Annotated Refuge History

  • 140,000 years ago – Sand dunes are formed by winds blowing loose sand off the coastal strand habitat.
  • 10,000 years ago – Horses, bison, camels, mastodons, and ground sloths live in the area. Their bones are found in the dunes in 1940.
  • 1772 – Spanish soldier and explorer Pedro Fages and Franciscan missionary and diarist Fray (Father) Juan Crespí leave Monterey to explore inland as far as the eastern shoreline of the San Francisco Bay, the Carquinez Strait, and the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. There, on March 30/31, the Fages-Crespí Expedition encounters a Native American village at the site of present-day Antioch. The habitat is oak woodland. Deer, antelope, tule elk, and beaver abound in the area.
  • 1776 – The de Anza expedition travels through present-day Antioch and the dunes.
  • 1836 – The Los Meganos Land Grant is awarded to Jose Noriega.
Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

  • 1838 – “Doctor” John Marsh arrives in northern California and acquires the Rancho Los Meganos, a Mexican land grant, from Jose Noriega.

  • 1849 – Twin brothers William Wiggin and Joseph Horton Smith arrive in California and are welcomed by Dr. John Marsh. The Smith brothers acquire two quarter sections of land that become known as Smith’s Landing (or Smith Point).
  • 1850 – Joseph Horton Smith dies of malaria.
  • 1851 – As settlers arrive from San Francisco, carpenter and ordained minister William Wiggin Smith throws a picnic on July 4th. There, attendees consider several names for their incipient town, among them Minton and Paradise, before settling on Antioch, reasoning that “at Antioch, the followers of Christ were first called Christians.”
  • 1852 – A brick factory is built in town.
  • 1853 – A dairy, piggery, sheep fold, and store are established in the dunes and later a shipyard is built. Wild oats (Avena barbata, A. fatua) and redstemmed filaree (Erodium cicutarium) introduced from Europe are growing in the dunes. Cattle roam freely in the area including the dunes.
  • 1860s – A vineyard is planted in Antioch Dunes.
  • 1869 – The first known botanical visit to the dunes is conducted by Albert Kellogg, a founder of the California Academy of Sciences.
Albert Kellogg, Courtesy University and Jepson Herbaria Archives, University of California, Berkeley

Albert Kellogg, Courtesy University and Jepson Herbaria Archives, University of California, Berkeley

  • 1889 – Two brickyards are located in the Antioch Dunes.
  • 1896 – Edward L. Greene formally describes the Contra Costa wallflower in the journal Pittonia (Studies in the Cruciferae – I, 3: 117-251).

Erysimumcapitatum

Line Drawing of Contra Costa wallflower (Erysimum capitatum angustatum), from Illustrations of Rare, Threatened and Endangered California Plant Species by Mary Ann Showers.

  • 1900 – Tracks for the Atcheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad are laid along the southern margin of the dunes. Spur lines into the sand dunes facilitate the removal of sand and bricks.
    ATandSFRROak cord wood is being removed for sale. Russian thistle (Salsola tragus) is found in the Antioch Dunes.
  • 1903 – Wilbur Avenue is built, providing road access to the dunes.
  • 1903 – The Oasis Building at Mission and Second in San Francisco is constructed with sand-lime brick from the Holland Sandstone Brick Company.
  • 1904 – The California State Mining Bureau reports in a 1906 bulletin two companies manufacturing sand-lime bricks at Antioch, the Holland Sandstone Brick and the Golden Gate Sandstone Brick Company. Both are said to be connected to the Atcheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad via a short spur, and to docks on the banks of the San Joaquin River by means of a tunnel through the dunes.

HollandSandstoneBrickPlant.300c

  • 1905 – The Belshaw Theater (present-day Burma Overseas Friendship Association) at 521 Second Street in Antioch is constructed with sand-lime brick from the Golden Gate Brick Company.The Belshaw Building and Theater
  • 1906 – The San Francisco Earthquake occurs; in later years, the city will be rebuilt with bricks made in part of sand from the Antioch Dunes. Some of those structures are still known to be standing today.

1906 San Francisco earthquake ruins

  • 1908 – The Southern Pacific Company Hospital (present-day Mercy Terrace) and club house at 1400 Fell Street in San Francisco are constructed with sand-lime brick from the Golden Gate Brick Company.

Southern Pacific Hospital Postcard_web

  • 1909 – The Great Western Power Company builds a transmission line across the dunes. This company will be acquired by PG&E.
    PGandE
  • 1915 – Three brick-making companies operate in the dunes.
  • 1927 – The California State Mining Bureau reports several sand mining outfits in operation at the dunes, including the Antioch Sand Company, the Morris Sand Pit, and the E. B. and A. L. Stone Company. Also reported is the existence of additional “idle [sand] deposits” used as a park and a beach by owners Nat Cleaves and Lina M. Owens.
E. B. and A. L. Stone Company Sand Pit, ca. 1927

E. B. and A. L. Stone Company Sand Pit, ca. 1927

Morris Sand Pit, ca. 1927

Morris Sand Pit, ca. 1927

Antioch Sand Company Sand Pit, ca. 1927

Antioch Sand Company Sand Pit, ca. 1927

  • 1930s – The Stamm family acquires the western portion of sand dunes, including the vineyard. The Stamms will mine sand from the property for almost half a century. The dunes are discovered by entomologists from the University of California and California Academy of Sciences. Ultimately, 29 new taxa will be discovered in the dunes.
  • 1933 – Various beaches, dance pavilions, wharfs, and recreational cottages attract visitors to the shore of the San Joaquin River. Antioch Beach is very popular. Lange’s are discovered.
  • 1934 – The U.S. National Ocean Survey (previously known as the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey) prepares coastal survey T-sheets of the San Joaquin River shoreline (T-4685A and T-5020A).

