Schafer Park Historical Notes

The history of our area began with the Costanoan Nations that existed for several dozens of thousands of years before Europeans set foot here.  They had a life and environment radically different from what we see today. So many other authors have done such a fine job of describing those days, that I'll not attempt to even summarize, except to point out that they lived a pretty civilized lifestyle. Game was in abundance, but they didn't waste it. Housing and Building materials were easily at hand, and they didn't waste that either. Probably 10,000 people lived around the Bay area.  They had at least as much time for hobbies, games and socializing as we have today. It was a great time. Of course, since the coming of Europeans in the late 1700's, their way of life has been suppressed, to say the least.  On the other hand, their descendants still exist. They are not extinct, as many believe.

If you're interested in learning more about our area before the 1800's, see the excellent book by Malcolm Margolin entitled The Ohlone Way, published by Heyday Books in Berkeley.

Towns in Our Area

Historically, Schafer Park is located between the towns of Mt. Eden (That's "Mt." and not "Mount") and Hayward. The area where Schafer Park is located was actually closer to Mt. Eden, which was a center for shipping locally produced agricultural and mineral products through Mt. Eden Landing (also known as Barron's landing) to San Francisco and elsewhere.   In the late 1950's, Mt. Eden was absorbed by Hayward, which now puts Schafer Park pretty much in the center of town.

The center of Mt. Eden was the area around Telegraph Avenue (now Hesperian Blvd.) between Depot Rd. and Landing Road/Mt. Eden Road (now Jackson). This area is now a freeway intersection, which totally obliterated the old town center.

The center of Hayward started near the original home of Guillermo Castro (1810 - around 1870?) who had been granted an immense amount of land by the Mexican government in 1840. This grant was called "Rancho San Lorenzo," and hence, the original name of our town was "San Lorenzo."

Castro's home was located on Castro Street (now Mission Boulevard) between Clay Street (D Street) and Webster Street (C Street), across the street from the plaza (now the Hayward Library).  (Actually, the house's foundations may still exist, buried under the first Hayward City Hall/Jail)

Where Hayward Came From

William Hayward came to California because panning for gold sounded better than working in a shoe factory back in New England for the rest of his life. Once he got here in 1849, he soon realized there was more money in selling shoes than in mining gold, so he went into business. He wandered onto Don Castro's rancho because he liked the wild oats that grew there (up to eight feet tall!) and figured the old Don was probably into real estate developing and would help him get a start. He set up a tent and waited. Eventually, Castro found him and tried to have him evicted.

However, Hayward wouldn't budge. One day, he came round to Castro's house and made him a pair of boots. This shoe-making ability, and his stubbornness in not wanting to leave, convinced Castro to hire him, and then later to sell him 40 acres between present-day Mission to Main and A to Rose. Hayward set up a general store, started a small dairy, but really hit the big money when he decided to build a hotel/resort. Eventually his hotel had a hundred rooms. People came out from Oakland and San Francisco for a weekend in the country.  

Meanwhile, Castro had lost his thousands of acres of prime ranch land in a card game, whereupon he emigrated to Chile with most of his family in 1864. The land was split up and sold to many different local people, including Hayward.  Since Hayward's hotel was the most prominent landmark around, people started referring to the area as "out by Hayward's" or simply "Hayward's."

Hayward became the road commissioner for Alameda County, which helped him when they developed roads where he wanted them, and thus further increased his prosperity. Eventually, a town was chartered in 1876 called "Haywards"  When it came to naming the post office, however, there was some sort of rule against naming a place after a living person, so for awhile, the official address was "Haywood."  Hayward was well-respected and liked to the end of his days (in 1891).

Where Mt. Eden Came From

According to historian John Sandoval, the name Mt. Eden derives from a small town named Mt. Eden in Kentucky (located between Louisville and Lexington). A group of Kentuckians came from there to try their luck in the California gold rush, which meant they had to walk all the way. They had at least one large Conestoga "covered" wagon for carrying supplies.  On the wagon's cover they painted "California or bust" on one side, and on the other side they painted "The Mt. Eden Company."

