San Mateo County History
History of San Mateo County
by Philip W. Alexander, 1916



THE rehabilitation was keenly felt throughout the Spanish colonies, particularly in Mexico and the Californias, all of which were ably administered by Jose Galvez, the great agent of the Spanish crown  in America, whose zeal and enthusiasm in carrying out his sovereign's policy of expansion are matters of historical comment.

For a century and a half, Spanish statesmen had been intending to colonize the Californias. Their plans included possession of Monterey Bay, formerly discovered by the Spanish navigator Vizcaino. They considered this harbor the finest on the Pacific Coast, and desired it for the use of their ships engaged in the Philippine trade.

With this purpose in view, Charles III hastily dispatched a number of veteran Spanish regiments to America with instructions to Jose Galvez to commence an active campaign. When they landed at Vera Cruz, Galvez assigned them to posts of duty along the frontier. One of these, a dragoon regiment bearing the name of "Espana," contained a company under a captain who was destined to play an important part in the fulfillment of the Spanish monarch's plan for the settlement of the Californias, including that portion of the mainland which has since become San Mateo County.

This officer's name was Gaspar de Portola, who later became the first governor of California, and led the expedition in search of Monterey Bay which terminated in the unwitting discovery of San Francisco Bay in 1769. Gaspar de Portola, although not a brilliant historical character, was nevertheless an able and faithful officer whose career has become of great interest to all Californians.

For a time after his arrival at Vera Cruz, Gaspar de Portola served on the frontier of the viceroyalty of New Spain, in the provinces of Sonora and Sinaloa, where a minor war was being waged against the Indians. About this time King Charles, following the example of France and Portugal who were waging a general war on the Jesuits, decided to expel this order from his kingdom, as they had become very powerful and he feared the influence they exerted.

It fell to the veteran captain, Gaspar de Portola, acting under orders from Jose Galvez, to expel the Jesuit fathers from Mexico. With Portola's commission for this work came also his appointment as the first governor of Lower California, in which he was given entire charge of the civil and military administration of that peninsula. He superintended the arrests of the Jesuits and the inventorying of all the property of their missions, to the satisfaction of Galvez and the Crown.

While Gaspar de Portola was performing these duties which included the establishment of Franciscan fathers under Father Palou, in missions left vacant by the Jesuit fathers, other events in Europe were leading up to his greatest achievement.

Word came to the court of Spain from the Spanish ambassador at Petrograd, reporting Russian colonial activity in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, aiming at territorial aggrandizement. This disquieting news influenced the Spanish Crown to immediately carry out the long deferred project of taking possession of Monterey harbor and connecting it with Mexico by a chain of missions, settlements and forts.

Galvez, in Mexico, entered into the movement for the occupation of Upper California with all the impetuous energy which always characterized his every effort in the service of his master, the King of Spain. For this purpose, two expeditions were immediately outfitted; one to go by land and the other by seaand these were simultaneously dispatched to Upper California. The objective of both expeditions had been described by the Spanish navigator, Sebastian Vizcaino, as a magnificent harbor, when he sailed by that port on his exploring expedition in 1602-03.

Strange as it may seem, both expeditions failed to reach the desired goal. The sea expedition which consisted of two schooners, the San Jose and the Principe, both laden with provisions and supplies, set sail under auspicious circumstances. After heading up to the latitude of Monterey they were forced to turn back to Santa Barbara channel for want of water; and finally they returned to San Diego, just in time to avert starvation for the colony established there.

The land party was placed under the command of Gaspar de Portola. The trip up the peninsula to San Diego was safely made and a mission was established at this port. Using San Diego as a base. of operations, on July 14th, the party again proceeded on their journey. From this point the route was along the coast between the mountains and the sea. At the place where Los Angeles grew up they swerved inland, and did not reach the seashore again until in the region of Ventura. At San Luis Obispo the coast route became so difficult that they were obliged to turn inland again and scale the Santa Lucia Mountains, whence they passed into the Salinas Valley  and from there by a gentle descent arrived at modern Castroville.

Although at this point they recognized Point Pinos and other distinguishing features of the Monterey region, they did not realize that the bay they sought lay before them. On October 5, after calling a council, they decided to look for Monterey Bay further north. The next day the party continued wearily, with scant provisions, and on October 8th passed over a river which they named "Pajaro," in token of an immense bird which they found stuffed with straw. This had apparently been abandoned at their approach by the natives who were preparing it for some ceremony. The bird measured seven feet and four inches between outstretched wing tips. On the 17th they arrived at the present site of the City of Santa Cruz and gave the San Lorenzo River its name. On the 20th, camp was pitched near the entrance to the canon of Waddel Creek, about three miles from Point Ano Nuevo which they recognized from a description of Cabrero Bueno.

Sickness and shortage of rations, which were now reduced to five tortillas of bran and flour per day, delayed the Argonauts here until the 23rd, when they again set forth. They made two leagues that day and by nightfall had reached the vicinity of Gazos Creek where there was a large Indian rancheria. The next day they traveled twice this distance and made camp on San Gregorio Creek. Illness delayed them here until the 27th when they again pressed forward.

The next day's march was over one of the roughest sections of country that they had yet covered, being interspersed with deep gulches or arroyos, over three of which they were obliged to construct rough-and-ready bridges upon which they carried their sick and led the pack animals. They rested on the banks of Purissima Creek that night beside an old abandoned Indian rancheria. The soldiers took possession of the huts, but almost immediately came running forth with cries of, "las pulgas! las pulgas!" (the fleas! the fleas!). Although piously-inclined Crespi, their spiritual leader, named the place San Ibon, the grosser name has persisted, and survives in the appellation of "Las Pulgas Rancho," which became one of the largest Spanish land grants in the country.

The 28th of the month found the wanderers' camp pitched on the future site of Halfmoon Bay or Spanishtown, upon the banks of Pilarcitos Creek. Almost every man in the little force was ill, including the commander; and it was not until Oct. 30th that the column moved on again, passing Halfmoon Bay and Pillar Point, both of which were observed and noted in the records of the expedition.

At a point about a mile north of where the Montara fog signal is now located, the party found a "rincon" or corner which offered a pleasant shelter against the north wind. A little stream furnished water, and on the beach was an abundance of mussels and other shell fish.

Here the main party stopped, and Sergeant Ortega with a few companions went on a reconnaissance over the hills to the northeast. In four days he returned to headquarters with the news of the Golden Gate effectually blocking passage further north, with Point Reyes beyond, and the porte (the southern arm of San Francisco Bay) stretching to the southward. The main party then, with Portola at their head, ascended the hills and confirmed Ortega's report.

Looking from the summit of Montara Mountain, an inspiring panorama unfolded. Far to the north, just visible through the October haze were the white cliffs of Point Reyes with Mt. Tamalpais in the foreground; while on the northwest the Farallones were faintly outlined. Before them stretching to the southward, lay the porte, around which it was their intention to advance northward.

The whole expedition then marched down the eastern slopes of the San Morenas and camped somewhere between Searsville and Redwood City. By this time sickness had again broken out in the party, and provisions were almost exhausted. In addition to this the Indians were daily becoming more hostile. The leaders held council and it was decided to immediately retrace their steps, and seek the porte of Monterey at a later period.

The return trip was made along the route followed north. After many hardships they reached San Diego on January 24, 1770, just in time to relieve that station from starvation. A second expedition led by Gaspar de Portola was more fortunate and succeeded in locating Monterey Bay.



THE next navigator to pass the shores of the future San Mateo County after Sebastian Viscaino and Gaspar de Portola was an English Captain, George Vancouver, in command of the sloops "Discovery," and "Chatham." He arrived in the bay of San Francisco toward the end of 1792, and anchored off the Presidio, where he was invited ashore by the genial Franciscan friars and entertained.

At their suggestion he made the trip down the peninsula on horseback to see the Santa Clara Mission.

The following passages are taken direct from his book, "A Voyage of Discovery round the World," in which he describes his trip from the Presidio to Santa Clara, through the future San Mateo County:

"At about noon, having then advanced about twenty-three miles, we arrived at a very pleasant and enchanting lawn, situated midst a grove of trees at the foot of a small hill, (El Cerrito) by which flowed a very fine stream of excellent water. This delightful pasture was nearly inclosed on every side, and afforded sufficient space for resting ourselves and baiting our cavalry.


"We had not proceeded far from this delightful spot, when we entered a country I little expected to find in these regions. For about twenty miles it could only be compared to a park, which had originally been closely planted with the true old English oak; the underwood, that had probably attended its early growth had the appearance of having been cleared away, and had left the stately lords of the forest in complete possession of the soil, which was diversified with pleasing knolls and valleys; which, with the range of lofty mountains that bounded the prospect, required only to be adorned with the neat habitations of an industrious people, to produce a scene not inferior to the most studied effect of taste in the disposal of grounds. Having passed through this imaginary park, we advanced a few miles in an open, clear meadow, and arrived in a low, swampy country, through which our progress was very slow, the horses being nearly knee-deep in mud and water for about six miles. About dark we reached better ground. Soon after the night closed in, we arrived at the mission of Santa Clara, which according to my estimation is about forty geographical miles from San Francisco."

