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The Pioneers of Centerville Presbyterian Church

By Phil Holmes


Dr. James Selfridge was one of the first physicians in Alameda County. Early pioneers said he was the first to have a regular practice in Washington Township. His patients were scattered over a wide area, and he was a familiar feature of the time as he rode about the country in his sulky to visit the sick. He was always ready to help those who needed encouragement or assistance. He was the county physician and was paid $20 in 1853 for his services in examining two insane persons.

The doctor boarded in Centerville with John Wilson in the early days before he established his homestead on the west side of the Centerville -Alvarado road. Here he planted a garden of rare trees. His concrete house was damaged in the 1868 earthquake.

Dr. Selfridge signed the original petition for a church. He was elected county coroner in 1858 and eventually moved his family to Oakland.

Jonathan Mayhew was born in Chilmark, Massachusetts in 1819. He came around Cape Horn to San Francisco in 1849 in the whaling brig Vesta. His wife died on the way to California. He bought Beard's Landing from his nephew, Captain Joseph Mayhew, and operated it as Mayhew's Landing. He was a famous and successful hunter, credited with killing over 6500 geese for the San Francisco market in the winter of 1854-55.

Jonathan once owned the Agriculture Exchange Hotel in Centerville and was an original trustee of the Presbyterian Church. He was elected Alameda County Supervisor in 1858. One day Jonathan was out riding in his buggy with Centerville School teacher Miss Everett, to whom he was engaged. They met their friend Reverend W.W. Brier driving in another buggy. The marriage ceremony was performed right then and there, none of the parties alighting from their buggies.

Henry Clark brought his family to Centerville Presbyterian Church in 1854 and was elected trustee the next year. He was a carpenter on the original church building and a great- uncle of Earl Mackintosh, a long time member of the church.

James Hawley was born in England in 1819. He came to New York as a child and became a skilled carpenter as he grew up. He married Hetty Munn in 1843. The gold rush brought him to California in 1849. He mined for gold and farmed the Bell Ranch along Alameda Creek, but he was most noted as a builder. He enlarged the Vallejo flour mill, constructed and operated the Red Hotel in Mission San Jose, and built several homes for settlers. James and Hetty moved several times but established a home on their farm across the Alvarado-Centerville Road from the Jesse Beard farm. James helped draft the plan for the Centerville cemetery in 1858.

The George Lloyd family was one of the first to settle in the Centerville area. George put up a blue canvas tent and sold refreshments to travelers. As soon as he could, he erected a frame house that served as home, general store, and tavern. Pioneers said he erected a fence across the road with a gate and horse trough to encourage travelers to stop and buy a drink at his bar.

George A. and Mary Jane Lloyd donated a plot of land containing about 2 1/2 acres to the Alameda Presbyterian Church (renamed Centerville Presbyterian Church). The deed was dated July 21, 1855. The property fronted 250 feet along the Centerville-Union City road (now Fremont Boulevard) between the farm of Captain George Bond and Horner's School.

Erastus Johnson was born in Old Town, Maine in 1826. He came to California and mined at Grass Valley in 1853. He returned to Maine and married Mary Silsbee in 1854. Erastus brought Mary to California and bought a farm near Centerville. He petitioned the county in 1855 to pay him $1972 for damaged crops, and four acres of valuable land taken by the new county road. Mary died in October 1858 and was buried in the church cemetery.

William H. Coombs was licensed by the State of Indiana as an "Attorney and "Counselor at Law." He was one of the first lawyers to come to the Mission San Jose area. He built a home in Centerville in 1852 and was probably the first lawyer in the town. He was elected the first district attorney of Alameda County in 1853 and had to spend part of his time at Alvarado, the first county seat.

As District Attorney he was a member of the Court of Sessions, the forerunner of the Board of Supervisors. The court examined his license, determined he was a man of good moral character and admitted him as Attorney and Counselor of the Court.

We don't know much about Mrs. Coombs. She was reported to be a Baptist, but he served the Presbyterian Church when she lived in Centerville.