With the beginning of a new year which promises to be a time of sacrifice and struggle, it is important to look back to remember moments of difficulty and accomplishment in Merced County history. These different events tell the story of westward expansion and settlement, the birth and demise of a river town, the development of a world famous product, the incorporation of a city, and a historic presidential visit.
One-hundred-fifty years ago, Pennsylvania natives Adam Kahl and his wife Lydia Anne Kahl's journey to California exemplified the pioneer spirit of the westward movement in the post-Gold-Rush era. The Kahls set off for California with an oxen team on July 8 and reached Snelling in October 1859. During the four-month-long and tedious journey vividly described in Lydia Anne's diary, they traveled through harsh terrain, encountered hostile Indians, suffered the loss of their cattle, and faced many challenges. Despite these hardships, their determination to build a better life on the new frontier was never shaken.
One-hundred-forty years ago, the shortest-lived town in Merced County was established along the San Joaquin River. Surveyed in July 1869, Dover, situated about five miles above the mouth of Merced River, was a busy shipping point for farmers. Its location on the stage route from Gilroy to Visalia also made it a frequent stopping point for travelers. However, its popularity diminished with the coming of the railroad in 1872 as the needs of transportation shifted from riverboats to trains. Boomtown Dover completely disappeared by 1888.
One-hundred-twenty years ago, Merced was incorporated as a city of the sixth class. Founded in 1872 as a railroad town, Merced replaced Snelling and became the county seat November of the same year. On March 6, 1889, the Merced County Board of Supervisors took up the petition of incorporating Merced and called for an election on March 30. The result was 300 for and 59 against. The first elected board of trustees consisted of M. D. Wood, E. T. Dixon, W. L. Silman, J. R. Jones, and W. H. Turner.
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Looking ahead in 2009, as we are facing incredible difficulties in our time, we must remember that every challenge is an opportunity. If you are interested in our volunteer program, please come to our training on Jan. 17 at the Courthouse Museum, N and 21st streets.
Sarah Lim is director of Merced County Courthouse Museum. She can be contacted at 723-2401 or firstname.lastname@example.org