Looking Backward


The Thompson Bloss Memorial Library will be opened to the public next Tuesday.
The people of Atwater and vicinity have been eagerly awaiting this event, feeling that the occasion is a momentous one to each individual of the community.
The building of solid concrete, which is 50x60 feet, stands alone on a lot 100x115 feet. This gives assurance that no other building may encroach upon the beauty of its scenic effect.
It is steam heated throughout, in the library proper and in the Boy Scouts’ department on the lower floor.
The woodwork inside and the furnishings – tables, chairs and movable book racks are finished in a soft shade of green, reflecting the color trimmings of the exterior.
The building is most attractive in appearance and is one in which the people of the community are taking a very personal interest and point to with pride to the stranger in our midst.
Men are now at work on the grounds, laying the sprinkling pipes for the lawn to be planted as soon as this is completed.
No expense has been spared in any detail by Mr. Geo. S. Bloss, Sr. in erecting this memorial to his only grandchild, little seven year old Thompson, who was taken from his family five years ago.
The entire cost is estimated at about $25,000.

March 26, 1925

Yesterday Contractor T.A. Wayne of Atwater began excavation for the construction of the George Thompson Bloss Memorial Library in Atwater, located at Third and Cedar streets, opposite the M.E. church. This building will be one of the prettiest structures in the county. It will cost, furnished and equipped, about $20,000. The building will be completed in five months. The structure is to be of concrete, 40x50 feet in dimensions, of one-story and basement. The basement is to contain a hall for Boy Scouts and ample space for the heating plant, janitors’ quarters and a repair and storage room for the library. The main floor is to have a large library room, with a smaller room for young people, and with an office for the librarian. The building plans for which were drawn by W.E. Bedesen, will practically be a duplicate of the library in Turlock.
The building will be named for Thompson Bloss, the beloved son of Mr. and Mrs. George S. Bloss, Jr., who passed away at the age of six in March, 1921, just four years ago. It will be a beautiful addition to Atwater, setting back from the street and surrounded with lawn and flowers.
The donors of the building are Geo. S. Bloss, Sr., and his two children, George S. Bloss, Jr., and Mrs. Edna Bloss Thorne, the latter of San Francisco.

By Mrs. Clara Arnold
Submitted July 1, 2014

When arriving in Atwater on a windy day in February 1910, the place was much different than now. No. 8 made a regular stop in Atwater.
There was a general store, post office, barber shop and a meat market. These buildings were facing what is now Highway 99, and began at Third Street and ran west n the order named. They were about 3 feet off the ground, or high enough to step off a horse. These buildings burned in the summer of 1912.

The hotel was run by the H.G. Peck family (Carrie Peck’s father) and the next place was H. Logue’s place, dwelling and pool hall. Back of these buildings on Broadway was the blacksmith shop and a livery stable.

There was a 2 room school where Neves’ implement store is now. There was 1 teacher and pupils came from a radius of 5 to 10 miles. The Coulson children attended school here until the fall of 1913.

There were about 15 houses and 60 inhabitants. They had no Doctor until March of 1910. The store opened at 6 A.M. and closed at 9 or 10 P.M. On Sundays it was open till noon. W.J. Buss was the barber and had his shop open on Saturdays and Sundays.

The church was built in 1910 but there was no parsonage. The ministers had no way of travel but Shank’s horses. One of the ministers walked around the Colony and arranged for cottage prayer meetins. It was at one of these meetings that I met the Coulson family.

We had 5 bachelors living on Fruitland Avenue, and there are few people here now who were here then.

Fruitland School District was organized in 1913, and the first term had 1 teacher and 26 pupils.

Our Women’s Club was organized in the spring of 1913, and its name was Willing Workers Club. The first president was Mrs. Cronk, and there were 12 members. The officers served 6 months and meetings were held every 2 weeks and were in the homes. Our mode of travel was by horse and buggy, but everyone was there. There was always a picnic at either Cressy or Livingston Bridge on July 4th. This year 1913, a group spent the night of July 3rd. at Livingston Bridge, and in the morning a few families went up there for breakfast, and at noon 42 ate dinner. After noon, they watched the automobile races on the highway, only it was just a dust road.

Mrs. Matson is the only charter member here.

North of Liberty Avenue was a grain field in 1910-11.

