When I got "Maritime Contra Costa County," the newest book in the Images of America series by Arcadia Publishing, I wondered: How did the author, Carol A. Jensen of the East Contra Costa Historical Society, come up with that idea?
The book clearly makes the case that Contra Costa indeed was a maritime county with a waterfront that stretched 120 miles from San Francisco Bay to the Delta.
It is chock-full of historical photos of ships, ferries, barges and other things that float and carry people, products or animals. There are photos of people working in factories, piling sacks of produce on wharves, of soldiers and sailors at Camp Stoneman.
There is the picture of 18-year-old Izumi Taniguchi, who couldn't graduate with his class at Liberty High School in Brentwood because he was interned. He then volunteered for the service in World War II and served in the Pacific as an interpreter.
Included in the book's 127 pages are photos of workers at fish canneries, explosive powder factories, gold smelters, oil refineries, and paper, flour and sugar mills. These industries all came because of the county's deep-water capabilities.
I asked Jensen what gave her the idea for her book and got this email.
"Well, the original impetus was from Tom Trost, of Bethel Island. He owns the property in Antioch where the one and only black man lived and built a house located just over the city limits of Antioch and on the old Marsh land grant property. Blacks were not allowed to live or own property in Antioch, and all blacks had to be out of town by nightfall. So Tom Gains, free black man originally from New England, built his brick house and lived just on the edge."
There is a photo of Gains and his house on Page 86 of the book.
"Gains was a sailor and dockworker all his life. He worked the Distillery Wharf loading and unloading cargo. The foundation of Gains' little brick house is still there and visible at low tide."
Trost invited Jensen to see the site and talk local history.
"Tom said I should write a book on the importance of the Contra Costa waterfront. After all, everything grown, manufactured, or harvested in Contra Costa County went to market by water."
Jensen talked over this idea with Robert Chandler, retired historian for Wells Fargo. He agreed that the county's maritime history is the county's economic history, "one and the same."
"It took me a lot of talking and walking around the problem before the obvious hit me."
Jensen, a Contra Costa County native, got a history degree from UC Santa Barbara and is the Byron Hot Springs website historian and Contra Costa Historic Advisory Committee vice president. She hopes her book will "reawaken readers to the importance of the bays, rivers and wetlands to the San Francisco Bay Area. To save the San Francisco Bay is to save the California Delta."
Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at email@example.com.