Modesto Village


One of the earliest photos of I Street in Modesto shows a muddy street surrounded by buildings, most of which had been moved from Paradise and Tuolumne City. This was the new village that was laid out by the Central Pacific Railroad in the center of Paradise Valley. It would be the next century before the streets were paved and the muddy mess subsided.

Modesto was not unlike other towns of the Old West. Front Street boasted saloons and rowdy cowboys. There was Chinatown with opium dens and other exotic experiences. Shootouts were common, and vigilante justice prevailed when law and order couldn't be handled in any other way.


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Ross House at I Street and Front


I Street, c. 1885. The building in the background is Ross House, transported in two sections from Paradise City. The original Southern Pacific Station is on the right. The photo is taken down I Street, which the railroad designed as the broadest street in the new village at 100 feet wide.

The Front


The Front, c. 1880. The rowdiest part of town. Taken from the middle of H Street, west of the railroad tracks. Ross House can be seen to the left with several businesses to the right. Rogers Hall, with its second story meeting hall-theater, is on the extreme right. The Front boasted saloons, opium dens and vice parlors.

The 160 Acre Village

  • 1869, Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promintary Point, Utah.
  • 1869 - 1870, Railroad lines are extended in Northern California down the center of the San Joaquin Valley.
  • Residents of Paradise City resist the railroad overtures, so the railroad bypasses the town.
  • Tuolumne City can not afford the railroad fee, so it is also bypassed by the railroad.
  • A 160 acre plot of land is to be staked and prepared in Stanislaus County for the new railroad village.
  • September 1870, the railroad trestle over the Stanislaus River is completed.
  • October 1870, the cars of the San Joaquin Valley Railroad cross the Stanislaus and enter the county. Late in the month, the new town, then called Ralston, is laid out. Plot maps change the name to Modesto.
  • November 1870, businesses, homes and goods from Tuolumne City and Paradise City begin their trek to the new location, essentially marking the demise of the old communities.
  • On September 6, 1871, Modesto becomes the new county seat of Stanislaus County, replacing Knights Ferry, which had succeeded three other locations as county seat: Adamsville, Empire City and La Grange.