Captain Vancouver was followed on the western coast of America by another Englishman, Capt. F. W. Beechey, who in 1826 was sent by the English naval department with a detail of men from Yerba Buena to pay his respects to the Comandante at Monterey. They tell of a night passed at Rancho de las Pulgas, and of seeing great herds of cattle among which droves of wild deer were feeding. Farther down the valley they reported partridges, pigeons, and geese in great flocks.


IN Portola's narrative of the first expedition in search of Monterey Bay he makes several allusions to the Indians through whose country they were passing; sometimes referring to them as very friendly and sometimes as hostile.

The Indians of the county were an inferior race, and not to be compared to the fierce warriors of the plains west of the Rockies. They were not red or copper colored, but almost as dark as negroes. In stature they were rather short but their well knit frames possessed great strength and endurance.

Father Engelhardt, in his "History of the California Missions," thus describes their way of living: "Their habitations were primitive, consisting in the summer of a mere shelter of brush. Their winter quarters were a flimsy structure of poles fixed in the ground and drawn together at the top, at a height of ten or twelve feet. The poles were interwoven with small twigs, and the structure then covered with tules or tufts of dried grass. In some places these dwellings were conical in shape; in others oblong, and their size ranged according to the number of people living in them.

"At a distance they resembled large beehives or small haystacks. On one side there was an opening for a door, at the top another for smoke. Here the family, including relatives and friends, huddled around the fire without privacy and without beds or other furniture. In these huts were kept a few baskets, a stone mortar or two, some scanty rags of clothing and food obtained from the hunt. All refuse food and bones were left where they were dropped, giving the earth the appearance of a dog kennel. Fleas and other vermin abounded in this mass of filth, which soon became too offensive even for savages, and they adopted the very simple method of setting fire to the hut and building another."

These Indians waged few wars against other tribes; but from time to time they attacked the missions in the nearby regions, despoiled them and carried away the converts as prisoners and slaves.

In 1792 George Vancouver, the English navigator who traversed this region on horseback, from the Mission of San Francisco to that at Santa Clara, described the Indians as quite numerous throughout the peninsula. Some, he wrote, roamed through the country, while others inhabited villages adjacent to the missions.

Those who came under the refining influence of the priests were taught the tenets of the faith and the rudiments of farming; while the young women were instructed in the weaving of coarse but serviceable cloth. Many of the younger women were persuaded to live entirely within the enclosures of the missions, until they were married, when the Franciscan fathers fondly hoped that they would in turn convert their husbands.

When the grain and other products of the field were harvested, these were fairly divided among the Indian families, in a sort of Utopian manner. At the Mission of Santa Clara, where the natives were more numerous than at the San Francisco Mission, twenty-four bullocks were slaughtered every Saturday night to meet the needs of the community. Of this number the priests only appropriated six for their own use.

From this time on, the numbers of the Indians dwindled; and when settlers began to slowly establish themselves in the country, they found only a scattering of natives. These were located mostly in the neighborhood of Halfmoon Bay, and at a place later known as the 17-Mile House. The lumber jacks at Searsville found less than half a dozen inhabiting that part of the country.

Indian mounds located in various parts of the county, are evidence of a large Indian population which had been there for many generations. These mounds were the former sites of Indian villages, and acquired their elevation through receiving the refuse from the camp and the bodies of the dead. Upon the crest of these mounds can be seen the remains of the "sweat house" or council chamber where the braves held their powwows and also indulged in hot medicinal baths.

Scattered about and half buried in the ground have been discovered many evidences of Indian life, such as stone mortars, crude fishing tackle, animal traps, weapons, stone cooking utensils, ornaments of shell and stone, and ashes of the dead.


FOLLOWING the trail of the discoverers came the Franciscan fathers, building their missions in an unbroken chain, six hundred miles long, from San Diego to San Francisco—and passing through San Mateo County.

Gradually the region which later became this county, ceased to be an unknown land because of the proselytizing work of the [Franciscan] priests among the Indian tribes, and it began to attract settlers. For many years the advent of the newcomers was imperceptible; but as time passed their numbers increased, while the population of the native tribes correspondingly decreased, and little settlements began to form throughout the country.

Among the earliest pioneers, attracted by the lumber industry, were those who established themselves in the Redwood City region. These first comers formed a loosely knit community consisting of a few settlers grouped around the end of Redwood Creek and a number of sturdy lumber jacks who built their cabins upon the foothills and eastern slopes of the San Morenas.

The first English speaking settlers in this locality were William Smith and James Peace. At a very early date, Smith, who was known as "Bill the Sawyer," had some sort of a primitive sawmill in the vicinity of what is now known as Woodside. He was the pioneer of the lumbermen who cut away all the magnificent redwood forest which covered this part of the valley.

Smith found a good market for his produce at the missions and the Spanish Presidio at Yerba Buena, later known as San Francisco. Oxen hauled the lumber in the heavy old caretas to the "Embarcadero" or Redwood Creek, as it was called later; and from here it was loaded on boats and then taken to the "Cove" at Yerba Buena. Two mills were soon built in the county, one at San Francisquito Creek by Denis Martin and another on the Old Mountain Home Ranch by Charles Brown.

Other mills were erected in rapid succession, until, as the eastern slopes of the San Morenas were gradually denuded of their timber, the mills were moved, one by one, toward the summit of the range, and then down upon the western slopes.

In 1850 Dr. Tripp sent the first big shipment of lumber from these woods to San Francisco upon a raft constructed for this purpose. In 1853 there were fifteen mills in operation within five miles of Woodside. So great was the lumber industry at this period that one of the chroniclers of that day made special mention of it. "Mills have been established along the canons, and the ocean and the bay are clotted with fleets bearing their manufactured products to market."

The main cause of this great activity in the lumber business was the discovery of gold in California by Marshall at Sutter Creek in 1848. The astonishing activity that followed almost immediately in the mining regions, and the rapid growth of San Francisco, so stimulated the development of this region, that eight years later it became a county.

As San Mateo was a producing county with industries unallied to mining, it found a ready and lucrative market for its output right in San Francisco. Everything produced, commanded extraordinary prices. The lumbermen and millmen grew rich, as this industry, above all others immediately assumed colossal proportions. Mills by the hundreds were erected in the redwood forests in the neighborhood of Redwood City and on both the bay and coast sides of the San Morena Mountains. The milled product was sent directly by water from the nucleus of what later became Redwood City, to the waterfront of San Francisco. In fact the early city of San Francisco was built almost entirely from San Mateo County's redwood timber.

So satisfying had been the growth of the county that in the spring of 1856 the Hon. Horace Hawes introduced in the State Senate a bill entitled: "An act to repeal the several charters of the City and County of San Francisco, and to consolidate the government thereof." This became a law and received the governor's approval on April 19, of the same year.

The boundaries of the new county were identical with those of the southern portion of the County of San Francisco, up to the present northerly line where the two counties were cut apart.

A year later, because of disturbing irregularities found in the consolidating act, Senator T. G. Phelps, a resident of San Mateo County, introduced a bill to effect the proper organization of the county. It passed April 18, 1857, which date properly marks the legal organization of the county.

This act defined the southern boundary of the county, as running from a point in the middle of San Francisco Bay opposite the mouth of San Francisquito Creek; thence to and up the middle of said creek, following the middle of the south branch thereof to its source in the Santa Cruz Mountains; thence due west to the Pacific Ocean and three miles therein.

Another section of this Act provided that Redwood City should be and remain the county seat until otherwise provided by law. Eleven years later this southern boundary was expanded southward and made to include ninety thousand acres or 140 square miles of additional territory. This was acquired from Santa Cruz County in March, 1868, by "An Act to fix and define the boundary line between the Counties of San Mateo and Santa Cruz." This new territory included Pescadero and Pigeon Point.

During the early years following the consolidation of county government, the choice of the county seat wavered between three places,—Belmont, Redwood City and San Mateo.


By subdivision 3, section 9, of the Consolidation Act it was provided that "the seat of justice shall be at such place as may be determined by the qualified electors of the county."

At the county's first election held in May, 1856 at which unblushing frauds were perpetrated on an unorganized and wholly unprotected community by thugs and ballot stuffers from San Francisco; Belmont was declared the county seat, and the government of the county was set up at that place. Almost immediately, the county court held at Belmont with judge Fox presiding, declared the May election illegal, and the archives of the government were removed from that place to Redwood City, where Diller's store building became the temporary Court House.

On February 27, 1858, the county through the board of commissioners accepted the offer of Mr. S. M. Mezes, acting as agent for the Arguellos, owners of the Pulgas Grant, donating a block of land in Redwood City for the site of the court house and jail.

During this time the county seat advocates for other locations had not slumbered, and the question was brought to an issue in an election called for May 1861, which resulted in favor of Redwood City by a vote of six hundred and fifty-six against three hundred and sixty-four for San Mateo and one for Belmont.

Twelve years later another election was held, December 9, 1873, on this same subject, when money was spent freely and strenuous efforts made by the respective partisans of the rival towns. The election returns stood—seven hundred and three votes for Redwood City, and six hundred and ninety-three for San Mateo, thus leaving a majority still in favor of Redwood City.

Instead of being discouraged by defeat, San Mateo was stimulated to further efforts by this excellent showing and in five months succeeded in calling another election at which their city was returned the victor with an overwhelming majority of two hundred and sixty votes.

