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The early years of Roseville

By: Leonard “Duke” Davis Special to The Press-Tribune
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Fruit shipping became an important factor in the economy of Roseville at the beginning of the twentieth century. Figures compiled by the Roseville Board of Trade for 1901 revealed that during the year alone, more than 781,000 pounds of fresh deciduous fruits had been shipped from Roseville, along with 3,000 boxes of oranges, 22,380 pounds of picked olives and 8,000 pounds of olive oil. Hand in hand with the increased activity of shipping fruit was a great upsurge in viticulture with local crops estimated at $570,000. Carefully compiled statistics show that a total of 1,195,436 boxes of grapes were shipped from the Roseville depot in 1901. Plans for the establishment of a winery in Roseville were announced in 1905. By October of the next year, more than $75,000 had been expended in buildings and equipment for the Placer County Winery. William Haman, earlier employed at Leland Stanford’s vast wine producing estate at Vina, was hired as superintendent, and it was not long before the winery made its first run and soon rated second in importance, only behind the railroad. Fire destroyed the winery in 1908, but it was rebuilt that same year. A second fire occurred in 1909, destroying all but the brick portion of the plant. Rebuilt once more, the winery operated successfully until the advent of prohibition. Later M.J. Royer operated the Roseville Ice and Beverage Company in the old brick building formerly housing the winery. With the decline of the winery, Haman became manager of the Southern Pacific stock corrals in Roseville and invested in several parcels of property in and around town. Active in politics, Haman was elected to Roseville’s first City Council in 1909 and did not retire from politics until 1931. The Haman residence – a two-story home located at the corner of Oak and Taylor streets – was later used for the Roseville Arts Center. But not until the railroad switching yards moved to Roseville in 1906 did the town really grow, marking the beginning of a new era, an era which would almost overnight change Roseville from a little shipping station to the most important freight handling terminal on the Pacific Coast – the “St. Louis of the West”. The formal announcement that Roseville had been selected for the site of the Southern Pacific yards brought a startling transformation for the little village. Instantly the town began to boom. Atlantic Street had to be moved back a hundred feet to accommodate miles of new track. Clouds of yellow choking dust hovered continually over the town as teams of mules and work horses worked from sunup to sundown seven days a week preparing the ground for the construction workers waiting patiently nearby in their temporary tent cities. The first building was moved off that thoroughfare during the summer of 1906. While the tracks were laid, the new round house was reported to be rapidly taking shape. The first switch engine for the local yards arrived on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 1906. Additional railroad construction in December necessitated the moving of the Western The great influx of railroad men to Roseville necessitated much new construction. One person who benefited from the increase was Elizabeth “Grandma” Morgan. Morgan moved to Roseville in 1894 after the death of her second husband. When the railroad craze commenced, she turned her home into a railroad boarding house – Morgan’s Boarding House, which became popular for many years. Numerous real estate firms came into existence; subdivisions were laid out and miles of sidewalks and streets were put down. Up to October 1906, local realtors reported the sale of some 500 lots in Roseville at an average price of $250 per lot. A serious water shortage was created by the tremendous influx of newcomers. The water demand could not be met by the back yard pumps that had provided Roseville’s citizenry with its water supply. Consequently, a water franchise was granted to Hemphill & Leahy, who earlier had been granted an electric light franchise. Starting operations in the fall of 1906, the Roseville Water Company, with two reservoirs – one of which held eight million gallons – commenced building mains and pipes in every direction. While Roseville’s business district was growing by leaps and bounds and its population increasing daily, the community still found time for entertainment. A baseball team was organized and games were held at the depot ballpark in the railroad “Y,” and later, up in the Forest Oaks subdivision .The town band was reorganized by the Schellhous brothers and concerts were held regularly at the bandstand in Depot Park. Summer picnics along the rose-bedecked banks of Dry Creek or out at Sylvan Grove continued to be popular, along with Sunday drives up the old country road to Rocklin. Dances at Branstetter Hall continued to provide entertainment for residents. The Roseville Chamber of Commerce was organized on Oct. 17, 1906. A pressing need for adequate drainage for Roseville’s streets, an electric light system, and a local telephone exchange prompted the Chamber of Commerce to immediate action. A communication was sent at once to the Southern Pacific authorities regarding a drainage system, and shortly thereafter, work was started by the railroad at Grant Street on a ditch, which was to cut through to the creek. Mr. Leahy, who had been given the electric light franchise, was contacted by the Committee on Public Improvements concerning the installation of electric lights. By the end of November a carload of poles had arrived and another was expected shortly. The Capital Telephone Company was contacted in December regarding the installation of a local exchange and informed the committee that if 12 or more subscribers could be obtained such an exchange would be possible. Mr. Linnell obtained 14 subscribers, and a 50-phone switchboard was soon installed. Rapid and continued growth throughout 1906 and 1907 brought up the problem of adequate fire protection. At the instigation of the Chamber of Commerce, fire hose and hose carts were purchased and fire hydrants installed throughout the community. By January 1908, Roseville was the proud possessor of two hose carts and two hundred feet of hose; two additional hose carts were added a year later. That same year, the Chamber of Commerce pointed out the need for the creation of a hose company for each cart. It was not until March, 1910 however, that a “Municipal Volunteer Fire Department” was organized. Other improvements to be considered by the chamber in 1907 and 1908 included improved mail service, better streets and roads, street sprinkling and law enforcement. Possibly the most serious problem to confront the hard working Chamber of Commerce during this period, though, was the one created by the lack of any kind of municipal sewage system and garbage disposal service. A sanitation committee was appointed in February 1907 to investigate the matter, but not until 1910, when the city trustees passed a sewer bond election for approval of voters, was this problem effectively met. Saloons accounted for the majority of business growth in 1907. At the time there were no fewer than 12 drinking emporiums listed in the advertising columns of the Register. By November 1909, this already imposing list peaked at 20 – three of which were so situated that railroad workers could reach them while going to and from work. Because of the numerous saloons, which sprang up along Pacific Street, that thoroughfare received the nickname “Whiskey Row.” The problem of alcoholism finally reached the point where Southern Pacific officials said that it could not trust its trains to men who appeared for duty intoxicated and demanded removal of objectionable saloons near the railroad yards. The considerable building and commercial development, which characterized Roseville throughout the 1920s, was curbed drastically by the Great Depression. Building permits for 1929 totaling $175,799 were said to have been the lowest in years. Building permits for 1930 plummeted to $49,085 and were only slightly better the following year when $58,634 was spent on new construction. A depression low of $16,059.45 was reached in 1933 but business began to recover somewhat in 1936. Surprisingly, some important improvements were made during this period – most importantly the establishment of a new bank. With banks closing all over the nation, a group of local citizens headed by M.J. “Joe” Royer organized The Citizens Bank of Roseville in the Forlow Building store space recently vacated. Other additions to Roseville’s business district during the decade included the J.C. Penney Company (1930); Veterans Memorial Hall (1930); Sterling Lumber Company (1933); Broyer Mortuary (1934); Green Front Restaurant (1935); Onyx Café (1936); Sutter Apartments (1938); the Purity grocery store and the Lees building (1939). – Information courtesy of Leonard M. “Duke” Davis and the city of Roseville.