History of Livermore

History of Livermore
History of Livermore

Livermore in the pre-Spanish and Spanish era

The city of Livermore is the oldest city in the Livermore Valley. Livermore is located in the Alameda County, and on the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Like most of the cities in the SF Bay Area, the place that is now known as Livermore was once inhabited by the Ohlone and Costanoan Indians. The Spanish conquistadores arrived in late 18th century, where they also built the Franciscan Mission San Jose in an effort to dominate the area and control the Indians. Like most Indians in California, they had been forced to learn Spanish and be converted into Roman Catholics; they were also given Christian names. The Indians, who were originally hunters and foragers, were also taught farming and agriculture by the Spanish. Other Indian tribes were forced to join the Mission San Jose and other adjacent missions.

Eventually, diseases spread like wildfire on all California Missions. The Indians were overwhelmed by these kinds of illnesses that were new to them, and obviously they had no almost immunity against these types of diseases. Death rates rose to over 50%, and they were not usually uncommon.

The area that is known as Livermore was used as grazing for some of the mission’s cattle, sheep and horses. As the area had no fences, the herds roamed into the wild. They were only culled back into the fields for hides and tallow, which were the only money-makers in California then.



Transferring of land grants

When Mexico drove the Spanish away from the California area, the Spanish land grants were transferred back to the private individuals; likewise, the Spanish missions were ultimately dissolved. Following the events, the Indians either continued to work on the new ranchos, or joined (or joined again) the few surviving tribes.


The story of Robert Livermore

The former Spanish land grants such as the 48,000-acres Rancho Las Positas grant, were made to British citizen named Robert Livermore and to Jose Noriega in 1839. Livermore had jumped from a merchant ship which made a stop in Monterey, California in 1822. Livermore was then made a naturalized Mexican citizen, and became a Roman Catholic not due to religious reasons but because of the requirements needed for citizenship and legal residence.

Livermore was employed in the area, married, and raised his own family. Despite the odds, Livermore was interested in horticulture, particularly grape farming, and so he wanted to pursue that. In the early 1840s, he and his family moved to the now-Livermore valley and established his new rancho there. It was in that valley where Robert Livermore had begun planting vineyards as well as pear and olive orchards.

The Americans eventually took control of California in 1847; a year later gold was discovered. An overwhelming influx of miners arrived in California in search for the precious mineral. Taking advantage of the events, Robert Livermore began making a profit by selling cattle to thousands of hungry miners. As the number of the California gold rush miners continued to rise, population soon exploded. Livermore made good of his business by raising the price of cattle as the demand for them likewise soared. Robert Livermore became wealthy in his new business. He even bought a two-storey dissassmbled house called “Around the Horn,” that was shipped tens of thousands of miles from the east coast. It is considered as the first wooden building to land on the Livermore valley.

During the gold rush, Robert Livermore’s ranch became a popular lodging stop for gold prospectors and peripatetic businessmen. He grew a reputation for being a very welcoming and accomodating host who provided room and meals for those who stopped by. The Livermore Ranch post office was established in his own home and operated from 1851 to 1853.



The economic growth of the city of Livermore as a “railroad” town; Livermore becoming a city

After Livermore died in 1858, the town was named in his honor. A man named William Menderhall is credited as the present-day city’s founder. He established the town of Livermore in 1869, where he helped the opening of the railroad through town. The railroads turned Livermore as an agricultural hub. The official US post office in Livermore opened in 1869. By the late 19th c. the town prospered as its mercantile and wine industry was thriving. New railroads were built to connect to other other California cities such as Oakland and Sacramento. The addition of new railroads had made Livermore a “railroad town” which only spurred its further economic growth.

Along with the new railroads that built around Livermore, schools, business establishments, a fire department, churches, a bank and a library were also erected. With the continuous growth of the city, people voted to incorporate Livermore in 1876. By the 1880s electric and telephone lines had been introduced and installed in the city.

Business magnate and philantropist Andrew Carnegie donated a fortune to the city, which in turn used it in erecting the now-historic Livermore Carnegie Library and Park in 1909. Other larger libraries were soon built.


Livermore vineyard
Livermore vineyard


Livermore as a place for scientific research

Livermore, as a scenic ranching community, took on a rather radical turn in 1942 when the government bought a land to build the Livermore Naval Air Station. The facility was initially meant to train Navy pilots, and operated until it was de-commissioned in 1946 after the end of the Second World War. The surplus naval base was made into the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1952, which has become one of the world’s renowned laboratories. In 1956 the city opened its second laboratory, the Sandia National Laboratory. The opening of these laboratories helped Livermore to swell its population from 4,000 in 1950 to 40,000 in 1970.

At present, Livermore’s population now stands at 83,547 as of 2012 census. Livermore enjoys its dual personality as a scientific research and industry hub (because of the two world-renowed laboratories) as well as a farming and wine area, as Livermore is one of California’s oldest wine regions.


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