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March 10, 2010 > History: James Logan: Southern Alameda County Pioneer

History: James Logan: Southern Alameda County Pioneer

By Myrla Raymundo

New frontiers... a new land with possibilities for a better life. Such was the dream of youth from foreign lands. A dream that beckoned so many to America in the early days still goes on today.

It was in the year 1882 that a young man of eighteen years by the name of James Logan left his home and family in County Derry, Northern Ireland, and set sail for America. He came to live with his relatives, the Joseph McKeowns, who had settled in Newark, California in 1860 and purchased their farm.

Nearby Alvarado was a true pioneer town and the County Seat for Alameda County in 1853. It was a farming community where potatoes, pink and white beans, onions and sugar beets were raised in abundance. Beets were processed at the Alameda Sugar Mill, built in Alvarado in 1869. Crops grown in Alvarado were limited to summer plantings because of flooding from Alameda Creek in the winter. This flooding, however, did make for a rich soil.

James Logan, reared a staunch Scotch-Irish Presbyterian, was faithful and regular in attendance at the Alvarado Presbyterian Church. It was there that he met his future wife, Rebecca Jane Kerr, who emigrated from her home in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. She came to live with her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Kerr, who owned the farm next to the McKeowns. Theirs was a one hundred acre farm, purchased in 1865.

After James and Rebecca's marriage in 1894, the young couple was asked to make their permanent home on the Kerr farm; a house was provided for them. James took over much of the farming operation and Rebecca continued to help her aunt and uncle who had no children of their own. It was their faithfulness and devotion to the Kerrs that prompted the Kerrs to later bequeath their farm to James and Rebecca and their offspring.

Mr. and Mrs. Logan eventually had twelve children, six boys and six girls; all lived to adulthood and today, nine are alive and well.

This was a family who taught that each son and daughter had duties to perform to make the family operation a success; also, protection of the family's good name was instilled into its members.

Regular church attendance and hard work were encouraged but fun was important, too. Once a year the big beet wagon was filled with hay and happy children as Mr. Logan with his two-horse team drove to Niles Canyon for the Sunday school picnic.

Mr. Logan, besides being a strict disciplinarian, was a very kind man. He believed that some of the bounty of their farm was to be shared. The family was accustomed to seeing callers come for a gift of potatoes, onions and beans. Older folks in Alvarado found a friend in him, too.

Mr. and Mrs. Logan loved their home in America and it was soon after taking up residence in Alvarado that their citizenship status was established. They took their civic duties, church responsibilities, and lodge activities seriously.

After a number of years of financial success from the farm and strict economy, the family added a very productive fruit orchard in Decoto, located next to the John Whipple ranch, to their agricultural interests. This provided some of the young people of the family summer work picking berries and apricots.

Flooding of farmlands of Alvarado and Decoto, spoken of earlier, was finally brought under control by the establishment of a successful Flood Control District. This was important because it enabled farmers to plant two crops a year; tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, celery and carrots flourished in this fertile soil.

School attendance was very important in the Logan family. The children attended Alviso and Alvarado Elementary Schools. Older children walked two and a half miles to school; the younger ones had a pony and cart ride.

The twelve children went on to become graduates of Centerville High School or the new Washington Union High School, which supplanted the older Centerville High School. The children are Andrew, Annie, John, Jane, William, Tillie, Mary (May) Rebecca, Alma, Clarabelle, James, Theodore and Ralph.

Further education and training followed in preparation for their life's work. Three of the daughters became teachers and taught in Sunol, Decoto and San Leandro; one became principal in San Leandro School District. Other fields of endeavor were nursing, insurance, auto mechanic, agriculture supervision, secretarial work, farming, cattle ranching, and employment in the Alameda County Division of Weights and Measures.

Mr. Logan had always shown great interest in the schools his children attended. Once a year, with his farm equipment, he prepared the athletic field for the high school.

He was subsequently elected to the Board of Trustees of the Washington Union High School, serving it well.

One autumn day in 1931, returning from a fishing trip and on his way to the football game at the high school with his neighbor and fellow trustee John Whipple, an automobile accident took the lives of these two pioneer residents of Washington Township. The community felt shock and great loss. Following Mr. Logan's death, his eldest son, Andrew, was appointed to serve in his place as high school trustee.

When Washington Township began its tremendous growth in the 1950's one by one, farms gave way to real estate development. Consolidation of small towns took place and the area emerged as the cities of Fremont, Newark and Union City. The great influx of new residents meant families with school aged children. To meet this demand, new school districts were formed and many new schools were built.

In 1959 a new high school in Union City opened its doors to students. At a meeting of the Washington High School Board of Trustees, the new school was named James Logan High School after the long time rancher of Alvarado and Decoto. This name was chosen to preserve the identification of agriculture in the area and to honor James Logan as a faithful member of the Board of Trustees of former years.

James Logan High School, a school of excellence and high achievement with a staff of dedicated teachers, is well recognized outside its own environs. Surely James Logan, pioneer farmer, would be very proud if he were alive today.

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