Located close to the Stanislaus River, Oakdale, was named for the oak trees groves that line the nearby slopes. The town bloats a long history. When gold was found along the Stanislaus River by the Indians dwelling in the area in 1848. The rush to mine the gold sent delegates of the Stockton and Visalia Railroad to the area that is presently Oakdale. After buying land in the area they extended the railroad from Stockton to the entrance of the mines. Andrew Jackson Patterson was the owner of a large tract of land in that location, which he offered to the railroad, and Oakdale became a town in November, 1871.
In 1853, Francis Marion Cottle, with his uncle and his son alongside, drove a herd of cattle to this area, made it their home, and hence turned into the first settlers. In 1865, they bought a huge number of acres of land on the east side of the present Oakdale railroad tracks. The territory was later to become a portion of Stanislaus County on April 1, 1854.
The city was established when the Stockton and Visalia Railroad adjoined the Copperopolis Railroad in 1871. The site of Taylor's Ferry Crossing is situated in Oakdale, a Stanislaus River crossing on the nineteenth century Stockton - Los Angeles Road.
Oakdale was the film location for the United Artists movie Bound For Glory (1976) featuring David Carradine. In one scene, hoboes were removed from a westbound train by railroad cops. Oakdale also served as a dusty "Texas" town utilizing railroad scenes for the film.