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Early Palo Altans

The following letter was recently discovered in the Palo Alto Historic Association files. It was sent by the Palo Alto Historical Association at some date in the late 1940's or early 1950's. It prefaces the following lists of names suggested to the City Council for use in naming streets and parks at a time of great growth in the City.

Note: An new addition to this list are the names of Palo Alto's early city managers. The first city manager was hired in 1950 when the charter was changed.

William H. Clarke
City of Palo Alto

Dear Bill:

In accordance with your letter of August 22, I have proceeded to formulate plans to meet your request as covered in your letter.

A meeting of an Ad Hoc Committee of Board members of the Palo Alto Historical Association was held on August 28 at the Chamber of Commerce offices. At this meeting a copy of your letter and attachment was handed to the committee members. It was agreed that each member would sub­mit a list of names to me by August 31, the date of our regular board meeting. The committee consisted of the following:

Judge Egerton Lakin
Elinor Cogswell
Lucille Buchan
George Whisler
Ken Wilson
H. L. "Pete" Anderson
Bert Crandall
Guy Wallick
Mr. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Vice President of the Association, was also in attendance.

We had a thorough going discussion of the request and according to the agreed upon procedure, member's lists were submitted and have been consolidated in the attached report prepared by Ken Wilson.

In considering the names submitted it was decided to also include those submitted by Wally Carroll, Assistant to the City Manager, so that no candidate would be overlooked. An attempt has been made in the attachment to list the names in some order of preference in accordance with your request. As you might well imagine, this is a difficult thing to do. As it stands, it merely represents the order of rank determined by the names submitted on the members lists, i. e. , if all members were in agreement on a candidate, he would receive a count of eight, and so on in order.

In proceeding in this manner, unscientific as it is, it will give ycu some indication of preference, although names included in some of the categories were the indi­vidual choice of certain members. Under these circumstances it was decided to include all names submitted. Thus, you will note under "Prominent Citizens", the names listed under the heading were endorsed by two or more members, then follows the balance of the names submitted.

Undoubtedly, there are many other names that are worthy of consideration, particularly under the "Founding Fathers" category for Stanford. We do not consider the report as the last work on this subject. It would be better labeled as a beginning. Your committee and other members of the Council could well have disagreement with the selection and have qualified views on omissions and additions.

Two other related matters came up as a part of our discussion about which you might wish to give consideration. The first had to do with the possibility of a downtown park associated with the proposed site of the new library. If such is the case it has been suggested that the names of Julia Gilbert and Ann Hadden be considered. As you know, both were engaged in early day library activities and made outstanding contributions in this respect. The other suggestion had to do with street names. Originally, when the City was plotted, many of the streets were named for famous authors. Since then there have been many well–known authors as citizens, such as Howard Pease, Helen Roberts, Francis Rand Smith, Pansy Alden and her son Raymond Alden, the Norrises, Albert Gerrard, Edith Merrilees, Marjory Bailey, William Herbert Carruth, Edward Beach and others. The thought here is that there may be some possibility to use these names in some future sub–division within the City.

I sincerely hope that our meager efforts will be useful in your task of naming public facilities. If we can be of any further service in this respect we will be most happy to be your devoted servants.

Sincerely yours,
Guy P. Wallick,
Ad Hoc Committee on Place Name, Palo Alto Historical Association



Don Gaspar de Portola In 1769 Don Gaspar de Portola led an expedition up the Alta California coast in search of Monterey Bay. He passed that port, failing to recognize the vast "ensenada" as the harbor was described by Vizcaino. But, Portola found San Francisco Bay and our own Tall Tree (El Palo Alto) beside San Francisquito Creek.   Short video
Captain Don Fernando de Rivera Commander of Portola' s advance land group. In 1774, he returned and planted a cross at the base of the twin-trunked tree, El Palo Alto, considering that it was a fine spot for a mission
Sergeant Jose Francisco de Ortega On a scouting mission for Portola, Sergeant Ortega discovered San Francisquito Creek and the Tall Tree, El Palo Alto.

