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July 6, 2010 > History: Alviso

History: Alviso

By Phil Holmes

Many current residents of the Tri-City area would think of the town at the south end of San Francisco Bay when they hear the name Alviso. They would not realize that we have our own Alviso.

Augustin Alviso was born in the San Francisco Presidio in 1809 and grew up near the Santa Clara Mission. He married Maria Antonia Pacheco, and they raised a family of five children.

Alviso and his brother-in -law, Thomas Pacheco needed pasture for their large herd of cattle so they applied for a land grant. Mexican Governor Manuel Micheltorena granted them the huge rancho of over 10,000 acres that extended from the present town of Newark to Alvarado. It was called Rancho Potrero de los Cerritos (pasture of the low hills.) Alviso took the western part of the rancho near Coyote Hills and established his home where Lido Faire Shopping Center was later developed. Historian William Halley noted that Alviso's Landing was on Coyote Hills Slough. Pacheco took the eastern part of the rancho and established his home near Alameda Creek and the present Decoto Road.

John Horner and Elias Beard purchased the cloudy title to the ex-Mission San Jose Grant. Horner surveyed the land along the road that led from the present town of Irvington to Alvarado. Horner and Beard went bankrupt but that did not stop people's need for homes.

Settlers seeking land rushed in and purchased or squatted on property on both sides of the Alvarado-Centerville Road. By the end of 1853 "they had formed a friendly and pleasant community." The 1860 census lists members of the Brier, Beard, Baker and Pacheco families for the Alviso area.

Reverend W. W. Brier who later founded the Church that became Centerville Presbyterian, was one of the pioneers who purchased farms here. Dr. Robert B. Fisher wrote that James Hawley built identical houses for his family and the Beard family across the road from each other. Reverend Brier did not say who built his house but described it as a comfortable cottage with front porch, parlor, bedroom, kitchen, bathing room and small pantry. The back of the house was the barn, haystack, chicken house, hog pen and a tent for the ranch workers.

As a parent, teacher and preacher, Reverend Brier was interested in schools and education. He was elected Alameda County Superintendent of Schools in May 1853.Washington Township was divided into three school districts: Avarado, Centerville, and Mission San Jose. Farmers in the Brier area wanted their own school so Alviso School District was formed at their request from parts of the Alvarado and Centerville districts in 1856. No doubt Reverend Brier played a leading role in the establishment of this district. Later, part of Alviso was taken to form Lincoln and then the Decoto School District.

Land for the new school was donated by J. L. Beard and Manuel Ferreira. Two buildings were eventually erected on the grounds. One had a bell tower with a large bell. This building later housed the first four grades when a two teacher school was needed. The other building then housed the upper grades and the library.

James Hawley was a carpenter so he built the first school house. Floods were an annual threat, but the school survived even the monstrous floods of 1862. For awhile the school supplied water to residents with a pipe to Machado's corner.

Elsie Madruga was one of the students in that first building. She later served as a teaching principal and head of the school for 29 years. Other students included members of the Brier, Beard, Hawley, Machado, and Goularte families.

Erastus Johnson, the first teacher, was followed by his brother, Charles Johnson, and then several local women. Charles Walker was employed as a teacher in 1870 at a salary of $75 per month. There were 20 boys and 17 girls registered. Mary George was credited with perfect lessons. Frequent visitors included Lizzie Brier, William Walker and Clara Hawley. Among the pioneer trustees were local farmers W.W. Brier, William Morrison, John Lowrie and W. T. Ralph.

Property owners near Alviso School in 1874 included the Brier, Baker, Martin, George, Dewie, Silva, Faray, Beard, Joseph, Rodgers and Hawley families. The Alviso and Pacheco houses are shown on some maps. Dr. S. A. Bateau established his residence by the W. W. Brier home in 1879.

By 1880 Portuguese descendents made up over 30% of the population in Washington Township. Doris Machado Van Scoy wrote that "these children of Azorean immigrants lived out their school years with a sense of togetherness and safety in numbers." Many of them attended Alviso School.

Maintenance of the buildings was a continuing problem. In 1883 trustees voted "to fix the privy." Two years later they voted "to make the necessary repairs not to exceed $25." In 1890 voters defeated a bond election for $5,000 to build a new school but approved a tax to paint and repair the buildings.

Trustee elections were sometimes fascinating. The 1890 election resulted in an 8 to 8 tie vote. In 1893 A. A. Bettencourt received all of the 8 votes cast.

A new two-room school with a library and teacher's room replaced the old buildings in 1910. Salaries were raised in 1919 to $110 per month for the principal and $90 for teachers for 10 months service. Elsie Madruga became principal and served until 1948. James Nunes was superintendent in 1950 with three teachers and 90 students.

Extension of the Cabrillo Park Homes subdivision into Alviso School District in 1956-1957 increased school enrollment from 92 to 124. Kindergarten classes were added in 1957 and the lower grades went on double session in 1958. The school was closed in 1964 when it became part of the Fremont Unified School District but was reopened the next year. In 1973 some classes were moved to the new Warwick School, and portables were added in 1976 to meet expanding enrollment. All students were transferred to Warwick School in 1978, and Alviso School was closed. The school property was sold in 1984 for the construction of town homes and condominiums marking the end of "our own Alviso."

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