Taking on Nature


“The soil being the basis of all prosperity, and the farmer being the tiller of the soil…”
(Stockton Independent – February 16, 1919)

For settlers eager to make a living growing crops, seasonal flooding wasn’t a critical process to maintain environmental balance – it was a major obstacle to progress. An 1848 federal law (the Arkansas Swamp Lands Act) allowed the state of California to sell reclaimed wetlands. Early efforts to channel water consisted of digging drainage ditches and enhancing natural levees with local peat. This was soon replaced by dredging up channel-bottom clays from sloughs and rivers and installing massive pump systems to keep land dry. Rough and Ready Island was (mostly) dry land by 1913 when a topographic map shows levees in place around the island.


Tideland Reclamation Article

1913 Topographic Map

Modern Aerial Photo

1913 U.S. Geological Survey Topographic Map, 1:31,680. Source: U.S. Geological Survey

1870 birdseye view of Stockton
Birds Eye View of the city of Stockton, San Joaquin County, California.
Source: University of the Pacific, Maps of the San Joaquin Sacramento Delta Collection

Birth of the Port

“After 84 years of serving ocean-going vessels – the SS Daisy Gray was the first to arrive with a load of lumber on Feb. 2, 1933 – the port has served as the city’s window to the world ever since.”
(Stockton Record – February 20, 2017)

In 1927, Congress authorized funding for construction of the Stockton Deep Water Ship Channel, which included deepening, straightening, and widening of 50 miles of the Stockton channel. This development lured development to Rough and Ready Island, with three different railroads building docks by the 1930s. The deep water port was opened by the new Port District in February 1933.


Freighter SS Daisy Grey at the Port of Stockton
First ship to call at the deepwater port in 1933.
Daisy Grey Freighter, Port of Stockton, 1933.
Source: University of the Pacific Library, Holt-Atherton Special Collections.

Rough and Ready Biographies

Albert Lindley

“The man behind the vision is Albert Lindley”
(Stockton Independent – February 16, 1919)

Albert Lindley settled on Rough and Ready Island in 1913 (several families already lived there, and there was even a schoolhouse) and built a showpiece Craftsman house once visited by Herbert Hoover. Lindley’s vision was to purchase all the land on the island and farm it – while he waited for the value to skyrocket when publicly-funded navigation improvements were completed. He was a tireless advocate for farmers (via the Farm Owners and Operators Association, of which he was a founder), and for the construction of the Stockton Deep Water Ship Channel. Known as the “Mayor of Rough and Ready Island,” Lindley is reported to have toured the island on a palomino horse, with his Australian shepherd by his side. While he waited, he also leased acreage to Shell Oil and General Petroleum, though no marketable quantities of oil were never discovered. Lindley’s grand plan ended, as many do, in United States Tax Court in 1952 – four years after his death.


1913 Newspaper Article About Lindley’s Home

Rough and Ready Isle Homes are Picturesque. Source: San Francisco Call, April 20, 1913.