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April 2, 2008 > History: Union City

History: Union City

Timothy Swenson is the author of a new pictorial book on the history of Union City entitled Union City. The book has recently been published by Arcadia Publishing Company as part of their "Images of America" series. The Images series celebrates the history of neighborhoods and towns across the country; "this book celebrates our own Union City."

The author acknowledges that his book "is based on those who have come before" and expresses appreciation for the photographic collections of Dr. Robert Fisher and the Museum of Local History. He also recognizes the contributions of researchers and writers of local history and thanks people who provided photographs and research assistance for the book.

The introduction gives a one-page history of Union City beginning with the first town named Union City, established by John Horner and the town of New Haven built by Henry C. Smith. These two towns eventually became Alvarado. Produce from farms in the Alvarado area was shipped down Alameda Creek to San Francisco. E. H. Dyer established the first successful sugar beet factory near Alvarado.

The town of Decoto was established when the transcontinental railroad came to the area in 1869. Decoto was known mostly for farming until canneries were built to package and ship local produce. Pacific States Steel opened in 1937 and was the largest employer in town for 40 years.

Incorporation attempts by Hayward led to an election in 1959; the villages of Alvarado and Decoto officially became Union City. Tom Kitayama, John Ratekin, Joseph Seone, Oscar Dowe and Joseph Lewis were elected to the city council. The first council action was to appoint Tom Kitayama as its mayor. Union City will be 50 years old in 2009, and the 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee is planning a year of special events. The city grew from a population of 6,000 to more than 70,000. Agricultural fields turned into homes, shopping centers, schools and industrial parks.

The main part of the book is divided into sections for the three towns, Alvarado, Decoto and Union City. Alvarado (Part 1) has the longest history and the most historical photographs available.

The story of Alvarado begins with the 1878 Thompson and West map and photographs of some of John Horner's buildings at his town of Union City. The following photographs show local pioneers including sheriff Andrew H. Broder, Joseph and James McKeown, E. H. Dyer, Farley Granger, the Ralph family, the Hawley family and the Jung family. There are several interesting photographs of buildings including the Riverside Hotel, Odd Fellows Hall, St. Anne's Catholic Church the Harvey Store, the Alvarado Hotel and the sugar beet factory. There are also several views of street scenes and school groups. The Alvarado section ends with pictures of the famous California historical markers for the Alameda County Courthouse and the sugar beet factory.

Part 2 covers the Decoto family, the Dry Creek Picnic Grounds, the May family, the Cosmopolitan School District (Decoto), the Whipple family, the Dutra family, noted race car drivers and the Pacific States Steel Mill. Part 3 gives a brief history of Union City from incorporation in 1959 to the present with special tributes to Mayor Tom Kitayama.

Author Timothy Swenson was born in Arcata, California. In the middle of First Grade, his family moved to Hayward, where he lived for the next 10 years. He moved to Fremont and attended Ohlone College and Cal State Hayward. After serving eight and a half years as an Air Force officer, Swenson returned to California in 1996. Since moving to Union City in 1998, he has been President of the Union City Historical Museum and is the current President of the Museum of Local History in Fremont. Mr. Swenson is also a board member of the Union City 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee.

The Union City 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee will be hosting a book signing for Tim's new book, March 30th from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Paddy's Coffee, 3900 Smith St., Union City. Union City Mayor, Mark Green and City Manager Larry Cheeves will also be on hand to sign books. All proceeds benefit the Union City 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee. Author royalties will go to the Museum of Local History.

The book may be purchased at the Museum of Local History, local book stores, or Amazon.com.

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