CCCHS Videos

Our collection of online videos has grown over the years. To make it easier to find the video you wish to view, they are now broken into groups, as you can see by the titles below. Click on the tab you wish to review, and a list of videos in that category will be shown. In addition to watching the videos here on our web site, many of these videos can also be found on our YouTube channel. If you wish to go directly there, you can click on the link here.

NEWSMAKERS: Lesher Speaker Series November 2, 2015 - CCCHS non-profit partner

For a number of years, the Lesher Foundation has sponsored a series of 6 speakers annually for their "NEWSMAKERS: Lesher Speaker Series" on topics of interest to the public, ranging from sports to history to current events. In addition, various non-profit groups throughout the county are highlighted through their "non-profit Partnership" arrangement. On November 2, 2015, author David McCullough was the speaker at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, and the Contra Costa County Historical Society was chosen as their non-profit partner for the evening.

As part of the partnership arrangement, local TV station KTVU came to the History Center in Martinez and created this two and a half minute video, which was shown to the audience before the start of Mr. McCullough's speech.

Contra Costa County Historical Society - Who We Are

The Contra Costa County Historical Society has released a new video showing the History Center in action. From examples of our archives' documents and photos to examples of what types of information is available to the public, this YouTube video can be used to reiterate to all the importance of our Society to historians, genealogists, and anyone interested in our county.

Dedication of New History Center Location

In January, 2013, the Contra Costa County History Center moved from 610 Main Street to 724 Escobar Street in Martinez. On April 20, 2013, there was a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house to show off the new facilities to our members and friends. This video shows members of our board and our executive director being joined by Mayor Rob Schroeder of Martinez along with County Supervisors Federal Glover and Karen Mitchoff as we officially opened our facility.

A Little History on Our Society

In conjunction with the Bay Point Teen Video Project, producer Doug Harris brought his student film makers to Martinez in 2002, interviewing our Executive Director Betty Maffei about the history of the Contra Costa County Historical Society and the archives housed in our History Center. Below is a clip from that documentary:

County Aviation History

Another Doug Harris YouTube video interviews Bill Larkins, a volunteer at our History Center and an authority on early Bay Area aviation. In the segment, he and others talk about the building of an airplane in 1911 in what was then Black Diamond, CA (now Pittsburg) and named after the city where it was built.

Black Diamond Memories

Our next video dates from 1985, and is a history of the Black Diamond Mines in what is now Antioch. Produced for the East Bay Regional Park District, the video includes footage of the area when it was a working mine interspersed with interviews of people whose families worked the mines.

Mount Diablo Gets a Makeover

In 2013, the "Eye of Mount Diablo", the beacon that sits at the top of the mountain, was refurbished in time for its annual December 7th lighting. The video below, sponsored by Shell, talks about the process of removing the beacon, cleaning it up and getting it ready for its annual show.

Shell: A Century in Martinez

In 1915, the Shell Oil Company opened its first refinery in the United States in Martinez. The following video, created by the staff of the Shell refinery in Martinez, celebrates their 100 years of service to the Martinez community.

An Historical Mystery

Recently, the History Center received a donation of some film footage taken by an unknown photographer in and around the Martinez area in 1927. The footage has been broken into two parts, as shown below:


If you have any comments or can help us identify any people or places in the videos, please contact us by clicking here.

In January, 2018, longtime CCCHS member and past president Traci Parent sat down with our former Executive Director Betty Maffei to discuss the early years and locations of the Contra Costa County's History Center as well as insights into how the society has evolved into the group it is today.

The entire video lasts about 85 minutes, and DVD copies are available through the History Center. For viewing here, we have cut the video into 6 parts, each part lasting from 12 to 15 minutes long. You can click on the thumbnails below to watch any or all of the parts.

