History Of Antioch California
Antioch is one of the oldest towns in California, having been founded in 1850. The year following the discovery of gold, there was a plague that overtook the city and wiped out most of the population.
The town was founded by two brothers, William and Joseph Smith, who named the town Smith’s Landing. In 1851, the town’s new minister persuaded the residents to change the name of the town to Antioch, for the biblical city of Antioch.
Around 1859, coal was discovered in several places in the hills south of Antioch and coal mining formed the first substantial business apart from farming and dairying by the inhabitants of this community. This new industry resulted in the founding of the towns of Nortonville, Somersville, Stewartsville, and Black Diamond (now Pittsburg, California), and added greatly to the economic activity of the Antioch area. The Empire Coal Company was formed by John C. Rouse and George Hawxhurst in 1876, which built a railroad that passed from Antioch toward the mines over what is now “F Street” (formerly Kimball Street). However, later on, both the mine and the railroad passed into the hands of the Belshaw brothers. The mines have long ago ceased operation, and the railroad tracks have been dug up, though the building that served as the Antioch terminus of the railroad still stands on the corner of F Street and Fourth Street, and the grading and trestles still remain much as they were in those early days.
In 1863, a great excitement arose over the discovery of copper ore near Antioch. Smelting works were built at Antioch, and a value of fifteen to twenty-five dollars per ton was paid for the ore, according to its quality. Unfortunately the copper bubble eventually burst, to the dismay of the citizens with connections. Petroleum was first drilled for near Antioch in 1865, but not enough oil was found to make a decent profit.
The Antioch Post Office was opened in 1851, closed in 1852, re-opened in 1855, closed again in 1862, and it has operated continuously since re-opening in 1863. The city of Antioch was incorporated in 1872.
The Antioch Ledger was first issued on March 10, 1870, and in all its forty-seven years never missed an issue. In memory of when the paper was formed, a copy of its first issue has been framed and hangs over the desk of the present editor. It is five by eight inches in size, printed on one side only, and its sole news item is a report and editorial comment on women’s suffrage meeting that had just been held in the town. The Ledger later merged with the Contra Costa Times and printed its last issue in 2005.
During the mid-1950s the Fibreboard Research patented a method of applying wax coatings to cardboard containers that spawned the first milk, juice and ice cream containers hence making Antioch “the home of the milk carton”.
Today, Antioch is mainly a “bedroom” community, with most adults working in larger cities toward Oakland and San Francisco. The town has seen an enormous amount of growth in the last 30 years, as the population of the Bay Area continues to grow, and real estate prices force families to move towards the outskirts of the Bay Area.
In late 2009, Antioch received worldwide media attention following the news of kidnap victim Jaycee Lee Dugard being discovered alive there, and became the focus of several news stories regarding its 1000 registered sex offenders. The LA Times ran a story titled “Sex offenders move to Antioch area ‘because they can'”, The Independent ran a story titled “How Jessica’s Law turned Antioch into a paedophile ghetto”, and CNN‘s Anderson Cooper and Larry King both did similar stories for television; the latter with commentary by TV judge Judy Sheindlin. However, the Contra Costa Times and affiliated newspapers contradicted their claim: “Disturbing, if true. Only it’s not, according to a Bay Area News Group analysis of sex offender addresses and census data.” The report concluded that the 94509 zip code ranked only 39th in the state with 1.5 sex offenders per 1000 (k), with Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Bethel Island and Vallejo ZIP codes ranked in the top ten. Monte Rio ranked first with 4.5 per 1000.