History – Town of Wilton

Wilton history goes back to 1908 when the Central California Traction Railroad line choose to build a station on the property of a rancher named Seth Wilton located at Wilton Road and Green Road. A small settlement grew up around the Wilton Station and became the community of Wilton.

Wilton remains a rural agricultural community with a population of 5,363 (2010 census). The two main roads are Wilton and Dillard. The main business community is small and consists of the Wilton Store, Connor’s Sand & Gravel, US post Office, Sheriff’s Station and Volunteers, Wilton Garage, and Steve’s First Class Second Hand Store. Down the road in the Dillard area is the Dillard Store, The Wilton Fire Station #81, The Dillard School and the Wilton Bible Church and Christian School make up the two business hubs of the area.

The Wilton History Group, a non-profit, was organized in December 2003 to collect, preserve, and maintain records of historical value of Wilton and the surrounding area. Also, recording oral interviews.

They hold an annual Wilton History Day event on the second Saturday of October that is located on the Dillard School grounds. They display the many items collected over the years and to promote their work. It is a fun day of activities such as a spelling bee, market place, 80 birthday and rooster crow contest, food, and music. It is well attended by many residents and neighbors.

You are welcome to attend their fourth Monday of the month meetings or write to Wilton History Group, P.O.Box 421, Wilton, CA 95693. For more information and membership forms see their website at www.wiltonhistorygroup.org. They are always looking for volunteers to help in their purpose.

The following article was written by Joseph Kerr Junior High School students for a small book called, “Cosumnes: Communities in the Elk Grove Area (A Kid’s History, Book-2)” published in 1975 by Wes Neff Printing Service in Elk Grove. 

Wilton

Some people say that Wilton is six miles from Elk Grove. Others, mostly those who live in Wilton, will tell you that Elk Grove is six miles from Wilton. I guess you always think the place where you live is more important than where somebody else lives. One thing that used to be hard was knowing when you were in Wilton. Now there is assign that says, “Welcome to Wilton” and everybody knows when they are there.

One of the first people to live in the Wilton area was Henry S. Putney. He had been successful in mining and decided to put some of his money into land. It had been part of the Hartnell Land Grant and was about a thousand acres near what is now Green Road. Mr. Putney was the first person to run a thresher in the valley. He called his place the Silverdale Ranch, raised grain and had some cattle. He built a fine redwood house of ten rooms in the 1870’s. It was a Wilton landmark until a cold rainy January night in 1970 when it burned down.

Mr. Putney’s holdings had been bought by the California Traction Company in 1910 for they were putting a line through the area. Mr. Alden Anderson was director of the Traction Company and had become a property developer.The main part of the Putney Ranch was sold to the Will Greens of Jackson. The Land Company divided the land into 25 acre lots. Many people thought they were too small to do any good. When somebody bought acreage, they would get a lot in Wilton, which was thought to grow into a town some day. The name Wilton was picked due to Seth Wilton who leaved near by.

The Wilton Store was built in 1913 by Mr. Patton. He had a few groceries and some  some ice cream and candy. Mr. L. W. Chadwick was the next owner. He enlarged the store so that it could carry the things that the large farmers needed. In 1927, it was sold to R. B. and George Stout. There were large chicken ranches and dairy ranches in the area, so the store had a feed business. Farmers could get the feed off two or three carloads that would come in each month on the Traction Line.

2020

The Post Office was granted in 1914. The first three-day rural route delivery was by Mr. C. Woodmansee with horse and buggy.

Present Day Post Office 2020

People were moving out to Wilton from all over the place. They had dreams of fine walnut and cherry orchards and many trees were planted. There turned out to be a water problem, and the development was a lot slower than it was supposed to be. Lot of people were disappointed. They missed the social life they had been used to. So what they did was to build a town hall. They had dances and town meetings and dinners too. Now the building is still used but it is a plumbing business.

Wilton Rancheria – The land at the NE corner of Wilton and Green Roads was bought by the government in 1916 for the Indians. Each Indian family was given a thousand dollars in the 1960’s, and they were allowed to keep their homes on the reservation. Also, at the time, the government gave the Indians the land.

Wilton Rancheria 2020

In the early thirties local people had to have something to fight fire and they didn’t have enough money to buy and engine, for it would have cost about $4000. So what they did was build one from scrap parts and salvage from junk piles. It cost them $47.41.

The Sacramento County Library, Wilton branch, is located in a lady’s house. That might be unusual but for the people of Wilton it is very convenient. Mrs. Flemning is the librarian and she is very helpful and knows a lot about books and other things.

Wilton is getting bigger and bigger although Wilton residents regret it. It looks like everybody is moving out to the country. There are a lot of fine horse ranches and it is a pleasant way to lead a life. Families long ago probably sat under the big oak trees by the Cosumnes River and had picnics.  Houses are popping up all over and all can see the twin towers of Rancho Seco to the southwest.

