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   Contra Costa/Alameda County Line

When one refers to the County Line, it is the boundary between Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, which, on San Pablo Avenue, is the existing creek which runs all the way from the bay on up into the hill area. In other words, it is the dividing line between the cities of El Cerrito and Albany, and is referred to as Cerrito Creek. During salmon spawning season a few salmon have been seen going up stream. One extra long salmon was taken a few years ago way up to Everett Street where there is a smaller stream that runs off the County Line Creek.

Near the north bank of the Cerrito Creek where Yosemite Avenue dead ends once there was an old graveyard which had wooden posts driven into the ground and a wooden fence around it to indicate the boundary line. It was said that Victor Castro had buried in this spot some of his help that had passed away. This graveyard is shown on the old county maps in the 1890's. A few hundred feet west or, down stream from the graveyard on the Albany side, are a number of holes in large rocks where the Indians ground their meal. During grading along the creek lots of shells were encountered.

After the earthquake and fire in San Francisco in 1906, the village of Rust started to grow as refugees from San Francisco started to move in to find other places to live.

On San Pablo Avenue at the County Line in 1906 one could see a long narrow wooden building in the middle of the Avenue with a large sign that said "Lunch" on the end. On the other end of the building was another very small building in which "One Arm Blind Jim" and his dog "Tippy" sold candy, cigarettes, cigars, gum, and the Oakland Tribune. Jim's real name was James Lipp and it was reported that Mayor Davis of Oakland, in 1906, built this small building for Blind Jim to establish his business.

The streetcars coming from Oakland would stop on the east side of the small building as this was the end of the streetcar tracks. The people would get off and walk to the west side of the building as there was another car waiting to take riders to Richmond, if they wished to continue. There was no paving on San Pablo Avenue at that time and it was very dusty and in the winter very muddy. They would then change the trolley pole of the car that just came to the County Line and it would head back towards the Oakland direction.

A few yards east of this streetcar stop stood a very large wooden two story building with a round cupola on the roof. This building was known as the County Line Saloon operated by Louis Hagen and Fred Munday. Louis operated the rooming house, and Fred the saloon portion. This was an ideal location for their saloon because of the car stop and was being visited by patrons all the time.

Next door, just north of the saloon, was the one story Boulevard Gardens Office of the Schmidt Skilling Company Real Estate. Out front of the office one would see several of their agents seated on wooden chairs waiting to try and intercept a prospect who they could sell some land to.

This was only several hundred feet from the old Victor Castro adobe which was settled by Castro around 1839 with the entrance to the adobe being on San Pablo Avenue.

One block north of the county line was the 7 Mile House at the corner of Fairmount and San Pablo Avenue where the Mechanics Bank now stands. The 7 Mile House was seven miles from the downtown portion of Oakland where the wholesale markets were located. The 7 Mile House was operated by John H. Davis who opened the tavern in 1879. Mr. Davis was a long time rancher in this area. He lived at the rear of this tavern and raised 14 children. Davis had married Sophia Hagen who had also come from a very large family. John Davis' sons, Fred and Louis, later took over the business, renting from the new owner, William Huber, who had purchased the building.

Between Fairmount Avenue, or Road #4 as it was known in those days, to the county line, it was a real mud hole. They had to put in a wooden boardwalk for the people to walk on as in the winter it was almost impossible to get through without boots on.

Just north of Hagen's County Line Saloon, in 1919, Marie and Tony Gatto had a tobacco shop in which they sold various kinds of cigars and cigarettes. By 1924 they had expanded their business which they called "The Old Home Market, Fruits and Vegetables of All Kinds". Out front of the building one could see box after box of oranges, apples, potatoes, and other fruits and gallons of apple cider. On the window was the sign "Fresh Crabs", and was the only place in this vicinity where seafood could be purchased. Near the entrance to the building was a much larger sign "Everybody Knows Tony". This business may have just been over into the Albany side of Cerrito Creek. Marie Gatto still lives in El Cerrito on Norvell Street.

Across the street from the Hagen's County Line Saloon, on the west side of San Pablo Avenue, was the Manuel Borbar Saloon, which was later run by Sam Fisher. In later years the property was sold to a Chinese gambling group.

According to history, Wilhelm F. Rust was born in Hanover, Germany, on November 27, 1857, and came to America in 1877, landing in Chicago where he remained for about a year. He later came to California in 1883, stopping in San Pablo, where he engaged in his trade of Blacksmithing. In 1888, he made a trip to Europe to visit and on his return looked for a location to engage in his own business. He picked what is now El Cerrito and on San Pablo Avenue not far from the county boundary line near Fairmount Avenue, across from his friend John B. Davis, who owned the 7 Mile House. He leased property and built his shop and his trade gradually grew. He made another trip to Germany and on his return purchased property and erected a store building.

Mr. Rust married Lina Wagner in 1886 and they had two children, William and Herman. Later Lina passed away and Mr. Rust married Minna Voges, who became his second wife in1918. He also served on the Stege Sanitary Board from January 28, 1915 until April 1, l9l9. In the corner of his hardware store in 1909 the first post office was opened and Rust was named first Postmaster on March l, 1909.

People started to refer to the town as Rust and the name stuck until the town of 1,500 people was incorporated as a city in 1917. The people did not care for the name of Rust, so they changed it to El Cerrito, which means Little Hill in Spanish. Rust has been called the founder of this city. He first rented his land from Victor Castro and later purchased it. Mr. Rust was well liked by the people and praised as a honest, trustworthy citizen.


Copyright Mervin Belfils, October 1975
Copyright El Cerrito Historical Society, June 2006

 

   
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