History

Isleton ChamberIn 1938 the last great steamboat race took place on the Sacramento River. It was all part of Sacramento’s Golden Empire Celebration. A sixteen-mile race… churning the water and hell bent for victory. It was the Paddle Wheelers – Port of Stockton vs. the Delta Queen, a race to be remembered!

Gone are the days of the great paddle wheelers and steamboats that once drew excitement in the likeness of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.. “Hey, everybody… Steamboat’s a-comin’!” Like Hannibal, that was also Isleton, California… a place that reads time, like a storybook adventure!

Through the evolution of time, Isleton changed in many ways. Once a thriving town on the Sacramento River (rather sizable in its day), commerce and trade used the waterways as a primary source of transport. Argonauts journeyed from San Francisco up the Sacramento River, bound for the Mother Lode country in search of the Elephant (gold). As people flooded into this new hard land, the need for commodities of fruits and vegetables provided others an opportunity through cultivating the rich land of the Delta.

Improving the waterways for deeper channels that would permit year round travel brought about levee construction. Labor was in big demand for projects while many chose to chip away at the hard rock mining and/or working the many streams for gold. With high demands and few to work, it did not take long for the word to spread across the waters that there were great opportunities and new beginnings in a land called California.

Isleton ChamberSoon, San Francisco was seeing multitudes of ships with people of all distinction, race and culture. With the greater abundance of labor and trades, towns sprang up as if “overnight.” One such town was Isleton, and not long after construction began, farming and cultivating was in full swing.

Additionally, there was labor for the levee building and dock work, much of which was done by the Chinese who settled and built colonies within existing towns (such as Isleton).

Whole towns were a true mixture of culture and architecture and beliefs and politics. The evolution of time, however, has downsized the growth. Roads and gas engine vehicles replaced the great boats of yesteryear. But on rare occasion, one can still hear the phantom whistle of a large stern paddle wheeler and the yell of an excitable boy, “steam boat’s a-comin’!”

Gone are the days, but not forgotten. Remnants of a bygone era, along with 840 residents are what remain of Isleton today. Although time has diminished the population to a short few, the antiquity of what was still remains. Chinatown, and the many façade front buildings, still remains intact. The very appeal of a bygone era still reminds residents and visitors of what was once referred to as “the Little Paris of the Delta.” Many cultures still inhabit Isleton today as they did then. It is quaint and small compared to so many other towns or cities. But somehow, it continues to survive the beating of time and evolution, a survival sonnet to be sure.