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April 16, 2013 > History: A New City

History: A New City

Writers of the History of Washington Township, published in 1950, noted that it represented "the passing of an era, the passing of a township." The nine small villages in the township were Alvarado, Centerville, Decoto, Irvington, Mission San Jose, Newark, Niles, Union City and Warm Springs. The City of Newark, incorporated in 1955, and the citizens of Alvarado and Union City decided not to join the five villages that formed the City of Fremont.

When the City of Fremont was incorporated in January 1956, each village had its own fire department, post office and chamber of commerce or other business organization.

The News Register for January 26 reported that the new city council had "voted to petition the Post Office Department to change the name of Centerville's post office to Fremont." Centerville postmaster Manuel Lewis was directed to send the request to Washington D. C. Post Office addresses in the other towns would not change for a while and patrons would not have to add the name "Fremont".

Choice of Centerville for the "Fremont label" was dictated when the Council selected it as the seat of government. In the process, Mission San Jose lost its historic postmark, the oldest in Alameda County; Mission residents were outraged. The local chamber formed a committee and managed to get the office restored; the victory was celebrated with a first day cover designed by Norman Hale.

Integration of the local fire departments into the City of Fremont was more complicated because of their individual ownerships and arrangements. They had operated with volunteers and no paid employees for years but they had changed in recent years. The local paper reported in May 1955 that the Centerville Fire District had hired three full-time firemen to begin their paid duties. Centerville was the fourth district in Washington Township to put paid men on 24-hour duty and had also dedicated with pride, a new $53,000 fire station.

The transition from a local fire department to the Fremont Fire Department was, at times, a difficult process. This proved to be especially true when several Irvington volunteers did not survive the hiring process. Some volunteers resigned, but others formed the core of the City of Fremont's volunteer program until it was disbanded in 1969. Bickering among district fire stations was a problem that gradually decreased. Fire chiefs had to explain why a particular station was receiving equipment also needed at other stations.

Niles residents had established the Niles Fire District which then had to be properly dissolved to be part of the Fremont Fire District. Attorney Gene Rhodes explained to the Niles board that the district could be dissolved by a vote of the Fremont City Council or by a vote of the residents. While the other districts could just dissolve by themselves, it took a vote of the people and another four months before the Niles district could join the others. Residents voted for dissolution and the Fremont City Council requested that the Niles board consult with the Fremont Fire Chief who was trying to standardize City fire equipment.

Citizens of the Warm Springs area had formed the Warm Springs County Fire Protection District and erected a fire station building in 1950.

Arthur Brewer, city manager of Buena Park, was hired to act as temporary city manager for Fremont to assist in consolidating the fire districts. The council appointed a five-man advisory fire commission that included A. B. Leask, Niles; Carl Christensen Irvington; George Mathiesen, Centerville; Henry Cato, Warm Springs and Cyrus Solon of Mission San Jose. Town chiefs were responsible to Fremont Fire Chief Frank Madruga.

Established sanitary districts presented another challenge. The Irvington Sanitary District had already awarded a long-term contract. The Union Sanitary District was about to award a 10-year contract and the Fremont City Council was struggling for some control.

Representatives of the five Chambers of Commerce met in Irvington in February to discuss how to set up a Fremont chamber. A Fremont chamber to represent business enterprises appeared to be a necessity. To do this, they would need to dissolve the present Washington Township Chamber and change town chambers to business associations. An office, a manager and money for promotion and advertising would be needed.

The story of the Fremont Police Department was a little different because laws in Fremont were enforced by the Alameda County Sheriff's department until July 1, 1958. For a while, there was not much camaraderie because many officers were jockeying to get ahead in the new department. They had not previously worked together and were anxious to rise through the ranks. Communication between and within departments, and other agencies, was also a problem in these early days.

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