A Brief History of Modesto

Modesto was founded as one of the San Joaquin Valley’s railroad towns.  In the late 1860s, Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker (the “Big Four”) announced plans to construct a railroad down the San Joaquin Valley to connect the northern and southern portions of the state.  They decided to extend the Central Pacific Railroad, but were unable to secure land grants to finance construction, as they had for the recently-completed Transcontinental Railroad.  Instead, land was purchased, then subdivided and sold.  Modesto’s original town layout is still visible today:  downtown is an approximately 640-acre tract with numbered streets oriented parallel to what is now the Union Pacific Railroad and lettered streets oriented to the perpendicular  (Section 29, Township 3 South, Range 9 East Mount Diablo Meridian).

Learn More

Modesto was founded as a village in October 1870, when the Central Pacific Railroad purchased approximately one square mile of land and began selling lots. Before the Central Pacific Railroad gave shape to the village, Americans had already settled in the area and began farming. Several villages sprang up to provide services to these people, among them cemeteries.

View Brochure