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The Stones Came Early to Alamo

In Alamo it’s hard to miss the Stone family. Both Stone Valley Road and Stone Valley itself were named for these early immigrants from Iowa. Silas and Susanna Stones arrived in 1853 California in the 1850s where they and their family purchased land in Stone Valley. Silas (1792-1864) and Susanna Ward Stone (1795-1869) settled and built a new home in 1855 which stood for 100 years. Silas was 61 when he arrived. A tall and dignified man, he was elected alcalde for the area (a traditional Mexican position: a mayor-judge combined) and became known as Squire Stone. Susanna and Silas’ son, Albert Ward Stone (1821-1890) was a prominent farmer and community leader. He made an early journey to California in 1852. Then, in 1853, he brought his parents and served as captain of a large wagon train. Several relatives and friends came on that trip, including his brother Lysander Stone (1825-1883), Austin Dornan, and cousins Myron and Benjamin Hall. The wagon train led by Albert Ward Stone in 1853 brought several early Valley pioneers. You can see how these trips solidified friendships and helped bring about a sense of community. The Halls came from Pennsylvania and a friend Austin Dornan came as well. Soon all the Stones, Halls and Dornans lived in the Valley. Albert and his second wife, Martha Smith Stone (1829-1910) lived in Colusa, then moved to Alamo in 1858, raising 7 children. He was called Colonel because of his background fighting Indians in the East. He planted hay and grain, raised cattle, horses, sheep and hogs. The Stones eventually owned over 1200 acres in Stone Valley. He was a charter member of the Danville Grange, founded in 1873. Several descendants still live in the valley. The original Stone house can still be seen at 140 Austin Lane in Alamo. The Stones were strong supporters of education. Early on, Col. Stone put a cabin on his ranch and opened a school for Stone and neighbor children. His father Silas Stone was one of the first Trustees of the Union Academy, a private boarding high school which opened in 1860 on the Alamo-Danville border. After the Union Academy burned down in 1868, the Stone children completed high school by boarding during the week in Oakland or San Francisco. Many went to college. Daughter Flora May Stone graduated from Mills Seminary and Stanford University, for example. When Col. Stone and family moved to Alamo in 1858, they lived in a house near Green Valley at first. “One child, looking for something in a closet with the aid of a candle, carelessly set the house on fire. Fortunately, many things were still in packing cases and were saved. Their only money, gold, melted and ran down the floor cracks. It was later recovered and minted again.” (from Rocky Stone in 1978) Rocky Stone also recalled his grandfather saying that he took his 4 and 6 horse teams with grain to the Pacheco and Martinez warehouses, 12 to 15 miles away, before the railroad came. It took all day and was a very dusty trip. Sources Historic Record Co., History of Contra Costa County California, 1926, pp. 471-2; Virgie V. Jones, Remembering Alamo..and Other Things Along the Way, pp. 12, 15, 17-30, 35; Munro-Fraser, History of Contra Costa County, 1882, pp. 129, 428, 433, 443, 677; Rocky Stone, oral history, 1978.