Come out Saturday, October 1, to support the Shadelands Ranch Educational Garden and Mini-Orchard

Our Society and master gardeners are in the process of restoring the Shadelands Ranch Educational Edible Garden and Mini-Orchard to the way it was in 1906, and you can help.

That morning, stop by Heather Farm Park for a free breakfast beginning at 7:30 a.m., and be sure to pick up your event T-shirt and other giveaways. Beginning at 8:45 a.m., you can join us at the ranch as we renovate our mini-orchard and enhance our edible garden.

Your efforts to support the garden and the mini-orchard will support the educational needs of all the 3rd grade students that reside in our city.

Each Fall or Spring, 3rd grade classes spend 5 hours at the Shadelands Fruit Ranch in 1906. Students are shown glass jars filled with fruits and vegetables from the Penniman garden and orchard, and they are told that hundreds of jars are stored in the Pennimen’s basement for winter meals. Most folks who lived in the area in 1906 had gardens and orchards. Now, with your help, the edible garden and mini-orchard will be a tangible link to those jars and will assist students to see and understand what it took to put food on the table in 1906.

The project work will be done no later then 1 p.m.

To participate, sign up online at the City of Walnut Creek’s Community Service Day website. After you sign up, you will receive details about what to bring and where to meet. The Society is always on the lookout for volunteers who can maintain the mini-orchard and edible garden during year. If you have any questions about this project for kids, call Ed at 925-280-1998.

Walnut Creek in 1898

(The following is an essay penned by Mrs. Eva Leech, who moved to Walnut Creek in 1898. Her husband was Dr. Claude Leech, who served as the local physician until his death in 1934. Throughout her four decades in Walnut Creek, Mrs. Leech was an active contributor to her community, eventually becoming Walnut Creek’s first female city council member in 1931.)

A great adventure brought me to Walnut Creek – marriage!  Marriage to a young doctor who had just settled here.  The marriage was the great adventure it should be, for it ran true to real story book form, “ and they lived happy, very happy, ever after.”

My first impression of Walnut Creek was that of a tiny village nestled in beautiful hills, with Mt. Diablo, a lovely, warm protecting background.

This was a funny little town in ’98.  Our streets were not paved.  We had no sidewalks, no streetlights.  If you ventured out after dark without a lantern your progress was punctuated by bumping first into one hitching rack and then into another for they stood exactly where they shouldn’t, right in the middle of the sidewalk if there were any, which there weren’t.

We had any amount of adobe mud in the winter and any amount of dust in the summer. Prior to ’98 our creek had a philandering habit of seeking adventure down Main Street, flooding houses and stores and finally reposing in cellars and basements.  This meant that homes and stores on Main Street took to the air, so if you went shopping you climbed up steps to the platform of the store and then climbed down again; and if you had further errands to do you climbed up to the platform of another store, and so on and on.

One thing just right about those platforms was that you could cramp your buggy wheel and step right out on to the platform.  One thing about those platforms that wasn’t so nice was that the men used to congregate there, sit and swing their legs and comment on the women that passed by.  I learned very definitely then, that idle men are the town’s worst gossips.

Walnut Creek had no lighting system, no water system, no sewage system. These were the individual family’s responsibility.  How I hated those kerosene lamps that had to be cleaned daily!  I hated them so much that after breakfast was over lamp filling and cleaning was the first order of the morning, so that my spirit might be free for the rest of the day

Two trains daily ran in and out of Walnut Creek via Southern Pacific.  If you were going off on a real shopping spree you left Walnut Creek at 6:30 in the morning and arrived at 16th Street Depot in Oakland at 8:30 o’clock.  Some speed!  On returning you left 16th Street Depot at 4:30, arriving in Walnut Creek by 6:30.  Those trains stopped at every cross roads, every station, gave every train in the world right of way! (almost)

My, the excitement of meeting that evening train!  We would hitch the horse, and if we had heard the whistle, get over to the station at top speed to see the train come up “around the bend,” the engine puffing from the grade.  The round trip to Oakland was $3.00 (editor’s note: about $77 today, adjusted for inflation) and how we growled about fare and service when the Sacramento Northern came into being.  Consistency, thou art a jewel!  Now this all sounds very crude, very stupid, but we were just a typical small town of that period.  I’ve given you some of the “have nots,” and not I’ll give you a few of the “haves.”

This was a community of honest, splendid, intelligent people with their share of culture.

We had some leisure those days, and time to take life sanely and enjoy our families and our friends.  We knew the meaning of real family home life, now almost extinct.

We had reading clubs, social clubs and a card club at night where husbands and wives went together and had a lot of fun.  Then there were the “dances” where everybody knew everybody else.  I never could get used to going to a “dance” when it was time to go home  and then staying all night.  The suppers they served were worth waiting for – chicken, turkey, lamb, pies, cakes, home made ice cream, ‘n everything.  You never tasted such delectable food!  Luckily dieting wasn’t the fashion then, and our families just accepted us as was and you ate just as much as you possible could and wished for more space.  We had our church activities and church entertainments, ice cream socials, strawberry festivals, and bazaars, and church suppers, again more delicious food!

When Dr. Leech and I came here to live, this town was so tiny there was not another young married couple in it. Not a single baby!  Behold the change!

Now I have no family ties to hold me to Walnut Creek – why do I remain?  Because Dr. Leech gave 35 years of unselfish service to this community. Because, though new friends are dear, there are no friends like the old ones; They know you so well that they love you in spite of all your faults, and are always ready to share your joys and ease your sorrow.  Years of close association count.

