History - City and Parish!
The first settlements in this area grew around a depot for the Southern Pacific railroad, built just
after the Civil War around 1868. The community was first known as “Davisville,” named for a
large landowner and farmer in the area, Jerome C.Davis. In 1907, the post office shortened the
town name to “Davis,” and this community has been known by this name ever since. The City
of Davis was incorporated on March 28, 1917.
From its earliest of time, Davis has been a farming community. Following the passage of the
University Farm Bill in 1905, Davis was selected as the site for an agricultural school extension
of the University of California at Berkeley, officially opening in 1908 – the second college
campus for the state. The school was renamed in 1922 as the “Northern Branch of the College
of Agriculture,” and eventually became the seventh campus of the University of California
system in 1959. The University of California, Davis, is now known internationally--not only for
its agricultural studies, but for its contributions in biotechnology, medicine, and other life
sciences. With over 7,156 acres, the campus is the largest within the University of California
system and the third largest by enrollment (with over 33,000 in 2010, and almost as many
employees, over 28,000 in 2011). While the university's agricultural heritage remains strong, the
campus has expanded over the past century to include graduate and professional programs in
medicine (which includes the University of California, Davis, Medical Center); law; veterinary
medicine; education; nursing; and business management; in addition to 90 research programs
offered by its graduate studies programs. The School of Veterinary Medicine is the largest in
the United States and ranked second in the nation.
The City of Davis enjoys a diverse population, in no small part due to the university, but also
because of its proximity to the Sacramento metropolitan area, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Located in Yolo County in California, GPS coordinates: 38°33'14" N -- 121°44'17"W
Elevation - 52 feet
City Population: 1900 -- less than 1,000 1950 -- 3,500 1975 -- 27,000 2010 -- 66,000
A History of ST. JAMES PARISH beginning in 1875...
The very first Mass in “Davisville,” as our community was known then, was celebrated in the parlor of Maurice
Reardon's Hotel, on the northeast corner of Third and C Streets, by a priest who came from Sacramento. The hotel
burned in 1890. Rev. Patrick Scanlon, who commuted from Sacramento, became the first resident priest in Yolo
County in 1870. Father Scanlon and other priests offered Mass intermittently for the next several years, primarily in
the Yolo schoolhouse in Davis.
The first Catholic church in Davis was built in 1875 on the north-east corner of Third and I Streets. At that time, the
pontifical annual reported there were 12 Catholic families living in Davis. Rev. Peter Kaiser of Woodland was pastor
when the church was constructed.
The Diocese of Sacramento was not created until 1886. The first diocese of northern California, which also included
all of Nevada, Utah and part of Colorado, was the Diocese of Grass Valley — founded in 1860. The boundary was
just north of Auburn, and at the Colusa County line. As such, Davisville was part of the Archdiocese of San
Francisco. And this is why, on June 10, 1881, Archbishop Joseph S. Alemany of San Francisco dedicated the
church to the honor of St. James, as a mission of Holy Rosary Parish in Woodland. With the creation of the Diocese
of Sacramento in 1886, renamed from the Diocese of Grass Valley — respecting the fact that Sacramento was also
the capitol for California, all of the parishes and missions in Yolo County now belonged to the Diocese of
Mrs. Isaac Chiles, member of the pioneer Chiles family, donated an acre of land for a cemetery across from the
church. Sadly, a fire of undetermined origin destroyed the church in July of 1934.
In either December of 1912 or January of 1913, a parish was established for the communities of Winters—Davis
parish, with headquarters in Winters. Before that, both missions of Winters and Davis were the responsibility of the
parish in Woodland. The first pastor for this new parish was Fr. John Quinn.
In the spring, summer and winter, of 1931, after a decision that a new parish church was necessary, a new brick
church was constructed on the northeast corner of Fifth and C Streets. This church was dedicated in December of
1931, by Bishop Robert Armstrong, the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento. Fr. James Grealy was pastor
in Davis at the time the new church was dedicated. Bishop Armstrong presented the charter establishing the
California Aggie Newman Club in 1935. The ceremony was held in the green wooden gymnasium on the campus.
With a growing catholic presence at the new college, the pastor at St. James was also named the Newman chaplain.
ln 1938, with Davis population growing more rapidly than Winters, the pastoral center for the parish was moved
from Winters to Davis, and a new rectory was built in Davis next to the brick church. With the deeding of the
property on this corner of B and 14th Street, in 1950, a parish hall was constructed to afford a place for the growing
social needs of the parish, and building up of the community. Two barracks from the now-closed Fort Beale were
purchased, and through the labor of literally scores of parishioners, the buildings were combined to be one building.
It was dedicated on October 7, 1951.
With continued growth in Davis, as well as at the University, additional land was purchased at the current site of St.
James in 1959. The new St. James site was part of a new multi-million dollar development in 1962, with surveys
documenting that there were 500 families now part of St. James. On May 14, 1963, in the midst of this planning, Fr.
(later Msgr.) Andrew Coffey was assigned as pastor. He would spend the rest of his life here in Davis, dying on
August 12, 2010, serving this community for nearly fifty years.
By 1964, the brick church was deemed inappropriate for worship needs. The parish hall on the new site was
remodeled so it might be used for worship. Social and other events were still held in the hall by screening off the
sanctuary. This did not last long, and by 1968, and the introduction of the new liturgy, the hall was used only for
Sunday worship as a church. At that time, there was six Masses.
The parish school opened with 90 students in primary grades, taught by three nuns from the
Daughters of the Holy Spirit. (Today, while there no longer served by women religious, their
legacy of love and scholastic excellence continues as our school serves over 300 children,
providing the finest in Catholic education.) The pre-school was the former convent, built in
In 1973, plans were made to build a new parish church. The new parish church, the church in
which we currently worship, was dedicated on February 15, 1976 by Bishop Alden Bell, the
sixth bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento.
With a sanctuary of 580 capacity, the Catholic population in Davis is served by six Sunday
Masses (five in English, and one in Spanish); with Masses at the Newman Center for the
University of California, Davis, community. As well, the parish provides sacramental services
to the migrant camp population of hundreds of agricultural workers who work in the fields for
six months of the harvest season. In order to support and facilitate the scores of diverse
programs of the parish (from faith formation, youth and young adult community-building
activities; adult education and social justice collaboration; to sports, social, and civic events), a
memorial center (which houses the parish offices, gym, and meeting rooms) was built in the
With over 3,000 registered families, gathered together as a Catholic parish, worshipping and
giving praise to God, to lift up everyone in faith, hope and love, ALL are welcome.
St. James Parish
|1275 B Street
Davis, California 95616-2003
(707) 676-4617 Fax