Situated near the Stanislaus River, Oakdale, so named for the groves of oak trees that line the hills, boasts an impressive history. In 1848, gold was discovered along the Stanislaus River by the Indians living in the area. The stampede to mine the gold sent representatives of the Stockton and Visalia Railroad to the location that is now Oakdale. After purchasing land they were able to extend the railroad from Stockton to the gateway of the mines. Andrew Jackson Patterson owned a large tract of land there, a parcel of which he offered to the railroad, and Oakdale came into being in November, 1871.
In 1853, Francis Marion Cottle, along with his uncle and his son, drove a herd of cattle to this section, made it their home, and thus became the first settlers. In 1865, they purchased thousands of acres of land east of the present Oakdale railroad tracks. The area became part of the newly created Stanislaus County on April 1, 1854.
As the railroad cleared the land along the river edge to make way for the tracks, some of the magnificent oaks were used to build the Stockton State Hospital in 1854, one of the first in the state.
With the railroad extended now to Oakdale, the town quickly became a freight center that created businesses for the town. Blacksmith, wagon shops and livery stables began operating to service the wagon teams, hotels, chop houses, and general stores opened to accommodate the teamsters. Farmers raised hay and barley to feed the animals. By 1880, there were five hundred residents, and 1886 saw one thousand inhabitants including three doctors and a dentist. Churches were established; the Methodist Church had its first pastor in 1881, followed by the Free Methodist church in 1891. As churches were built, they began to play an important role in the development of the town. Prior to 1900, the social life of the community consisted of various clubs; literary, choral, dramatic, dancing and skating. Growth meant education, so an elementary school was built in 1881 with three teachers to tutor the students.
Oakdale was incorporated into a city in 1906. An irrigation system was brought in by 1909, enabling ranchers to plant fruit and almond trees, followed by stockmen raising sheep, cattle, hogs and poultry, and operating dairy farms. Today, Oakdale is diverse, being both agricultural and industrial.
With the Stanislaus River and Woodward Reservoir nearby, recreation and outdoor sports are available to everyone. The waters offer rafting, swimming, sailing, boating and fishing. For those who prefer terra firma, there are several riverside parks for camping. As professional rodeo men and women moved into Oakdale, the interest in rodeos grew. The Saddle Club started putting on rodeos in the spring, and the city became known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World”.
Oakdale residents have much to be proud of. . .their agriculture, industry, well-kept homes, and the peaceful, picturesque countryside that brought so many of their forefathers to this location.
The Oakdale Rodeo was the first outdoor rodeo in the Western United States, and since 1954, has been held, rain or shine. Oakdale earned the title "Cowboy Capital of the World" because of the number of successful Professional Rodeo Association cowboys who lived here. Today, the contestants, which have grown in number to over 400 and now include girl barrel racers, are often professional athletes instead of the ranch-born and bred contestants of the earlier days. Over the years, as the winner’s purse has increased, so has the pride of the Oakdale Saddle Club, as it presents this superior exhibition. So plan to be with us every year on the 2nd weekend of April to share in the festivities of the Oakdale Rodeo.
Oakdale Cowboy Museum
The Oakdale Cowboy Museum contains the sights, sounds, and smells of the Wild West, and, with its focus on the land and its people, seeks to embody the past and embrace the future. Items on display include saddles, buckles, ranching implements and memorabilia from pioneer ranching families, as well as rodeo stars Ted Nuce, Jerold Camarillo, Ace Berry and many more Oakdale greats.
The Cowboy Museum is located in the historic Southern Pacific railroad depot building at Sierra and East F Street, adjacent to the Visitors’ Center area. Open Monday -Friday, 11 am to 3pm. Tour groups welcome, with Saturday tours by appointment. Call 209-847-7049
Oakdale Rodeo Events
The Oakdale Rodeo takes place the 2nd weekend in April, and includes activities for the week prior to that, including:
- Local Roping / BBQ
- Cowgirl Luncheon
- Arrest in the park
- Queen Coronation
- Mixer Cowboy Museum.
On Saturday morning, there is a Rodeo Parade, kicking off at 9am, full of clowns, mounted horse groups, floats and bands, all giving the visitor a look at a genuine heartland celebration. The Rodeo gets underway at 1pm, and continues through Sunday. And don’t miss the Rodeo Dance, on Saturday night.
For more information on the Oakdale Rodeo, call the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce, at 209-847-2244.
The California Team Roping Association comes to Oakdale on Labor Day weekend, bringing cowboys and girls from all over the country to compete to cash prizes in team roping. Each 2-person team gets several chances to turn in the best time for roping and tying a calf. This free show is open to the public at the Rodeo Grounds, on Highway 120, starting the Friday before Labor Day.
Third weekend in May the Annual Chocolate Festival includes vendors in Chocolate, Arts & Crafts, Commercial, and Food. There is a 1K & 5K Fun Run, Classic Car Show, Amusement Park Rides, Ag and Western Theme areas. Admission is $5 Adults, $4 Seniors (Over 60), and under 12 are free. There is a $1 off per ticket when you bring canned food item.