Friday, November 1, 2019

Shipped in the Knock-Down

After the survey had been made through Lodi, A. T. Ayers, John U. Magley, R. L. Wardrobe and E. Lawrence petitioned the railroad company to locate a station on their land. As a bonus, the three owners first named agreed if a station was there built and a town laid off, to give the railroad every odd lot in the proposed town and a railroad reservation of twelve acres in the center of the town.

It is clear, from looking at an 1895 map of California's San Joaquin County, that R. L. Wardrobe held property close to the downtown area of Lodi, and yet, trying to find any entry featuring the heading of his name in George Tinkham's biographical entries of the leading men of the county, there is none to be seen.

Reuben Langdon Wardrobe was indeed in San Joaquin County as early as November 13, 1866, the date in which he reported his residence to be Elkhorn Township, when he registered to vote. And yet, as instrumental as his role was reputed to be in securing rail service for the growing town of Lodi, he merited not much more of a mention in Tinkham's volume than a section of a paragraph in an entry about the son of his brother, Samuel Valorious Wardrobe.

S. V. Wardrobe, it seems, had been traveling back and forth from his home in Massachusetts to the spot of his intended  new property in California, a ranch in the "Live Oak" section of San Joaquin County. Realizing that lumber in the new country was "very scarce," on his next trip back to Massachusetts, S. V. Wardrobe arranged for his brother, a carpenter by trade, to frame an entire house—though admittedly tiny, at twelve feet square—which was then "shipped in the knock down" around the Horn to California.

That brother, incidentally, was Reuben Langdon Wardrobe.

The two brothers had the dismantled house shipped up the delta from the San Francisco bay to the port at Stockton, and they then hauled it to the Live Oak property near Lodi. While S. V. Wardrobe remained on that property long enough for two of his sons to be born there, Reuben Wardrobe apparently moved to Elkhorn Township, acquiring land of his own—some of which eventually played a role in enticing the Central Pacific Rail Road to opt for the survey report which favored a line through the developing town of Lodi.

As for Reuben Wardrobe, that is about all that is mentioned of his role in the growth of the city of Lodi. By 1900, according to census records, he was living farther south in Riverside County. Unfortunately, digitized copies of that census cut off the name of his wife, but marriage records show he was married in 1875, to Mary A. Dixon, back in San Joaquin County. Finding the family in the 1880 census, still back in the vicinity of Lodi in San Joaquin County, with children aged much older than the five years of his marriage at that point indicates Mary was at least his second wife. Voter registration records indicate he may have left the county as early as 1886 and apparently stayed in that southern location of the state until the date of his death in 1908.

Perhaps it was because his last days were spent, not in Lodi, but far removed from that location of his brief legacy as a founding father that we see no separate entry for Reuben Langdon Wardrobe in the annals of Lodi's history. Except for that fleeting mention of the role played by his decision, along with others, to put up land in exchange for the future prosperity of the town where he once lived, there is little passed down to us about the part R. L. Wardrobe played in that offer which clinched Lodi's future.

Above: Along with the names of Elkhorn Township property owners E. Lawrence and John Hutchins, we see the parcel just south of the downtown area of Lodi bearing the name of R. L. Wardrobe, one of at least three local men who influenced the proposed route change of the new Central Pacific Railroad line from Sacramento south to Stockton in 1869. Map courtesy Library of Congress Geography and Map Division; in the public domain.

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