Martinez Historical Society

Cemetery Tour of Martinez


fishFish Family

The Fish's were reportedly the first millionaires in Contra Costa County. Lafayette Irving Fish and brother Charles came to California in 1850 and Martinez in 1854. They bought a large tract of land between Martinez and Pacheco and began wheat farming. At one point, the Fish's had 18,000 acres in wheat. To work these vast holdings, the brothers brought mechanized farming to the area including the use of a steam powered plow built in 1862. Lafayette and Charles were among the founders of the Bank of Martinez - with Lafayette serving as president from 1873 until 1890. Eventually, the brothers were joined by their brother Josiah and sisters Caroline and Julia. Julia is considered the founder of the Martinez Library. She proposed the idea of a reading room for young people. Immediately successful, she suggested a public library which was housed in a building donated by Dr. John Strentzel. In 1900, Julia donated the property at Susana and Court Streets for the first Alhambra Union High School which opened in 1901. In 1921, the high school was moved to it's present site. The Court and Susana site now accommodate the Martinez Unified School District offices, a warehouse, and the district's corporation yard. The Fish wives and children also lie in this plot.

From the Lafayette Irving Fish obituary - Lafayette was born in Batavia, New York, in 1824, and left for California early in 1850. His trip to California was by way of the Isthmus of Panama. He first settled in the Feather River area where he engaged in mining, later in a mercantile business. Later he came to Contra Costa County where he purchased a large tract of land near Martinez to engage in the sheep business. In order to get the stock he desired he returned to the East, where he purchased 3,000 head of blooded sheep and drove them across the plains. later he engaged extensively in wheat growing.