Spangler Brothers' Service Station


The Spangler family came from the Azores (one source asserts they were German) during the 1880s along with many other Portugese immigrants. The name of the first Spangler to come to Milpitas is not known to us.

By 1926, the year the Winsor brothers built and opened their blacksmith shop just a few hundred feet north, the Spangler Shell Station was already a thriving business. Nextdoor to the station, in the larger building seen today at the corner of Winsor and Carlo Streets, was the Overland Motor Company dealership, also owned and operated by the Spanglers. In the photo, that building is the white roofed structure in the background at right.

Eventually, the service station came to be thought of as Anthony Spangler’s while the dealership owned by his brother and was later run by Alexander Rose, Sr. as "Rose's Shell Auto Parts & Hardware."  According to local legend, Spangler enlisted in the Army during WWI and went off to war.  His Army identification tags, AKA “dog tags”, are displayed at Anthony Spangler Elementary School. Local legend has it that he left the business in the hands of his brother to keep up while he was overseas fighting in the Great War. When he returned from the war, he found it in worse shape than when he left according to old time residents.

In the 1920s, Spangler married Anne Rose, the pretty young widow of Mathew Rose, who had died tragically of blood poisoning after cutting his hand. In the days before antibiotics, infections of even a needle prick could kill. (According to Rose's grandson, Alexander Rose, Jr., Mathew Rose and his brother Alexander both died during a tuberculous epidemic.) The mountain which rises to the north and east of Milpitas is named Rose Peak after one of several families named Rose that settled around Milpitas.

Spangler’s Station was the first Milpitas rendezvous used by the kidnappers of Brooke Hart, the young man who was heir to a chain of prosperous department stores. The story of this famous 1930s crime and the subsequent lynching and mutilation in San José’s St. James Park of the two men accused of it, is the subject of the book Swift Justice written by Harry Farrell.

From the gas station, the kidnappers drove east on Calaveras Road (now Calaveras Blvd.) and turned left onto Evans Road. It was on Evans Road about 200 feet south of the present Last Word Ranch, two witnesses, who were walking back from their outhouse, claimed to have seen five or six men move another man from a yellow car (Hart’s) to a black sedan (believed to have belonged to one of the kidnappers). Hart was thrown, bound, from the old San Mateo bridge onto shallow water covering the tidal mud flats then he was shot twice. His body was not recovered for several weeks. The true identities of many local Milpitas residents alive at the time and who may have participated in the events are not revealed in the book (pseudonyms were used).

Before the 1950s the water table in Milpitas was said by Milpitas’ first mayor, Tom Evatt, to have been about two feet deep. The water from local wells was often discolored and of questionable potability due to the shallow depth of the wells and the many local cesspits/outhouses which may have contaminated the local ground water. Anthony Spangler was the leader of a group of local businessmen and residents who wanted to bring a safe and reliable water system to Milpitas so that the town could support better growth. It was through his efforts the first Milpitas Water District was formed and the first water bonds were passed. However, Spangler’s untimely death in 1949 kept him from ever seeing his vision of a safe and reliable water system for downtown Milpitas come to pass.

Today, the water system used to bring safe and deliciously cool water to Milpitas is the descendent of that early water district.

Spangler’s Station, now Main Street Gas, still fills up automobile gas tanks and looks much as it did when Anthony Spangler returned home from the First World War. It is the oldest continually operated commercial business on Main Street.

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