These days San Ramon is a young and dynamic city and is one of the finest urban villages in all of California. It has a wide variety of stores, parks, and homes. It is also a major employment center situated in a very beautiful setting.
It was once home to the Ohlone (Costanoan) Seunen Indians who lived next to the valley creeks. It was grazing land for Mission San Jose after 1797. Later on, it included Rancho San Ramon, a 16,000 plus acre area owned by Jose Maria Amador.
San Ramon Creek got its name from Ramon, an Indian vaquero who tended mission sheep in the area. Don Amador explained in the land title case of 1855 that “San” got added to be in conformance with Spanish custom.
In 1850 the first American settlers settled when 4,450 acres of land were purchased by Leo and Mary Jane Norris from Amador. Major Samuel Russell, James Dougherty, and William Lynch were some of the other early landowners. Joel and Minerva Harlan purchased land from Norris in 1852 and built a home on what in 1853 turned into the Contra Costa-Alameda County line.
Post Office And Store
Many of the founding families of the town are still remembered today because their names appear in various street, hills, and canyons. Some of the pioneers include Wiedemann, Glass, Meese, Bollinger, Crow, McCamley, Harlan, Lynch and Norris. Both the Wiedemann house (1865) close to Norris Canyon and the Harlan House (1858) located on San Ramon Valley Blvd are still standing in their original locations, while the Glass House (1877) was relocated to Forest Home Farms.
Development Of A Village
During the nineteenth century, San Ramon had a few different names. It was called Limerick (for the numerous Irish settlers), Lynchville (after William Lynch) and Brevensville (after blacksmith Eli Breven). The development of the first village was at the intersection of the current San Ramon Valley Blvd and Deerwood Road. It was first called San Ramon in 1873 after a permanent post office got established there.
The village throughout the 1860s was a hub for various community activities. Brown and Co. established a stage line in 1864 that ran all the way from Ramon and then through the valley into Oakland. In 1860 there was a church dedicated there, and in 1863 a general store was constructed. Starting in 1867 student left their classrooms at home to begin attending San Ramon Grammar School. County Road No 2 (which later became San Ramon Valley Blvd) were lined with blacksmith shops, Chinese wash houses, jail, and saloons.
Engine House And Locomotive Turnaround, 1913
In 1891 the San Ramon Branch Line arrived as part of the Southern Pacific railroad. This resulted in other changes taking place as well. The name “San Ramon” replaced all “Limerick” references permanently. Passengers and crops were now able to travel in and out of the region, in all weather conditions. It was the line’s terminus until 1909 and boasted a turnaround for the locomotive, engine house, and two-story depot.
Attorney Thomas Bishop in 1895 obtained 3,000 acres of the Norris land (following a divorce case where Margaret Norris was represented by Bishop’s law firm). The Bishop Ranch planted walnuts, various fruit crops, grain and hay and also raised sheep and cattle. Numerous awards were earned by Bishop’s Shropshire purebred sheep. An underground aquifer partially irrigated the Ranch, and it had one of the largest orchards in the world of Bartlett pears at one point. Early in 1911, the San Ramon Community Hall was turned into the community center, drawing ranch and farm families to plays, school programs, and dances. In 1960 the building was still standing. Over the years residents belong to different community groups, including the Mother’s Club, Ramona Club, Rebeccas, SRV Farm Bureau Women, Odd Fellows and Danville Grange No. 85.
The basis for the economy was agriculture, just like it was for the whole Tri-Valley until the start of suburban development. The new Interstate 680 freeway project was completed in 1966 that run through the town into Dublin. For years there was a sign that read “San Ramon Population 100” that was an accurate reflection of how many people lived there, with the entire San Ramon for many decades having only around 2,000 people.
The “San Ramon Village” designation made its first appearance in the 1970 census, and a population of 4,084, with the entire population of 25,899. The first suburban homes were built near the county line by developers Bob McClain and Ken Volk. The Valley Community Services District was a special district that provided the new homes with garbage collection, fire protection, sewer, parks, and water.
Western Electric bought 1,733 acres from the Bishop Ranch in 1970 and made a proposal for a “new town” including light industry, stores, green belts and various housing to be placed in the middle of the city. Part of this land eventually became new homes. Then in 1978, 578 acres were turned into a premier modern office complex called Bishop Ranch Business Park.
Before the incorporation of the town, homeowners groups like the Homeowners Association of Twin Creeks and the South San Ramon Homeowners Association represented the interests of the residents before the country. These associations joined with service clubs and other organizations to give a local voice as orchards were replaced by developments.
The votersdecided overwhelmingly in 1983 to incorporate into a separate city. They took control over parks, police, development and other services. The new city showed great energy and built a new hospital, parks, community center and library. The town is no longer just a Bay Area quiet outskirt but now values its past while looking to the future.