Another reason?  I have tried to be a part of this small town and my life has been so woven into the woof and warp of this community that I can feel its very tempo and pulse beat.  I am an integral part of it.

I know from experience that this town, like all towns, can criticize and find fault with you a-plenty.  One time I’m too bossy and dominating – he next time, if I stand aside for someone else to take a turn, I’m a slacker. No one who wants any glory should do any civil or social service work.  What you get are principally knocks.  But the real reward is the very warm feeling in you heart that you at least tried to do your part.

Walnut creek is growing apace into a little city.  It still stands among its beautiful hills with its lovely mountain.  To me this is the most wonderful place in the world to live.

I love the informality and warmth of small town live – I love Walnut Creek.  This is my home.

(Mrs. Claude) Eva Berry Leech


We’re on the the map in the Colbert Nation!

Our nascent blog has gone national! “Nuts Creek” appeared in the “Better Know A District” segment on yesterday’s episode of the Colbert Report. Watch for it in the first minute of the clip.

Welcome to Nuts Creek

Walnut Creek

The majestic Walnut Creek flows through our downtown.

Some folks wonder why our city is named Walnut Creek. Especially if they only drive in and out of town, without walking about much, they may very well miss sight of the creeks running below our streets. And what with the extensive development of the downtown area, they’re not likely to notice any walnut trees, either. You’ve heard ‘em say it—“No walnuts, and no creeks!” Well, it’s the purpose of this here blog to dispel such urban myths and set the record straight. We have walnuts and we have creeks, as well as a whole lot of history running beneath the surface of our fine city. All you’ve got to do is stop and take a look. We hope you’ll stop by and do some of your looking over here at Nuts Creek, the official blog of the Walnut Creek Historical Society.

Next time you’re visiting the new downtown Walnut Creek Library, or relaxing at Civic Park, keep an eye out for the railings on the side of the street, at Broadway or Lincoln Avenue, or along the bridge in the park. Walk over to one of those railings, look down, and behold—Walnut Creek. And if you follow the Creek Walk, you’ll be able to see parts of the creek that still look a lot like they did hundreds of years ago, long before paved streets, concrete diversion channels, and Nieman Marcus. Worried you might get lost? You can find a useful map here.

Walnut tree in Walnut Creek

Yes, Virginia, there are walnut trees in Walnut Creek...

Walnut Creek is native habitat for the Northern California black walnut, or Juglans hindsii. It gained this name due to having been identified and recorded by the British surgeon and naturalist Richard B. Hinds, who accompanied Capt. Edward Belcher (1799–1877) on a global ocean voyage that included an exploration of San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River in 1837. Belcher wrote of these explorations in his two-volume book, Narrative of a Voyage Round the World, which was published in 1843 and included Hinds’ observations. It is believed that California pioneer William Robert Garner acquired a copy of Belcher’s book, which aided him in identifying the local flora, and he mentions these native trees in a letter he wrote on November 26, 1846. An editorial footnote adds further detail: “The species is quite restricted in habitat, only three stands being known at that time: on the Sacramento at Walnut Grove, at Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County, and at Wooden Valley, east of Napa.”1

The Spaniards certainly noticed the walnut trees. In 1834, Doña Juana Sanchez de Pacheco (1776–1853) was awarded title to Rancho Arroyo de Las Nueces y Bolbones, which was partly named for the creek passing through it. Arroyo de Las Nueces is Spanish for “Stream of the Nuts,” so-named for the abundant walnut trees growing along its banks. After 1849, the English-speakers who moved into the area called it Nuts Creek.

Walnut Creek is fed by two tributaries, the confluence being at a spot underneath the large commemorative fountain in downtown’s Liberty Bell Plaza, at Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Broadway. San Ramon Creek flows from the southeast, and Las Trampas Creek from the southwest.

San Ramon Creek was originally called Arroyo del Injerto. Here are the facts: “In the San Ramon land grant case (1855) José Maria Amador testified that ‘the name was given it [the creek] by the name of Ramón who had the care of some sheep there a long time ago. It was also called Arroyo del Injerto [‘graft’] from the fact that there is a singular tree growing there, that is an oak with a willow grafted on it.’”2 In case you’re wondering, Ramon wasn’t a saint, though that’s not to say he wasn’t a good guy. “San” was tacked on later, in line with that naming convention peculiar to California. You can see this creek along Newell between Broadway and South Main Street, behind Broadway Plaza, as well as along Creekside Drive near the Elks Lodge.

Arroyo Las Trampas, or Las Trampas Creek, gained its name from the hills that separate today’s San Ramon Valley from Lamorinda, Sierras pequenas del . . . Arroyo San Ramon alias Las Trampas (‘little ridge of the . . . Arroyo San Ramon alias The Traps’). It seems traps were set in the chaparral of those hills to catch elk.3 Next time you’re walking down California Boulevard between Newell and Bothelo, or perhaps shopping at Trader Joe’s, take a look over the railing and you’ll see Las Trampas Creek.

Right about now, you may be thinking to yourself: “I wonder, is there something I can do to help preserve the irreplaceable natural asset that is our creek?” Funny you should ask. It just so happens that there is a creek cleanup this coming May 14, sponsored by Friends of the Creek. Follow the link and find out how easy it is to pitch in and help. You’ll have fun while contributing to the welfare of our community. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Meanwhile, we’ll try to keep Nuts Creek clean, too. Feel free to post your comments. We also welcome submissions about local history. Nuts Creek is a place for all of us.


1 William Robert Garner, Letters from California, 1846–47, edited by Donald Munro Craig (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970), pp. 140–41.

2 Erwin G. Gudde, California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names, edited by William Bright (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), p. 343

3 Gudde, p. 205