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  A County Called Richmond?
January 31, 2005

Recognizing Richmondís centennial year, The following article appeared in the January 23, 2005, Contra Costa Times. Richmond was feeling its oats in those days, threatening to change the name of Contra Costa County to Richmond County if the Board of Sups didnít play ball.


Contra Costa Times January 23, 2005



WHEN THE CONTRA Costa County Board of Supervisors met for the first time early in 1905, it voted to postpone discussion on the incorporation application from a group of Richmond-area citizens.


Since the old Board of Supervisors was going out of office in a matter of minutes anyway, it was decided to let the new board handle the situation. The matter was set for February. This was duly reported by the Concord Transcript, which printed the actions of the Board of Supervisors every Saturday on its front page.


The Richmond application was not without controversy. Richmond boosters had been trying to incorporate for a year, but always seemed to include too much territory in the proposals. They had been voted down several times. Some Richmond residents must have gotten tired of having to travel to Martinez from Richmond to keep presenting these petitions for incorporation because in the next issue of the Concord Transcript appeared a bit of gossip reprinted from another area newspaper.

The article was headlined, "Want Richmond County."


"From almost every source, as if by a single impulse, has been opened the agitation for Richmond County, with the county seat at Richmond. Talk of Richmond County has taken precedence over incorporation, which is a dead letter with the present boundaries. The subject of Richmond County may not come up at this session of the California Legislature, but ultimately, Richmond will surely be the county seat of the county of Richmond and realizing this, many investors are looking for central property on or near Macdonald Avenue, 'the Market Street of Richmond,' for residence or business."


In an editorial column, H.E. Griffiths, the editor of the Transcript, had this to say: "Point Richmond now wants to be a county by itself ... Well! Well, what next."


Continued expansion


The Richmond area was growing quickly at the turn of the century. Not only had the Santa Fe arrived, but Standard Oil had also located at Point Richmond and the Southern Pacific started buying a right of way to extend its service to include the area. The population exploded. In 1900 there were 250 people in the area. In 1902, there were 2,000.


By 1905 residents were talking about incorporating into a city. There were three communities in the area: Old Richmond at Barrett Avenue and A, B and C streets; Point Richmond at Richmond Avenue and Washington streets; and a third community called Atchison, which was located around Third Street and Ohio Avenue.

The point where one community ended and the other began wasn't all that clear.


Atchison was the smallest of the three communities. The officials of the Santa Fe railway owned it. They divided the land from Ohio Avenue to Cutting Boulevard and from First to 10th streets into lots. They expected railroad employees to buy the lots and make them, the officials, rich.


But people preferred to live in Point Richmond or Old Richmond. Atchison didn't appeal to most folks. Its downtown featured a few stores; the Santa Fe Hotel; a post office; and Maple Hall, a dance hall.


Maple Hall was Atchison's biggest attraction. People liked to dance in Atchison, but they didn't want to live there. While the old Board of Supervisors failed to take action on the Richmond application, the new board acted on a Concord incorporation proposal immediately after being sworn in.


Incorporating Concord


The board took note that the community of Todos Santos, commonly known as Concord, had more than 500 residents, which meant it legally could incorporate. The board voted to set the incorporation election date for Saturday, Feb. 4, 1905.


"Concord is a rapidly growing town and is badly in need of home government. Our Supervisor E.J. Randall certainly has given Concord all the benefit he could through his office, but there are many things needed in a growing town such as Concord that a Supervisor cannot control. Worst of all we need water for fire purposes, to say nothing of lights and other necessities, which could readily be had were the town incorporated, and it would not cost the tax payer one penny more than he is paying today.


"Every year there is nearly $2,000 paid into the county treasury from our little town with very little return. Why not incorporate and keep this money at home and get the benefit of it?"


On Feb. 11, the Concord Transcript reported the election results: "The long talked of election for the incorporation of Concord took place on Saturday last, resulting in a victory for those who were in favor of incorporation. The election was warmly contested by both sides and as a result 168 votes were cast."


In a confusing front page story the Transcript reported that 14 more votes were cast for incorporation than against, but six votes were thrown out, leaving the incorporation supporters with a four-vote majority. The present city of Concord Web site states that incorporation won by two votes. Whatever the case, it was a close vote.


The county supervisors finally approved the Richmond-area petition for incorporation and the voters had their say on Aug. 7, 1905, with a vote of 256 for and 52 against. So Concord and Richmond will celebrate their 100th anniversaries this year.


Nilda Rego's Days Gone By appears Sundays in A&E. Reach her at nildarego@comcast.net.