Because of the alleged irregularities connected with this election, its legality was contested in the Supreme Court. On February 24, 1875 this court decided in favor of Redwood City, which thenceforth has remained the county seat.


THE very beginning of San Mateo may be traced back to the little wayside mission or hacienda on the banks of San Mateo Creek. The interest that still clings to the spot where this little building once stood, is that it was the first step toward the foundation of the present city.

As the route between the Mission Dolores [in San Francisco] and that at Santa Clara lay through the peninsula which was occupied only by Indians, many of whom had been brought under the benign influence of the Franciscan fathers, a small mission or station was established on the banks of San Mateo Creek on land later owned by W.D.M. Howard, to guard in some measure against the possible hostile attacks of natives.

The hacienda was erected where the Camino Real spanned the San Mateo Creek. It stood on the north bank of the Creek and on the west side of the highway. Later a small chapel was erected near the hacienda where mass was said by the priests on their way between the missions Santa Clara and San Francisco. An adobe building was constructed, the substantial walls of which stood until the earthquake of 1868 when they were wrecked beyond repair. It was pulled down in 1870. Until that time the walls and the redtiled roof remained in a fair state of preservation. The tiles, nevertheless, were preserved and were given as a memorial by Wm. H. Howard to the town of Burlingame which utilized them in the construction of an artistic station on the Southern Pacific tracks where they still serve as a reminder of the early days of the county. Mr. Geo. H. Howard the architect designed this station.

San Mateo, like other peninsula towns, traces its origin to small beginnings. The delightful climate and natural beauties of the place magnified by the graceful sweep of oak-dotted meadows from the foothills to the bay, exerted a potent charm upon the wealthy pioneer in search of a country home; as well as on the penniless and frugal settler wishing to earn a livelihood in the new community.

The early settlers were typified by such men as John B. Cooper, the first man to settle on the site of San Mateo—W.D.M. Howard, who purchased the San Mateo Rancho in 1848, Nicholas DePeyster, who came in 1850, Dr. Post in 1851, David S. Cook, and David Haver in 1852. Other early settlers in this town were men like Henry Husing, the first merchant of the town, who began trade in 1859; followed by the merchant firm of Skidmore and Purcel. In 1861 Charles and William Remington became the first blacksmiths of the place.

As the lumber business was the first important industry at Redwood City, so was dairying at San Mateo. Where once grazed the herds affording the milk supply of the old Palace Hotel of San Francisco, now stand the cities of San Mateo and Burlingame. The old dairy house of the Sharon Estate still stands, its rough weatherworn sides and dilapidated roof forming a marked contrast to the spick and span residences of these modern cities and the palaces of the millionaire colony at Hillsborough.

The town grew steadily, and in 1863 a part of it was platted by Mr. C.B. Polhemus. Following the completion of the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad, which later became the Southern Pacfic Railroad, San Mateo began to attract the attention of wealthy men as an ideal for the location of their palatial residences.

In 1865 Rev. Alfred Lee Brewer founded the Episeopal Church of Saint Matthew in San Mateo. The beautiful stone church that met its fate in the great earthquake of 1906, was erected also in that year. In 1866 Dr. Brewer established St. Matthew's School, erecting the buildings beside the church. Here the school grew and prospered, establishing a high reputation throughout the Pacific Slope. It was not until 1892 that the school was moved to Hillsborough, where it remained until it was closed in 1915.

Prosperity came to the growing town, not unmixed with a seasoning of misfortune. On the morning of June 15, 1883 at a few minutes to nine o'clock, a disastrous fire started, which completely consumed the Central Block, an entire square opposite the Southern Pacific Station. Although the Fire Department had just purchased a new fire engine, and the whole town turned out to fight the flames, nothing could be done. It was discovered too late that there were but two hydrants available to tap the water, of which there was a copious supply.

In those days the town was the northern terminus of the San Mateo, Pescadero and Santa Cruz stage line, the proprietors of which were Taft and Garretson. The Concord coaches of the company plied daily to Pescadero and Santa Cruz, carrying passengers and the mail. Today, the routes followed by the modern "jitney," are very similar to those of the former stage line. The stations of this route were San Mateo, Crystal Springs, San Felix, Byrne's Store, Eureka Gardens, Halfmoon Bay or Spanishtown, Purissima, Lobitas, San Gregorio, Pescadero, Pigeon Point, Seaside, Davenport and Santa Cruz. The distance was 78 miles.

An historical account of early San Mateo would not be complete without mention of Laurel Hall, a select seminary for "young ladies and little girls" opened in May, 1864. This was situated a mile south of the town on the western side of the county road, now the State Highway.

Today many matrons living not only in the county, but scattered throughout the state, have cause to remember with affection the educational advantages and happy school life of Laurel Hall.

San Mateo enjoyed a steady growth, and soon became the recognized purchasing center of the county. The stores of the city did a thriving business and were forced to remain open late Saturday nights to accommodate customers coming from the coast side as well as the surrounding country.


San Mateo was incorporated as a city of the sixth class on September 4th, 1894. The election called for this purpose was carried by a vote of 150 for, and 25 against incorporation.

The incorporation was accomplished only after much opposition by large property owners, who objected to the proposed boundaries of the new city, all desiring to be left outside of the proposed incorporate limits.

The first Board of Trustees consisted of A.H. Payson, Gco. W. Dickie, Chas. Herbst, J.H. Hatch and Robt. Wisnom. R.H. Jury was the clerk, Wm. F. Herbst treasurer, and Peter Rodgers, marshal.

The fixing of the boundaries of the proposed city of San Mateo was the greatest problem which confronted the committee on incorporation, and many were the wordy battles fought by them before the Board of Supervisors before this was finally accomplished.

That the city of San Mateo acquired the water front along the easterly limits of the City of Burlingame, from Peninsula to Burlingame avenues, was clue to the foresight of the committee, who entered into a compromise with Wm. H. Howard to include those portions of the Howard lands, then known as the Polo Field and Howard Dairy, within the City of Burlingame, in exchange for this water front. These lands are now bounded by Howard avenue to the north, "H" Street to the east, Peninsula avenue to the South and Park Road to the west.

The time is not far distant when the waterfront will be a valuable asset and mean much to San Mateo.

The account of the early days of this city would be incomplete without mention of the growth of the Episcopal Church of St. Matthew, whose foundation was practically contemporary with that of the city itself.

When first entering the grounds, one notices the ideal surroundings of the church which are typically English, and conform gracefully with the English type of the Church.

In May, 1865 the first church building was erected and equipped, in San Mateo where the present building now stands. At that time San Mateo consisted of about twelve scattered homes, while the business center of the town was on the county road where the Parrott Place now stands.

Rev. G. A. Easton preached the first sermon in a school house in this location. The following year th Rev. A.L. Brewer D.D., from New York succeeded him. Those who have served as rector of the parish, following Dr. Brewer, are: Rev. WP. Case, Rev. W. H. Knowlton, Rev. J.R. de Wolf Cowie, Rev. E.L. Parsons, and Rev. N.B.W. Galloway. Rev. W.H. Cambridge succeeded to the pastorate in 1911.

In 1906 the church building was destroyed by the earthquake of April 18, 1906; and it was not until four years later that the beautiful new structure was completed. During this time services were conducted in the parish house.

The church building is an adaptation of modern construction to English Gothic, with steel frame and concrete structure. The windows are all memorials: the large windows facing east and west were given by Ogden Mills and Mrs. Whitelaw Reid in memory of their father and mother. The other persons commemorated are Rev. N.B.W. Gallwey and members of the Howard, Grant and Crocker families. The windows are by Heaton, Butler and Bayne of London, while the organ which is of exceptionally fine tone, was built by the Hope-Jones Company.

The parish includes Grace Chapel, Homestead, St. Paul's, Burlingame and St. Andrews, Lomita Park.

The site of Redwood City is on the Rancho de las Pulgas of the early Mexican period, and was known as the Embarcadero or shipping point.


Most of the early traffic in lumber to San Francisco was effected through Redwood Creek, which ran inland from the Bay about three miles to the center of town where a wharf known as the Bridge Street Landing was built.

The first American settlement of Redwood City began in 1851 with the erection of a small house opposite this landing by Capt. A. Smith. Mr. G.H. Burnham then started a shipbuilding yard, and was soon followed by others in this industry, so that in a short time this community became a recognized boat-building center.

During 1852 several hundred settlers arrived, attracted by the commercial possibilities of the place as well as the belief that all this territory which was originally a large Spanish grant, would be declared government land, and that they could acquire title by "squatting."

On September of this year [1916] a hotel was opened by William Shaw; and soon after, two other hotels, the Pulgas House and the American House were opened. A school house built of rough boards was erected this year.

S.M. Mezes, agent for the Arguellos, owners of the Pulgas Ranch was the first real estate operator of Redwood City. In 1854 he laid out a town site which he called Mezesville, and for a long time Redwood City was known by this name.

A short time after San Mateo became a county in 1856, Redwood City was chosen as county seat, and a ten thousand dollar Court House and jail were built.


THESE grants of land in San Mateo County, together with similar grants throughout Mexico and California, were made in the early Spanish colonial days by the governor of California, and ratified by his assembly or junta, although such ratification was not absolutely necessary. It was the aim of the Mexican government to make these grants as a reward for military service, but this was not a set rule and many civilians received such grants. Often they were given verbally and not confirmed until months and sometimes years afterwards, yet the grantees were considered to have valid title to their land.

