The Naming of Tavan Field

As a young man I can remember speaking to then city parks director Bill Rooney. I brought up the name of my local park – Rankin Park, in our discussion. He quickly reprimanded me that there is no park in Martinez by that name.

He asked me if I was referring to the city park named ‘the Martinez Municipal Park’. Now, we all referred to it as Rankin Park after the late Contra Costa Sheriff James Rankin (Sheriff from 1885-1889) who owned the acreage in earlier Martinez days. But he corrected me saying that because the land was purchased and not donated to the city, it did not bear his name.

Field Sign for Tavan FieldIt is interesting and delightful that years later in 1986 the city council would change the parks name to what we all referred to it in our youth.

But this story is not really about James Rankin and the park bearing his name but a piece of that land therein.

Many of us have seen, viewed the plaque, and even played ball in the park’s ball field bearing the name – Tavan Field. But, who was ‘Tavan’?

On October 4, 1955, the Contra Costa Gazette announced that on that day at 8:55 a.m. Antone Joseph Tavan had passed. He was 77 years of age. Mayor Jack O. Fries stated that Mr. Tavan was “Martinez No.1 Citizen” and that flags in the City would be lowered to half-mast.

Mr. Tavan, was born on July 26, 1878 in San Francisco, he came to Alhambra Valley two years later with his parents Joseph and Mary.

“Mr. Tavan had served on more civic committees without pay and has donated more to the city than any other man.” Mayor Fries declared.

He was a member of the Martinez Planning Commission; the citizens committees for the planning of the water filter plant and for the sewage disposal plant.

He served as president of the Mt. Diablo Parlor, Native Sons of the Golden West; and was known as the unofficial historian for Martinez.

He was the director and treasurer of the Martinez Community Hospital board of directors where he ate breakfast with the chef every morning after the death of his wife; a member of the grand jury; and a member of St. Catherine’s Catholic Church.

Two wives preceded Mr. Tavan in death and he was survived by a step-son, Albert Schweinitzer, a cousin, Earl Tavan, and three second cousins.

In his last will and testament he wrote: “I view the fact that my parents and I have lived in this community for the greater part of our lives, and that such estate as I may own at the date of my death was attained and accumulated by the cooperative work of my parents, myself and the people of this community, I hereby make the following bequests.”

The Contra Costa Gazette published the following from Mr. Tavan’s last will and testament.
He left $5000 to Saint Catherine’s Catholic Church for its religious school; He left $1000 each to the First Congregational, First Baptist, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Grace Episcopal, First Church of Christ Scientist, and the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

To the City of Martinez he left $5000 in a trust fund to be used only as needed for equipment and maintenance of, or extension of, a children’s reading room in connection with the Martinez Municipal Library.

He made sure that the Martinez Community Hospital was remembered in his will.

He left $2000 to Mt. Diablo Parlor No. 101 of the Native Sons of the Golden West, and to its sister organization Las Juntas Parlor NDGW he also left $2000.

He left $1000 to the Sisters of the Holy Name for their “untiring work of kindness and service to the children of the community.

The entire community will find benefit in the two $35,000 trust funds set up through the American Trust Co. The first shows an effort towards permanent care for the city’s two cemeteries. He provides from this fund that $700 be given annually to the pastor of St. Catherine’s Church for maintenance and to Alhambra Cemetery Association, $500 yearly to be given.

One $400 scholarship and two $300 scholarships will be governed by the Board of Trustees of Alhambra Union High school to be awarded “in the interest of better education for those who diligently work and strive to obtain it.”

To the Boy Scouts of America, “for the units of Martinez,” and to the Camp Fire Girls. Mr. Tavan left $3000 each.

Mr. Tavan also left the Contra Costa Health Department $3000 in its fight against Tuberculosis.

Mr. Tavan is buried in St. Catherine’s Cemetery.

A plaque bearing his name was erected at the entry to the field on October 4, 1957 by the Mount Diablo Parlor number 101 of the Native Sons of the Golden West.