Original Land Grant Families

Don Rafael Soto Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito granted to Don Rafael Soto (son of Ygnacio Soto, a member of the De Anza expedition which camped under the Tall Tree) in 1835, by the Viceroy of Mexico. The land was bordered on the north and east by San Francisquito Creek and the marsh lands; on the south by present Colorado Avenue, and including a triangle of Stanford lands; north to the Tall Tree, with an area of 2, 229 acres. Don Rafael Soto built a large home near Middlefield and Oregon.
Dona Juana Briones de Miranda Rancho La Purissima Concepcion granted to two Indians, Jose Gregorio and Jose Ramon. In 1850 the ranch was sold to Juana Briones de Miranda, who lived in the adobe house at the junction of Arastradero and Fremont. Dona Juana died in Palo Alto; her house at Page Mill Road and Second Street was the first home of the Japanese Methodist Church. Rancho La Purissima Concepcion was originally the old town of Mayfield.
Don Secundino Robles Purchased Rancho Rincon de San Francisquito (Rancho Santa Rita) from Jose Pena in 1847. Don Secundino's home, three and a half miles south of Mayfield across the railroad track at the end of San Antonio Road, was the center for social life for the entire countryside. He died January 10, 1890. The rancho contained 4,418. 21 acres when confirmed to Don Secundino and his brother, Teodoro.
Don Juan Prado Mesa
Rancho San Antonio de Los Altos, granted to Don Juan Prado Mesa by Governor Alvarado in 1839. Rancho San Antonio de Los Altos stretches from San Antonio Creek to Stevens Creek, and was divided near its center by Permanente Creek.
Jose Pena
Rancho Santa Rita (Rancho Rincon de San Francisquito) granted to Jose Pena in 1822, formally received in 1841 by Governor Alvarado.
Don Antonino Buelna Rancho San Francisquito granted by Governor Alvarado to Don Antonino Buelna in 1837 and formalized in 1839. Don Antonino build his adobe house on the southeast bank of San Francisquito Creek near the most northerly point of the Stanford Golf Course.

Landowners in More Recent Times

Captain John Lucas Greer Captain Greer, born in Ireland, arrived in California in 1849. While exploring the Mayfield Slough, he became acquainted with Maria Luisa Soto Coppinger, widow of John Coppinger. Maria Luisa and Captain Greer were married in 1850. In the 1880's Captain Greer built a large house at 553 Churchill Avenue, and it was moved to Embarcadero Road facing the High School. The home was used by the family -- five children -- until its destruction in 1954 to make way for the shopping center known as Town and Country Village. The Greer family's mission bell cattle brand is the oldest recorded brand in California. Captain Greer was a distinguished Peninsula citizen.
John Wesley Boulware Early owner of part of the Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito and successful farmer, Mr. Boulware lived on a 160 acre tract from 1862-1894, and was active in civic affairs. He served as a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
Henry W. Seale Early owner of majority of dissected Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito. His elegant home stood until 1937 on Webster Street near Oregon Avenue. Timothy Hopkins purchased 697.55 acres of the Seale Tract and 40 acres of the Greer tract to begin what is now downtown Palo Alto.
Dr. W.A. Newell Early owner of part of Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito between the railroad tracks and the Bay.
Andrew J. Pitman Pioneer landowner who operated a dairy business. Mr. Pitman built his home where the Stanford Stadium now stands.
William Dana Prominent rancher who purchased part of the Rancho San Antonio de Los Altos
Serramus C. Hastings Purchased part of the Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito, Mr. Hastings was active in community affairs. Jose' Robles mortgaged his section of the Rancho Rincon de San Francisquito in 1855 and Mr. Hastings was assigned the mortgage. He later foreclosed and obtained part of the rancho land between the railroad track and the Bay.
J.P. Rowe Prominent rancher who purchased part of the Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito.
Dolores Soto One of seven children of Don Rafael Soto, who had 120 acres of the Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito. Her home was located on Newell Road near Hamilton Avenue.
Peter Coutts Paulin Caper on, the true name of the "Frenchman" who arrived on the scene in the 1870's and purchased a home and stock farm west of El Camino Real, bordering on Stanford Avenue. The family residence, Escondido Cottage, is still standing. In 1882, Senator Stanford purchased his lands. During his eight years on Matador Ranch M. Coutts (Caperon) built a stable second only to Stanford; maintained a huge cattle farm, known as Ayshire Ranch; erected great barns; built a race track, etc. Short video