From the Wilton News – November 2020:

In 1921 there were 250 individuals residing in Wilton. They were a social group with regular Gatherings at the local Dillard and Lee Schools for events and meetings. During that time they had regular Saturday night dances; however, soon found they had out grown the use of the school facilities.They discussed building a “Town Hall” in which events, meetings, gatherings, & programs could occur.A committee was formed including Harry Randolph, L.D. Chadwick, Mr. & Mrs. Frank Antonozzi, Mrs.Rose Mailey, Mrs. L.E. Adams, Leatha Stout, and Columbus Dillard. Thus, the Wilton Town HallAssociation was formed. The purpose was to provide good fellowship and improve the lives of its members socially, intellectually and morally.

Land was donated in town central (Wilton & Green) by Cosumnes Land Company. Stocks were sold at $5 per share (81 shares totaling $450); donations and pledges in the amount of $1,234.00 were collected; and investments from: Eleanor Investment Company/$100, Sheldon Townsite Company/$50, and Herald Land Company/$50; and a bank loan in the amount of $800 was obtained for a total of $2,639.00.

The size of the building was to be 34’x82’. Sacramento Lumber Company provided the lowest bid for material at $1,500 and H.E. Bixler, a carpenter & contractor, got the job of providing labor for $465. With a total of $2,639.00 in hand construction began in April 1921. Construction was completed in September 1921. An “Opening Dance” was held on September 17, 1921.

Completed in September 1921

The Wilton Town Hall became the “hub of activities” for the community of Wilton: Thursday Club Meetings, Saturday Night Dancing, Bridal Showers, Wedding Receptions,

Christmas Parties, New Years Eve Parties, Church Services, Christmas programs by Dillard School, Movie Night, Variety and Amateur Night, as well as specialty dinners and suppers.

In the early 1960’s the building was is need of serious repairs and upgrade In addition CountyBuilding code restriction prevented some upgrades. On June 30, 1965 share holders decided the costs related to saving the building were to high. On November 6, 1966 shareholders accepted a bid for $2,323.49 from Russ Sharp and the Town Hall became a hardware store.

2020

Dillard

When the traction Line came in, it cut the property of C.W. Dillard in half. The traction line had a third rail that was electrified. When the train made its first run in 1911, it carried all the Railroad officials. Mr. Dillard was working in his field, where the tracks crossed the road. They stopped and asked him if he would like to take a short ride. Ehen he told them what they had done to his property, they said they would call the place “Dillard’s Crossing.”

Looking South at “Dillard Crossing” splitting his property – 2020 photo

The Dillard Store was started around 1913. Mr. Dillard met a man named Mr. Wilhoit at Lake Tahoe. He wanted to start a grocery store down this way. Mr. Dillard told him that he would give him land for a store and a home because the area needed a store. This was done. Dillard was only a mile away from Wilton, and a controversy developed over who was going to have the post office. Mr. Wilhoit got his application approved about the same time that Mr. Chadwick did. Mr. Wilhoit was angry that they would give both out, so he refused it and the post office went to the Wilton where it has been ever since.

1913
Jean Clark
August 2014
Present Day 2020 version

The first school in the area was the Davis School, formed in 1865, and named for relatives of Jefferson Davis. It was located on the corner of Wilmort and Dillard Roads, but was abandoned in 1919 due to lack of pupil’s and no longer exists. 

Davis School (1865-1919)

The Lee School was built in 1872 and the original Dillard School in 1915. Davis school joined with Dillard in 1915, and when the Elk Grove district unified in 1959, the Lee School joined with Dillard, becoming the only school for the area.

Lee School built in 1889 – 2015 photo

The first Dillard School was built in 1915 at the spot where the Dillard firehouse stands now. The school was torn down in 1958.

C.W. Dillard School 1915
Present Day Wilton Firehouse (NW corner of Wilton & Dillard Roads)

People thought it had termites but it took a bulldozer to knock it down. They burned it. It had been a good school. Meanwhile, the new Dillard School was rebuilt in 1956 on land donated by C.W. Dillard at a new location and is only a short walk up the road from the Dillard Store to the corner of Dillard and Colony Roads. It was renovated in 2018. 

Present Day C.W. Dillard School

At one time, the Dillard Road was known as Bandeen Road. This was after the Bandeen Ranch that was later owned by Mr. George Stout. There were a lot of large ranches in the Wilton and Dillard areas. They were divided up into smaller units. Some of the early ranches were the Bandeen, Putney, Taverner, Wardrobe, Gibson, Wilton, Dillard, Davis, Riley, Ross, Bailey, and Lower. Many of them are familiar because they are names of roads in the area.