When the Franciscan fathers established their mission church in San Francisco, they claimed as land appurtenant to the Mission all that portion of San Mateo County which extended to San Mateo Creek. The United States government refused to allow their claims,—and as a result, San Mateo County land titles continue to date back to grants made by the Mexican government, subsequently confirmed by the United States government. A large part of the bay side of the county was included in the following important grants:

Canada del Corte de Madera. A part located in San Mateo County,—remainder in Santa Clara County. Granted in 1833 by Jose Figueroa to D. Peralta and Maximo Martinez. Claim filed August 14, 1852; rejected by the Governor's commission on October 2, 1855, but confirmed by the District Court on April 6, 1858.

Buri Buri. Area 15,739.14 acres. Jose de la Cruz Sanchez et al., claimant for Buri Buri, in San Mateo County; granted to him September 18, 1835, by Jose Castro. Claim filed March 9, 1852, and confirmed by the Commission on Jan. 31, 1854, and by the District Court on Oct. 16, 1855. An appeal was dismissed May 11, 1858.

Las Pulgas. Area 35,240.47 acres. Maria de la Soledad and Ortega de Arguello, et al., claimants. Granted on December 10, 1835, to Louis Arguello. Claim filed Jan. 21, 1852, which was confirmed by the commission October 2, 1853; again confirmed by the District Court Jan. 26, 1855, and later by the United States Supreme Court. Patented.

San Pedro. Area, 8,926.46 acres. Francisco Sanchez, claimant for San Pedro. This tract was granted to him on January 26, 1839 by Juan B. Alvarado. Claim filed on September 22,1852; was confirmed by the commission on December 13, 1853, and an appeal dismissed March 20, 1857.

Corral de Tierra. Area 4,436.18 acres. Tiburcio Vasquez claimant for Corral de Tierra, was granted his claim on October 5, 1839 by Manuel Jimeno. Claim filed on February 17, 1853, was confirmed by the commission August 15, 1854, and by the District Court April 18, 1859. An appeal was dismissed on June 29, 1859.

Canada de Raymundo. Area 12,545.01 acres. Maria Louisa Greer et al., claimants for Canada de Raymundo. Claim granted August 3, 1840 by Juan B. Alvarado to John Copinger. The claim
was filed on February 3, 1852 and confirmed by the commission November 29, 1853, and by the District Court on January 14, 1856. An appeal was dismissed on November 11, 1856.

Canada de Guadalupe y Visitacion y Rodeo Viejo. Area 9,594.90 acres. Henry R. Payson, claimant for Canada de Guadalupe y Visitacion y Rodeo Viejo. Granted July 31, 1841 by Juan B. Alvarado
to Jacob P. Leese. Claim filed March 2, 1853; confirmed by the commission January 30, 1855, and by the District Court on June 18, 1856; an appeal dismissed April 1, 1857.

Feliz Rancho. Area 4,448.27 acres. Domingo Feliz was the claimant for the Feliz Rancho. The claim was granted on May 1, 1844 by Manuel Micheltorena. Claim filed February 17, 1852. It was confirmed by the commission on January 27, 1854; and by the District Court on October 29, 1855. An appeal was dismissed November 18, 1856.

Rancho de San Mateo. Area 6,538.80 acres. W.D.M. Howard, claimant for Rancho de San Mateo. Granted May 5, or May 6, 1846 by Pio Pico to Cayetano Arenas. Claim filed February 7, 1853; and confirmed by the commission September 18, 1855. An appeal was dismissed April 6, 1857. Patented.

The Buri Buri Rancho became the property of D.O. Mills.

The Pulgas Grant made to the distinguished Arguello family extended from the present City of San Mateo to San Francisquito Creek, and included Redwood City.

The San Mateo grant about which much of the history of San Mateo County clings, was made by Pio Pico, the last governor of California under Mexican rule, to his secretary, Cayetano Arenas, in 1846, in compensation for services rendered to the governor during the Mexican War. This was the last Mexican grant made. It was one of the smallest—6,535 acres—but it was probably the most valuable of all the granted tracts.

It extended from the foothills to the bay and included Coyote Point, about one-half the present city of San Mateo, all of Burlingame and most of Hillsborough, as well as the picturesque twelve-mile chain of Spring Valley Lakes whose waters supply the City of San Francisco.

The San Mateo Rancho became the property of W.D.M. Howard; large portions of which are still retained by his descendents. Mr. Howard paid $25,000 for this property and expended a similar sum to enclose this area with a fence. Mr. Burlingame became interested in that portion of this property which subsequently took his name; while William C. Ralston, the famous banker was also a part owner in this section. Mr. Ralston's interests passed on to Senator Sharon who in turn granted large tracts to many of the leading citizens of San Francisco, including the Popes, and Henry T. Scott and others whose villas and beautiful grounds are landmarks in this portion of the county.

The history of this grant which is now the most thickly settled portion of the county and the most highly developed, goes back nearly one hundred and twenty years to the time when Borica the seventh governor of all the Californias, Baja and Alta, selected this territory for a cattle ranch to be operated under the direction of the Mexican government. It was called "Rancho del Rey," or the King's Ranch.

The reason for the establishment of this ranch was the shortage of cattle in the Californias, and consequently a shortage in beef, hides and tallow. For three years a drought had prevailed so that immense herds of cattle owned by the Mexican government at Monterey had dwindled to 1200 head. This made it very difficult to provide meat for the troops at the Presidio of San Francisco and the crews of the royal vessels touching there.

The Mexican government decided to start another federal cattle ranch—and for this purpose Borica selected the natural pastures of the plains and the grassy slopes to the south of the present site of the City of San Mateo. The boundaries of this ranch were marked off from the maps of Cordoba and Alberni which contained the first surveys of the peninsula.

The ranch prospered and all went well in spite of the strong opposition of the priests at Dolores Mission who objected to this interference with their rights to supply the troops and vessels with beef at their own prices. They went so far as to make a protest to Spain, but Borica's action was approved. When the Franciscan fathers discovered that products of the King's Ranch were to be used only for government supply and would in no way interfere with their monopoly of the extensive trade with foreign ships, they withdrew their opposition.


THE story of the Catholic Church in San Mateo County begins with the landing of Don Gaspar de Portola. He was accompanied by the Franciscans, who under Junipero Serra immediately set to work to establish missions. Two were founded in the region of the Great Bay; Mission Dolores in 1776 and Mission Santa Clara in 1777. A settlement at San Mateo followed as a matter of course, and so the first beginning of this city was a hacienda or inn where travelers could stay over night and stable their horses. The hacienda stood where the Camino Real spanned the Creek. Later on during the short lived era of the Spanish rancheros there was some sort of a chapel near the hacienda where mass was said by the padres on their way between the missions.

The missions were confiscated by the Mexican government in 1835 and the Franciscans banished, but with the annexation of California to the United States there came better days for the Church. The Jesuits took up the work at Santa Clara, and the pioneer Catholics who arrived in the late forties found Father Piccardo already visiting stations along the highway at Halfmoon Bay.

The demand for building material in the growing city of San Francisco created the lumber industry of San Mateo. In the middle fifties there were men felling trees in La Honda, sawing them at Searsville and loading them into barges at the Embarcadero. Searsville was then the metropolis. It stood near the lake of that name to the west of Palo Alto. Many of the pioneers were Irish immigrants who were fleeing the iniquitous troubles of '48. Among the first to take up land was Dennis Martin. He built a chapel on his land, which he dedicated to St. Dennis; and this church at Searsville was for a time the center of Catholicism in the county. It was an outmission from Santa Clara. In 1857 Archbishop Alemany sent Father Cotter to Searsville to report on the feasibility of making it a parish. He considered the enterprise premature, but Father Dennis Dempsey came in 1858, and remained, and for a quarter of a century was the apostle of the county.

His first act was to move to San Mateo from Searsville. There were Irish settlements at San Mateo and Colma and some Catholics at the Embarcadero (now Redwood City). Searsville was no longer central, but mass was said at St. Dennis until a new chapel was built in 1870 at Mayfield. The old cemetery was used for burial up to twenty years ago, when the property passed over to the University.

When Father Dempsey moved to San Mateo he stopped at the Peter Casey Ranch, at Beresford. The nonagenarian, Mr. Casey is still alive and a pillar of St. Catherine's Church at Burlingame. He loves to tell how he and the priests began the work at San Mateo-how they hitched the mare and called on the McNamaras and Morgans and Mees and Caseys and Burns and Claffeys and Torpeys and Trowells and O'Callaghans and Gainors and Peytons and Dolans. Many of these families lived in the Canada; their ranches being bought subsequently by the Spring Valley Water Company. The Church and cottage at San Mateo were finished in 1860 and Father Dempsey set to work at once in the Sand Hills, as Colma was called. We are familiar with the names of the pioneers at Colma. Their sons and grandsons are still residents there-the McMahons, the Rileys, the Caseys, the Thorntons, the Knowles, the Brooks, the Dolans, the Codys, the Casserlys, the Devlins and the Castles.

