New book explores history of Dublin

World War II saw a population explosion due to Navy bases

George and Edwin Kolb standing outside the general store at the Dublin crossroads in 1906. (Photo courtesy of Dublin Heritage Park & Museum)

How did Dublin get its name?

Local author-historian Steven Minniear said this is the question he gets most often.

"There are lots of fun stories," he replied, although no hard and fast answer.

According to one tale, Dublin had three or four hotels where stagecoaches from the two main roadways intersected, and overnight guests had to "double up in" beds when hotels were crowded.

Another legend says that when traveling the steep incline toward Hayward, stagecoach drivers would have to "double up" the horses to ascend the hill.

"My favorite was about James Witt Dougherty, who wanted everything to be named after him," Minniear said. "He had a hotel and was able to make it the post office (Dougherty's Station). His brother was visiting him, and they were standing on the porch looking out, and his brother said, 'What's that called?' James Witt Dougherty said, 'There are so many damn Irishmen over there, it had oughta be called "Dublin."'"

This rundown is included in Minniear's newly released book, "Dublin, California: A Brief History," put out by Arcadia Publishing and the History Press.

Minniear is also co-author of "Dublin and the Tri-Valley: The World War II Years," and it was the local military bases that captured his attention as a young boy. He lived in San Jose and the family would travel along Highway 50 (now Interstate 580) to see relatives in the Central Valley.

"I was a little kid in the back seat, bored out of my mind," Minniear recalled. "When we would get to Highway 50, my mom would say, 'There is the prisoner of war camp.' I could see the old guard towers. There were fascinating old wooden structures on the side of the road."

"Why is this place here? What does it mean?" he asked himself.

Fast forward to 1987 and, after living throughout the Bay Area and beyond and earning a master's degree in government from Georgetown University, Minniear and his family settled in Dublin.

He continued to explore local history and was enthralled by Dublin's 1982 incorporation effort.

"One of the things that fascinated me early on was living in a city that was just created in 1982," Minniear said. "It is not often that you can talk to the people that chose to create a city. You can ask, 'Why did you do this? How did it happen?'"

The answer, he found, was in part because people were dissatisfied with the county taking the huge tax revenues from the lucrative car dealerships in Dublin while Dublin itself needed better roads.

"Also people didn't like the fact that we got this blue-collar, entry-level housing," Minniear said. "There was incipient snobbery, especially in the '60s and '70s that people don't always talk about."

Developers Volk McLain bought huge amounts of land and sold homes beginning in 1960 that straddled the county line.

"They built starter houses in Dublin and executive houses in San Ramon, with a golf course centered around the executive community that was slightly more expensive," Minniear said.

Dublin was always the crossroads, from Native American times to the early settlers to today, he pointed out. And its population exploded during World War II when the Navy discovered it could acquire land at the convenient location for a low price and built two large bases, a hospital and a jail.

"Dublin history used to go: We had Native Americans, and Spanish and Mexicans, then these Irish guys (Jeremiah) Fallon and (Michael) Murray, and there was not much until 1960 when Volk McLain first put in its development," Minniear said.

"But that is forgetting about the thousands of sailors here during World War II," he added. "On any given day in 1945, there were 70,000-80,000 sailors."

He noted that Santa Rita Jail was originally a Navy brig. Due to frequent escapes and overcrowding, the original jail was closed in 1989, replaced by a state-of-the-art facility a mile away.

The book is broken into themes rather than presented chronologically so the full story of Dublin comes into focus as each subject is covered, including the early years, the settlers, the war years, the jails, becoming a city, the schools -- and what the future may hold.

Arcadia also publishes its Images of America series on local history.

"They are pretty much primarily all about the pictures and less about the history," Minniear said. "I've done both. They are lots of fun -- I have 30 or 40 of them."

"Arcadia deserves a lot of credit for reinvigorating local history," he noted. "Most people will live in a place and have no idea what the story is. They ride the freeways and don't realize the road they are on was used by Native Americans."

For more information about the area during World War II, Minniear suggests a visit to Dublin Camp Parks Military History Center, a joint endeavor by the city and Parks Reserve Forces Training Area that covers its history from 1942 to present.

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