Thursday, June 2, 2022





An early view of I Street in Modesto, California, with its notoriously poor street conditions. The root of the name coming from the Spanish word for ‘modesty’, it has certainly been all that. Developed as a new railroad town, in the late 1860’s, it shifted the commercial focus for the area from the waning mining activities to agriculture. It is probably best known as the headquarters for the E & J Gallo Winery, the largest family owned winery in the United States. Another claim to fame is the childhood home of movie mogul, George Lucas, who co-created and directed the movie, “American Graffiti” (1973), which was loosely based on Lucas’ teenage years growing up in Modesto during the 1960’s


Frederick Meinecke was born in Hanover, Germany, about 1823. Like so many young men of the time he became drawn by the word of great riches in the far off land that had recently been wrested from Mexico and was known as California. Arriving in San Francisco in October 1849, he made his way to the ‘gold fields’, likely speaking no English and thrust into a melting pot of humanity from all points of the world. It is quite possible that he befriended another German, either on his arduous 150 day sea voyage from Hamburg or shortly thereafter. In 1851 Ernst Lodtmann formed a partnership with Meinecke in a venture to bring a herd of cattle from the ‘States’ to California. Over-wintering in the Salt Lake area the partners returned to California in 1852. They established a dairy ranch on the Calaveras River about four miles from Stockton. Although the partnership split up in 1857 it appears the two retained a good relationship and probably had continued business ventures for a number of years thereafter. However, at about this time Meinecke left California and returned to his homeland of Hanover, Germany. It is probable he had a specific purpose in mind for he returned to California about late 1860 or 1861 along with his new bride, Sophia, also a native of Germany.


Meinecke continued his farming activities but moved to the north bank of the Stanislaus River further south. Here he established a ferry across the river which attracted others who located there. A small settlement soon arose which was known by the name of Meinecke. A few years later Frederick Meinecke formed a partnership with Charles E. Taylor and the ferry business became known as Meinecke & Taylor’s Ferry. They also opened a grocery store at the same location. In 1867 Taylor was appointed postmaster for the little settlement of Meinecke.


One of the very few items found that document the settlement of Meinecke, which was named after Frederick Meinecke. (Stockton Independent, January 4, 1867)

 Meinecke was also involved in moving merchandise up and down the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers in 1868 when he and three others incorporated the Tuolumne City Steamboat Company, with capital stock at $70,000. ( Daily Evening Herald, Stockton, California, December 4,1868)  The success of this company has not been determined.

 In 1869 Meinecke gave up his partnership with Taylor and moved on to other ventures, which primarily included the operation of his 800 acre ranch property.


This advertisement documents the dissolution of the partnership between Meinicke and Taylor in 1869. (Stockton Independent, March 27, 1869). The ferry crossing soon became known as simply “Taylor’s Ferry”. The small settlement of Meinecke soon disappeared as well.


This portion of an 1881 map by Wallace W. Elliott & Co. locates the geographical position of Taylor’s crossing (see red dot) which was the previous location of Meinecke’s Ferry.


 As noted above, Meinecke and Lodtmann maintained an amicable business relationship over the years, which is highlighted by the Lodtmann brothers later soda water activities. Earnest (Ernst) and Justus Lodtmann had initially established their soda water factory at Knights Ferry about 1867, along with their Miners’ Brewery. With that towns decline and with Modesto emerging as a town of great promise the Lodtmann brothers moved their soda water factory to Modesto by August 1868, but kept their brewery at Knight’s Ferry.

 The planning stage of the proposed rail line through the central valley of California essentially changed the human geography of the area. Along with the proposed new town of Modesto came a wholesale movement of towns and their people to this new hub of the rail line. The nearby towns of Empire, Tuolumne and Paradise essentially moved, including their buildings, to Modesto. It even usurped the county seat of government, Knight’s Ferry, by 1871. By 1874 the Lodtmann brothers sold their brewery at Knights Ferry and sold their Modesto soda factory to Frederick Meinecke the same year.


The newspaper notice documenting the beginning of Frederick Meinecke's soda water business in Modesto, California. Stanislaus County Weekly News (Modesto, California May 22,1874, Page 2)

 It has not been determined when Meinecke gave up his soda factory in Modesto, however; the 1879 and 1880 voting register for Stanislaus County lists Meinecke as only a farmer. Even during the period he operated the soda factory Meinecke continued with his farming activities, which consisted primarily of grain crops. It must be assumed that the soda factory was a short lived venture that fit somewhere between the years of 1874 and 1879. In fact, after his initial opening, there were no more newspaper articles found that mentioned his soda works.


The Meinecke soda bottles were undoubtedly blown in San Francisco. They are marked F M / MODESTO, on one side. No other variants are known.


Frederick and Sophia Meinecke had four children – all born in San Joaquin County:

 Edward Meinecke, born about 1861, Died 15 Nov 1939, in Modesto

Katie Meinecke, born about 1863, Died 7 May 1949, in Modesto

Meta Meinecke, born about 1865, Died 20 Oct 1949, in Modesto

Sophia Meinecke, born about 1871, Died 2 April 1940, in Modesto


Frederick Meinecke died near Modesto on 19 February 1907. Meinecke’s wife, Sophia, died February 12, 1925 in Modesto. It is somewhat strange that their four children, noted above, never married and had no issue. And, for the most part, the siblings lived together until their deaths.

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