T-ADNWR-Merged x2

  • 1936 – John Thomas Howell and Alice Eastwood collect the first specimens of Antioch Dunes evening primrose.

    Line Drawing of Antioch Dunes evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides howellii), from Illustrations of Rare, Threatened and Endangered California Plant Species by Mary Ann Showers.

  • 1939 – John Adams Comstock formally describes the Lange’s metalmark butterfly in the Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences (A new Apodemia from California (Lepidopt.), v37: 129-132).

Langes Comstock 1939

  • 1940 – Jack Little buys an eastern parcel of the dunes from the owners of a brickyard. He builds the Little Corral Bar from the company’s mess hall. Little will mine sand there for 33 years. Insect collectors from all over the west continue investigating the unique insect fauna and refresh themselves afterward in the Little Corral Bar.
  • 1947 – The Fibreboard Company purchases a parcel in the Antioch Dunes, clears the oaks, levels the sand, and builds a paper mill.
  • 1949 – P. A. Munz formally describes the Antioch Dunes evening primrose in the journal Aliso (The Oenothera hookeri group, v2: 1-47).
  • early 1950s – Crown-Zellerbach builds another mill in the dunes. The City of Antioch buys land from the Stamms and builds a sewage treatment plant in the dunes.
  • 1955 – Time LIFE Magazine (August 8 – v39. no. 6) features the flora and fauna of the Antioch Dunes in two fold-out spreads illustrated by famed artist Dr. Walter Linsenmaier.
    Linsenmaier TIMELife Panorama1_web Linsenmaier TIMELife Panorama2_web

Langes Listing

  • 1977 – Tuesday, February 8: The Antioch Dunes are proposed as designated “critical habitat” for the Lange’s metalmark butterfly (see Federal Register 42: pp 7972-7976).

LangesCHLangesCH2

  • 1977 – Mildred E. Mathias and Lincoln Constance describe a state listed rare plant, Mason’s lilaeopsis (Lilaeopsis masonii) collected from the dunes in the journal Madroño (Two New Local Umbelliferae (Apiaceae) From California, v24 no. 2, 78-83).

    Line Drawing of Mason’s lilaeopsis (Lilaeopsis masonii), from Illustrations of Rare, Threatened and Endangered California Plant Species by Mary Ann Showers.

    Arnold starts a capture-and-release population study to estimate the number of Lange’s at the Refuge.

  • 1978 – The wallflower and the primrose are listed as endangered species. The dunes are designated as “critical habitat.”
  • 1979 – The wallflower and primrose appear on U.S. postage stamps. Congressman George Miller begins receiving mail from plant and butterfly fanciers from all over the country. The Service conducts negotiations with the property owners to establish a purchase price. The owners are prepared to sell the property to a developer for the construction of a marina and condominium complex.
  • 1980 – The Refuge is established, the first acquisition ever by the Service specifically for the protection of plants and insects. Cost of the 55 acres is $2,135,000. PG&E plants 445 seedlings of the naked stem buckwheat (buckwheat), host plant for the Lange’s, to protect the few remaining Lange’s on its property.
  • 1983 – Most of the vineyard planted in the 1860s is restored to natural habitat. Arnold (1983a) concludes a capture-and-release population study of Lange’s started in 1977.
  • 1985 – On October 10, a humpback whale – later nicknamed “Humphrey” – enters the San Francisco Bay and swims up the Carquinez Strait into the Sacramento River to a freshwater slough 69 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Onlookers and the press stage at the still-unfenced Antioch Dunes to catch a glimpse of the errant whale.
  • 1986 – Service personnel and volunteers count 186 Lange’s during the population peak count for that year. The Refuge is officially closed to all public use as a result of trampling of endangered species and wildfires.
  • 1991 – 3,000 cubic yards of riverine sand donated by PG&E are trucked into the Refuge to re-create habitat for the endangered species.
  • 1992 – PG&E donates an additional 4,000 cubic yards of sand to create new dunes.
  • 1992-1995 – Plants of many species native to the area, including the primrose, wallflower, and buckwheat, are planted on the new dunes.
  • 1997 – Prescribed burning is initiated to combat nonnative weeds.
  • 1999 – Service personnel and volunteers count 2,342 Lange’s during the population peak count. This is the highest count on record.
  • 2013 – Service personnel and volunteers count 28 Lange’s during the population peak count (78 butterflies total throughout the count).

PeakCount

  • 2014 – Service personnel and volunteers count 44 Lange’s during the population peak count for that year (139 butterflies total throughout the count).
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