Josiah Stone Lakin Early pioneer who as closely identified with the growth of Palo Alto. Mr. Lakin was the first president of the Library Board and an early member of the Board of Education. Founder of Alta Mesa Cemetery and first president of that organization.
J.W. Dayan One of the first "commuters" to San Francisco. Mr. Dayan was an unsuccessful candidate for the first town Board of Trustees. Mr. Dayan graded and graveled University Avenue in 1892 to rid the community of winter mud. More.
J.J. Morris Pioneer Real Estate man, who was a member of the Improvement Club. He loaned his offices for the first church services in 1891, and donated an organ to the Union Sunday School in 1892. Founder of the "Morris Club Singers" active in business., civic, church and fun activity. . . a far sighted civic leader.
Lawrence Gillan First "newcomer" to Palo Alto who worked as a stone mason at Stanford, who arrived in 1890. He is also recorded as the first railroad fatality, having been "run down" by the Monterey Express in August 1890. His widow erected a building on the southeast corner of High and University, conducting a men's furnishing store, general notion, and boarding house business.
C.L. Crabtree Early resident who built Nortree Hall (now Liddicoat site) in 1893 with his partner, W. E. Norris, which served as the Town Hall.
Dr. Edith Johnson Early woman doctor who served as Medical Advisor to Stanford women in 1907. Had private practice at her home at 375 Hawthorne for over fifty years.
George W. Mosher Resident since 1892, Councilman 1915-1919; 1935. 1939. Active in community affairs.
William C. Werry Longtime resident, since 1887, of Mayfield, Palo Alto area, who served the Palo Alto Post Office for thirty-one years. He was Postmaster from 1924 until his retirement in 1935. Active in the Masons and the First Methodist Church.
Alfred E. Werry One of the oldest businessmen in Palo Alto, the Werry Electric Shop at 383 University has been active in the Chamber of Commerce, Merchants Association, Palo Alto Rotary Club, Masons, and the First Methodist Church.
Lester Phillip Cooley Helped develop the Ravenswood wharf area extending along the northerly bank of San Francisquito Creek. After abandonment of plans for a community, the wharf took the name of Cooley's Landing, and the timber was transported to San Francisco via the deep water docking facilities.
Charles P. Cooley One of Palo Alto's most prominent pioneer citizens, the son of L. P. Cooley, C.P. Cooley was founder and president of the old Stanford Bank, a member of the City Council for twelve consecutive years, and Mayor for three terms, which included the entire war period. He was influential in having the Veteran's Hospital located on the borders of Palo Alto. He was a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors for many years.
Henry W. Simkins Pioneer resident who purchased the Palo Alto Times in 1900, and constructed the building on University between High and Emerson to house his stationery book store and the press equipment. (166 University). Mr. Simkins sold the Times in 1919 to George Morell, Dallas Wood and W. F. Henry. Mr. Simkins opened his bookstore in the Wigle Building in August 1892, and later claimed to be the first department store owner in Palo Alto, carrying everything from pins to soda pop. Elected as first Town Clerk in 1894.
Mrs. A.P. Zschokke Early settler in Palo Alto, who, with her three children came by wagon on June 14, 1890, to settle under the oaks while her house was being built. Known as the "Mother" of Palo Alto public schools, Mrs. Zschokke was a prime mover in establishing the Palo Alto School District in 1893, and provided a small residence and "physics lab" building for the high school until 1901. Short video
James Otterson In 1853, James Otterson built a "public house" at the intersection of El Camino Real and California Avenue. The house known as "Uncle Jim's Cabin" was famous for its hospitality, dancing, feasting, bear-baiting and bull fighting. Perhaps the first business in Palo Alto, James Otterson also functioned as the postmaster. His step-daughter, Sarah, married William Page.
E.F. Weisshaar Pioneer grocery store operator, who began business in 1893. One of the petitioners for town incorporation in 1893, and member of Palo Alto Improvement Club. Served as Town Marshall until incorporation. Mayfield Postmaster in 1885.

