Tracing Tracy Territory: Site of Ellis located at last
by Sam Matthews
Mar 22, 2013 | 2268 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mark Moniz (from left), Michelle Moniz Schmidt, Pete Mitracos and Ellen Opie check maps at the site of Ellis along Schulte Road west of Tracy. A monument will be placed on the north side of the road in Joan Sparks Park.  Sam Matthews/Tracy Press
Mark Moniz (from left), Michelle Moniz Schmidt, Pete Mitracos and Ellen Opie check maps at the site of Ellis along Schulte Road west of Tracy. A monument will be placed on the north side of the road in Joan Sparks Park. Sam Matthews/Tracy Press
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A marker to pinpoint the exact location of Ellis, the Central Pacific coaling station that preceded Tracy, has been a long time coming.

But it now appears it’s finally on its way.

That’s the word from Pete Mitracos, chairman of the Historical Land Committee of the West Side Pioneer Association.

Pete reported that it now appears the marker will be ready to be installed near the Ellis site west of town sometime this year, more than likely in the fall.

If that occurs, it will end more than five years of efforts to locate the exact location of Ellis and find a place to put the marker.

Earlier this week, Pete was among a group of people who visited the Ellis site on the Southern Pacific rail line that parallels the original Schulte Road between Corral Hollow and Lammers roads on Tracy’s western edge.

“We wanted to make sure our location for the marker was as close to the village and railroad buildings of Ellis were from 1869 to 1878,” he said.

That location will be in Joan Sparks Park on Carol Ann Drive. The south side of the park is just north of Schulte Road and the Ellis site.

The first choice for a location was along the right-of-way of the seldom-used rail line, but efforts by Tracyites to get a response from Union Pacific Railroad fell on deaf ears.

Railroads are traditionally difficult to contact, especially if the topic has something to do with their rights-of-way.

But the location in the park is near where the center of the Ellis was located, with stores, hotels and saloons lining a street parallel to the rail line.

This was confirmed by Ellen Opie, volunteer historian and researcher at the Tracy Historical Museum. She said the marker will be at the old O and 13th streets, just a block from the center of Ellis at O and 12th streets.

She said land speculators who thought Ellis would blossom into a booming town had laid out an extensive array of streets in the nine years of Ellis’s existence, but only a couple of the streets were ever occupied.

Ellen was among those visiting the site Monday afternoon. Others included brother and sister Mark Moniz and Michelle Moniz Schmidt, who grew up on the nearby Moniz dairy, and historical museum volunteers Bill Carter and Dave Middleton.

Ellis was born in 1869 when the Central Pacific’s Altamont line was completed. Westbound trains needed additional booster locomotives to get the trains over the Altamont hills to Livermore, and the booster engines were removed from eastbound trains at Ellis.

When the San Pablo and Tulare Railroad (a Central Pacific subsidiary) was constructed from Port Costa in the southeast to this area, it joined the existing Altamont line three miles east of Ellis in 1878. That junction became Tracy.

Railroad buildings, commercial structures and homes were moved by wagon to the new town in September of that year.

Ellis was doomed, but local history buffs, including this columnist, have long felt its location needed to be found and marked.

Originally, members of the Historical Landmark Committee planned to place a concrete obelisk on the Ellis site, but now plans call for informational plaque mounted on granite columns.

I don’t believe that plaque will contain a picture of Ellis. As far as I know, no one has seen a photo of the one-time coaling station.

But at least we’ll have a marker to tell us where Ellis thrived during its brief nine-year lifetime.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.
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