With two out missions and the station at Spanishtown, Father Dempsey needed an assistant priest. One was sent in 1861 in the person of W. Briody, a young Irishman who hoped, all in vain, that the climate of California would save him from tuberculosis. He died in a year or so and was succeeded by Father Bowman who labored on with his pastor till the Master of the Vineyard called both away in 1881. Father Cooper succeeded Father Bowman as assistant and was a genial and beloved figure in San Mateo for a quarter of a century. He became pastor of Ocean View and Colma in 1897.

Spanishtown dates from the days of the rancheros but there was no chapel until the early fifties. It was an outlying district visited by the Franciscans from Santa Clara and later by Father Piccardo. Indeed the Jesuit missionary continued his ministrations after Father Dempsey arrived and was of great assistance in dealing with the Spanish people. Mass was said on the Vasquez ranch, where Vasquez gave land about 1850 for a chapel and cemetery. The latter is still in use and is a familiar object as one approaches the town from the east. Vasquez's grave marks the sight of the first chapel. When the town of Halfmoon Bay assumed some proportions, the chapel was found to be too small and too far away. A new one was built which still serves as a parish hall adjoining the pretentious structure erected in 1883 by Father Santandreu who was appointed pastor in the seventies when the parish passed out of Father Dempsey's jurisdiction.

The indefatigable Father Dempsey built six churches. The fourth scene of his labors was Redwood City, where there was a colony of Irish immigrants. This city was a seaport of some pretentions until the railroad came. When the city fathers of San Francisco cut San Francisco County in two, thereby creating San Mateo County, Redwood, after a heroic struggle with San Mateo, became the seat of county government. The Church followed the people into the booming town, and in 1863 could boast of a chapel of its own. The little edifice still opens its portals to the congregation, as the original building is the front half of the present Mount Carmel. Redwood parish boasts of a parochial school conducted by the Notre Dame Sisters and attended by over two hundred children. A resident pastor was sent there in 1887 in the person of Father Dan O'Sullivan.

Menlo Park was an aftermath of the railroad. When some sort of transportation facilities were accorded, many of the successful pioneers were attracted by the climate and the oaks to this spot, where they built summer homes. A village naturally grew up around the depot. For the accommodation of the Catholics, Father Dempsey in the seventies, built a church among them. In 1880 Father Spreckels was made pastor there with Redwood and Mayfield as out missions. He was succeeded subsequently by Fathers Riordan, Brennan, McKinnon, Lyons, and Hannigan, the present incumbent. Father McKinnon was appointed in 1905 and his first work was to open missions at Portola and Palo Alto.

Menlo Park occupied a prominent place in the archdiocese owing to the presence of St. Patrick's Seminary. The seminary is, in a sense, the very heart of Catholic life in the diocese, for it is there that young men are prepared for the priesthood. There are one hundred and forty there at present in the various classes of the twelve-year course. The parish is also the site of the Academy of the Sacred Heart, which is attended in particular by the daughters of the wealthy. A parochial school is also conducted under Catholic auspices.

When Menlo, Redwood and Mayfield were cut off, the parish of San Mateo comprised only the north end of the county and the mission of Ocean View in San Francisco. It was administered by
Fathers Dempsey and Bowman until their death in 1881 when Fathers Birmingham as pastor and Cooper as assistant arrived on the scene.

In the course of a few years Father Birmingham was transferred by Archbishop Riordan to San Francisco; since then it has been the privilege of San Mateo to enjoy the gentle rule of Father Callaghan. From the eighties until 1906 there was no growth in the county. In that year the opening of the Bay Shore Tunnels offered easy communication with the city and the great conflagration precipitated matters. Very soon the county doubled her population. Many of the refugees became permanent residents and with the influx of many families there came new parishes.

St. Catherine's at Burlingame was organized in 1908 with San Bruno and Millbrae as missions; and in 1913 San Bruno became a parish by itself with Millbrae as a mission. In 1914 two more parishes were organized; one at South City and one at Colma. In all there are now in the county eight parishes—Colma, South San Francisco, San Bruno, Burlingame, San Mateo, Redwood City, Halfmoon Bay, and Menlo Park. There are missions with churches at Millbrae, Portola, San Gregorio and Pescadero. Beside the parochial organizations, there are two large institutions,—the seminary and academy at Menlo and parochial schools at Menlo and Redwood City.


THE following is a true account of the struggle of the Colma pioneers for the possession of the land they occupied and to which they had rightful title. The legal battle, which finally left them in undisputed title to their soil, was important, not only to them but to a large proportion of the land holders in the county.

This narrative is based upon a short historical account of Colma and the Colma Valley from the pen of Mr. Robert Sheldon Thornton, still residing at Colma, and fast verging upon his ninety-seventh year.

Mr. Thornton mentions the names of the earliest settlers who from 1853 to 1860 entered the government lands as homesteaders. Few of these men are still living, although the names of most of them are familiar to the older as well as the younger generations. Charles Clark, James S. Clark, John W. Locker, A. D. Willard, J. E. King, J. E. Clebey, A. J. Vanwinkle, Mary Dingman, I. G. Knowles, M. Hollingsworth, Franklin White, S. S. White, B. S. Green, Michael Comerford, Robert Patten, William Burley, Sr., Edward Robson, Hippolito Poleto, A. S. Easton, Jeremiah Smith, Herman Duncks, James Wood, John S. Colgrove, William T. Prince, John Cooper. Henry L. White, F. E. Pierce, Edward Burley, Jr., and R. S. Thornton. Those who settled upon private lands were Patrick Brooks, James Casey, Sr., Owen McMahorn, Patrick McMahorn and John Gardener.

From 1853 until 1859 the settlers upon these lands busied themselves in improving their homes, cultivating, fencing and building houses and barns, when suddenly one morning they were startled by the sight of surveyors upon their premises trampling their crops. The surveyors pretended that these lands belonged to the Laguna Merced Rancho, at that time an almost worthless waste.

The Government had given them patents to all these lands and they felt secure in their rights, yet there followed one of the most unjust litigations that has ever been known in the history of the State. The settlers of course, filed protests in writing to the General Land Office at Washington, D. C. against the encroachment on their lands, whereupon their opponents began suits of ejectment in the State Courts. This necessitated the organization of the Settlers' into a club called the "North San Mateo Settlers' Union," for the purpose of defending their rights in the State Courts in the protection of their homes. The Club selected Mr. R. S. Thornton as their legal fighting man to prosecute the cases in the Federal and State Courts and endowed him with power of attorney to fight the cases, to the best of his ability and judgment, for the interest of all concerned.

Mr. Thornton then entered into the hard task of fighting against rich capitalists, who had ejected him and his clients from their homes and merely wanted to steal their lands. He spent the principal part of his time for six years scouring the country for testimony, and attended strictly to the courts and land departments, going back and forth to Washington to look closely into all matters, so that the record should not be tampered with in the Supreme Court. The Attorney General warned him that it was war time in Washington and sometimes it has been known that slick thief writers have tampered with the record papers.

The decision of the State Supreme Court, which was rendered against the settlers, was a hard blow. The different members of the club then pledged themselves to fight it out legally first, but if not able to do so legally, to defend their rights regardless of the means employed and the consequences. They asked the court for an injunction to stay State Supreme Court judgment until the Federal Court had determined the question of the encroachment of the surveys of the Laguna Merced Rancho on their lands.

When this injunction was denied, the settlers prepared for war, and at once secured through a friend, seventy-five Kentucky rifles, a four-pounder brass cannon, with grape and canister-shot and plenty of ball cartridges for the rifles. On Mr. Thornton's 160-acre place they fortified a barn by piling the walls high with sacks of potatoes, and cut port-holes in the walls. A consultation with Judge Crocket, their main attorney, decided them to surrender possession until the Federal Court had decided the cases.

As soon as their opponents discovered they had given up the fight, they sent the sheriff on June 6, 1863, supported by a band of hired roughs from San Francisco, with guns and bayonets, to take action against the settlers. They appeared early in the morning at Mr. Knowles' house and ejected him and his family, leaving two men in possession with their guns for defense. The next day the Sheriff went to every settler's house and left a gunman in possession. The settlers were ordered to move out and leave their cultivated crops, which were about ready to be harvested. The value of these crops averaged $1,500 to each 160 acres of land.

There was Mr. Pierce and Mr. Van Winkle who had acknowledged some lease of the Deharros, who owned some interest in the ranch, whom the Sheriff concluded not to eject. Therefore, Mr. Pierce's and Mr. Van Winkle's places were opened to the ejected settlers for protection. Mr. Charles Clark who was not ejected, also furnished similar quarters on his place. Most of the settlers stopped near the outskirts of the land until the Federal Court had determined the cases. Mr. Knowles purchased the two acres of land which is now called Hillcrest, and built a cow barn and dwelling house which still stand on that high point.

All this time Mr. Thornton was pushing these cases in the United States District Court, and finally secured a decision by that Court in the settlers' favor, that the survey encroaching on them was wrong, and ordered them to take the old survey of the ranch made in 1853. This decision left the settlers' land outside of that survey. Soon after, David Mahoney, the man put forward by the capitalists, filed affidavits of fraud, and it took about six months to rebut these charges. The court held there was no fraud proven, although reversing its first decision by altering the survey, so it took in most of their lands again. The judge announced, however, in the last words of his decision that it afforded him much satisfaction to feel that the decision was subject to a review by a higher tribunal, where any errors into which he had fallen would be corrected. This decision was made on July 25, 1863.

