Oakland in 1850
At a Glance


1850: First stagecoach lines established

1852: First hotel; San Antonio creek declared navigable; Ferry service to San Francisco begins

04 May 1852: Town of Oakland incorporation

Abt. Sept. 1852: Julius G. Kellersberger files a survey and map of the town of Oakland

1853: Road building begins; first brewery established; steamer service to SF from San Antonio and foot of Broadway

April 1853: First church organized

June 1853: Murray Township created

Jul 1853: First public school opens

25 Mar 1854: Oakland reincorporated as a city

17 April 1854: First city election

March 1854: First Oakland newspaper, Alameda County Express, published

1855: First dry goods store

Oakland Genealogy Blog-Misc. transcriptions and items of interest to Oakland researchers. Labelled by surname. (Offsite)
Early Oakland
St. John's Episcopal Church Records-1850's
May 1854 Newspaper Classifieds
Foreign Pioneers in Oakland Before 1870

Oakland in the 1850's

Image from: Report on a city plan for the municipalities of Oakland and Berkeley, 1915.

By 1850 the influx of American settlers had begun to disturb the quiet peace and tranquility enjoyed on the Ranchos of the primary land holders of the area, the Peralta family. The discovery of gold in the state had begun a boom in immigration, and things were never going to be the same.

American Settlers

The first American settler on the lands of today's Oakland, according to all of the published histories, was Moses Chase, who inhabited a tent near the present foot of Broadway, which he intended to utilize a hunting camp. He was soon followed in February of 1850 by the Patten brothers (R. F., Wm., and E. C.) who leased land from Peralta in what would later become East Oakland (2, 97).

Just a few months later, during the summer of 1850, A. J. Moon, Edson Adams, and Horace W. Carpentier arrived, all three of whom would have lasting impacts on the city of Oakland. The three leased land from Peralta, and a small squatter settlement soon arose around their lease land. The terms and legality of the lease signed between Peralta and these three men would spawn a series of legal challenges and court hearings that lasted for years, and ended up with Moon, Adams and Carpentier prevailing. (For a biased but interesting account of these matters, see Early Days of Oakland).

Oakland Incorporated

Oakland was officially incorporated as a town on 04 May 1852, with the following as the town limits:
"On the northeast by a straight line at right angles with Main street, running from the bay of San Francisco on the north to the southerly line of the San Antonio creek or estuary, crossing Main street at a point three hundred and sixty rods northeasterly from 'Oakland House', on the corner of Main and First streets, as represented on Portois' map of 'Contra Costa' on file in the office of the secretary of state; thence down the southerly line of said creek or slough to its mouth in the bay; thense to ship channel; thence northerly and easterly by the line of ship channel to a point where the same bisects the said northeastern boundary line." (1, 204)
Interestingly enough, the incoporation of the town was actioned not by petition of residents of the town, as was required by California law, but rather by the political influence of Horace W. Carpentier. As one deposition from the later "Waterfront Wars" (see below) stated,
[D]eponent says that prior to the passage of the Act of Legislature incorporating the town of Oakland, the name of the place was Contra Costa, and it had never been called Oakland so far as deponent knew; that no proposition had ever been made amongst the residents of the place to change its name or to have it incorporated, nor had there ever been any discussion upon these matters, nor any wish expressed for the incorporation of the town; that at the time of the passage of the Act there were only about seventy-five persons residing at the place; that when it became known amongst them, through the newspapers, that a town called Oakland in Contra Costa County, had been incorporated, the people did not know that it was the town where they lived, and it was a subject of discussion amongst them where the town of Oakland was. (Signed) A. Marier (2, 109)
Waterfront Wars

Shortly after the incorporation of the town, the control of the waterfront was granted to H. W. Carpentier in in return for the building and maintenance of wharves, a schoolhouse, and a small percentage of the wharfing receipts. Once again, litigiousness became the concern of the day, and the city and Carpentier spent years in court (including the California Supreme Court) fighting for rights over the waterfront, which eventually were returned to the City of Oakland, but not until approximately 1907.

Oakland City

As part of the legal struggle between Carpentier and the city's Board of Trustees over the waterfront matter, Oakland was incorporated a second time, in March of 1854, this time as a city. The first city elections took place less than a month later, and Horace W. Carpentier became mayor (3).


1. Reports of Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of California, By California Supreme Court, Bancroft-Whitney Company Published by Bancroft-Whitney, 1898.

2. History of Alameda County, Merritt, Frank Clinton, Chicago, Ill.: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1928.

3. Various sources suppose that the election of H. W. Carpentier as mayor was fraudulent, and many point to the discrepancy of the number of votes cast in the election for mayor (368) and the number of settlers in Oakland at the time (presumably somewhat less than 368). See, for example, Centennial Year Book of Alameda County, California, by and published by William Halley, 1876, page 451.