By Diane Curry, Curator
Hayward Area Historical Society
In 1843, the Mexican government gave soldier and surveyor Guillermo Castro almost 27,000 acres of land. He named it Rancho San Lorenzo and encompassed what is today Hayward and Castro Valley. Castro operated the ranch from his home that sat on the site of historic city hall on Mission Boulevard. The discovery of gold in January 1848 brought sweeping changes to California. Thousands of people flooded into northern California hoping to strike it rich in gold. Many, like William Hayward, quickly found that gold mining was hard work and not very profitable.
On his way from the gold region to San Francisco in 1851, William Hayward passed through Castro’s land. Hayward liked what he saw and set up a camp at the mouth of Palomares Canyon with plans to cultivate a few acres. Castro agreed to sell Hayward several acres in what is now downtown Hayward instead. In 1852, Hayward set up a small general store at the corner of A Street and Mission Boulevard. The location became a major stop on the road from Oakland to San Jose. Hayward did so much business that he built a lodging house that became the famous Hayward’s Hotel.
Castro tried to benefit from the waves of people coming to the region. He had a town site surveyed in 1854. That original survey became the basis for downtown Hayward today. Unfortunately for Castro, his poor financial management forced him to mortgage his ranch until finally in 1864 the remaining acreage was seized by the county to pay his debts and auctioned off for $30,000. Castro moved his family to South America and never returned.
In the meantime, more people came to the area and set up fruit orchards, cattle ranches, stores and other businesses. In 1860, the U.S. post office established a location at “Haywood” using William Hayward’s small store on A Street. Most people though referred to the growing community as “Hayward’s” because William Hayward was not only the first American settler in town but also at various times the postmaster, justice of peace, county supervisor and road master. It seemed fitting then that when the town was incorporated in 1876, it was officially named “Haywards.” The “s” was dropped in 1893 to make it “Hayward.”
Hayward’s climate, soil, and convenient location in the greater metropolitan Bay Area spurred tremendous growth for decades. The biggest boom came following World War II when housing developments began replacing farms and ranches. The new housing was affordable and jobs were plentiful throughout the area. Between 1950 and 1960, the population jumped from 14,000 to 72,000 and has continued to grow ever since with a current population over 150,000.
Today, Hayward is one of the top 10 most diverse places in California. William Hayward thought this was the perfect place to settle down and build his life more than 160 years ago. Residents today continue to find that Hayward is still the perfect place to live.