Part 1 - In the beginning


Part 2 - Organizing the History Center


Part 3 - Getting publicity in the newspapers


Part 4 - Moving to Hilson's in Martinez


Part 5 - Contributions of early volunteers


Part 6 - Outreach


Death Comes to Contra Costa County

In 1924 and 1925, a "Hoof and Mouth" outbreak in Contra Costa County caused roughly 10,000 cows, hogs, sheep goats and deer to be slaughtered. Statewide, the numbers were close to 125,000 in this period.

Bill Mero's video on this subject shows the destruction caused by this highly contagious disease. You can also read his essay on the subject on the "Events" tab of our "Essays" page.

A Celebration of Rosie the Riveter: A visit to the White House

In 2014, a number of local women who, during World War II, worked at the Richmond Ship Yards, went on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Washington, D.C. These real-life "Rosies" met with and flirted with Vice President Joe Biden, who helped to arrange the trip. They even received a visit during their meeting from President Obama.

This collage of photos and TV screen captures, set to music of the era, was compiled by the Pinole Historical Society and was generously made available to the CCCHS for displaying to the public.

A Pioneer Woman's Life & Death on the Wild Contra Costa Frontier

The true experience of a woman on the 1850's frontier through her personal letters. We hear her struggling to raise a family surrounded by bandits, killers and Indians along with her own approaching death. Women on the frontier have largely been neglected by historians. For our nation and women living on the 19th century American frontier, theirs was a moment in history.

Fages-Crespi Exploration

Bill Mero and Dean McLeod have collaborated on a video exploring the 1772 exploration of Don Pedro Fages and Father Juan Crespi through today's Contra Costa County, with its easternmost camp in what is now Bay Point.

The Gold Robbery at Selby

In current dollars the largest gold robbery in American history took place in August, 1901 at Selby in Contra Costa County, CA. This is its story and the aftermath.

The Great Byron Train Wreck

This video explores the great Byron train disaster of December, 1902. Titled "Steam, Steel and Blood," it reveals how this tragedy and others led to better national safety standards.

Port Chicago Explosion

Thousands of tons of naval munitions blew up severely damaging Port Chicago and killing hundreds of sailors in July 1944. With the help of several of the Contra Costa historical societies, local students put together a documentary of this tragic event. The video also touches on the racism of the day that influenced this disaster. Doug Harris was the instructor and producer of the video.

Crockett Sugar War

In 1938 the C & H Sugar Refinery in Crockett was the scene of a bloody battle between the AFL and the CIO. The lengthy CIO strike and street fight with the AFL was over the validity of the AFL closed shop agreement with C & H. It pitted brother against brother. For the Crockett and the nation, it was a moment in history.

The Crockett Sugar Caverns

Okay, so this isn't provable history, but Facebook member Jeff Vargan has uploaded a You Tube video regarding the success of the C&H Sugar Refinery in Crockett. Take it for what it's worth!

Marsh Biography

A biography of John Marsh, the first American to settle in Contra Costa County. Written by Bill Mero, the video explores Marsh and his family as they moved west and settled in what is now Brentwood.

"California Gold" visits the Marsh House

In 2008, the late Huell Howser of the California Gold TV program visited the John Marsh Stone House which is the center piece of the proposed John Marsh State Historic Park in Contra Costa County. New Native Americans archaeological discoveries near Brentwood, CA and early California history are discussed.

Marsh Historic Park

This documentary discusses the efforts of the John Marsh Trust to convert much of the land surrounding Dr. John Marsh's house into an Historic Park.

Inspecting the Marsh House in 2005

As part of the restoration of the Marsh House in Brentwood, an inspection of the condition of the house was made in July, 2005. That inspection is documented in this video.

Sheriff Veale

Doug Harris published a YouTube video on Sheriff Veale featuring some of our History Center personnel. Hear how the one of the longest serving Sheriffs in California history (1895-1935) kept the peace in a rural county without firing a shot!

William Welch - Only non-Hispanic Rancho land grant owner in the County

Steve Welch is a direct descendant of William Welch, an Irishman who was the first Anglo to settle in Contra Costa County, and the original land grant owner of Rancho Las Juntas. On July 19, 2015, Society member Dean McLeod presented a drawing of the "Lady Blackwood", the ship on which William Welch came to California, to Steve and his wife Genene at their Franklin Canyon vineyard and winery.