Mr. Thornton immediately entered an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, and sailed. on the steamer Sonora for Washington on the 23rd of October, 1863, arriving in Washington November 19, 1863. He then fought the case through the Supreme Court and on the 15th day of December, 1865 had the satisfaction of obtaining a unanimous verdict rendered in favor of his clients and himself, thereby establishing their titles as good titles from the United States. He arrived back in California with the titles and the final decree of the Supreme Court on May 24, 1866. The owners then commenced taking possession of their homes which their opponents had occupied for three years without ever paying damages or rents for their lands.



THESE pleasant places, some of which were in existence as far back as the early fifties, played their part in the development of the county. It was in their attractive environments that many of the most prominent business and professional men from San Francisco would foregather on Sundays and holidays to enjoy themselves and discuss their favorite political problems.

In the early days beds were at a premium, and many travelers carried their own blankets. A bench or even floor space or perhaps a hayrick out of doors was good enough for the hardy travelers who passed that way. The food was good, the beer was headyand there was always a warm welcome,so no one thought the lack of accommodations a hardship.

In 1849 a man by the name of Thorp built a little hut on the mission road from San Francisco to San Jose, at a spot fourteen miles south of San Francisco. Soon a more commodious structure was added to this and the former cabin-like building became the bar room of the new hostelry.

In 1871 a Mr. J. Gamble came into possession of "Thorp's Place" and christened it the "Star and Garter." Seven years later Thomas Rolls, a colored man became the proprietor and gave it the name of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which is its present day name. The next proprietor was August Genevan who presided over Uncle Tom's Cabin until succeeded by Andy Buerke, the present proprietor.

Another of these resorts was located on the south bank of the San Mateo Creek where the county road still crosses it.

This little inn was visited at one time or another by all the men who have left distinguished names in the civic life of California. The place was crowded by pleasure seekers on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Among the celebrated characters, now dead and gone, who foregathered here at such times were Judge Ogden Hoffman, Recorder Hackett, Joshua Haven, Peachy McDougall, Hall and Cutter McAllister, Louis and Charles McLain, Captain Irham, Mr. Forbes, Gen. Beale, Gen. Fremont, Gen. Sherman, Mailey Payton, Beverly Saunders, Myers Truett and Lafayette Maynard.

The Lake House, a little inn on the old Mission Road, was another of these famous resorts. Its old location is now the bed of one of the Spring Valley lakes. It was here that David C. Broderick rested the night previous to his fatal duel with David S. Terry, Chief Justice of the State of California, on September 13, 1859, receiving a fatal wound.

Broderick who was a staunch upholder of the policies of Abraham Lincoln, had put up a hard fight to retain California undivided and loyal to the Union. Judge Terry and Senator Gwin were among his bitterest opponents. The political strife between Terry and Broderick culminated in a challenge from Terry which Broderick accepted.

Duelling pistols of the Lafoucheux type, a well known Belgian make, were the weapons chosen. These were the property of Dr. Aylette of Stockton, a personal friend of Terry; and had been used before in a duel. Although this affair did not result fatally, it demonstrated that one of the firearms was specially fitted with a hairtrigger, causing it to be discharged prematurely.

Broderick was not aware of this, and unfortunately drew the unreliable weapon on the morning of the duel. He fired a little in advance of his opponent, but his weapon went off before he had the opportunity to elevate it, and his bullet struck the ground a few paces in front of him; while that of his antagonist pierced his breast. Three days later Broderick died.

Another famous hostelry in the county was the "Crystal Springs House," a well known summer resort in the San Raymundo Valley, reached by a romantic drive up the canon of San Mateo Creek.


FOLLOWING the period when the county was divided up into districts determined by the old Mexican Land Grants, comes that of a further division of this territory into the large estates of the wealthy. San Mateo is still a county of large estates; and presents the appearance of a typical old English shire, as it preserves the memories of the original landholders and early settlers in the names of its cities, towns, roads and land marks. Many of these early arrivals came seeking a home in the county, even before the discovery of gold in California in 1848.

There are about a score of such representative men, the names of many of whom are still borne by descendents.. A large number still reside in the county, and retain considerable portions of the land grants owned by their fathers and grandfathers. These are the Athertons, Adams, Selbys, Doyles, Johnsons, Haywards, Lathams, Ralstons, Brewers, Macondrays, Bowies, Howards, Parrotts, Borels, Reddingtons, Poetts, Eastons, Polhemus', Sneaths, Woods, Donohoes, Mills, Tripps and others.

Other well known names, famous in the history of state and nation have acquired an added significance by their close association with the early history and upbuilding of the county, although not remembered as land holders. San Mateo County early became a sort of playground for the business and professional men of San Francisco, attracting also all the famous men of that city's early days, who spent much of their leisure in the county, either at the homes of their friends or at the picturesque inns of that period.

Could the registers of these various establishments be consulted, with their thousands of names of pleasure-bent pioneers, there would be found among them the signatures of such leading men of San Francisco's early days as Judge Lake, Judge Haydenfeldt, W. D. M. Howard, Dr. A. J. Bowie, William T. Coleman, Judge Stephen Field, Senator Gwin, C. B. Polhemus, H. F. Teschemacher, three times mayor of San Francisco, Governor Downey, Judge Ogden Hoffman, Recorder Hackett, Joshua Haven, Peachy McDougall, the McAllisters, the McLains, Capt. Irham, Mr. Forbes, Gen. Beale, Gen. Fremont, Gen. Sherman, Mailey Payton, Beverly Saunders, Myers Truett, Lafayette Maynard, Don Jose Robinson, Capt. Macondray and many others.

H. F. Teschemacher who later served three terms as mayor of San Francisco, came to the peninsula region from Boston in 1835. He was on terms of intimacy with all the old Spanish families including the Arguellos, Castros, Estudillos, Pachecos, Sanchez, Vallejos, Noriegas and others. He tells of the time when vessels used to come here from Chile to load with grain from San Mateo Point, then an early and friendly rival as a port of commerce with Yerba Buena (San Francisco). Yerba Buena's population was then little more than 1500.

To William Davis Merry Howard is unanimously accorded the distinction of being the greatest of pioneers and early settlers of San Mateo County. The high reputation he bore for integrity and business ability lives after him, while his many substantial accomplishments for the good of the county still remain as monuments to his memory. He was a man whom everybody loved, and of whom no one spoke anything but good.

Mr. Howard was a man of great enterprise, both in San Mateo County and San Francisco. He was a prince of hospitality and did much to interest others in the county which he chose for his hone.


His house was brought around the Horn from Boston in sections in 1850. When erected it was called El Cerrito (the little hill) and was located on a part of the old San Mateo Rancho. The area of the San Mateo Rancho was 6,538.8 acres, which was originally granted by Pio Pico, the last governor of California under Mexican rule, to his secretary, Cayetana Arenas. In its sweep from the foothills to the bay, it included about one-half of the present City of San Mateo and all of Burlingame and most of Hillsborough, as well as the picturesque Spring Valley lakes that now furnish San Francisco's water supply. Mr. W. D. M. Howard purchased the San Mateo Rancho for the sum of $25,000, and it cost him this amount in addition to fence his property.

Mr. W. D. M. Howard's interest in this delightful region which later became his home, commenced in about 1835 when he passed through this territory on his trip up the peninsula from the Isthmus.

W. D. M. Howard was a great fancier of live stock, and in 1857 he imported the first short-horns into California, consisting of the registered bull Orrin, and three cows. The descendents of these, together with later acquisitions, made up the famous Howard Short-Horn Herd, probably the best known in California today.

William H. Howard, son of W. D. M. Howard was another prominent figure in the county's early life. Upon what is now Burlingame, William H. Howard maintained a magnificent herd of dairy Short-Horn cattle. The dairy barn in which they were housed was taken down about ten years ago and removed to Merced County where it stands today.

As early as 1887 William H. Howard planned a subdivision of a part of the town of Burlingame, and this original subdivision was used practically in its entirety when the property was actually sold in 1905 and the succeeding years.

In 1889 William H. Howard held an auction sale of some of his San Mateo properties comprising a portion of the eastern and western additions.

That portion of the land south of Burlingame and east of the State Highway, on which the present town stands, belonged to William H. Howard.

William Davis Merry Howard was a native of Boston, Massachusetts. He married Miss Agnes Poett, daughter of Dr. Joseph Henry Poett. There was one son by this marriage,William H. Howard who married Miss Anna D. Whiting of Boston. The children by this marriage were W. D. M. Howard, Gertrude Howard (now Mrs. F. S. Whitwell of Boston); Edward W. Howard, who married Miss Olivia Lansdale of Philadelphia; Frances S. Howard and John Kenneth Howard. Edward W. Howard was the father of five children: Olivia, William Henry, Anne, Gertrude and Marian.

Mrs. W. D. M. Howard survived her husband and later married his brother, George H. Howard. The children by this union were Miss Julia Howard (now Mrs. E. D. Beylard), George Howard, Miss Agnes Howard and J. H. P. Howard.

The descendents of W. D. M. Howard and also those of his brother Geo. H. Howard still retain large portions of the original W. D. M. Howard holdings.

William Davis Merry Howard's father was Eleazar Howard of Boston, Massachusetts, whose father was William Howard the great grandfather of William Howard Taft, former president of the United States.

