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December 26, 2007 > History


Historic Descriptions of Centerville

Historic descriptions of Centerville have not always been pretty, but they are descriptive. Historian William Halley wrote that in 1851 "Centerville had in its neighborhood a few settlers." Others soon gathered around them to form a village. An early settler wrote, "Reverend W. W. Brier and others built houses that winter, and within the year we had formed a friendly and pleasant community."

A Centerville farmer found in 1856 that it was more profitable to raise pigs than grain because of the hordes of gophers that destroyed the grain. That's probably why it was sometimes called Gopher Town. Another problem was the mustard that grew up to 15 feet tall, so he harvested the seed and shipped it to market. Centerville was later described "as a mud street with a Mormon chapel at one end and a store that sold whiskey and boots at the other."

An 1867 business directory noted that Centerville was a post office, 15 miles southeast of San Leandro and 31 miles southeast of San Francisco. By 1869 it was "populated with a flourishing and industrious people who are mostly all in possession of improved homesteads." An observer noted in 1875 that Centerville was usually a quiet little village except for "the occasional noise of lawsuits." An 1879 directory said it was situated 3 miles from the Central Pacific Railroad at Niles. By 1890 it was credited with being "a prosperous center of an excellent fruit growing area."

Historian Halley described Centerville in 1876 as "a roadside town, a few miles south of Alvarado, in the midst of a fine horticultural and agricultural region." It was called "the trade center of Washington Township" in the 1878 Atlas of Alameda County. The local editor noted that Centerville was "notoriously peaceful, but a local rival referred to Centerville as "dull and obscure and has been going downstairs for some years past and pursued her usual uneventful course."

He also observed that there were 10 pianos, six organs, one melodeon and a quantity of guitars around town. Another writer described the town in 1882 as "a collection of houses strewn along both sides of the road." Charles Shinn wrote in 1889 that "Centerville was the crossroad town of the valley, and it was long the only business center of any importance in the township. Another writer noted in December that after 11 consecutive days of rain "cellars were flooded and paths were one pool of water." Alameda Creek was overflowing into Crandall Slough and the local boys were roping drift wood, posts, etc. that were floating downstream towards Alvarado.

An editor wrote in 1898 that Centerville was "a thriving and beautiful town, a clean, delightful village with a charming climate, rich soil and fruitful orchards and vineyards." He also noted that it was "just far enough away from the noise and bustle of railroads to make it an ideal home town where visitors regret they cannot here spend their days." Another writer described Centerville as "our high school town with business full of renown." In 1901 it was "an old town, a progressive, pretty place of 500 people, rich in fruit, hay and vegetables."

Centerville was described in 1910 by The Township Register as "the hub of the section, the center of a farming community, a town surrounded by farms and orchards and a fruit shipping point on the Southern Pacific Railway. It is a town noticeable for its perfect cleanliness, well built stores, comfortable residences and tree-bordered streets."

The Washington Press boasted in 1916 that Centerville was "a town with a promising future, a town notable for its many fine homes. The town has well kept streets and a park in the center of town in which a band stand has been erected.

Another talented writer referred to Centerville as "a sleepy little fruit drying hamlet that had once been a three-way junction between two main roads and Alameda Creek, but the creek changed course and only the junction remained."

Centerville was described in 1947 as "the center of social and cultural life in Washington Township." It was also "the center of the auto business, a large vegetable growing center, a shipping center, a housing center, and a central location for industries." The operators of the local Center Airport advertised perfect flying conditions and were anxious (eager?) to "serve the whole township."

A writer in a nearby town stated in 1969 that "downtown Centerville is one of the ugliest places in the Tri-City area (because of) the visual pollution of power lines, billboards, blinking lights, motion advertisements and revolving signs."

A famous reporter noted in 1980 that "what remains of Centerville is the heritage left by the founders and the pride of a community that grew into a village and continues as a special part of Fremont."

Centerville was described in 1980 as a "thriving and beautiful town that grew from a place called Hardscrabble to the village of Centerville, now a special part of Fremont."

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