The Pinole Historical Society promotes awareness and appreciation of history through preservation and education, and chronicles the city’s heritage for current and future generations.


February 2 program at Kaiser

Whatever happened to Tormey, Selby, Oleum,
and the other lost cities
of the East Bay?

Lost to the annals of history is the small town of Tormey that once existed in the upper northwest corner of Contra Costa County, California, near both San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait, barely two miles from the town of Rodeo.

While the name Tormey still appears on maps of the San Francisco Bay Area, today it is for the most part long abandoned, vacant land. It was at one time, however, a cozy company town that was home to hundreds of families over the course of nearly a century.

Author John Robinson will explore the history of the long-lost cities of Tormey, Selby, Oleum, Valona, Eckley, and Port Costa, and Vallejo Junction, among others, in his February 2, 2018, program, “The Lost Cities of the East Bay.” The public is invited to this FREE event from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in conference rooms 2A and 2B of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Office Building, 1301 Pinole Valley Road. Refreshments will be served.

“The title of my talk is ‘Lost Cities of the East Bay,’ but the focus is south side of the Carquinez Strait from the Port Costa Brick Works in the east to Point Pinole in the west,” Robinson says. “I use the word ‘cities’ for brevity; these places were never cities, nor even towns. At best they were villages, a collection of ferry and train stops, hotels, stores, company houses, and, mostly, saloons, that sprang up around the factories and plants of the early twentieth century.”

Robinson's talk will include photos and comments about:
• The Port Costa Brick Works
• Waterfront Port Costa during the age of the ferries
• Eckley as a brick works, a fishing resort, and now a regional park
• Vallejo Junction a ferry terminal west of Crockett that brought people to South Vallejo and was mentioned in a Robert Louis Stevenson story
• The Selby Smelting Plant (photo under map, above)
• Tormey
• Oleum, a tiny community that sprang up around the Standard Oil Refinery near Rodeo
• The Hercules Powder Works
• The Atlas Powder Works at Giant

“Most of these places are long gone, or absorbed into larger communities,” Robinson says. “ But, they all are interesting footnotes to our local history.”

Update on Pinole History Museum
in the historic Faria House

• The Pinole History Museum has received its non-profit 501(c)(3) status from the State of California and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which means we can begin to solicit tax-deductible donations.

• The City of Pinole has solicited requests for proposals (RFPs) from several architectural firms to rehabilitate the interior of the Faria House.

2018 PHS meeting dates

The Pinole Historical Society will present quarterly programs on these dates in 2018. Members and guests are welcome to attend from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in conference rooms 2A and 2B of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Office Building, 1301 Pinole Valley Road.

Friday, February 2: Author John Robinson presents “The Lost Cities of West County.”
Friday, May 4: “What In A Name?: The People Behind Pinole’s Street Names,” presented by PHS historian George Vincent.
Friday, September 7: Program TBA
Friday, November 2: Program TBA

George Vincent’s book about
Pinole’s early schools is for sale

Pinole Historical Society co-founder and historian George Vincent’s long-awaited book, “School Bells and Ink Wells: a History of the Early Schools of Pinole, 1865-1968,” is available for sale.

The 124-page book, featuring more than 150 photos, some never-before seen, chronicles the history of the Fitzgerald Ranch School (1865-1886), Plaza School (1886-1906), and Pinole-Hercules School #1 (1906-1966).

The book is filled with stories and amusing anecdotes, and anyone who went to school in Pinole will treasure this fond memory of their early education. It brings to light the workings and people that made the Pinole-Hercules Union School District the envy of surrounding townships.

Hill School alumni are fiercely loyal to their “green school” that stood atop Samuel Street in Pinole until 1968. There is a shared pride of camaraderie understood only by those who bore the trials of the daily uphill climb to the creaking stairs and dark halls haunted by the strict stares of lurking teachers.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE BOOK(S) ($30, including sales tax and postage). Fill out the order form and mail it to George Vincent. He will mail the book to you.

‘Pinole Through Time’ on sale
via mail order, at farmers' market,
and at PHS meetings

The latest book by the acclaimed new America Through Time series published by Fonthill Media, Pinole Through Time contains 192 old and new comparative photographs showing how Pinole changed through the 19th and 20th centuries and into the 21st century.

There are detailed and extensive captions packed with historical information accompanying each photograph.

Pinole Through Time and all of our other history books about Contra Costa County cities are on sale at the Pinole Farmers’ Market, via mail order, and at PHS quarterly meetings.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR BOOK(S) and we will mail them to you. We accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover charge cards

Historical videos on city’s website

These Pinole Historical Society programs may now be viewed on your computer via the city’s website. To watch these programs on your computer, go to the City of Pinole’s website. Scroll down to PINOLE HISTORY. You’ll find these and other programs about Pinole’s history.