Founding Fathers — Stanford

Senator Leland Stanford Founder Founder
Mrs. Jane Lathrop Stanford Founder
David Starr Jordan First President of the University                                              
Frederick Olmstead Landscape architect

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Founding Fathers — Palo Alto

C. B. Wing Early supporter of Town incorporation, and Mayor 1910-1911. As a Professor at Stanford, he worked with Professor C. D„ Marx in the development of municipal ownership of utilities. His home was located at 345 Lincoln Avenue.
John F. Parkinson First Mayor of Palo Alto. Lumberman, merchant, Realtor, builder, councilman, member of school board, "Father" of the Carnegie public library. Short video
Timothy Hopkins Founder of University Park, Palo Alto's first name, first trustee of Stanford University, Mr. Hopkins was a financier who purchased the land for the future town from the Seale family in 1888 with the assistance of Senator Stanford. Mr. Hopkins selected the names of the streets in the original plot. Founder of Hopkins Marine Station at Pacific Grove. Donated his books on transportation to the University; contributed to Children's Convalescent Home. Was a seed and flower grower.
E. C. Thoits Pioneer resident, Mayor 1913-1914, instrumental in development of municipal utilities, active in civic and community life.
Edward Cottrell Mayor 1924-1925, active in community affairs.
G. W. La Peire Grocery man in Palo Alto, who furnished groceries to Stanford faculty on credit during years after Stanford's death when the University was in financial straits.
D. L. Sloan Pioneer resident, seed grower, 1892-1930, Mayor, 1902-1904.
S. W. Charles Member of the 1908 Board of Freeholders, developing new charter.
Jasper W. Paulsen
Pioneer resident and civic leader. Owner of livery stable near the Circle.
B. F. Hall Early resident and owner of first drug store. Member of first Board of Library Trustees.
R. W. Swain Early resident and civic leader.