James Kirker - Scalp Hunter

James Kirker came from Ireland becoming an infamous scalp hunter in the Southwest. He spent the last years of his life in Contra Costa County, CA and died in California mysteriously on the isolated John Marsh Rancho at Los Meganos.

Gerry Anderson, in a BBC documentary, followed Kirker from his native Ireland here to Contra Costa County. This segment, featuring Bill and Kathleen Mero from the Contra Costa County Historical Society and the John Marsh Trust, talks about Kirker's time in the county. The Historical Society also provided technical support to the makers of this documentary.

It should be noted that, based on records kept by the Society, most of what has been written about James Kirker's life and death in California is either unverifiable or plainly untrue.

The "Last Man Club" of Contra Costa County

Fans of the old TV series "M*A*S*H" may recall an episode where Colonel Potter became the "winner" of a last man's club established by a platoon in which he served during World War I. A number of such "clubs" sprang up among survivors of World War I and subsequent conflicts. One such club was established in Contra Costa County. This video is a compilation of local news stories from Veteran's Day, 1988, when Contra Costa's "Last Man", Albert Furrer, collected his prize.

CCCHS Member Mark Harrigan has developed a series of short videos showcasing the Main Streets of some of the county's cities. The videos are based on photos he has taken intermixed with historical photos taken from the CCCHS archives as well as his own personal collection. Click on the town image to see the entire video.


Alamo is an unincorporated community in Central Contra Costa County. Named for the poplar trees that lined San Ramon Creek, Alamo is located about 30 miles east of San Francisco. As of the 2010 census, the population was 14,750. The community of Alamo is well known for its lavish lifestyle and its notable residents, with the median home price being $1,890,000.

Bay Point/West Pittsburg

Formerly known as West Pittsburg, this unincorporated area of the county changed its name to Bay Point in 1993.

Byron, Knightsen and Bethel Island

Byron is an unincorporated community in Eastern Contra Costa County. Located about 5 miles southeast of Brentwood, the origin of the name is in some dispute. The 2010 census showed the population of Byron to be 1,277. The area is best known for the Byron Hot Springs resort located nearby that was a popular retreat for movie stars and famous athletes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Knightsen is a small unincorporated community of 1,568 residents and 1,500 horses in Eastern Contra Costa County, near Oakley. The community was founded by George W. Knight, and its name is a portmanteau of his last name and his wife (Christina Christensen). Knightsen has the oldest chapter of the 4-H Club in California.

Bethel Island, formerly known as Bethell, Bethell Ranch, Bethel Tract, Sand Mound Ranch and Sand Mound Tract, is a census-designated place (CDP) in Eastern Contra Costa County. The population was 2,137 at the 2010 census.


Originally built as a company town for the Pacific Coast Shipbuilding Company, Clyde was commonly referred to in those days as "Rainbow City" due to its colorful housing.


The Town of Danville is located in the San Ramon Valley in Contra Costa County. It is one of the incorporated municipalities in California that uses "town" in its name instead of "city". The population was 42,039 as of the 2010 census.


Kensington is an unincorporated community of Contra Costa County that borders Alameda County. The population was 5,077 at the 2010 census. Unlike many unincorporated communities, Kensington maintains local jurisdiction over its police department, park services, refuse collection and fire department.


Initially settled by Elam Brown in 1846, Lafayette (or La Fayette as it was spelled when it was initially incorporated) is generally accepted to have been named after the Marquis de La Fayette, a French military hero of the American Revolutionary War. Today Lafayette is known for its pastoral rolling hills, good schools, and wealthy inhabitants. In 2016, the median household income in Lafayette was over $140,000, more than twice the statewide average and about two and half times the national median.


