Scope and Content
Title: Conant Collection of Central Valley Land Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1861-1872
Collection number: Mss21
Extent: 0.5 linear ft.
University of the Pacific. Library. Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Conant Collection of Central Valley Land Papers, Mss21,
Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library
A native of Delaware, L. M. Hickman spent much of his life in Stockton. Hickman's name
first appears in the Stockton Directory (1856), where he is listed as operating a
hardware store with H.D. Saunders. This firm, which was located on Main Street between
Hunter and El Dorado, sold cutlery, tin, copper, sheet iron, stoves and miners' tools and
performed "all kinds of job work done at shortest notice." During the 1850s Hickman was a
member of the Protection Hook & Ladder #1 volunteer fire fighters. In 1857 he was a
founding member of the Stockton Episcopal Church.
In 1860 Hickman married Mary Dallas, eldest daughter of Charles Dallas, proprietor of
Stockton's first livery stable and, from 1850, owner of thousands of acres in Stanislaus
county. Deeds for the considerable lands which Hickman purchased from his father-in-law
are in this collection.
San Joaquin county historian, George Tinkham, provides a memoir of the Hickman-Dallas
marriage that casts some light on Hickman's personality. The historian records that it
was the custom for the volunteer fire companies to "serenade" newly-wed members on their
wedding nights. When they arrived at Hickman's home, the firemen found the house dark, as
though it were unoccupied. The "serenaders" nonetheless knew that Hickman and his bride
were inside and so proceeded with their raucous performance. Tinkham writes that, "The
bridegroom was a haughty young man and opposed to serenades when he was the object of
them." Ultimately, the exasperated fire-fighters brought out their engine and sprayed a
stream of water through Hickman's window. At this juncture, the bride and groom appeared
and "Treated the crowd, but he never forgave them."
From 1864 Hickman was involved in Stockton politics. In that year he was elected
alderman, in 1865 he was president of the city council and in 1867 and 1869 he was
elected mayor. Hickman held the latter office during the time when the first railroad to
proceed south from Stockton down the Valley was being planned. Several companies were
formed for this purpose and the Stockton City Council heard proposals from each. The best
offer came from Leland Stanford, who proposed to build seventy-five miles of track if
Stockton would invest bonds of $100,000 in his railroad. Mayor Hickman asked Stanford
what he intended to charge for freight and fares. George Tinkham writes that Stanford
replied, "None of your damn business!" and stalked out of the meeting.
L.M. Hickman must have learned enough from these discussions to know where to buy lands
along the most likely route. Many of the patents in this collection are for Stanislaus
County properties that lie contiguous to the completed line. Hickman acquired them all in
the spring of 1869. By 1871 a rail line had reached Stanislaus county. In 1891 the
Southern Pacific Railroad named a stop "Hickman" because it lay on part of Lewis M.
John W. Mitchell was born in Connecticut of a long line of well-to-do farmers. He first
came to California in the late 1850s and farmed in the Lodi area. In the mid-1860s
Mitchell purchased lands along the San Joaquin River in western Stanislaus county and
laid out the town of Paradise City. Stanislaus historian, Jack Brotherton, writes that
Mitchell's object in founding this town "Was to establish a riverboat landing for the
distribution of the immense harvest of grain that was, in the middle and late 1860s,
reaching its greatest tonnage." Mitchell erected warehouses and a flour mill at Paradise
City and sold many lots between and 1867 and 1869. In the latter year it became evident
that a railroad would be built some ten miles to the east of Paradise City. Virtually the
entire town moved overnight to a location along the rail line which came to be known as
Fortunately, John Mitchell had purchased other lands further to the south which lay along
the rail route. He may rightly be dubbed the founder of Turlock, for he built the first
warehouse on the present site of that city. Mitchell also owned lands in the vicinity of
Atwater and Livingston. He raised sheep on his newly acquired lands until they had
effectively cleared them of brush and weeds, then he turned to wheat.
Mitchell early saw the importance of irrigation to southern Stanislaus county and helped
to organize the Turlock Irrigation District. He was a director of the District for many
When the Southern Pacific railroad route became known, he, like Hickman, purchased
additional lands. These--represented by land patents in this collection--lie, for the
most part, in Merced county.
When the Southern Pacific reached his Turlock property in 1871 the company proposed to
name a stop for Mitchell, but he modestly declined, suggesting instead the name Turlough
(Turlock), after the city in County Mayo, Ireland from which one branch of his family
originated. Tinkham characterizes Mitchell as "Plain, unassuming, kindly and helpful, and
beloved as well as esteemed." He died in 1893.
Scope and Content
These documents all pertain to public lands in the central San Joaquin Valley. Virtually
all of them represent holdings in eastern Stanislaus and Merced counties. Most date from
the 1860s---the period of wheat cultivation and railroad expansion in that region. With
few exceptions they represent the acquisitions of two men: Lewis M. Hickman and John W.