When William Wiggin Smith founded Antioch in 1851, he staked out a portion of land near the river as his own, calling it Smith’s Point. Smith, who according to Rimbault was a master carpenter, built three houses on the land. But a legal snafu after Smith’s death in 1898 changed the name to “Rogers’ Point” – a moniker that has stuck ever since.
Rimbault, who recently transcribed Smith’s diary into a book, wants the city to issue a proclamation to change the name back, honoring Antioch’s founding father. The area is located near the end of Fulton Shipyard Road.
“We spent the entire 1900s calling it Rogers’ Point, and it’s like everything that Smith did or contributed to the community was just kind of wiped off the face of the earth,” Rimbault said.
Rimbault noted that Smith is the only one with the legal claim to that land, and reverting his name would be the proper thing to do. She said Smith received the first United States Land Title to the point, something echoed with celebration in the founder’s diary.
In his role of clergyman, Smith traveled often to his congregation in Stockton.
The land was actually named for Smith’s wife, Jane Crocker Croswell Smith, whose name was on the deed. He decided to do that in homage to the women’s suffrage movement, Rimbault said.
Many times, the city’s founder would come back to Antioch to find people on his property. W.W. Smith kept going back to San Francisco to ratify his claim, but it took 17 years to get an official document entitling “the Point,” to him.
“Thursday, November 18, 1869, this is OUR Thanksgiving Day, enjoyed upon our own land,” Smith wrote in his diary.
According to Rimbault, Smith’s son, William Moody Smith, attempted to gain power of attorney while his father was near suffering from dementia and near death. Because the land had been so hotly contested in the past, the judge decided not to approve William Moody’s request, but to grant a conservatorship to the founder’s daughter, Sarah.
After W.W. Smith’s death, the land was re-appraised for probate hearings, but somehow the name of someone associated with Smith’s estate, John Rogers, became the official name on the title. Rimbault surmised that Rogers might have purchased the land through the probate hearings, but she’s not entirely sure of what happened.
“In those days, if you own it, you name it,” she said. “Somewhere along the line, Rogers becomes the owner.”
Rimbault was hoping that City Council would issue a proclamation this month, closer to the land claim date, but Antioch Mayor Jim Davis said the council wouldn’t have time to give the issue its proper due right now. At the last meeting earlier this month, Davis asked that the matter be put on the agenda in early 2011.
“I think it’s an attempt to correct a moral wrong that has been done in history toward Smith,” Rimbault said.
Since no signage would need to be changed, a proclamation would come at no cost to Antioch, Rimbault said. She’s hoping for some form of official notice from the city, which owns the land that is now fenced-off, and for any future references to the area be made as “Smith’s Point.”
Rimbault hopes that doing so would enhance awareness of the founder, to whom she referred as a Renaissance Man, and maybe spark a more interest in Antioch’s history.