The name of William Davis Merry Howard is recalled by San Mateans for many things, but perhaps one of his greatest claims to remembrance is the signal service he did posterity in planting practically the whole county to eucalypti, thus covering many bare spots and establishing for all time a series of windbreaks to temper the velocity of the winds that used to sweep through the county in the days gone by, without check or hindrance.

The following inscriptions are to be found on the Howard family tomb, in the Episcopal Church of St. Matthew, of San Mateo, which stands near the center of the vast tract that was purchased and owned by W. D. M. Howard. They are fitting memorials of a prominent and most useful life.

BORN MAY 2ND, 1819

The interment in this church of George H. Howard is commemorated by a bronze tablet in the chapel placed there by his daughter, Mrs. E. D. Beylard.

Darius Ogden Mills was one of the county's best known pioneers, although other sections of the state, such as Sacramento, also claim him for their own. He was born in North Salem, Winchester County, New York, on September 23, 1825. On September 5, 1854, he was married to Jane Templeton Cunningham of New York. He began his career as a clerk in New York City and later became cashier of the Merchants' Bank of Erie County in Buffalo. In 1849 he came to California and became a merchant and dealer in exchange in Sacramento.

He founded the bank of D. O. Mills & Co. in that city, which institution is still the leading bank of the Capital city. From 1864 to 1867 he was president of the Bank of California of San Francisco. After this institution was wrecked by his successor, he again took charge of it and headed it until 1878, placing it on a sound basis.

He was regent and treasurer of the University of California from 1868 to 1880 and founded the Mills Professorship of moral and intellectual philosophy. He was also one of the first trustees of the Lick Estate and of the Liek Observatory on Mount Hamilton.

Shortly after his successful operations in California in the commercial world, Mills, in returning to New York, spent much of his time in looking after the poor people and became noted throughout the country as a philanthropist. He built a number of hotels for the poor.

D. O. Mills died suddenly at his Millbrae home on January 3, 1910 of heart trouble.

There are now living at Easton, San Mateo County, two of his descendents,Mrs. Adeline M. Easton, his sister, now at an advanced age; and Ansel M. Easton, his nephew, at whose home she now lives.

The Mills holdings in San Mateo County amount to about 3,700 acres, one-third of which are tide lands.

Mr. D. O. Mills was one of California's famous pioneers, as well as one of the early settlers in San Mateo County. He was a multi-millionaire and one of the best known bankers in the United States.

It is of interest to know that the daughter of D. O. Mills married Mr. Whitelaw Reid, who from a reporter became an editor, then a newspaper proprietor, and was finally rewarded for his literary prowess by being appointed Ambassador to England.

The immediate Whitelaw Reid and Mills district is known as Millbrae which was laid out by Olmstead in the up-to-date little city ofMillbrae. In this location are some of the most beautiful residences in the county, and for that matter in the world. Theya re reached through winding avenues lined with palms, cacti, redwood, eucalypti, acacia and pepper trees, together with various other strange and curious specimens of plant life brought from Australia, New Zealand and Africa.

William T. Coleman, famous as the leader of the Vigilantes, also built his home in this county, in the neighborhood of the D. O. Mills residence near Millbrae. He made a great fortune by locating the greatest borax deposit in the world.

The name of Dr. Joseph Henry Poett is one that was closely identified with the County's early history. He was the father-in-law of W. D. M. Howard, and received one-third of the San Mateo Rancho or what is now Burlingame and Hillsborough, through the will of W. D. M. Howard. He in turn gave twenty acres of this to his son-in-law, John J. Redington. Mr. Poett also sold part of this land to Anson Burlingame who retained it for a short time only.

John H. Redington, one of the earliest pioneers of the county came to San Francisco by way of the Isthmus of Panama in 1849, and finally in either 1863 or 1864 he settled in San Mateo County. His eastern home was in Waterville, Maine.

He received twenty acres of the original San Mateo Rancho from his father-in-law, Dr. Joseph Henry Poett. To this land he added by purchase until his holdings amounted to 800 acres. This land is about two miles northwest of Burlingame where Hillsborough is now located, and it extended to the bottom of the canon, now a Spring Valley lake. Here he built his residence. On this land was also the residence of Mrs. Williams whose daughter married Alfred Poett, son of Dr. Poett.

Mr. Redington dispensed a lavish hospitality at his home which at that time was the only estate between El Cerrito, the residence of W. D. M. Howard at San Mateo, and that of D. O. Mills at Millbrae. Mr. Redington's place was called Oak Grove, of which the only remaining relic is the station of that name on the Southern Pacific Railroad between Millbrae and Burlingame.

The names of his descendents are, Alfred P. Redington, John P. Redington, Sarah E. Redington, Mrs. Francis W. Wilson,all of Santa Barbara, California; Arthur H. Redington, of Hillsborough, and Laurence W. Redington of Honolulu. Arthur H. Redington is now living at Hillsborough.

Notable among the early settlers in San Mateo County was the Rev. Alfred Lee Brewer D. D., who came to San Mateo in 1865. In the early years he officiated in the Episcopal churches in San Mateo, Belmont and Redwood City. St. Matthews, his school at San Mateo, became famous all through the west.

Dr. Brewer was noted throughout California as an educator and philanthropist. He was an able preacher and a capable administrator in public affairs. He had a high sense of honor, and his reputation for integrity gave him a prominent place among the distinguished men of the state.

There are few people living in San Mateo County today, more intimately identified with its interests or better acquainted with its history, charms and resources than Henry P. Bowie.

His first praiseworthy accomplishment was in 1879 when he planted Coyote Point with 120,000 young trees and levied 650 acres of the adjacent land. The trees remain as a landmark today; grown to a height of over one hundred feet, they can be seen for miles in every direction. Shortly afterwards he employed John McLaren, now superintendent of Golden Gate Park, as head gardener of the San Mateo Rancho, to plant all the back hills of the San Mateo Rancho with groups of eucalypti, pines and cypress,thus creating for all time the excellent climatic conditions of this section of the county, including the cities of San Mateo, Burlingame and Hillsborough. Later on he introduced the graceful Abyssinian banana, an ornamental shade tree, the first specimens of which were planted upon the San Mateo Rancho.

Early recognition of Mr. Bowie's public activities came in his election as the first president of the San Mateo County Development Association, whose membership included such men as George Ross, Mr. Carnel, and John T. Doyle.

Subsequently he laid out El Cerrito Park, a portion of the Bowie estate where his home is now located. Under his management considerable [portions] of this property was later sold at public auction, thereby establishing real estate values in this section for all time. Although considerable more of this estate was also disposed of to the Spring Valley Water Company, and others, a large portion still remains unsold.

When Mr. Bowie was a young man just beginning his law career, he was employed by John T. Doyle to take important testimony in the famous Pious Fund Case that had then assumed a world-wide importance and fame. At the Franciscan Monastery of Santa Barbara he took the testimony of the celebrated Padre Sanchez, a very aged man who was the only remaining living witness. It was upon this testimony that the case was won and about three million dollars secured for the Catholic Church of California. General Rosecrans was also employed by Doyle to secure documentary evidence at the library in the City of Mexico, but Mr. Bowie has the distinction of being the only lawyer to take the testimony of a living witness in this case.

Mr. Bowie was instrumental in the founding of the San Mateo Leader, the first newspaper published in the City of San Mateo. This paper was under the management of Mr. Kirkbride and Mr. Jury, who pledged themselves never to allow their sheet to be used for any unworthy purpose, and faithfully kept their promises. The San Mateo Leader was recently absorbed by the San Mateo News Publishing Company.

Mr. Bowie retains his interest in the current county affairs; and from the time that Hillsborough was established as a city of the sixth class, he has held the office of judge of the Recorder's Court. He was the president of the County Commission of the Panama Pacific Exposition.

Mr. Bowie married Agnes Howard, widow of George H. Howardand former widow of W. D. M. Howard. Mr. Bowie survives his wife.

Aside from Mr. Bowie's recognition in San Mateo County for his public services, he has earned a world-wide reputation as the greatest authority on Japanese art. He has written and published a work upon this subject which has achieved a wonderful success, winning recognition from leading critics in Europe and America.

Charles B. Polhemus came to San Mateo County from San Francisco in about 1858, and purchased a tract of land which covered all that portion of the present area of the City of San Mateo from the creek to Alvinza Hayward's place and the County Road. He laid out the City of San Mateo on the Pulgas Rancho side of the Creek.

Mr. Polhemus erected a house next to the Hayward estate, and lived there until 1866, when Peter Donohoe bought it from him.

He was a member of the firm of Polhemus, Donohoe & McLaughlin who were the original promoters and part owners of the railroad from San Francisco to San Mateo and San Jose, which later became the Southern Pacific. In this work he was associated with Mr. Main and Mr. Newhall. The San Mateo depot was built in Mr. Polhemus' grain field. This tract was afterwards sold out by him. He then moved to San Jose where he died in 1904.

Mr. Polhemus came to California from South America and founded the house of Alsop & Co., Commission Merchants, in San Francisco. In 1851 he married Matilda J. Murphy. Three children were born to them,Stanhope Prevost (deceased), George Bissel (deceased), and Mary Josephine, now living at Meran, Austria. He is survived by a widow and one son Charles B. Polhemus, Jr.

