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Homepage > History > 1880s

1880 - 1890


Roseville continued its “slow but sure” development throughout most of the 1880s. The opening year of the decade was significant in that on May 22, 1880, the community’s pioneer newspaper, The Roseville Farmer, was established under the editorship of Samuel J. Pullen. The Farmer must have been a short-lived paper for no further mention of it appeared in either the Placer Herald or Sacramento Union.

Near the end of the year, work was started on a brewery for the town and shortly thereafter, Mr. Scott began construction on a brick billiard hall on his lot on the corner of Atlantic and Lincoln Streets. W.J. Branstetter also completed a new store in July, 1881. Three months later, Tom Berry tore down his old building he built in 1870 and began construction of a fine, large billiard hall and saloon on its site.

A touch of civic pride was reflected in 1881 when the townspeople erected a flag pole, some 83 feet high, in front of the Golden Eagle Hotel, opposite the town square. The town square, or public park, was a favorite gathering place for many local inhabitants, particularly after 1881 when the “Sunday Law” prohibiting drinking on the Sabbath was strictly enforced. Townsmen who usually met on Sunday at one of Roseville’s saloons now found the doors padlocked. Having nothing better to do, they would adjourn to the public park where some 30 or 40 of them would spend the day sitting on the fence surrounding the park, exchanging stories.

In spite of the hardships, real or fancied, brought about by the passage of the “Sunday Law,” Roseville residents still found time to go about the business of building a town. Dr. Niles announced his intention in 1882 of constructing a building which reportedly was to be used as a drug store. A number of other new buildings also were reported to have been built in the surrounding area during the course of the year.

The most noteworthy constructions were the First Methodist Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church. Prior to 1882, Roseville had no church building of its own. Services were conducted regularly at the school house by various ministers. The Reverend H.L. Gregory, of the Methodist Church, was Roseville’s first resident minister. When he arrived in Roseville in 1880, he found a congregation containing only six or seven members. By 1882, under the leadership of Rev. Gregory, plans were laid for a permanent church. Mrs. Anna F. Judah donated a lot on the corner of Washington and Church streets, and work soon began on Roseville’s pioneer church – the First Methodist Episcopal Church. Bricks for the walls were made by J.D. Pratt in his brick yard. Much of the carpentry work and brick laying was donated. Dedication of the $2,500 Methodist Church took place in March of 1883. Local saloons closed down for the event, and Dr. Jewell had the saloon keepers subscribe donations against each other, raising $900 at the event. The foundation of Roseville’s second church, the Presbyterian Church, was laid in December of 1882.


First Methodist Episcopal Church – City collection


Roseville's original Presbyterian Church - City collection

Two new warehouses were constructed by A.B. McRae and Cassie Tomer Hill in 1883 to accommodate the ever increasing amounts of grain that were being hauled into town.

McRae had been a farmer in Roseville since 1876. Besides farming, he engaged in the breeding of fine horses – such as Morgan, Percheron, Clyde and English Coach – and participated in hay and grain wholesale business for which he built a brick warehouse on railroad property along Atlantic Street.

Hill arrived in Roseville in 1881 where her husband was appointed depot agent and telegrapher after the 1880 death of Cyrus Taylor. Her husband died in 1885 and in spite of many voicing their concern, Hill took over her husband’s job as telegrapher and station agent. She quickly erased any lingering doubt with her competent manner in running the station. During her appointment, she resided and raised her family in the depot building until 1907 when a new depot was built. The affection Hill held for her home of so many years was reflected in a poem, “The Old Depot,” which she penned and published in the Roseville Register in March, 1907.


Cassie Tomer Hill – City collection

As far as we have been able to determine, Hill served as the only female agent along the vast Central Pacific Railroad system. On top of her station duties, she performed as a Wells Fargo agent for the next 22 years. She retired and lived in a two-story building on Lincoln Street with her residence situated above a space utilized over the years for different stores.

Jesse Blair, pioneer businessman of Roseville, was instrumental in the establishment of three new businesses in 1883. Blair moved to Roseville in 1879 and engaged in various business activities which included operating a saloon for a time. Then in 1883, in partnership with William LaDue, he opened the Rialto Livery Stable, Rialto Saloon and Rialto Meat Market. In 1905, Blair and pioneer Roseville orchardist Lewis Leroy King Sr. opened what was perhaps the first formal real estate and insurance office in town. For a time, 1906-1907, he also served as assistant manager of the popular Western Hotel, but for the most part, the remaining years of his life were spent in the real estate business. Meanwhile, the Rialto Livery Stable (1891) had been rented by James Way.Still later (1899), it was operated by George Ireland. Dietrich & Harris took over active management of the business in 1903 and operated it until 1906 when the property was purchased by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company.At that time the livery stable and most other buildings on Atlantic Street were torn down or moved so that Atlantic Street could be moved back 100 feet to accommodate railroad expansion. One year after Blair & LaDue had opened their Rialto Saloon, Rialto Livery Stable and Rialto Meat Market, work was finally started on a flouring mill by Frey Bros. & Co., an industry which the town had long coveted.