Prominent Citizens

Charles D. Marx
Professor Marx was largely responsible for the establishment of municipally owned and operated electric, gas and water systems of Palo Alto. He served on the old Board of Trustees from 1896-1904; 1908-1909. For twenty-four years he served on the Board of Public Works, 1909-1933. Dr. Marx was also on the Board of Directors of the Palo Alto Mutual Building and Loan Association, and chairman of the advisory board of the local branch of the American Trust Company.
Dr. Thomas D. Williams A resident of Palo Alto since 1904, Dr. Williams retired in the late 1940's after an active practice in Palo Alto. He was associated with Drs. Lee, Clark, Wilbur and Roth, and this group formed the nucleus of the present day Palo Alto Clinic. With others, he was instrumental in the organization of the Peninsula Hospital. He was a close friend of ex-president Herbert Hoover.
George Fowler Morell A resident since 1904, Mr. Morell purchased controlling interest in the Palo Alto Times in 1919. In 1923, the firm established the Redwood City Tribune, and in 1936 purchased the J Burlingame Advance-Star. Mr. Morell organized the Fremont Post No. 52 of the American Legion in 1919, and was its first commander. Mr. Morell was extremely active in Chamber of Commerce work. In 1944 he was elected a member of the Board of Trustees of Stanford. He has been active in the Rotary Club and the Boy Scouts.
Elizabeth Gamble One of Palo Alto's most philanthropic individuals, Miss Gamble's family have been in Palo Alto since 1901. Her home at 1431 Waverley Street is one of the City's finest. Miss Gamble has been a member of the executive board of the Palo Alto Hospital and has served on its social service committee. She has had long interest in the American Red Cross and her charitable work has been carried on in a very quiet way.
Lee de Forest Inventor of key three-electrode Audio Tube in 1906. The laboratory at 913 Emerson bears a marker noting the achievement as an historical landmark.
Elinor Valoy Cogswell Longtime employee of the Palo Alto Times, beginning her work in 1918 and becoming editor in 1938. She has been active in civic affairs, and the Palo Alto Historical Association.
J.F. Byxbee, Sr. Prominent early resident active in civic affairs.
Egerton D. Lakin The senior attorney in Palo Alto, Judge Lakin opened his offices in Palo Alto in 1914 after graduating from Stanford Law School in 1910. From 1914-1915 he was a member of the City Council, and from 1915 through 1929 he served as Police Judge. From 1916-1922, he served as volunteer secretary of the Chamber of Commerce. He was also the president of the Palo Alto Hoover for President Club in 1927. Active in Community Players, he has appeared in leading roles. He has been active in civic affairs, First Methodist Church, and financial organizations in Palo Alto. He is a charter member of the local Rotary Club.
John E. Vandervoort A longtime resident of Palo Alto, Mr. Vandervoort arrived in Palo Alto in 1894. He has been active as a merchant and in the real estate business in Palo Alto.
W.B. Allen Mr. Allen established the Palo Alto Hardware Company in Palo Alto in 1903, and was active in numerous business and civic affairs in Palo Alto. He was chairman of the local Selective Service Board during World War II, and is a charter member of the Rotary Club in Palo Alto. He has had a long standing interest in the Chamber of Commerce, and was president of that group in 1915.
Arthur B. Clark Mayor of Mayfield in 1903; Professor at Stanford, Dr. Clark advocated prohibition strictly as a business proposition, and Mayfield went dry.
Birge M. Clark The son of Professor Arthur B. Clark, Birge Clark holds a foremost position in the architectural profession of the Peninsula. Mr. Clark designed former President Hoover's home on the campus, and has designed numerous buildings in Palo Alto, including the Post Office, Jordan School, additions to the High School and Library, and numerous office buildings and residences. He has been active in civic affairs, working with the Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club.
Guy C. Miller Mr. Miller had the distinction of being Palo Alto's unofficial City Historian. Arriving in Palo Alto in 1897, he spent four years at Stanford as a student, and became the first mail carrier in Palo Alto, serving from March 1904 - August 1906. He owned and operated the Sequoia Bookstore in Palo Alto from 1922-25, and was a deputy tax collector for the County from 1935-1945. He was a member of the old Library Board, 1911-1922, and spent a great deal of his time talking before organizations about Palo Alto's history under the auspices of the Adult Education Department of the Schools.
L. Harold "Pete" Anderson A graduate of Stanford and former City Engineer of Palo Alto, Mr. Anderson was appointed Director of Utilities in 1933, a post he held until 1941 when he was made City Engineer. He resigned his position as City Engineer when Governor Earl Warren appointed him in 1946 as a member of the California Railroad Commission. He was Vice-President and Assistant General Manager of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company until his retirement. He has been active in the Masons and Kiwanis in Palo Alto and has been active in the Palo Alto Historical Association, serving as that group's present President.
Michael A. Buchan Mr. Buchan arrived in Palo Alto in 1909 after a career in banking in Iowa. He became identified with the old First National Bank and held controlling interest until 1928, when the institution was sold to the Bank of Italy — now the Bank of America. Mr. Buchan has been active in financial affairs and has played an important role in the growth of the community, as a banker and a member of Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce.

Other Prominent Citizens and Early Residents

J. F. Byxbee Jr.
Russell V. A. Lee short video
Noel Porter
L. W. Lane
Mary Ishbel Lockey
D.A. Mendenhall
Dallas Wood
J. P. Mitchell
Dr. Ward Cooper
M. C. Speidel
Bertrum Crandall
Mary Thomas
Howard Zink
Dr. R.L. Wilbur
Victor Virellos
Pedro Lemos
Kathleen Norris
Guido Marx
C.E. Childs
George Whisler
Leonard Fuller
Elizabeth Norton
James Mussatti
George H. Border
Edward E. Hardy
Catherine Harker
Herbert Hoover
C.E. Jordan
Dr. Esther Clark
Sydney I. Vandervoort
Irving P. Vandervoort
Harry Vandervoort

City Managers

Jerry Keithley, 1950–66

George Morgan, 1966–72

George Sipel, 1972–79

Bill Zaner, 1979–92

June Fleming, 1992–2000

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