It was to Oakland’s first mayor, Horace Carpentier, that the
newly-founded Oakland in 1852 granted exclusive control of the Estuary
waterfront in return for promises to build a school-house and a
long-wharf to deep water. That grant set off decades of bitter legal and
social strife. It resulted, among other things, in the location of the
transcontinental railroad terminus in Oakland in 1869 and the creation
of the Port of Oakland in 1926. One historian has characterized Horace
Carpentier as of the "most-hated man" in the early years of Oakland. We
are still living out the implications of his questionable legacy.
More about Horace
In 1852 the town of Contra Costa boasted 70 citizens, and by 1853 there
were twice that number. Unbeknownst to these folks, Horace
Carpentier was behind the scenes, making "arrangements" that would have
long-lasting effects on the region...
Horace Carpentier arrived on the shores of Contra Costa in 1850, coming
around the Horn from New York, a recent graduate of Columbia Law School.
He may have met Andrew J. Moon, also a lawyer traveling round the Horn,
but certainly they spent five days together on the sloop that carried
miners and supplies between San Francisco and Sacramento. The third part
of the group was Edson F. Adams. These three men worked closely together
to acquire and develop real estate.
Soon, Carpentier was appointed as Enrolling Clerk at the State
legislature, which was meeting in Benicia, then the state capital. The
appointment came about through his friendship with Senator D. C.
Broderick (an associate from New York City) of San Francisco. This kept
the Carpentier and his associates in touch with the political and
financial leaders of the day. By 1852 Broderick was Lieutenant Governor
of California, and an important ally.
Incorporation of the town; a change of name.
With the assistance Lieutenant Governor Broderick, Carpentier was able
to get a bill to incorporate the town of Contra Costa before the
legislature. The petition signed by residents of the area that usually
accompanied such an incorporation request was notably absent. Carpentier
changed the name from Contra Costa to Oakland in his request for
township, and the bill was passed on May 4, 1852.
Grant of the waterfront to Horace.
On May 17, 1852 the first meeting of the new Board of Trustees for the
township was held. Carpentier was not made a member of the Board of
Trustees, but at its first meeting, the Board granted Carpentier the
entire Oakland waterfront in exchange for $5.00, a new schoolhouse, and
a series of three wharfs, one being a long wharf to reach the ship
Election as Mayor.
Two years later, Horace was elected Mayor of Oakland in a highly suspect
election - 368 votes were recorded, a number that exceeded the total
adult population of Oakland!
And thus began the fight over the Oakland Waterfront - not the Contra
Costa Waterfront, but the Oakland Waterfront, which some may say
continues on today!
For even more history on Horace's actions and legacy, see excerpts from
the rich History of the Port of Oakland
written in the WPA
era under the sponsorship of the State Emergency Relief Administration,
Project 3-F2-85. The writing style and tone changes throughout
because there were ten contributing authors working under Supervising
Editor DeWitt Jones.