Martinez Historical Society Newsletter March 2007 - Vol. 34, Nov. 2

Recently the City of Martinez donated a number of original documents and historical records to the Martinez Historical Society. Many of them are folded into standard legal covers. Some are typewritten on foolscap and some are handwritten on lined notepaper. A few are in mailing envelopes scrawled over with doodles. At first glance they look like the tedious minutiae of records that only a nesting pack rat could love. Taken as a body of documents, however, they represent the building up of what in recent years has come to be called the "infrastructure" of a town.

As used by urban historians and planners, the term refers to the facilities and functions that support people's lives in a place-roads, bridges, sewers, water supply, and energy generation are examples. These documents from the city clerk's office, most of them dated between 1887 and 1910, detail the grading and surfacing of roads; bids and contracts for crosswalks, sidewalks, sewer lines, and an Alhambra Creek bridge at Main Street; franchises for electric power; and petitions for roads and sidewalks.

Here and there are cries for help, with underlying passion--or anger-that can be imagined. On Dec. 21, 1903 Frances Webster Fish wrote to the Martinez Board of Trustees:

I beg to request your honorable body not to allow the carrying away of dirt from the bank in front of my property. The street is sufficiently wide for all present requirements, the dirt is being taken away without regard to the future beauty of the street, and the excavating is already interfering with the roots of my trees. This is a beautiful street, a favorite walk for people on Sundays and holidays, and I hope that sometime we may plant flowers and vines on the bank, and make it more attractive. In the interest of the future possibilities of the street, I would ask that if you have at any time granted the privilege of removing dirt from this bank, that you will withdraw the permission and so notify the parties concerned.

In another kind of complaint, night watchman S. M. Morey wrote to the Trustees that on two occasions he had arrested a man only to find on the following day that the prisoner had been released with no record of the arrest. "It is certainly not for the best interests of the Town," he added, "to assist a prisoner in avoiding an intervue[sic] with the Judge," and he hoped "this will be a sufficient warning."

There is a petition to remove a tree, and a petition protesting the removal of a tree. There are a few letters demanding payment for work performed under contract with the city.

There are varied petitions about saloons in Martinez. In March 1901, 35 residents signed a petition to establish an 11 p.m. closing hour for saloons and to enforce a curfew for boys. In January 1905, 42 signed a petition to limit the number of liquor licenses in Martinez, and a month later 6 property owners signed a protest against granting a liquor license on a lot at Ferry and Main streets. This was followed in 1906 by a petition to reduce the cost of liquor licenses it got 107 signatures (the reader has one guess as to where the petition was circulated).

The Society thanks the City of Martinez for this important addition to the resources available for researchers at the Museum.  – Ruth Sutter – Martinez Historical Society News Letter - March 2007


Martinez Historical Society

1005 Escobar Street - Martinez, CA 94553  (925) 228-8160