Martinez, the county seat for Contra Costa County, is located along the southern shore of the Carquinez Straits. The population was 35,824 at the 2010 census. It is named for Ygnacio Martinez, whose Mexican land grant, Rancho El Pinole included the Alhambra Valley area where the city now stands. Martinez was the home of naturalist John Muir from 1880 until his death in 1914. He was buried about a mile south of the building that is now the John Muir National Historic Site. While the house itself has been open to the public for many years, the burial location of Muir and his wife were only recently made available on a limited basis to the public.


Moraga is named in honor of Joaquin Moraga, member of the famed Californio family, famous 18th century expeditionaries of the Californias. Moraga incorporated in 1974, when the communities of Moraga Town, Rheem, and Rheem Valley, united into one town. Home of St. Mary's College of California since 1928, the town gained some local notoriety in 2017 due to a large sinkhole opening up in the downtown area and a failed bridge on Canyon Road cut off only road from Moraga to the town of Canyon.


The town of Pacheco was laid out in 1857 by Dr. J. H. Carothers and named for Salvio Pacheco, grantee of the Rancho Monte del Diablo Mexican land grant. A post office operated at Pacheco from 1859 to 1913 and from 1955 to the present.

In January 2011 the Martinez City Council voted to annex those portions of Pacheco north of California State Route 4. In September of that year, Martinez reached a tax sharing deal to pave the way forward for the annexation. In March 2012, sufficient protests were registered to force an election on the issue. In August 2012 North Pacheco rejected annexation, when residents and property owners voted 40-39 against becoming part of Martinez. The 111-acre area remains unincorporated, governed by the County Board of Supervisors.


Pittsburg, originally settled in 1839, was initially called "New York Landing", or "New York of the Pacific", so named by New York-born Colonel Jonathan D. Stevenson, who laid out an initial town in 1849. When coal was found in Nortonville, the area began the porting of coal from the Black Diamond Mines to its south. The city then became known as "Black Diamond" after the mining firm that built the Black Diamond Coal Mining Railroad from there to Nortonville. Due to other industrial potential in the area, the citizens voted to rename the town "Pittsburg" on February 11, 1911. The name was selected to honor Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as the two cities' shared a common steel and mining industrial heritage. This rechristening came at a time when the name of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was more commonly spelled without the "h".

Pleasant Hill

Incorporated in 1961, Pleasant Hill is bordered by Walnut Creek to the south and Concord to the north and east. The population was 33,152 at the 2010 census. Monument Boulevard was named after the Soldiers Memorial Monument to commemorate soldiers of World War I. The monument was dedicated on December 11, 1927 and depicts one black and three white soldiers. It is 45 feet tall, constructed of formed concrete, and weighs 150 tons. In 1954 the monument was moved to its current site at Boyd Road and Contra Costa Boulevard to make way for upcoming highway construction.


Rheem, also known as Rheem Valley and Rheem Center, is an unincorporated community in Contra Costa County, California, United States. It is located 7.5 miles (12 km) north-northwest of Danville, at an elevation of 587 feet (179 m). It was incorporated into the town of Moraga when that town was incorporated in 1974. The place was named after its developer, Donald Laird Rheem, the son of William Rheem, a former President of Standard Oil Company.


Named for the livestock roundups common in the late 19th and early 20th century, Rodeo is a small town on San Pablo Bay. Cattle from the surrounding hills were regularly driven down through the old town to a loading dock on the shoreline for shipment to slaughterhouses.

Vine Hill

Vine Hill is an unincorporated area of the county to the east of Martinez, cut by Interstate 680. Along Pacheco Road, you will find a marker noting the location of John Marsh's murder.

In addition to many short videos about the cities of the county, CCCHS Member Mark Harrigan has also created a number of videos about specific areas within the county itself.

680 Rudgear to Sycamore

Once known as Route 21, this video takes a look at Interstate 680 from Rudgear Road in Walnut Creek to Sycamore Valley Road in Danville.

Airports of Contra Costa County

In the early days of the 20th Century, there were many small air fields around the county. Mark has collected photos of these now largely long-gone fields as well as maps showing their locations.

