The Gilbert family, well known throughout the Oakdale area, will receive honors as they are presented with the coveted ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at this year’s Oakdale Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner on Friday, Jan. 15.
“The Gilbert family is being honored this year as our Lifetime Achievement for the over 100 years of business in Oakdale and continued community and civic mindedness by all of the family,” said Oakdale Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Guardiola. “Their historic establishment in Oakdale and continued operation means a lot to this city economically.”
The A.L. Gilbert Company was established in 1892 as a lumber business by Amos L. Gilbert. In 1900, the company opened a small grain brokerage and later built a grain warehouse.
In 1905, Gilbert married Emma Banks of Merced. They had six children; Lawrence, Daniel, Floye, Robert, William and Jeanette who continued the family’s legacy.
Amos Gilbert was instrumental in the incorporation of Oakdale in 1906 and served three consecutive terms on the Oakdale City Council. He was also part of the formation of the Oakdale Irrigation District and served on its Board of Directors.
According to family members, Amos Gilbert would take grain to San Francisco mills to be converted to flour and then sell flour to the general stores throughout the Mother Lode area. After the purchase of Farmer’s Warehouse around 1915, Gilbert added feed to his list of goods and would combine the feed with the flour deliveries to cut freight costs.
In 1921 the grain market crashed, dropping wheat prices from 10 cents per pound to only two cents per pound. Shortly after, Gilbert, along with W.A. Beatty, planted the first experimental field of Ladino Clover. The First National Bank of Oakdale became interested in the research and decided to help the ranchers finance a shift from dry farming to irrigated pasture by planting ladino clover in place of their old crops.
According to Jay Gilbert (Amos’ grandson from Lawrence), when other families at the time were taking Sunday drives to oil fields, the Gilbert family would go to Ladino fields because of the belief that the money for the area was there.
Both sons, Bob and Lawrence Gilbert, served the country during World War II while brother William and business partner Richard Stokes (who was medically ineligible for military service) stayed behind to run the company with Amos Gilbert.
“Without their efforts, there would have been no business to come back to,” said Jay Gilbert, current general manager for the A.L. Gilbert Farmer’s Warehouse Keyes facility.
After the war, Lawrence Gilbert worked for the company as its president until his passing in 1969. He followed his father’s footsteps by serving on the Oakdale City Council and serving as Oakdale’s mayor in 1948.
Bob Gilbert, 92, is the last surviving child of Emma and Amos Gilbert and continues to oversee the company his father founded, serving as the chairman of the board of directors and its over 250 employees. After attending UC Berkeley and graduating with an economics degree, he went to work for the company in 1947 after his father passed away that year. In 2011, he was named the California State Fair “Agriculturist of the Year.”
Robert Gilbert, Bob’s son, continues to manage the Oakdale facility still in operation.
Several other generations of the Gilbert family tracing back to Amos and Emma also continue to work for the company in various roles for both the Oakdale and Keyes facilities.
In addition to the many jobs the company offers for the community, the A.L. Gilbert family has been active in Oakdale philanthropy with its support of the Oakdale Heritage Museum, the Guardian House Children’s Crisis Center, and 50 years of supporting the California Team Roping Association.
Most recently the Gilbert Family made a substantial donation toward the completion of the Dorada Play Park last October.
Hours for the 70th annual awards dinner are from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, with festivities staged at the Gene Bianchi Community Center, 110 S. Second Ave., Oakdale.
Along with the Lifetime Achievement Award, honors at this annual gala are conferred on Oakdale’s Citizen of the Year (nominees this year are Jo Harris and Travis Johnson) along with the Business of the Year, Junior Achievement and Community Service recognition. See Page A3 of this week’s issue for additional information about this year’s nominees. Citizen and three Business nominees were profiled in the Jan. 6 issue.