Livingston is located 7 miles Northwest of Atwater. It lies slightly uphill from where the Southern Pacific Railroad crosses the Merced River. Highway 99 follows the Southern Pacific through the city.
David Baldwin Chedester, a wagon master from a wagon train from Iowa, is recognized as the first settler of Livingston in 1862. He supplied food and produce to the railroad gangs who were building the rail road then later operated a store.
In the same year that the Central (now Southern) Pacific Railway crossed the Merced River, Edward Olds, an ex-member of a railway gang, set up a saloon and clothing store on the banks of the river. The only other existing building was a grain warehouse built in 1868 by William Little.
Development into town site was stimulated by railway gang workers, gold seekers, then, farmers. Before there was a town in this area, there was only the railway station of Cressey named after the pioneer family. Originally, the town was to be named after the famed explorer ‘Livingstone' whose disappearance at the time was creating worldwide publicity.
Credit for the development of the town goes to William Little, who used his vision to create a city of 80 blocks (40 on each side of the railway). This was done in an effort to make' Livingstone' the new County seat. He offered to sell lots of 25 to 125 feet for $1.00 each if Livingstone was chosen. In 1872, the town lost the election for a new County seat to Merced by 200 votes to replace Snelling. In 1873, in a petition for a new post office the final letter "E" was inadvertently deleted and the town officially became Livingston. The new name honors Charles C. Livingston, who operated a station for the Southern Pacific Railroad.
In 1933, all of the land owned by William little was purchased by Cyrus Bliven. He grew grain there for many years. Mr. Bliven and his mansion eventually gained a great amount of notoriety, first, for holding séances and spiritual meetings for guests from as far away as San Francisco and Los Angeles. Then, later as a hideaway for Bill Dalton (the infamous Dalton gang of western lore), who had married Bliven's daughter while hiding from the law authorities of Kansas.
Livingston then experienced a period of relatively slow growth. After irrigation rights were granted to Bilven's land in 1908, speculators and promoters such as the Hunter Land Company began to extol the virtues of the area to land hungry families from as far away as Iowa.
Because of irrigation, Livingston was able to achieve a period of steady growth. Livingston was incorporated in 1922 with Charles Ottman as its first mayor. Agriculture was its primary industry, as it still is today. Historically, the grape industry has been primary in the agriculture of the land, as seen in American vineyards then Gallo wineries, who have achieved worldwide prominence. The sweet potato and almond industries are also important to the area. Foster Farms is by the far the most easily recognized local industry and is Livingston's largest employer.
Livingston is a city on the move and is in a period of transition and transformation due to new residential and commercial development. However, Livingston's historical roots remain strong to this day, as exemplified in their museum across the street from city hall.
Livingston's trademark feature is diversity. The population of Livingston is over 13,000 and is comprised of many different cultural and ethnic groups. In fact, an estimated 30 European, 25 Asian, 15 Latin American and 5 Sub-Saharan African nationalities are counted among Livingston's ethnic makeup.
A large Mexican population has already had a strong presence in the area, but Livingston is home to many diverse communities. Japanese, Portuguese, Filipinos, Mennonites, Sikhs, and many more groups have made Livingston their home, and the immigration happily continues to this day. Each group has had its own unique impact on the area and contributes to the special flavor Livingston has to offer.
**Thanks go out to the City of Livingston for the historical information and the photos, and to the Livingston city manager, Jose Ramirez, for meeting with us, Feel free to visit the City of Livingston's website at http://www.livingstoncity.com/***