Use Explorer  for a better display of this Website 
Letters to the Editor 
Cover Story: Vallejo!
Headed Out
Reader of the Month
Interview with the Mayor
Working Waterfront
People Power Behind Vallejo Ferries
Vallejo History 
Waterfront Plan 
Ride with the Captain
Hyde Street Harbor Opening Bash
Picaresque Port of Oakland (continued)
Why Not an Oakland Airport Ferry?
Vallejo Waterfront Dining! 
Water Transit Authority News 
Sausalito Section
Riders of the Tides
Bill Coolidge’s Bay Journal 
A Picaresque History of the Port of Oakland

Incredible as it seems, the town had been incorporated, the city council duly elected and the waterfront appropriated by Carpentier before most of the residents were aware that Oakland existed.

The village had always been called Contra Costa. To be sure, the name was merely a Spanish term meaning "the opposite shore," but it had a musical lilt which somehow appealed to the Yankee settlers, even though most of them were opposed to anything Spanish as a matter of general policy.

There may be some poetical and sylvan significance to the name of Oakland, but those who first heard it, liked it not at all. To begin with, the name impressed itself upon their consciousness in a peculiar manner. Strangers, traders and casual callers would, from time to time, bring news that a new town had been incorporated, which was called Oakland. When inquiry as to its exact location was made of anyone living in the village of Contra Costa, usually he would shake his head and look blank. No one knew where the new town was to be found. Their chagrin can be imagined when it dawned upon them that they were indeed residents of the mysterious and somewhat mythical Oakland.

Naturally such a discovery would incite a spirit of adventure. The town had come upon them unawares, so to say, and even the most tractable and unimaginative were at once curious to learn what else had been thrust upon them—or taken from them.

The days that followed the discovery that Oakland and Contra Costa were identical proved warm and sultry for the newly elected city council. The reasoning of the citizenry was flawless. If the town was incorporated without the consent or knowledge of the people who lived there, it must have been done for no good purpose and through fraud and chicanery, and if that were so, those who claimed to hold office in the city government must have been parties to and beneficiaries of this fraud.

Flawless as their reasoning may have been, this probably was not true. In the 1850’s as in the present day, the seats of the mighty had an irresistible attraction for many and when such a signal honor as a place at the council table of a city was offered, it was not particularly difficult to find candidates who had little or no notion of the responsibilities or dangers which are requisite to the honor.

Natural surprise and perhaps disgust at the trick that had been perpetrated on the village in changing the name to Oakland seemed to appeal to the citizens as evidence that no good was intended to the town. Matters were brought to a climax of indignation when the news became general that the first act of the trustees of this new Oakland was one which some people called "theft".

Enraged citizens who felt that the board of trustees had overstepped the bounds of their authority, set out to see what could be done about it. They rose in their majesty and demanded from the board that legal proceedings should be instituted forthwith to recover the waterfront which they believed belonged to them.

A petition to this effect was filed but never acted upon. In September, 1853, on recommendations made by the committee to whom the matter had been referred, the petition was refused by the board of trustees.

In the meantime, Carpentier was anything but idle. In fact, he apparently was bringing into play all the tricks of his profession, for the Oakland waterfront began changing hands, part of it becoming the property of one, Harriet Carpentier, a niece in New York. The waterfront of Oakland in time became quite a Carpentier family affair, since Edward R. Carpentier appeared too, and he acquired a large portion of the waterfront which was subsequently purchased by Harriet.

Later still, and by devious routes not to be traced in any legal records remaining, one John Watson, on August 16, 1855, sold the entire waterfront property to Harriet Carpentier, again for the sum of $6,0000. How it ever passed into the hands of Mr. Watson, however, is a matter of the profoundest mystery; no official records divulge the secret, nor why these inscrutable transfers should have taken place.

To go back to the original trio: In December, 1853, Horace and Edward Carpentier executed a lease to Edson Adams and Andrew Moon for twenty years. The lease was for a two-thirds interest in a large beach and water lot at First and Broadway, for the sum of $2,000.

In this transaction, Edson Adams and Andrew Moon appeared in the roll of lessees, although it was generally acknowledged that the former claimed one-half of the entire property, and, indeed, did eventually obtain his share by forcible measures, subsequently selling it to the Central Pacific Railroad Company for a large sum.

Not to be so easily checkmated, Oakland’s first citizens proceeded to the waterfront in a truculent mood and went to work in November of that year. The records reveal that the president of the board laid before the trustees a certified copy of summons and complaint, made by Carpentier against the Town of Oakland, in a suit for $4,500 damages to the plaintiff’s property from a mob of riotous assemblage; to which, on the motion of Moon, an answer was directed to be filed.

There were no newspapers in those days and there is no record of the form the mob violence took, but the citizens were so thoroughly aroused that there was no likelihood of an unprejudiced hearing, so the case was transferred from Alameda County to the City of San Francisco, but in February an ordinance was passed compromising the suit.

Oakland’s enraged citizens petitioned the trustees to seek legal means for the recovery of the town’s waterfront. When this petition failed more riots followed. On October 22, 1853, the Board of trustees ordered the town clerk to remove the town records to a place of safety. This was done, which may account for the disappearance of several very important documents,

Oakland was growing. More men were coming from the gold fields to work in the less spectacular but more stable lumber industry. More sailors, deserting their ships at San Francisco, were arriving in whaleboats. Married men sent for their families and the unmarried men sent for their sweethearts and became married men. However, it is doubtful if the unbiased observer would have found the hustling, thriving young metropolis that prideful citizens believed it to be"

After two short but eventful years as a town, Oakland took on the dignity of a city. On March 25, 1854, the Town of Oakland became the City of Oakland, according to law if not in fact, for it was on that day that the first city charter was granted.

In accordance with the city charter, an election was held early in April. On April 17, 1854, the election returns were canvassed at a meeting of the trustees. Those dignitaries found that there had been 368 votes cast, which caused some consternation inasmuch as it generally conceded that this was more, by a considerable number, than the total adult population.

Carpentier was elected mayor.

Soon the air was thick with trouble again. The newly elected city council was decidedly at odds with the mayor. To add to the dilemma, the original board of trustees was unwilling to transfer the papers and public money to the new body, although they eventually did so in a confused and incomplete condition, for the treasury had been attached by Colonel John G. Hays and a legal process was necessary to release it.

Then the brewing storm burst upon the city. On August 5, 1854, at the meeting of the city council, Alderman A. D. Eames presented an ordinance to provide for the construction and maintenance of a wharf in the City of Oakland.

In substance this ordinance provided for "facilitating the commerce of the city and travel to and from it," by the establishment of a street and wharf from a point on the Encinal" in the southerly part of the city limits to the nearest deep water, on condition that the city would grant a franchise to the highest bidder. The holder of the franchise was to build a wharf and to collect wharfage therefrom. The franchise included possession of a land and water lot, one hundred yards in width along the line of the proposed wharf from the beach to the boundary line of the city and the franchise holder was to have the right to form an "association and stock company" for the construction and operating purposes.

The ordinance concluded by specifically asserting that it did not recognize any claims of private individuals to the waterfront and that its enactment should not be so construed.

On August 6, 1854, the ordinance was passed and on the 19th, four separate petitions signed by one hundred and seventy citizens were received in favor of building the wharf on the southwestern corner of the Encinal. The document was sent to Mayor Carpentier for his signature and approval.

The people had spoken, both through their representatives and by direct petition. A publicly owned waterfront was without doubt their edict. Did Mayor Carpentier heed their demand? He did not. He returned the ordinance to the council unsigned.