Turlock Train Depot — Circa 1910
The story of John Mitchell and the history of the railroad in our town go hand in hand. John Mitchell arrived in San Francisco from Connecticut in 1851. He and his brother sold wares in the city and on the roads to the mines. We have a scythe in the display with the Mitchell information because John and his brother brought Scythes and headed to the Stockton area to hire out. Monies made harvesting with the scythes helped them get their stake to begin buying land. Buying land allowed them to raise herds of livestock which could be sold to miners in the gold country. Profits from these ventures helped buy more land and soon, wheat farming was Mitchell’s means to prosperity. He cultivated tracts under the tenant system and expanded to over one hundred thousand acres in holdings. While Mitchell continued buying land south from Paradise City, transportation dependency was beginning to shift from the river to rail. It appears he was matching his land purchases to speculated route of the Southern Pacific expansion to the south.
While the depot was being constructed, Mitchell built a grain warehouse and in 1871 with a post office, a depot, grain warehouse and a few other buildings, the town of Turlock began. The town thrived with the railroad and by 1891, Turlock was shipping 12,000 – 15,000 tons of wheat annually. After irrigation water came to the area, Turlock’s population began to swell. New settlers arrived by rail; oftentimes the women and children rode in the passenger cars and the men and older children rode in the box cars with the family belongings and livestock.
In 1915, a new passenger depot was built and the original depot was moved and used as afreight office. A third depot on the Tidewater track was built on B Street in 1931. The depot was never used and is still standing today as “the forgotten depot”.