In the early 1850's, when the Miwok Indians lived and hunted in this fertile valley, a man named Chism Cooper Fuggitt founded a settlement which he called Liberty, after his home town in Missouri.
It served as a stopping place for freight haulers who had to rest their horses every six or seven miles. The freight haulers, or drayers as they were called, were on their way to the mother lode, taking supplies brought up river by ship from San Francisco to New Hope Landing (about a half mile north of what is now the town of Thornton.
The town of Liberty prospered and boasted a population of 100, with a school, a church, a hotel, a boarding house, and a blacksmith shop. In 1861, it was appointed as a stage coach stop for the line that brought people from Stockton to Sacramento.
Liberty was a part of a federal land grant known as the Chabolla Grant. It comprised eight leagues (one league is equal to 4,000 acres) and stretched from the Cosumnes to the north, to the Mokelumne River to the south.
Settlers bought ranches throughout the valley, and large land owners such as Obed Harvey, John McFarland, Andrew Whitaker, and John McCaulley prospered. A portion of John McFarland's property is now the McFarland Living History Ranch.
In 1869, Dr. Obed Harvey was successful in getting the Central Pacific Railroad to lay track near his property. At the time the railroad track was laid there was no town in the immediate area.
Liberty was the nearest town. Since it was a mile south, and the railroad didn't go through, Dr. Harvey saw a need to build a town along the right-of-way of the railroad track.
Dr. Harvey built his town according to the laws of 1869, which stated that anyone could create a town by having the area surveyed and selling lots. The Central Pacific surveyors surveyed and laid out the town for Dr. Harvey.
The town needed a name, so John McFarland was given the privilege of naming the town after a town in Canada, Galt, Ontario. Mr. McFarland, a successful rancher, was also a builder who built some of the first brick buildings in Galt. One such building is located on the corner of 4th and B streets and is still in use today.
Galt was originally 120 acres square and was to have a church on every corner. The streets were planned as a grid running north and south, east and west.
On June 30th 1869, Galt was assigned its first post office, housed in the brick building on the corner of 4th and B Street.
Front Street (now 4th Street) was the center of business as farmers brought their cattle and hogs to the stockyards located south of the station, to be shipped to the east. Sacks of wheat and barley could be seen piled high waiting to be picked up for shipment to the mills.
History records show that in one quarter in 1879, 47,377 sacks of wheat were shipped from Galt by rail. People now moved into Galt to work and live, and the little town of Liberty was moved, building by building, until all that remained was its cemetery.
For years, Galt was the agricultural center of the Sacramento Valley. Then came the Lincoln Highway, which went right through the east side of town.
When the Dry Creek Bridge was built, it was the longest steel bridge in California. And as people began traveling by car to and from town, the businesses moved from 4th Street to the area along the new Lincoln Highway - the street now known as LincoIn Way.
Although Galt has grown to a population of 23,000 today, it is still an agriculturally oriented community. The Sacramento County Fair, which used to be held in Galt where Fairsite School, Chabolla Center, the city swimming pool, the Concilio Building, and the flea market area are currently located, was moved to Sacramento. It still attracts students who are in 4H or FFA (Future Farmers of America) and compete for awards for their prize ranch animals.
Many large ranches and dairies still dot the countryside, and although Galt does not have the bustle and glitter of a large city, it does have breathtaking sunsets, the song of a variety of birds, and the peace of quiet countryside.
Galt is growing, but its residents can still find some of the beauty of the valley that the Miwoks and their forefathers knew, unspoiled by smog and city traffic.
A Short History of Galt, Ca
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