Sarah Lim: Museum Notes

Museum Notes: Ragsdale boasts a vivid past

Sarah Lim

When the first official map of the Town of Merced was recorded on Feb. 10, 1872, Merced encompassed the area from 12th to 23rd streets and from H to R. By 1885, the official map extended Merced's eastern boundary to G Street. This boundary remained unchanged until 1946 when the city annexed the Ragsdale Addition.

By the time of the annexation, the Ragsdale Addition had been in existence for 23 years. Known as Lot 59 of the Bradley's Addition No. 1, this 52-acre parcel located just east of G Street and south of Bear Creek was purchased by James Ragsdale and his wife, Nannie, in 1920.

The year of 1920 marked the beginning of a decade-long building boom in Merced. Cheap local labor, readily available construction material and easily obtainable credit attracted many individuals to real estate.

James Ragsdale, a horse dealer turned real estate developer, was no exception. Ragsdale was born on a farm in Missouri in 1869 and took interest in his father's business of buying and selling mules and horses at the age of 18. After settling in Merced County with his family in 1902, he began to invest in livery stables in Merced. He bought out the Merced Livery Stables and renamed it Yosemite Stables. Ragsdale continued expanding his business until he had three of the largest livery stables in the county.

Ragsdale's livery stable business came to an end in 1914 with the coming of the automobile. He then turned a great deal of his attention to buying and selling mules and horses. During World War I, he was called upon by the U.S. government to inspect horses and mules for the war effort.

After the war, this nationally known horse dealer quit the stock business in 1920 and entered the real estate field with the purchase of the Bradley Tract. The area was surveyed and platted in 1923 and became known as the Ragsdale Subdivision on the official map. It is an area between G Street and Sixth Avenue and Bear Creek and Santa Fe Railroad. When Ragsdale placed the subdivision on the market, he found that the demand for homes was unprecedented.

Just outside of the northeastern corner of Merced, the Ragsdale Addition was considered suburban living for many early Merced residents. Ragsdale, himself, moved to the addition in 1921. Some of the early Ragsdale Addition residents listed in the 1928 Polk's Merced City Directory included Walter J. Chenoweth, James H. McCabe, S. P. McMurray, Elbert A. Baleme, Fred Symons, Hans Gilbertsen and Leslie P. Corcoran.

Today, this well-established neighborhood is graced with beautiful tree-lined streets and historic houses that capture the 1920s era of Merced.

Sarah Lim is director of Merced County Courthouse Museum. She can be contacted at 723-2401 and info@mercedmuseum.org

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