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Ceres street names tied with its past
Ever wonder how those Ceres streets that you drive each day were named?

Why is Mitchell Road named that way? Or Esmar? Or Roeding? What about Hatch Road? And where did Yellow Brick Road get its name?

In its early days, Ceres honored many of its upstanding citizens and pioneer families by naming streets after them. More and more, streets are named more for marketing purposes, with no regard to local history.

Developers often adopt street names with themes, often to amuse the whim of the name picker. For example, the Starlite subdivision took on a Hollywood theme with streets named after Hollywood legends. There's Bogart Drive, Hepburn, Gable, Brandon, Heston, Fonda, Monroe and John Wayne.

The same kind of thinking was going on when Laurel Avenue was followed by Hardy Court were designed near Don Pedro School.

An obvious gallatic theme was going on when streets were named in east Ceres: Lunar, Saturn, Jupiter, Moonview and Venus. Farther north up Boothe Road are Swiss themed street names, including Zurich Lane, Alps Court, Bern Court and Matterhorn Way. Near Smyrna Park are streets named after birds, such as Cardinal Drive, Mockingbird, Hummingbird, Starling, Oriole and Robin.

But figuring out how some streets got their names takes a little historical sleuthing.

Whitmore Avenue was named after Ceres' founding family. Daniel C. Whitmore, who lived from 1816 to 1893, is credited with founding Ceres and filing its first township map. He didn't use much imagination when the first streets were named, First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth. North Street was north of town. The names appear on the original map filed on Feb. 20, 1875.

Later as Ceres developed, some of Whitmore's children were honored with street names. One of the legs of Christmas Tree Lane, Vaughn Street, was named after Vaughn D. Whitmore (1882-1952). He was one of the city's first council members when the town was incorporated in 1918.

Perhaps the most heavily traveled street in Ceres is that of Mitchell Road. The street was named after John W. Mitchell, the man who founded Turlock. Mitchell settled the area from his native Connecticut at age 21. His land holdings once included all the land that would become Turlock, Livingston and Atwater. One of the first directors on the Turlock Irrigation District, Mitchell was so modest that he refused to have any town named for him. So a road was named for him instead.

Hatch Road, perhaps the second busiest street in Ceres, was named after cattle rancher Ephraim Hatch, who owned a major portion of land in the Service and Crows Landing roads area as early as 1870. Historians have Hatch as dreaming to buy Catalina Island for cattle grazing but dismissed that dream when he grew seasick on a boat to check out the property. He settled on a 10,000-acre ranch near San Luis Obispo, the Santa Isabella Ranch. Hatch died in San Jose on Feb. 14, 1914.

Service Road is traced to John and Julia Service. Mr. Service came to the Ceres area across the plains in 1859. At one time they owned 1,000 acres of wheat farmland between La Grange and Snelling. Even though the couple moved from Ceres, he came back to visit his children (he fathered 11 children), and died here on July 5, 1920.

Garrison Avenue was named after the Garrison family. Two brothers, Jason and C.C. Garrison, arrived in 1902 and became the town butchers. The pair took over the A.B. Ford & Sons Butcher Shop with the aid of a $150 loan from Clinton Whitmore.

Esmar Road has perhaps one of the most interesting origins. Levi Carter, who once owned the Vilas Mansion between Ceres and Keyes, once owned a large spread on which Ceres' first railroad station was constructed. The first station was located where present-day Esmar Road intersects with Highway 99. The station was named Esmar by using the first letters of the names of Carter's children: Elma, Stanton, Melborne, Aletha and Roscoe. The station was eventually replaced with one closer to the township.

Elma J. Carter, incidentally, is credited with giving Ceres its name. She chose the Greek goddess of grain and agriculture.

Moffet Road was named after Fred W. Moffet, who established Superior Fruit Ranch. Moffet came to California in 1903 from Iowa and invested $35 into Smyrna Park Nurseries with D.D. Campin. Moffet lived where the present-day Peach Tree Restaurant is. The house was later moved to La Cascada Restaurant on Mitchell Road.

Hackett Road was named for William J. Hackett, an early dairy rancher. Hackett bought 40 acres west of Ceres in 1902, converting wildland into an alfalfa field. His grandfather, Daniel Hackett, was the namesake for the city of Hackettstown, New Jersey.

Antony Morgan, a Denmark native, is the namesake of Morgan Road. He was vice president of the Bank of Ceres.

If Hans Holm hadn't bought land north of Hatch Road, there probably wouldn't be a Holm Avenue. The Denmark native came here in 1907.

Hosmer Avenue has roots in origin back to 1912 when Ezra Frank Hosmer and wife Margaret, settled here. Their son was Wayne Hosmer, who ran a service station near the Pine Street overpass. Wayne's son Loren lives today.

Boothe Road owes its name to Dyas Power Boothe, who began farming alfalfa in that area in 1915. He previously mined in Idaho and Nevada. While he farmed, he engineered the Ceres wastewater plant which was on the other side of Ceres.

Gondring Road south of Ceres was named after the Gondring family. John M. Gondring once served as a Nebraska state senator and came to San Jose in 1905. He bought land on Fowler Road and planted a walnut orchard. Story has it that he irrigated each tree by bucket since the irrigation was not yet in place yet. The Ceres library is named after his daughter, Florence Gondring.

Caswell Avenue and Thomas Street were both named after Thomas Caswell (1843-1927), who farmed 150 acres near present-day Caswell School beginning in 1901. The ranch extended from Whitmore Avenue to Hatch Road. The Irish immigrant is perhaps best known for granting 640 acres on the River west of Ripon to the state for Caswell Memorial State Park.

In a subdivision near the former Caswell farm, many street names took on family members' names. There is Henry Avenue, named for Henry Caswell (1876-1949), a son of Thomas Caswell. Wallace Avenue was named for Wallace Caswell (1875-1950), another son.

Mary Avenue was named for Thomas Caswell's wife who lived from 1844 to 1928.

Before a developer tags a name on a proposed street, the name is referred to the county Planning Department. Their job is to cross reference the name with existing names in the county to avoid duplication. Sound-alike names or duplicates are rejected, to avoid confusion with 911 dispatchers. A lax policy in past years resulted in a Magnolia Street in Ceres and a Magnolia Avenue in Oakdale; a Sycamore in Modesto and on the west side.