The history of how Turlock was named varies; however, some believe it originated from the term “turlough,” an Irish dry lake. Founded on December 22, 1871 by prominent grain farmer John William Mitchell, the city was comprised of a post office, a depot, a grain warehouse and a few other buildings. Mitchell and his brother were successful businessmen, buying land and developing large herds of cattle and sheep that were sold to gold miners and others as they arrived. They were also leaders in wheat farming and cultivated tracts of land under the tenant system. Eventually, the Mitchells owned most of the area, over 100,000 acres, from Keyes to Atwater. In the early 20th century, 20-acre lots from the Mitchell estate were sold for $20 an acre.
Turlock experienced economic and agricultural growth and development in the early 1900s and was incorporated in 1908. A thriving community with a diverse population brought its skills, ideas, capital, culture and religious beliefs to this area. Turlock prospered and became the hub of activity throughout the end of the 19th century. A Board of Trade (known today as the Turlock Chamber of Commerce) was formed along with a school district, a newspaper and numerous religious and civic organizations. By 1960 businesses had grown and Turlock became home to California State University, Stanislaus.
Today, with a population over 70,000, Turlock has achieved its early city planning goals of creating a safe environment, a strong school system and maintaining a hometown atmosphere. Economically sound and agriculturally elite, Turlock continues to promote growth and development that complements both the city’s business and industry, as well as the needs of its residents.