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TOWNSHIP NUMBER ONE.
Geography.—Township Number One is bounded on the north by Suisun Bay and the Straits of Carquinez; on the east by Township Number Three; on the south by Township Number Two and the line of Alameda county; and on the west by San Pablo Bay and the Bay of San Francisco.
Topography.—Like most of the others in the county the topography of this township is varied, ranges of foot-hills being varied with fertile valleys lying in between, while, along its western shore is a strip of the most fertile land in the State. The western coast-line is much indented, Point Pinole and the peninsula of San Pablo jutting for a considerable distance into the sea and forming the Contra Costa side of the San Pablo straits. The northern extremity of the latter is named Point San Pablo, the southern, Point Potrero, while immediately north of the line dividing the counties of Contra Costa and Alameda is Point Isabel, off which there is Brooks Island, northwest therefrom lies Red Rock, and off Point San Pablo, are the islets known as Whiting's Rock and The Brothers, where there is a lighthouse to guide the sailor into San Pablo Bay. Of the streams, we have El Hambre creek, flowing in a northerly direction through the town of Martinez, and falling into the Straits of Carquinez; the Rodeo and Pinole creeks flowing northwesterly into San Pablo Bay, and the San Pablo and Wild Cat creeks flowing westerly into the straits of that name.
Soil.—The soil of this township differs in different locations, the portion along its western border being a sandy loam and easily worked; in the small valleys it is most prolific and requires much less rain than in many other portions of the county.
Products.—The products of this township are diversified, comprising fruit, vegetables, cereals, berries and grapes. The soil is so varied in its nature that it is capable of producing almost all varieties of things that grow out of the ground to very good advantage indeed. Its orchards are a marvel to behold and its vineyards are a wonder. Its miles of grain fields teem with abundance, while its gardens show a rich return of vegetables and rare flowers.
Timber.—Of this commodity there is not much to boast in Township Number One. The ordinary oaks grow to their usual size and add much to the beauty of the scene, especially in the vicinity of Martinez.
Climate.—There is no healthier climate in the State. The portions of the township bordering on the bays are subject to the influences of the strong Summer winds that sweep through the Golden Gate and over the San Francisco hills, but are free from its fogs; while inland, the cooling influences of these breezes are felt, and add much to the healthfulness of the district.
Early Settlement.—The first settlement in Township Number One was made about sixty years ago. In 1823 Francisco Castro and Ignacio Martinez made application for and received grants of land each, the first mentioned obtaining the San Pablo tract and the latter that known as Pinole. Each of them built an adobe residence, erected corrals for their stock, and planted the first fruit trees and vines in the township. Their nearest neighbors at this time were the Peraltas and Castros of San Antonio and San Lorenzo. Up to this period the two Ranches just named were very different from what they are to-day. At that time these broad acres were one vast field of waving corn, in the months of March and April looking like and emerald sea, dotted with islands, as it were, formed from the clumps of oaks, among the many perishable land marks which still remain, and limited on one hand by the noble bays and inlets, on the other by a bold outline of hills clothed with luxuriant verdure. Roads there were none, save the divergent trails which twisted through the growth of wild oats, that reached, on every side, as high as the head of the passing equestrian. Fences there were none, therefore the prospect was unbroken, save by those objects already noted. The low-lying land teemed with game of every kind, both four-footed and feathered, that had scarcely known the meaning of death save by natural means; the creeks were stocked with finny gambolers, whose numbers had been lessened by none, except the aboriginal, while the canons and mountain sides gave shelter to the puma and the grizzly bear. Around, the vista was variegated with flowers of the richest perfumes, lending a pleasing sensation of sweet repose; the slightest sounds were heard in the vast solitude, and each in concert—the hard, grating noise of the cicada, the hum of bees, the chirping of gorgeously plumed songsters—all the signs of animation made the solitude still more profound and oppressive, until it became a relief to watch for the obstruction of the path by an infuriated beeve, or gaze in expectation for the rapid stampede of a drove of elk or deer.
With these two families to take the lead others followed as a matter of course, not so much to labor in their own interests and toil for their more fortunate fellows, but that they loved the dolce far niente mode of living to be found on the haciendas of the rich. A certain amount of state was maintained by the rancheros of those days, which they had inherited from the splendor-loving cavaliers of old Spain; they seldom moved abroad; but, when they did, it was upon a handsomely caparisoned horse, with attendant outriders, armed, to protect their lord from wild animals. The earlier locators of land brought with them herds of cattle, which, in the natural sequence of things, became roving bands of untamed animals that provided the Spanish master and his servitors with meat; while enough grain was not so much cultivated as grown, to keep them in food, as it were, from day to day. Their mode of traveling was entirely on horseback; hostelries there were none; when halting for the night, an umbrageous oak was their roof; the fertile valleys their stable and pasture; while, were food required, to slay an ox or a deer was the matter of a few moments.
The home life of the ranchero was one of superlative indolence, indeed, so was that of his satellites. Let us for a moment glance at them. In the front of the house is a court-yard of considerable extent, with the front sheltered by a piazza. Here, when the vaqueros have nothing to call them to the field, they pass the day looking like retainers of a rude court; a dozen wild, vicious-looking horses, with wooden saddles on their backs, stand ever ready for work; while, lounging about, the vaqueros smoke, play the guitar or cards, else twist a new riata of hide or horse-hair. When the sun gets lower they go to sleep in the shade, and the little horses that remain in the sunshine do the same apparently, for they shut their eyes and never stir. Presently, a vaquero, judging the time by the sun, gets up and yawns, staggering lazily towards his horse, gathers up his riata, and twists it around the horn of his saddle—the others awakening, rise and do the same, all yawning, with eyes half open, looking as lazy a set as ever were seen, as indeed they are when on foot. "Hupa! AndaF'and away they go in a cloud of dust, splashing through the creek, waving their lassos around their heads with a wild shout, and disappearing from sight almost as soon as mounted. The vaquero wants at all times to ride furiously, and the little horses eyes are opened wide enough before they receive the second dig of their riders' iron spurs.
The derivative of the first of the two Ranchos mentioned above is apparent. It is derived from Saint Paul (San Pablo), who was one of the most enthusiastic, as he was one of the favorite disciples of the Saviour. The other takes its name from Pinole (meal), it being related that here some hungry Mexican soldiers who had been in pursuit of a band of predatory Indians in the vicinity of Mount Diablo, had their hunger appeased at a small village of friendly natives when on their way to the mission of San Rafael. After passing through the valley of El Hambre (the Vale of Hunger) their first food was a mess of meal obtained on the shore of the San Pablo straits, which they named Pinole, and when Ignacio Martinez received the grant, he perpetuated the name given by the famished soldiers.
In the year 1832 a Scotchman named William Welch obtained the tract of land known afterwards as the Welch Rancho, on a portion of which the town of Martinez is built, but he fixed his abode in Township Number Two,
and has been dealt with in that portion of our work. ,