Concord’s early days – from rowdy ­cowboys to pioneering farmers

Editor’s Note: This story is the first of a three-part series that will appear in the Pioneer leading up to Concord’s 150th birthday celebration.

In 1868, Salvio Pacheco established a small town of 19 blocks around a square that he named Todos Santos (All Saints). That settlement, started 150 years ago, was the beginning of what would become known as Concord.

Pacheco, a Mexican military veteran, submitted a diseño (request for a land grant) to the Mexican government in 1834 for the 17,000 acres considered Rancho Monte del Diablo, which covers what is now the city of Concord. Mexico had won California from the Spanish, who had controlled the area until 1822. Prior to that, the Miwok people used the area as hunting grounds.

In 1846, Pacheco and his family settled in the area—building his adobe home near what is now downtown. His family lived in that home for almost 100 years, and it still stands today at 1870 Adobe St.

Land grants for a buck

The town of Pacheco became the first village on Rancho Monte del Diablo. It was near the river where ships would dock to carry tallow and hides, and later wheat, out of the valley to markets. It reached a population of 1,000 before floods and a fire caused great havoc in 1868.

That same year, Salvio relocated the town of hard-working pioneers to a spot closer to his adobe and away from the risk of constant floods. He offered them each a plot of land around Todos Santos for $1.

Samuel Bacon was the first to take advantage of this offer, moving his stationery store and home. Bacon sold general merchandise and later became the town’s first notary public and justice of the peace.

A hotel, blacksmith shops and other businesses soon followed. Concord Grammar School opened in the early 1870s on the corner of Grant and Bonifacio.

During this era, Charles Boles was one of the school teachers. Unknown to the students and the community, Boles also went by the alias Black Bart. He robbed Wells Fargo stagecoaches in outlying counties wearing a flour sack over his head, carrying an unloaded shotgun and leaving poems at the scene of each crime. See Yesteryear, page 20 for more on Black Bart.

Settlers make lasting impact

Pacheco’s son, Fernando, is also considered one of Concord’s founding fathers. He built his own adobe at 3119 Grant St. The generous man was an accomplished horseman and often threw large fiestas for the townspeople. Later, his home became the headquarters for the Contra Costa Horsemen’s Association.

Another founding father, Francisco Galindo, received 1,000 acres of Rancho Monte del Diablo upon his marriage to Salvio Pacheco’s daughter Manuela. They erected a wood-frame house that still stands today at 1721 Amador Ave. Their descendants lived there through 1999, when Ruth Galindo died. She was a charter member of the Concord Historical Society, preserving historical records and memorabilia for the residents of Concord.

The majority of Rancho Monte del Diablo was farmland dedicated to wheat and later to fruit and nut orchards. The names of some of the prominent farming families of the late 1800s are still recognizable today — Denkinger, Gehringer, Oliveras, Ginochio and Garaventa.

Name change controversy

There is no official documentation on the changing of the town’s name from Todos Santos to Concord. However, on April 17, 1869, the Contra Costa Gazette reported, “Concord is the name, as we hear, by which the sponsors have decided to call the new village that is to form the east extension of Pacheco town …”

This did not sit well with the Pacheco family, and on Sept. 22, 1869, Fernando Pacheco placed his own announcement in the Gazette. “Known all men, and in particular all whom it may concern: that the new town started to the east of Pacheco, in the Monte del Diablo Rancho and county of Contra Costa, has falsely acquired the name of Concord, and in reality its true name is ‘TODOS SANTOS,’ as may be seen in the County Record. Wherefore, all businessmen who have any business in said town, will please remember its name, in particular, in making deeds, or any other land transactions – for in fact the town of ‘Concord’ does not exist.”

It seems he did not prevail.

Creating a civilized society

In the early 1900s, Concord was an unruly town with 13 saloons. Bar patrons crowded sidewalks, and rowdy cowboys wielded guns.

The peace-loving residents wanted to make Concord a proper city with laws that could control the rowdiness and improve life. On Feb. 4, 1905, the 500 residents voted to incorporate Concord. The plan won by a 2-vote margin, and Joseph Boyd was elected as the first mayor.

The town prospered and grew. The Pioneer, Barney Neustaeder’s general merchandise store, was a popular gathering spot where townspeople exchanged news and opinions. The Mt. Diablo Hotel served visitors arriving on the Southern Pacific Railroad. A second hotel, the Concord Inn at Salvio and Mt. Diablo streets, boasted 65 guest rooms and Concord’s “most glorious hotel” reputation.

But, a tragedy there would shape Concord’s future.

This series includes details from three books on Concord history: “Images of America: Concord” by Joel A. Harris, “History of Concord: Its Progress and Promise” by Edna May Andrews and “Concord’s Dynamic Half Century: The Years Since World War II” by Lura Dymond.