They include:
• 2012 Veterans Day Memorial/Flag Retirement
• 2013 Veterans Day Memorial/Flag Retirement
• 2014 Veterans Day Memorial/Flag Retirement
• 2015 Veterans Day Memorial/Flag Retirement
• Japanese American Internment (2012)
• Old School bell dedication (2013)
• February 7, 2014, program: ‘Bars, Barbers and Characters of Early Pinole.’
• November 7, 2014, program: ‘Maritime Contra Costa County.’ • PCTV Historic Walking Tour series
• Interview with Jack Meehan and Tom Cutino
• George Vincent’s 2010 walking tour of Historic Downtown Pinole
• George Vincent’s 2011 walking tour of Historic Downtown Pinole
• Interview with Ed LeFebvre
• Interview with Charlotte Shea
• Interview with Alex Clark
• Pinole Historical Society Book Signing Ceremony
• 2011 Veterans Day Memorial and Flag Retirement Ceremony
• 2010 Veterans Day Memorial and Flag Retirement Ceremony
• 2009 Veterans Day Memorial and Flag Retirement Ceremony
• 2008 Veterans Day Memorial and Flag Retirement Ceremony
• Growing up Pinole
Also, Clyde Maskal made a 13-minute slideshow of the 2012 Veterans Day Memorial and Flag Retirement Ceremony from many of the photos he took at the event. Click here to view Clyde’s slide show.

Pinole featured on KGO radio

KGO radio reporter Jennifer Jones Lee interviewed PHS Vice President Jeff Rubin to discover the origin of the word “Pinole.” Listen to the segment here.

Wells Fargo Bank history mural
dedicated, open to the public

Wells Fargo Bank unveiled its mural of Pinole’s history on July 25, 2013, in a ceremony that featured descendants of prominent Pinole residents in the mural in a video, talking about their families and their contributions to the city’s history.

Mike and Michele LeFebvre, son and daughter of Lawrence “Big Red” LeFebvre, manager of the Pinole Merchants baseball team, and Susan Fernandez, great-granddaughter of Bernardo Fernandez, one of the founders of Pinole, were featured in the video produced by the bank’s communications department. All three attended the event.

The 12-foot by 4-foot mural was installed on the back wall of the bank at 1374 Fitzgerald Drive.

Pinole Historical Society President Marcia Kalapus and Vice President Jeff Rubin, along with Councilman Roy Swearingen, Chamber of Commerce President Dina Rosales, and Wells Fargo Bank Regional President Micky Randhawa, made brief remarks before the nearly six-minute video was shown to attendees.

Click here to view the Pinole Mural video on your computer.

The video is also being shown on Pinole Community TV, channel 28.

The mural includes images of a map of the El Rancho Pinole land grant, the Martinez Adobe, downtown Pinole in the 1920s, Lawrence “Big Red” LeFebvre, who managed the Pinole Merchants baseball team, the Pinole-Hercules School (the Old School), the Pinole Fire Department (and Chief Wallace “Pepper” Martin) in the early 1950s, the 1904 class of the Plaza School (featuring teacher Frances Ellerhorst), the original Santa Fe depot, Hercules Powder Works employees, Bernardo Fernandez, and the seal of the city of Pinole.

Wells Fargo Bank welcomes visitors to its Pinole branch to view the mural, which is accompanied by a legend that explains the history of each image.

This mural is one of many in Wells Fargo’s Community Mural Program, which provides a unique visual enhancement to the customer experience in the bank's branches. Designed to be a snapshot of Turn-of-the[Last]-Century America, historic images are chosen that convey a sense of history, tradition, stability, longevity, optimism, and progress.

A typical mural design combines Wells Fargo images and local images that reflect the history and diversity of the community. An accompanying legend describes each historical image used in the mural, and credits the source. The Pinole Historical Society provided Wells Fargo with all of the local photos and images.

In return, Wells Fargo donated $500 to the Pinole Historical Society, for which we are very grateful.

Two library exhibits celebrate
Pinole’s interesting history

Through the generosity of the Pinole Library, the Pinole Historical society has two exhibits at the library, each giving visitors different information on the history of our city.

Our exhibits include:

Pinole . . . Then and Now features photos from the society’s archives of buildings that existed at the turn of the 20th century, and recent photos of buildings on those sites today.

• The National Preservation Month exhibit features artifacts, photos, and memorabilia from Pinole’s history.

Library hours are Monday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Wednesday (2 to 8 p.m.), Friday (noon to 5 p.m.), and Saturday (noon to 5 p.m.).

Historic Walking
Tour on
Google Maps

The PHS thanks supporter Tom Parsons, who was kind enough to make Google Map of the Pinole Historic Walking Tour. Check out Tom’s handiwork here.

Public welcome
at monthly PHS
board meetings

The PHS Board of Directors meets on the second Wednesday of every month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Pinole Senior Center. At these meetings the board discusses policies and procedures, receives reports, and plans events and programs.

The public is welcome at these meetings and may speak on any item on the agenda. There is also a public-comment time at the beginning of each meeting for people to speak on items not on the agenda.

Police department
history page
is on the
city’s website

See the new Pinole Police History page on the city’s website.

You will learn about Wild-West shootouts, cattle drives downtown, 1920s gangsters, World War II sabotage, Fiesta Del Pinole riots, and other historical events you had no idea had occurred!

Learn about Pinole’s first lawmen, like saloon-owning Constable John Collins and rough-and-tumble Arthur McDonald, who was killed during a shootout in 1929. See how the Pinole Police Department grew from one famous, ticket-writing motorcycle cop to a professional, modern police force. Read about the three officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for this community when they took on violent criminals.

The new Pinole Police History page is full of great, colorful stories and fun pictures! You will feel like you’re walking through time!