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February 17, 2010 > History: Occupations

History: Occupations

Our pioneer business directories show that most of the men in Washington Township in 1867 were farmers or were operating a business that served all their needs. Alvarado and Harrisburg, now Warm Springs, had warehousemen who stored and shipped grain, potatoes and other products. Centerville and Mission San Jose had harness makers who made or repaired harnesses. Washington Corners (now Irvington) had machinists who built and repaired farm machinery. Mission San Jose, Washington Corners and Alvarado had wheelwrights who made and repaired wheels. Villages usually had a blacksmith who shod horses and did general iron work.

General merchandise stores, butcher shops and bakeries were erected to serve the townspeople. There was the Mack store in Washington Corners, the Salz in Centerville, Bachman's in Mission San Jose, Stokes in Alvarado and Incell's in Vallejo Mills (now Niles). Boot and shoe makers were available in Alvarado and Centerville. Each village had at least one hotel to serve travelers and a nearby adjacent livery stable that had carriages for rent. Centerville even had a barber and a dentist. Physicians were located in Washington Corners and Centerville. Alvarado was the only village that rated three physicians.

George Bond was Justice of the Peace at Centerville and C. D. Rogers at Mission San Jose. Rev. Julian Federy was the Catholic priest at Mission San Jose, the Rev. B. F. Myers the Methodist minister at Centerville and Rev. James Pierpont the Presbyterian minister listed for Alvarado. A. J. Lowell was postmaster at Alvarado, C. J. Stevens at Centerville, R. A. McClure at Mission San Jose, and George W. Peacock at Harrisburg.

C. J. Stevens operated his flouring mills at Alvarado. Vallejo's Mills featured two stone cutters and Vallejo & Co. Flouring mills. Centerville advertised Plummer & Co., Crystal Salt Works. Alvarado had a tinsmith and Mission San Jose a cabinet maker, an insurance agent and a hair dresser. Mission San Jose, Warm Springs and Vallejo Mills advertised express offices staffed by agents.

Our 1870 directory still listed Harrisburg and Warm Springs as separate villages. They both had hotels, but Harrisburg had become a station on the San Jose branch of the Western Pacific Railroad. Washington Corners also had a Western Pacific Station. Warm Springs claimed a telegrapher who probably worked at the Harrisburg station. The presence of mechanics, engineers, and agents indicated the influence of the railroad on occupations.

The only reference to water transportation in the 1867 directory was to the "shipping merchants" at Harrisburg. The 1870 directory included the terms seaman, mariner, boatman and ship carpenter, occupations that would be changed by the coming of the railroad.

New occupations related to farming included herdsman, stock dealer, gardener, dairyman, saddler, hostler, teamster, and horseshoer. Other vocations listed were teacher, surveyor, painter, peddler, plasterer, miner, gunsmith, laborer, stage driver and expressman. Druggist, glovemaker, florist, restaurant owner and poultry raiser were added in 1879.

The 1890 directory reflected changes that had come to Washington Township. Grape vineyards dominated the foothills from Niles to Warm Springs. Listings included those for grape growers and wine manufacturers. Vineyards had often replaced grain fields.

Agents for the Sunset Telephone Company reflected the arrival of the telephone. The invention of the radio created the need for new sales ads. Railroad car builders and foundry workers had repair men help establish Newark as a manufacturing center. Niles was still an important railroad center, but the most prominent occupation was "fruit grower." The directory listed the names of 14 prominent orchardists for the Niles area. Fruit packers and driers were added as needed.

Titles for leaders of companies in the Niles area in 1910 indicated the need for managers. A. T. Ames was president of the Ames Manufacturing Company. W. V. Eberly was manager of the California Nursery Co. E. A. Ellsworth was president of the California Pressed Brick Co. and the Niles State Bank.

Invention of the car created a variety of new occupations. Garages were needed for dealers, mechanics and salesmen. Distributors were needed to store gasoline and transport it to service station operators so it could be sold to car owners.

The arrival of electricity created the need for a new kind of workman who could safely manage the power and get it to where it could operate lights, appliances and machines. Electricians joined plumbers, painters, carpenters, roofers and others who erected, remodeled, repaired and maintained buildings.

More recently the development of television and computers has produced the need for another entire line of workers, technicians and operators.

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