Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book Review: Drawbridge California; A Hand Me Down history

This book was written by O.L. Monty Dewey in 1989.  It is copyrighted to San Francisco Bay Area Wildlife Society.  This a history of San Francisco Bay's only ghost town.  Drawbridge has not been inhabited since 1979.  This book chronicles its growth, from one building used to house the drawbridge operator, (there were actually two drawbridges) who worked for the railroad.  The rail line that went through was originally made to conduct passengers from Santa Cruz to Alameda.  The rail went through the marshland of the South Bay, and over Station Island.  The Drawbridges were built over Coyote Creek Slough and Mud Creek Slough.
The mashes were home to many bird, in season.  It quickly became a favorite spot for many bird hunters.  The primary type of building on the island was gun clubs, or sporting cabins.  Fishing and swimming were also favorite past times  Being a hunting community, most of the inhabitants were armed.  There were two hotels on the island at one time.  Others on the island built and repaired boats suitable for the sloughs.

There were three wells drilled.  The deepest reached 500 feet.  The rail line was considered main street.  During hunting season there could be up to 1000 people on the island.  However the island was isolated.  No road ever reached the island.  During its peak, there were five trains going each way daily.  There was a station of sorts with regular stops. 
The residents made their outhouses over smaller sloughs.  In this way the tides flushed the waste away twice daily.  When the tides were high, residents could boat from house to house, otherwise they used walk ways.

Several things contributed to the island becoming less hospitable.  The building of salt bonds in the marsh lands disturbed the natural movements of the tides, and the self cleaning of the ocean.  This, with the dumping of sewage into the ocean by large communities, especially San Jose, so made the sloughs not suitable for swimming.  As people drilled more water wells, the water under the island began to dry up.  It was being used faster then could be replenished.  This caused the island to sink.

There were other contributing factors.  There was a change in the rail industry.  The marshlands began to disappear because of the salt ponds and the sewage.  This meant less birds and fish, and less sport.  There was also a problem with vandalism.  Before it was actually true, the Mercury News published a report that Drawbridge was a ghost town with valuable property had been left.  Many seasonal homes were vandaled, and items were broken or taken.  During the 60s, people would visit the island, and use a homes for their dope parties.  One evening over 50 were arrested.  Another evening, one of the last residents fired a shot gun and unknown people on the island.  After this she was known as shotgun Millie.

Fire also claimed many of the old homes and buildings.  There was no fire department, and often a fire would take out more than one home. 

This book has many stories about the island.  It also shows what can happen, when we don't take care of the environment.  Responisble use of our resources is generally best.

1 comment:

  1. You have flushed out some interesting history from the backwaters of time. It isn't too surprising that the careless use of water caused troubles. And why would we even consider getting salt in the same region we flush sewage? May we all live ( read history too) and learn.