We had Sunday School in the schoolhouse in 1913-14. Mrs. Cronk and Alice Leatherman were song leader and accompanist respectively, also teachers of the primary department. Mr. A.H. Hooker had charge of adults, and several from Winton came to these meetings.

Our first money-raising event was also in the fall of 1913. Stove, dishes, piano, table and lamp were borrowed. The cloakroom of the old school was the kitchen; $15.81 was realized from this evening. After this, the school trustees levied a special tax and bought the piano we are now using. As time went on, we bought a stove, kitchen cupboard, had a sink installed in what is the library of the north room of the building. We had a kerosene lamp and a gasoline lamp. We bought several dozen folding charis as there was no furniture in the north room.

Farm Bureau was organized in 1917 and this Center met with Winton, but we soon had our own Center meetings and Home Department. The first meeting was held in the summer of 1910, and the men met in the south room and the women in the north room. Miss Long, an itinerant Home Demonstration Agent, gave a demonstration of a pressure cooker. She cooked pink beans, and we had lemonade.

During World War I, quite a lot of knitting was done, and we had a club money-raising event.
Net proceeds were $45.00 which was given to the Merced Chapter of the Red Cross. There was an Agricultural Fair in Atwater on the site of Dr. Jackson’s office building. Our Club had a booth, and our prize money amounted to $46.85. After deducting expenses, we gave $39.85 to the Atwater Red Cross. In October of his year, we gave $7.00 to this Red Cross, making total donations of $91.85. We also bought yarn and several sweaters were knitted and sent to soldiers.

Wages when we came here were 15 cents per hour.

The Fruitland Telephone Co. was organized in 1922, and the voting precinct in the early 1920’s.

The first bell in the schoolhouse was from the “Omaha” and when it came it was cracked and not very satisfactory. Another bell was purchased in 1920.

Our Club Song was composed by Mrs. Allen, mother of Mrs. Cronk. According to old minutes, it was sung at Club for the first time on June 5th, 1913.

In 1914 umbrella trees were purchased and planted and in 1915 kitchen cupboard and drop-leaf table, the two costing $13.75. Two clocks, an alarm clock and one showing the days of the week, costing $13.75 were purchased for the school. The small oil stove in the kitchen cost $11.00 and has been used since 1919.

Our fist plates cost $1.00 per dozen in 1915. Mrs. Rogers presented us with our gavel in 1918; it belonged to Mr. Or Dr. John Gillett, Mrs. Julia Houck’s grandfather. Mrs. Rogers is Mrs. Houck’s Mother.

Our round trays were gotten in 1923, and each member paid for 1 tray; total cost was $10.00.

The first issue of the Fruitland Gazette was read on Oct. 29th, 1919, Mrs. Lockie being the editor. Mrs. Rogers, our President that year, helped to edit the paper, as she had belonged to a club which published such a paper.

Mrs. Petersen and Mrs. Partch were hostesses for the Christmas Party on Dec. 13th, 1933, and could find no tree in Merced. Lilley & Stribling donated the redwood tree you see in front of the schoolhouse. On Christmas of 1933 we gave a donation of food and articles of clothing to the Atwater Firemen for the needy. Our dishes were purchased in January 1934, and we bought 6 dozen each of dinner plates, 5 inch pie plates, cups and saucers to match, costing $52.27..

April 25th, 1934 we had an Antique Day, and there was a wonderful display of antiques. Tea, sandwiches and coffee were served, and the net proceeds of the silver offering was $5.52. In February 1935 we bought 1 dozen round vegetable dishes at 65 cents each. The stage was entinted in April 1935.

Our first annual Club Luncheon was held on June 14th., 1933.

Mrs. Clara Arnold

History of Atwater, California

Geographically, Atwater is located in Merced County, California, in the large valley known as the San Joaquin. The topography, when American settlers arrived, was that of rolling plains with large rivers cutting through. This feature is what made it possible to turn the land into an agricultural paradise. Originally occupied by many clans of the Indians known as Yokuts and then by the Spanish who had large land grants, the face of the area began dramatic change after the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in February of 1848. This treaty ended the Mexican-American War and California became a part of the United States. The discovery of gold in 1849 brought people flooding into California looking for quick riches, however it also brought men of great moral character and vision.