Blair and Rialto Saloon – City collection

Fire destroyed McRae’s barn in March, 1885 and the following year saw the destruction of the new Roseville Roller Flouring Mill at a loss estimated around $40,000.This was a serious blow to local industry, for the recently completed mill held much promise for increasing trade to Roseville which had formerly gone to Sacramento. As serious as this loss was to local aspirations, the town still considered itself lucky to have escaped the destruction of fire which her neighboring communities of Rocklin, Lincoln, Sheridan and Auburn suffered during the latter part of the nineteenth century. During this period, when small towns were characterized by flimsy constructed frame and by little or no fire protection, the danger of fire was an ever-present threat. Yet, throughout this period, Roseville, without even the benefit of a volunteer fire brigade, almost totally escaped the ravage of fire, with but a few exceptions. The explanation for this good fortune lies in the town’s size, rather than by any effectively preventive measures. Roseville was a small community, consisting almost entirely of private homes, spaced at convenient distances from one another.If a dwelling or business house caught on fire, there was little danger of the flame spreading. What few fires that did occur during this period were usually confined to one building and caused little damage to the town as a whole.

Although appreciably shaken by the destruction of their highly prized flour mill in 1886, local businessmen showed their faith in the permanence of the community by constructing several new business buildings during the remaining years of the decade.

Such a businessman was J.M. Fitzgerald, who owned and operated a blacksmith shop on Pacific Street. On Nov. 20, 1886, Fitzgerald was granted permission by the I.O.O.F. Lodge and J.D. Pratt, proprietors of the top and ground floors of the Odd Fellows Hall building to use the west side of their walls for a brick edifice he intended to build adjacent to the Odd Fellows building. Following completion of his two-story brick building, Fitzgerald constructed a new blacksmith shop on Pacific Street in 1887, presumably on the site of his old shop which dated back to 1878. Fitzgerald operated his blacksmith business until the fall of 1890 when he came to an untimely death. Utilized principally as a saloon, the brick building was purchased from Catherine Fitzgerald (widow of J.M. Fitzgerald) by John Herring in February 1899. Herring, a farmer in the Roseville district since 1893, later became associated with William Sawtelle in the merchandising business. Following the removal of the railroad shop from Rocklin to Roseville between 1906 and 1908, John Herring entered the real estate business, a profession he followed until his death in 1935. The saloon, which occupied the ground floor of the two-story building, was operated, for the most part, by Herring’s brother P.E. Herring, first under the name Model Saloon and Café and later as the Up-to-Date Saloon. Like most other buildings on Pacific Street, the Up-to-Date Saloon was destroyed by fire in August, 1911.


Fitzgerald House – City collection

The year 1887 saw the reopening of Morgan’s skating rink on Atlantic Street, a short distance below Tom Phillips’ saloon and livery stable. Tom Phillips, a native of England, arrived on the Pacific Coast in the early days and helped start the historic Saddle Rock restaurant in Sacramento which recently gave way to that city’s redevelopment. Phillips moved to Roseville in the 1880s where he operated the Bee Hive Saloon and Livery Stable on Atlantic Street. The traveling public could rest their horses in the shade of the canopied shelter in front of his saloon while they drank inside. Years later, many could still recall the sign Phillips posted in front of his Beehive Saloon:

All our lives within the hive, our drinks are as

sweet as honey.When you get dry, come in and

try, but don’t forget the money.

Phillip’s saloon and livery stable were among Roseville’s leading business establishments during the later decades of the nineteenth century. He continued to operate the Bee Hive until 1906 when the railroad expansion forced Atlantic Street to be moved back 100 feet. He sold the building to Joe Harris and opened a new livery business on Lincoln Street. Phillips commenced construction on a new saloon on Vernon Street in 1907 but died days after its opening. Joe Harris moved the old Beehive Saloon to the corner of Vernon and Bulen Streets where, in April 1907, he reopened the establishment under the name of the Shady Corner Saloon. For many years the building was used as a secondhand store. In the 1930s, it was torn down however to make way for a service station.


Phillip’s saloon – City collection

The railroad industry continued to develop when the Southern Pacific Railroad absorbed the Central Pacific Railroad in 1887. Thomas & Son, J.D. Pratt and W.J. Branstetter continued as leading suppliers of Roseville’s mercantile needs. Several saloons, two hotels and three blacksmith shops, including the shop later known as the Ed Hammill Blacksmith Shop, comprised the town’s other leading business establishments.

Hammill, a native of Indiana, came to Roseville in 1880 where he worked at J.M. Fitzgerald’s blacksmith shop on Pacific Street. He bought the T.M. Brown properties and established his own blacksmith shop which he continually operated until 1907 when he sold it to A.B. McRae and John Hill and acquired a new, larger shop across the tracks. Two or three years later Hammill sold this shop and built a new one at Main and Washington streets in 1909. He operated in this blacksmith until 1923 when he sold the structure to A.E. Zonneyville and turned over the blacksmith shop business to Mr. Zonneyville’s son-in-law Harry J. Schmeling. Hammill retired to his home where he sold and repaired farm implements from a small building on his property.


Hammill blacksmith shop – City collection

The population for Roseville and vicinity had increased to 500 people by 1888, representing an increase of 150 over 1883. The population of the town itself, however, still remained at about 250. The “slow but sure” development which had characterized Roseville from its earliest days had begun to wane. Not a single new building of any importance was constructed in 1888, nor was there any major construction reported in the files of the Herald or Union for the following year. As the decade drew to an end, Roseville seemed to have reached the maximum growth necessary for its position as the distribution point for the surrounding agricultural region.


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City of Roseville 311 Vernon St., Roseville, CA 95678. Phone: 916-774-5200.
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