Gustine Historical Society

Gustine, California

Gustine History
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October 19th New Exhibit: Old Dolls and Toys

If you have a special doll or an old toy from your childhood and are interested in lending it to the Gustine Historical Society; please contact Pat Snoke or Kim Stadter at the History Center or the Gustine Museum.

Gustine High School Celebrated 100 Years

The Gustine High School Centennial Committee thanks everyone for their wonderful support for a most fabulous 100 Year Celebration.

2014 Calendar

October 19
1 pm to 4 pm
New Exhibit "Antique Dolls and Toys" at Gustine Museum
November 29

Gustine Museum Open House…Old Fashioned Christmas in Gustine


Gustine Historical Society

The Gustine Historical Society seeks to uncover, preserve and disseminate knowledge about the history of Gustine and the "West Side" of California. Gustine has a long and rich history that mirrors the development of California's agriculture. Society members collect artifacts, memorabilia, documents, books, maps, periodicals, articles, photographs and items pertaining to Gustine and its surrounding area. These artifacts are housed in the Wilbur and Irene Gomes Gustine History Center and in creative exhibits in the Gustine Museum. They link Gustine's past to the people who made it happen.

If you have materials that you would like to have preserved for future generations, the Gustine Historical Society will be happy to accept such items that fit within our goals. Please contact us.

Society members have become proficient at preserving photos and archival materials.  If you would like some advice on how to preserve your old family photographs or documents, call 209-854-6455.  Personnel will meet with you at the history center to work with you to help preserve your family treasures for the next generation.


A West Side Pioneer

Albert Welrose Kniebes


Alberta Kniebes October 5, 2006

Albert W. Kniebes was born October 12, 1870 on a ranch close to where Anderson Road is today. The road is not far out of Newman. Albert was born of the union of Mathew Kniebes and Fredrika Fink. They had three children: Albert, Jeanette and Walter. Matthew owned 600 acres of land. He died when Albert was five years old. Fredrika was left with three small children. Later she married Samuel Dalby, who owned a ranch south of the Kniebes ranch. From that union Sevillion Cook Dalby was born. Albert was very fond of his stepfather and always spoke highly of him. I guess the "Samuel" in Alvin Samuel Kniebes was in honor of Sam Dalby.

The closest town at that time was Hills Ferry. A Mr. Hill ferried people across the river. So therefore the name Hills Ferry. It was a thriving community. Large ferry boats ran up and down the San Joaquin River carrying cargo and people to Stockton. Hills Ferry was much like the old gold mining towns of the Gold Rush era, only there wasn't any gold. Simon Newman & Kahns had stores there. It even had a hotel and going to the other extreme, a cemetery. It did have a Masonic Hall. From what I've heard, Hills Ferry wasn't always quiet. It had its share of saloons and therefore brawls and shootings like the old mining towns. I cannot find any thing about a church. The first Catholic Church I have found was built in 1907, long after Hills Ferry was deserted.

In 1854 a schoolhouse was built in the Orestimba and that is where Albert went to school. Sometimes the creek overflowed and it was impossible to get through. They traveled by horseback as it was quite a long way to go. In 1876 a congregation of Presbyterians organized by the Reverend Eli Latta started meeting in this school.   A few years ago the old Orestimba School was moved into Newman. It is located north of the Newman library. It looks like a new school and is being used as a Pre-School.

When Albert grew up he went to Heald's Business College in Stockton. He lived at the St. Leo Hotel. A few years later he went to San Francisco and got a job as grip man on the cable cars. He lived with a family called Herleman close to where he worked. Between going to college and working in San Francisco he purchased 320 acres of land. It was at the corner of Orchard and Snyder roads in Gustine.

In 1899 Albert married Emily Ann Brough. They lived on the Mullen Ranch west of Newman, later known as the Nicolaysen Ranch. In 1901 Harold was born. He died at the age of three. Harold had a stick and was playing with his dog. The dog was jumping for the stick, but bit Harold's nose instead. There was no penicillin in those days, so when infection set in, nothing could be done. No dogs were allowed on the ranch for a long time. Eva was born on March 31, 1905. The family moved to Gustine in 1906 right after the big earthquake in San Francisco, April 21, 1906. Alvin Samuel Kniebes, my husband, was born December 21, 1908.

Albert was a dry land farmer all of his farming days. He died in March of 1948.


One day Albert walked into the plumbing shop. Mr. Cardoza said, "You know Mr. Maddux don't you?" Albert said, "Well I know he bought the Brown Place." Mr. Maddux said, "I've known you for forty years." Albert said, "How did you know me?"

Mr. Maddux said, "You were a Grip Man on the cable car and I worked in the car barn." Albert with the light dawning said, "You were that man with the little girl that was always hanging around you."

Mr. Maddux said, "Yes, and I married her!"

Alvin "Sam" Kniebes knew his grandfather and had the highest respect for him.   Sam Dalby was a Mason and so "Sam" became one. It was Sam Dalby who spear headed a committee of Masons that worked to put Hills Ferry into a cemetery district. Many graves were moved from the old Hills Ferry Cemetery to the new Hills Ferry Cemetery. In 1936 when I, came to Newman, the cemetery was a mass of weeds higher than the fence. Oh Yes! There was a fence, a very dilapidated fence!

The railroad came in 1889. Simon and Sigmond Newman founded the town of Newman. Sig was in the background so most people didn't know Simon had a brother. The Simon Newman Store was build and is still standing today. It was a wonderful store. Their logo was "Everything Under the Sun."   How true that was! Kahns moved in bringing their building with them and it was placed next to Simon Newman's store. "Sam" said he thought they sold shoes. Many of the buildings were brought in from Hills Ferry and it became a ghost town. Some of the old buildings are still in Newman today. The Masonic Hall was moved in and was used for several years before it was demolished.

There wasn't much in Gustine in those days. The roads were nothing but dirt. Albert Kniebes built the road from the home place on Kniebes Road to what is now known as Highway 140 and south to Carnation Road. A large wagon was used to haul in gravel. The wagon had two slats on the bottom held together by a device, which could open and close. They would open them at the road and dump the gravel and spread it out. Then close the slats and go for another load. It must have taken several loads before the road was finished. There were no other roads then, just dirt and a small path here and there.

There was just a very old house on the 17 acres Albert and Emily purchased. In 1919 the big house was built by Mr. Roy Kruger, known as one of the best builders Gustine ever had. He also built the Sam Kniebes home at 503 West Avenue where Sam's wife Alberta still resides today.


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Updated October 1, 2014
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