Frederick Macondray, one of San Francisco's first merchants settled in San Mateo in 1854 while this part of the peninsula belonged to San Francisco County. Coming from Boston, Massachusetts the early home of W. D. M. Howard, he chose his California home in the same county as this other sturdy pioneer. He acquired a large tract of land on the south bank of the San Mateo Creek within the present site of the City of San Mateo. This he subsequently sold to John Parrott.

The children of Mr. Frederick W. Macondray are F. W. Macondray (deceased), Mrs. James Otis, and Miss Martha Macondray. The grandchildren are, Mrs. Perry Eyre, Mrs. Inez Moore, Atherton
Macondray, Henry Macondray, R. A. Macondray, and F. L. Macondraychildren of his son, F. W. Macondray. The children of Mrs. James Otis are James Otis, Mrs. Hall McAllister, Mrs. Lake and Charles Otis.

The name of Wm C. Ralston figured more brilliantly in California history for a short period perhaps, than that of any other man of his day; and will linger for all time in the annals of both his state and county.

Wm. C. Ralston and D. O. Mills were the organizers of the Bank of California, of which institution Mr. Ralston became the cashier and president. His business activities in the city of San Francisco covered a wide field, extending into other states. Many of these, unfortunately were not inspired by sound business judgement.

In 1866 he purchased an extensive country seat at Belmont in San Mateo County, to which he added extensive improvements, and made this the background of a series of entertainments that would rival those of an Indian prince in their expenditure and prodigality. So costly were these hospitalities that it was taken for granted that the Bank of California furnished him the money for them to impress the world with its unlimited resources.

At times he would have from two to three hundred guests at his Belmont home. In the seventies, before the failure of the Bank of California and his tragic death, it was his usual practice to drive down the peninsula every afternoon in summer in a crowded tally-ho coach with six horses which he changed at San Bruno. He made the trip in two and one-half hours. Mr. Ralston would also often drive a four-horse team from San Francisco to his home.

The amount of land acquired by Ralston in the county amounted to 180 acres located one mile west of the present Belmont station.

The decendents and present members of the Ralston family are, Lizzie Fay Ralston (widow), Mrs. W. C. Ralston Sr., now living at Georgetown, El Dorado County, Cal., W. C. Ralston, Jr., 25 Broad St., New York, Mrs. Arthur Page (Emelita Ralston), San Francisco, and Mrs. Louis Victor Bright (Bertha Ralston), 136 East 65th St., New York.

Other famous men to own homes at Belmont were Senator Sharon, Colonel Cipriani and Governor McDougal.

Robert Orville Tripp, a native of Foxboro, Massachusetts, was one of the earliest pioneers of the county. He came from New York, and passed through Mexico in 1849 on his way to California. On October 30th of this year he settled where the present town of Woodside has sprung up, acquiring about 126 acres of land.

He was prominently identified with the early lumbering operations in the Woodside district, and has the distinction of sending the first big shipment of lumber to San Francisco, on a raft specially constructed for this purpose.

Mr. Tripp died March 31, 1909 at the age of 93 years. Adeline Tripp, the only living member of the family is now living at Woodside, where she owns a large tract of land.

Faxon Dean Atherton is another one of the oldest pioneers of the southern part of the county. He was formerly a merchant of Valparaiso, and later one of the leading capitalists of San Francisco. His house was ever the scene of friendly gatherings of notable people from all over the world. His family and descendents are still residing in their homes in various parts of the large tract formerly owned by them.

Mr. Atherton settled in San Mateo County in 1860, at Fair Oaks (now Atherton) where he purchased 640 acres of land. This tract is located on the County Road between Atherton and Menlo Park.

His descendents are, Mrs. Dominga G. de Atherton (deceased), Mrs. Maria Alejandra Atherton de Rathbone (deceased), Frank A. Atherton (deceased), Mrs. Elena Amanda Atherton de Selby (deceased), George Henry Bowen Atherton (deceased), Mrs. Isabel Eulogia Atherton de Edwards (deceased), Faxon Dean Atherton and Mrs. Florence Alice Atherton de Eyre, now living at Menlo.

Mayor Selby, another resident of Menlo Park, was a man of great ability and popularity. It was he who built the Selby Shot Tower in San Francisco and founded the Selby Smelting Works.

The present holdings of the Selby family consist of about 400 acres at Atherton fronting on the beautiful Selby Lane. Mr. Percival Selby is the only representative of this family residing in San Mateo County.

The description of Menlo Park would not be complete without mention of the name of John T. Doyle who spent more than one half of his long life at his home in Menlo Park. Considered one of the most thoroughly equipped common law lawyers in America, Mr. Doyle's chief claim to grateful remembrance was his instrumentality in securing for the Catholic Church of Upper California a vast sum of money known as the Pious Fund. He presented the claim of the Catholic Church before the Hague Tribunal, and judgement was given for the entire sum, amounting to about $3,000,000. This was the first award ever made by this tribunal.

The name of George Gordon, who was another of the early residents of Menlo Park, is still remembered for his extraordinary energy and commercial success. It was he who built the first sugar factory in San Francisco, and also laid out and built South Park, one of the most fashionable residence sections of the young city. His residence upon the south bank of the San Francisquito Creek just over the boundary of San Mateo County, later became the home of Governor Stanford, the founder of Stanford University. Governor Stanford deeded part of this estate to this university, describing the land as "Menlo Park" in the deed. The site of the University is located just a short distance from where the old residence stood.

Mr. I. C. Woods another of the well known settlers in the southern part of the county, came to California from New Bedford, Massachusetts. His home, which he called "Woodside," was at Menlo Park surrounded by an estate of eighty acres or more, where now stands St. Patrick's Seminary. At that time this was part of the Pulgas Grant.

"Woodside" was the scene of many delightful entertainments and week-end parties, almost dividing honors in this respect with Belmont, the country seat of Wm. C. Ralston. During these occasions, visitors were numerous and were lavishly entertained. The guests went down the Bay on a steamer from San Francisco and landed at Ravenswood on the bayshore. They were then driven in carriages to the Woods' home.

"Woodside" was so far superior to any residences established at that early date1852-53that it continued to attract much attenion up to the time of its decay and final destruction by fire, ten or twelve years ago.

The initial movement towards making Menlo Park a favorite location for the country seats of wealthy gentlemen was begun by Mr. Woods. Unfortunately his residence there was abruptly ended
by the tragic failure of the Adams and Company Bank in which he had been a partner. At this time "Woodside" passed into the hands of his brother-in-law, Mr. R. Emmett Doyle.

None of his descendents are now living in the county. A son, Robert Woods lives in San Francisco; Anne H. Woods Lewis, the widow of a naval surgeon, lives in New York; a grandson, Edward Churchill Woods is in the U. S. Navy; and a granddaughter, Mrs. J. Bebb is living in New York.

Mr. Alfred Robinson (affectionately called "Don Alfredo") was one of the best known and most popular characters of the county's early history. He married into a Spanish family at Santa Barbara named de la Guerra, and subsequently became the agent of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company.

One of the oldest settlers in San Mateo County was John Parrott who built his first home in the location which was at that time the neucleus of the City of San Mateo, being a little settlement of about a dozen houses. Baywood is the name of his first location in San Mateo.

Mr. Parrott came to San Mateo County in the month of January, 1860, and took a prominent part in the early upbuilding of the county. He was a native of Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia, where he was born April 16, 1811. Mr. Parrott's former home in California, before he came to San Mateo County was at 620 Folsom Street, San Francisco which has since become a part of the business district of that city. Mr. Parrott erected one of the first large and substantial business blocks of the rapidly growing metropolis, on the northwest corner of California and Montgomery Streets which is still standing, among the skyscrapers which have since sprung up all around it. This building was constructed of granite which was imported by Mr. Parrott from China for this purpose. Mr. Parrott took an active part in the financial affairs of the growing city of San Francisco, being particularly interested in banking and railroad building.

The members of the family still living in the county are Mr. John Parrott, Mrs. G. P. Hayne, Mrs. J. A. Donohoe, Mrs. A. H. Payson. Viscontess de Tristan, C. de Guigne, Jr., R. Y. Hayne, and Mrs. Edward Tobin.

Other important names, well known and prominent among the early settlers of the county are Capt. Voiget, G. H. Rice, B. V. Weeks, John D. Husing, J. H. Hatch, Henry Warren Walker, Will
Frisbie, Henry Beeger, Geo. W. Fox, Frederick Botsch, John Hanley, Albert Hanson, P. J. Maloney, John Christ, Peter Hansen, Hon. A. F. Green, Horace Hawes, John C. Edgar, Peter Casey, Charles W. Swanton, John H. Sears, Loren Coburn, Henry Wurr, Lawrence Kelly, A. Eikerenkotter, John Hadler, Hon. J. P. Ames, Rudolph Miramontez, Antonio Miramontez, Lemuel T. Murray, Geo. Winter, Judge James W. Bicknell, Hon. Chas. N. Fox, Chas. Felton, Benjamin Gordon Lathrop and many others.


Source: Alexander, Philip W. History of San Mateo County : from the earliest times, with a description of its resources and advantages, and the biographies of its representative men.  Burlingame, Calif.: Press of Burlingame Pub. Co., 1916, 247 pgs.

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