Diablo Country Club

Located in the unincorporated area of Diablo east-northeast of Danville, the Diablo Country Club was built by Robert Noble Burgess in 1914 at the foot of Mt. Diablo, which he owned at the time. His golf course utilizes the natural valleys, grassy hollows and centuries old oak trees as natural hazards, and was designed by two world-reknown course designers, Jack Neville and William Watson.

The Contra Costa County Historical Society was honored to host its 2016 Annual Meeting at the venue.

John Muir House

When you think of our forests and natural parks, you think of John Muir. This famous Scottish naturalist eventually settled down in Martinez with his wife and two daughters. His house and some of his surrounding land, located just north of Route 4 at the Alhambra Road exit, is now a National Park.

Lafayette Reservoir

The Lafayette Reservoir is an open-cut man-made terminal water storage reservoir owned and operated by the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). Construction of the Lafayette Reservoir began in 1928 but as the concrete was pored it "settled" forcing delays and a huge reduction in its planned capacity. Finally completed in 1933, it was intended solely as a standby water supply for EBMUD customers.The reservoir is on a 925-acre site and can hold 1.4 billion gallons of water. EBMUD opened the reservoir for public recreation in 1966.

Marsh Creek Springs

Old Marsh Creek Springs is a 2 block by 8 block park located along Marsh Creek Road in Clayton.

Mount Diablo

At a height of 3,849 feet, Mount Diablo is visible from most of the San Francisco Bay Area. Mount Diablo appears from many angles to be a double pyramid and has many subsidiary peaks, the largest and closest of which is the other half of the double pyramid, North Peak, nearly as high in elevation at 3,557 feet and about a mile northeast of the main summit.

From its peak, on a clear day the Sierra Nevada is plainly visible. The best views are after a winter storm; a snowy Sierra shows up better, and in the summer, it is more likely to be hazy. Lassen Peak, 181 miles away, is occasionally just visible over the curve of the earth. Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park is also visible. Eight Bay Area bridges are also visible, from west to east: San Mateo, Bay, Golden Gate, San Rafael, Carquinez, Benicia, Antioch, and Rio Vista.

Tao House

The Tao House, also known as the Eugene O'Neill home, is located near Danville. It was built by O'Neill using the money won from his Nobel Prize for Literature. While living there from 1937-1944, he wrote a number of plays including "Long Day's Journey Into Night" for which he awarded the Pulitzer Price.

Tilden Park

Tilden Regional Park, also known as Tilden Park, is a 2,079-acre regional park in the East Bay. It is between the Berkeley Hills and San Pablo Ridge. Its main entrance is near Kensington, Berkeley, and Richmond. The park is contiguous with Wildcat Canyon Regional Park. Tilden Park is largely located within unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County, while parts of the park are within the cities of Oakland and Berkeley. The park is managed by the East Bay Regional Park District, created from the first land the District purchased in 1936.

Tilden Regional Park was named in honor of Charles Lee Tilden, a Bay Area attorney and businessman who served on the first Board of Directors of the East Bay Regional Park District.

Walnut Creek - Broadway Plaza

Broadway Plaza is an outdoor shopping mall located in downtown Walnut Creek. The shopping center opened on October 11, 1951, with 38 stores. JCPenney, Sears, Woolworths, Joseph Magnin (later I. Magnin), and a Lucky Supermarket were the mall's original anchors. In the years since, the Plaza has undergone many renovations and store changes and now houses many high-end retailers such as Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom, Macy's and even a Tesla "dealership".

Walnut Creek Downtown

From Las Lomas and the "Hick'ry Pit" (formerly Emil Villa's) past Mel's to Gemco and back with a few side trips to the surrounding areas including the Simons block and the court house... which is where you might have ended up if you did this trip too many times!

Walnut Creek North Main Street

Main Street runs north and south through the city of Walnut Creek. This video concentrates on the section from Mount Diablo Blvd., where the name changes from South Main to North Main, to the Pleasant Hill border, where the name changes to Contra Costa Boulvard.


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