bay. However, the editor observed that "the only one doing any considerable business at the present day is Jarvis Landing."
All of the landings are gone, replaced by railroads and trucks. Most are silted in or covered by salt ponds. The captains are dead and the schooners decayed. The names are just marks on a map now, but the fact remains that the landings enabled the Mission, the rancheros and the pioneer farmers to market their produce and pay their bills. The landings were what made farming and commerce possible.