One such man was John W. Mitchell who arrived in San Francisco, following his brother Asal, on February 22,1851. After working in this city long enough to buy equipment, John and his brother went into business cutting hay and cordwood around the Stockton area. They sold these items to the teamsters working the mines. They soon had their own wagon and tent, and plied the mines selling goods to those working in the gold fields. They set up the tent and rented out one half for $50.00 a month. Being an entrepreneur of the first order, any money John saved was used to buy land from the United States Government at the rate of $1.25 in greenbacks (paper money), or 75 cents in gold, per acre.

He had a half million acres in his name even before the official survey was completed by the United States Government. Having been reared on a farm in the Woodbury area of Litchfield County, Connecticut, the land had always been his calling. He convinced other people from his home state, including the families of his three nieces, to come west and try their hand at dry land farming. He would provide those who rented from him with seed to get started, along with farm equipment, and would also build houses for them. Mr. Mitchell, who bought and sold thousands of acres in the San Joaquin Valley, was the man who influenced the growth and settling of the land in the Atwater vicinity. John Mitchell died on November 26, 1893 at the age of 65. Though Mitchell had married, his wife Jane predeceased him and they had no children. The bulk of his estate was inherited by three nieces; Mrs. Henry Geer (Mary), Mrs. Stephen Crane (Emma), and Mrs. George Bloss (Ella). The three women were sisters and the children of Mitchell’s sister Mrs. Stone.

John W. Mitchell

Marshall David Atwater

Marshall David Atwater came to California from Bethany, Connecticut as early as 1855. He spent several years working in the Mokelumne Hills area before coming to this vicinity in 1868.

He was prompted to make the move by John Mitchell. As one of the first settlers, he began to farm wheat on acreage that he rented from Mitchell. Mr. Atwater also purchased 6,000 acres of his own north of Atwater “The Winn Ranch”.

He became one of the largest grain growers in the area. In 1872, when the Central Pacific Railroad pushed through the Valley to Merced, Mr. Atwater and Mr. Mitchell induced the railroad to put in a spur at the warehouse where Atwater stored his grain. This became known as “Atwater Switch” and made it easier for Mr. Atwater to ship his large amounts of grain. About this time he also purchased a ranch of some 4,480 acres, which was located northwest of nearby Merced. By 1876, Mr. Atwater, his wife Laura and their daughter Eliza moved to their new home on this ranch.

He became a diversified farmer growing different grains, citrus fruit, and livestock. Mr. Atwater also invented a huge grain harvester pulled by twenty-four mules. He operated this farm for over thirty years, passing away at the age of eighty in February of 1905.

George Bloss, Sr., who settled in Atwater in 1884, administered the Mitchell Estate, his wife was one of the nieces that inherited from Mr. Mitchell.

In 1887 Bloss and Henry F. Geer subdivided 480 acres into 20-acre parcels and called the area Atwater Colony. In 1888, the Merced Land & Fruit Company laid out the town and sold lots at auction. George S. Bloss and his wife, Ella Stone Bloss, approved this plan. The town was given the name of the colony.

Atwater was not going to be a fast developer, by the turn of the century only one hundred people lived in the area and its weekly newspaper was started in 1911. Atwater was, however, lucky to have George Bloss, Sr. as a benefactor for the town. He had been president of Fin de Siecle Investment Company, which had been created by all three of the niece’s families to handle the Mitchell holdings.

When this company was liquidated it was divided into thirds – one for the Bloss Land and Cattle Company, one to the Crane Brothers Company, and one to the Geer-Dallas Investment Company. Bloss’s third was used to benefit the town with a library, built in memory of his grandson, and a hospital in memory of his wife, Ella. George Bloss, Jr. and his wife Christine later continued these philanthropic endeavors.

This book pictures the progress of one town in the valley from its inception as a grain warehouse to a thriving community. Despite its slow start, the town did indeed develop. Situated in the population belt of the valley, over half of the county’s population is now centered in the Merced-Atwater area. The Santa Fe Railroad was laid north of town and, along with Highway 99 passing through town, brought excellent transportation opportunities.

George Bloss, Sr.

The Atwater Canal brought irrigation to the area, while the advent of the Merced Army Flying Field (later Castle Air Force Base) brought people and increased commerce. From the days of the Atwater Colony, Atwater is now a fully developed community.

The Atwater Historical Society wishes to pay tribute to the people whose vision was so important to the settling of this part of the San Joaquin. Without a past there would be no future.

Atwater Historical Society, Inc. • P.O. Box 111 Atwater, CA 95301

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