The Land of Cotton 

California Cotton MillsIn 1883, the south shore of Brooklyn Basin became the land of cotton. But here the crop was not hand-picked by impoverished sharecroppers--it was hauled in by rail to the California Cotton Mills. There, two Scottish immigrants--John Yule Millar and William Rutherford--helped establish a textile industry on the West Coast and a market for California-grown cotton.

The mill's largely Portuguese-American work force was paid its daily wages in coin. The sound of the earnings tinkling in the pockets of those workers--who settled in a company town beside the mill--gave the neighborhood the nickname "Jingletown."

A new state-of-the-art facility replaced the original mill in 1917. Much of the factory was demolished by the construction of the Nimitz Freeway in 1954. Only a portion of the plant remains, a brick and glass relic of Oakland's industrial heyday.

Steven Lavoie
Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room

Oakland Museum of California Logo  "Walk Along the Water"
  Oakland Museum of California, used with permission.

Update: The remaining mill structure has been awarded City of Oakland Landmark status and converted to work/live lofts.  A brick wall can be seen beside Freeway 880 where it cuts through the site of the original mill.  Bill Threlfall, Waterfront Action, 2009

Explore this Topic:

California Cotton Mills Historical Video - Internet Archive

Twine Works at the California Cotton MillImage of twine works at California Cotton Mill, ca. 1890s - Oakland History Room, Oakland Public Library


Remaining mill structure2009 photograph of remaining mill structure - Waterfront Action


Freeway 880 cuts through mill2009 photograph of Freeway 880 where it cuts through the site of the original mill - Waterfront Action

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