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Rare early California Railroad Map, one of the first printed maps to focus on the routes serviced by a single California Railroad.

The California Pacific Railroad Company was incorporated in 1865 in San Francisco as the California Pacific Rail Road Company. It was renamed the California Pacific Railroad Extension Company in the spring of 1869, then renamed the California Pacific Railroad later that same year. The railroad was constructed just months prior to the completion of the Central Pacific/Union Pacific Transcontinental Railway.

The present map is a fascinating look at the history of the California Pacific Railroad, during the brief period when it was operated by its original builder, D.C. Haskin. The map show the lines of the CPRR as they existed at some point in time between the second half of 1868 (based upon information depicted on the neighboring line between Healdsburg and Sonoma which was never in fact constructed), the time of the acquistion of the Napa Valley Rail Road Company (June 9, 1869) and the sale of the Railroad by Haskin to investors led by former California Governor and Senator Milton Slocum Latham (January 15, 1870). The Napa Valley R.R. is still shown as being a connection, rather than part of the CPRR, but the line from Davis to Sacramento is shown as completed, which did not occur until January 1870.   

The establishment of regular railroad service in Sonoma, and specifically a line from San Francisco Bay to Healdsburg, became a significant issue in the mid-1860s. In order to spur activity, Sonoma County voters approved a subsidy of $5,000 per mile for the successful construction of the first rail line to reach Healdsburg. Over the next several years, several competitors emerged and robust if not entirely honest competition ensued.

In October 1865, C.W. Langdon of Santa Rosa, I.G. Wickersham of Petaluma, and John McMannis, of Healdsburg, organized the Petaluma & Healdsburg Railroad Company. Public opinion was divided as to what route such a railway should take. Most Sonoma County residents felt Healdsburg was a natural northern terminus, but Petaluma and Vallejo were also possibilities.

On December 26, 1867, a Petaluma investor group formed the Sonoma County Railroad Company to construct a railroad to Healdsburg, with a spur to Bloomfield (in western Sonoma County). At the same time, John Frisbie and Jackson Temple organized a rival company, which promoted a Vallejo - Sonoma- Santa Rosa route, which bypassed Petaluma completely (this is the route located on the 1868 Map which we are offering for sale). Yet another competitor, the San Francisco & Humboldt Bay Railroad Company, was incorporated on March 2, 1868, by Utah mine owner, General Patrick O'Conner. Fred McCrellish, publisher of the San Francisco Alta California, and John McCauley, a promoter and lobbyist, envisioned a route from Sausalito to Humboldt Bay (the route illustrated on the 1875 Bancroft Map).

On May 12, 1868, voters approved the bid of the Sonoma County Railroad, via Petaluma. The victors held a "ground breaking" ceremony on July 4, 1868, but no further construction occurred. The Petaluma group soon transferred their rights to the San Francisco & Humboldt Bay Railroad Company, which turned to Asbury Harpending of San Francisco for additional financing.

Harpending had been purchasing parcels for the extension of Montgomery Street across Market with banker William Ralston in 1868, when he was approached by Fred McCrellish for funding. Harpending bought out General O'Conner and John McCauley's interests and became owner of 90% of the company. McCrellish was retained as a lobbyist for the project.

With visions of Congressional land grants through the Eel River Redwoods, Harpending began laying tracks. He sent O'Conner to Washington to lobby for the grants and even prepared plans for a suspension bridge across the Golden Gate. Grading proceeded north of Petaluma through the fall and winter of 1868, but by early 1869, Harpending was running short of cash. Harpending and Ralston held a disastrous auction of the Montgomery Street lands. Setting the minimum bid too high, the land went to shills that had been planted by the owners. A few days later construction of the railroad in Sonoma County came to a halt. Harpending reorganized as the San Francisco & North Pacific Railroad, but later sold to Peter Donahue, owner of the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad (SFNP) in June 1870.

A few days before Harpending sold his interests to Donahue, Sonoma County voters had agreed to a subsidy of $5,000 per mile to the first railroad company to complete 10 miles of track, also agreeing to issue $25,000 in bonds to the California Pacific Railroad (which had already laid 163 miles of track in northern California) upon the completion of the first 5 miles from the Napa County line. The subsidy provided that if the SFNP completed a railway through the County first, no bonds would be issued to the California Pacific.

The SFNP and California Pacific worked feverishly to meet the deadline and progress on the line continued. Regular service between Petaluma and Santa Rosa began October 31, 1870. Nevertheless, the owners of the California Pacific pressed onward. A heated race ensued, which only ended when Donahue was convinced by William Ralston, to sell out to former California Governor Milton Slocumb Latham, owner of the California Pacific. The SFNP became the Petaluma & Humboldt division of the California Pacific.

By July 1, 1871, Latham's line was open to Healdsburg. Latham in turn sold the California Pacific line to the Central Pacific in September 1871. In a rush to complete the line and win the County subsidy by the June 21,1872 deadline, the Central Pacific opened passenger service to Cloverdale on March 15, 1872.

Ironically, the Central Pacific soon decided that the Sonoma County line would not figure in its long range plans. In January 1873 the line was sold back to Peter Donahue. The 1875 map depicts the line from Healdsburg to Sausalito as the SF & H RR. We have located no information suggesting that a San Francisco & Healdsburg line existed, and it is possible that this is the San Francisco & Humboldt Bay Railroad, which would mean that the Bancroft's 1875 map was closer to 1869. The 1868 Map mentions the "Sonoma Railroad" as a line in existence, suggesting that the 1868 map pre-dates the completion of a line to Healdsburg and was done at a time when it was uncertain as to which route would prevail in Sonoma County.


The maps is very rare.   

We have had several variants of the map, but never this example.

Condition Description
19th-century wove paper. Uncolored. Inscription at righthand blank border. Some damp staining and discoloration. Two tiny abrasions in border and toward center of map, as shown.