However, by the time they actually reached San Francisco Bay, they'd had enough. They split up their supplies and each went his own way. But a few of them remained where they were for awhile, trespassing (or as the history books say, "squatting,") near the shores of the bay by a crossroads in their old wagons. They took the part of the wagon cover that said "Mt. Eden" and nailed it between two trees. Maybe it made them feel more at home, despite the lack of bluegrass. Eventually they moved on, but the cover remained. So ever afterwards, the locals kept calling the crossroads, "Mt. Eden." Actually, it's pretty funny, since there is nothing even remotely resembling a mountain (except maybe for the freeway overpasses) in that part of town.

How Hayward Developed

Hayward grew steadily throughout the late eighteen hundreds.  Its economy was based on farming everything under the sun, and on tourism.  To these ends, several hotels were bought and a rail line to Oakland was laid with a station in the center of town by the plaza (where the library is today).  Things were going well until the "big one" (an earthquake, that is) hit in 1868, which killed a few folks, wrecked the train line, and demolished several buildings. You can see pictures of this catastrophe on UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library Web Site.

Needless to say, Hayward recovered well afterwards.  The rail line was sold to one of the larger railroad companies, who revived it.  There was even an electric street car line that came from Oakland and terminated on Niles Road (present-day Mission Boulevard) near to where the Hayward Plunge stands today. People came from the Bay Area cities on weekend trips to enjoy the climate and fresh air and bucolic splendor.  There was even a great view of San Francisco burning in 1906 if you climbed on the roof of the Hayward Hotel. Besides the immigrant Americans, there were several families of Portuguese from Portugal and the Azores who took part in the development of the town.

How Mt. Eden Developed.

Mt. Eden's development was similar to Haywards (after all, they were only about 4 miles apart). They both had farms that grew almost any crop imaginable, but where Hayward had tourism, Mt. Eden had a shipping industry and a salt-harvesting industry.  The salt industry began before Hayward with the Costanoan Nations who lived here before. Then there were several dozen small salt-producers around the south Bay. Next, as is usual in a stable market, larger companies began to out-compete and aggregate smaller ones until only a couple were left. In Mt. Eden's case, these were the Oliver Salt Company and the Leslie Salt Company. After 1931, only Leslie Salt remained.

The shipping industry declined over time, as more trucks and trains became available, and long-distance shipping grew in Oakland.  Then the Mt. Eden-San Mateo bridge was opened in 1929 (it was completed several months ahead of schedule!).  This was before the Golden Gate or Bay Bridges were completed.

Besides the immigrant Americans and Portuguese mentioned with Hayward, many of Mt. Eden's leading citizens came from Northern Germany and Denmark. In fact, at times, Mt. Eden was referred to as "Germantown." Many of the Germanic names of early settlers and prominent Mt. Eden families will be very familiar to those who live in the area today, because of the streets and schools that bear their names, names like: Brenkwitz, Ruus, Johnson, Oliver, Clawiter, Gading, Harder, and Schafer.

Schafer Park's Development

Development is the right word. The Schafer family had held farm lands in our area since the mid-1860's, when A.W. Schafer arrived from Germany and bought 400 acres from the Soto estate. In an 1879 Directory of Alameda County, he was listed as having 489 acres.

As time passed, hisfamily intermarried with the neighboring Olivers. A.W. and his son William eventually built fine homes on Mt.Eden-Hayward Road (now Jackson Street) around the turn of the century.

In the early forties, Hayward's population skyrocketed (as did the entire Bay Area) because of the new growth industries at the time (War supplies, that is).  After the war was over, most stayed because of the great climate and other amenities California had to offer, and even more came in the early fifties. Thus, the Schafer family eventually sold their tracts to a real estate developer in the mid-fifties.

Schafer Park School was completed in 1957. There used to be a fine brass plaque in the front of the school commemorating the event, but sometime in the early nineties, somebody stole it.  It's not been replaced. According to my former boss Leo Bachle, Schafer Park was a Junior High School in its early days, but eventually it became the elementary school we know today. This summer (1997) sees its first major renovation since that time (and its second new paint job in all that time).

Further Reading

Besides the book by Malcolm Margolin mentioned above, I read two other books before writing these summaries.

All three of these books are available at the Hayward Public Library in downtown Hayward.

Additionally, once we finally got the Schafer Park library unpacked in November 1997, I found the following book there:

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