But where exactly was Ellis located?
A marker showing the location of Ellis, the Central Pacific coaling station that preceded Tracy from 1869 to 1878, has been a long time coming.
Now, after five years of research, field trips and discussions, erecting a concrete Ellis monument on Tracy’s western edge is getting closer to reality.
Members of the Historical Landmark Committee of the West Side Pioneers met recently to push their long-stalled plan to place an obelisk — a concrete pyramid-style monument — somewhere along the original Schulte Road somewhere between Corral Hollow and Lammers roads.
Pete Mitracos, a committee member and city planning commissioner, told the group at its recent meeting that he would contact the city planning department to determine the steps needed to erect the monument alongside the road.
“We feel that there should be something to indicate the location of the small railroad village that existed for nine years before Tracy was founded in 1878,” he said. “It’s taken a while to get this off the ground, but we’re getting there.”
A proposal to establish a residential development called Ellis south of the location of the original Ellis has prompted renewed interest in the Central Pacific coaling station that existed from 1869 to 1878.
But whatever transpires with that proposal, the location of the original Ellis should be designated for all to see, committee members agreed.
One of the steps that has been completed in recent years leading to the monument’s construction has been pinpointing the exact location of Ellis, where Central Pacific helper steam engines were added or removed from trains passing over the Altamont Pass.
Ellen Opie, a historical researcher with the West Side Pioneers, gained the village’s GPS quadrants from the U.S. Geographical Survey, and they were placed on an aerial map of the area to determine the station’s exact location, about halfway between Corral Hollow and Lammers roads on the section of the original Schulte Road that parallels what was the original Central Pacific rail line over the Altamont Pass.
Her research also indicated that Ellis Station was established on Sept. 7, 1869, and continued in operation until the railroad and most of the buildings moved to Tracy in the fall of 1878.
The station was established in 1869 after completion of what was originally the Western Pacific (later Central Pacific and Southern Pacific) line over the Altamont between Livermore and Lathrop. At Ellis, engines were either added or removed from trains traversing the Altamont.
The main railroad line was augmented by three spur tracks, an engine house, coal bins, freight depot, passenger depot, cattle yard and section house.
A string of businesses was located on the north side of the tracks along O Street, one of a number of streets plotted out on a map by developers who had hoped to make Ellis a thriving city. In all there were some 50 buildings in Ellis, including two stores, two hotels, five saloons, livery stables, a school building and an Odd Fellows Hall. Peak population of 200 persons was recorded in 1876.
The GPS location of the Ellis community was no surprise to Mark Moniz and his sister, Marlene Smith, who grew up on the family dairy farm on the south side of the tracks. Over the years, they have dug up granite slabs used for building foundations, bottles, pieces of metal and other artifacts in the area north of the tracks.
Moniz said one of the granite slabs could be used in the base of the obelisk monument designed Ellen Opie’s husband, Robert.
During its nine years of existence, there were expectations that Ellis could be an important railroad junction. But those hopes were dashed in 1878, when the Central Pacific connected its new line running south from Port Costa to the existing Altamont line at a spot some three miles east of Ellis. That spot was named Tracy, and that signaled Ellis’ death. Many of the buildings at Ellis were transported by horse-drawn wagons in the fall of 1878 to the new town.
Ellis may be long gone, but a monument, now in the planning stages, would help today’s Tracy-area residents know exactly where the railroad village that started it all was located.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at email@example.com.