History of Pescadero, California
From: The Story of San Mateo County, California
By: Roy W. Cloud
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.
Chicago, Ill 1928


Pescadero is situated on the coast side of San Mateo County about fifteen miles south of Half Moon Bay. The name would signify that in the early days it was a fishing settlement, although the location of the village is about three miles from the ocean. Pescadero is in a little valley which greatly resembles the bottom of a cup with the hills rising all around and shutting out the winds of the ocean. The original grant was known as the San Antonio or Pescadero Grant and was made to Juan Jose Gonzales, who was a soldier in the San Francisco Company from 1823 to 1833. In 1836 the place was inhabited by Jose Antonio Castro and his family of fifteen persons. Gonzales went to his grant with the idea of erecting a large adobe residence, but shortly after his arrival, while celebrating, with too much liquid refreshment in evidence, he suddenly passed on from the scenes of this world's gaiety and the property went to his heirs.

Among the very early settlers were the Moores, consisting of Alexander Moore and family, who with his father Eli had settled in Santa Cruz in 1847. Alexander Moore, while living in Santa Cruz, had as his first born Eli D. Moore, who was born on December 12, 1847, and is probably the oldest native son in the order of Native Sons of the state. Alexander Moore with his family came to Pescadero March 18, 1853, and purchased a home on the east side of the Pescadero Creek, where he lived until his death, which occurred August 26, 1902. He was a successful farmer and represented the Fifth Township of San Mateo County on the Board of Supervisors. One son, David Eugene Moore, is a resident of Redwood City. William A. Moore and Eli Moore still reside in Pescadero. The next family to settle in this fertile valley was the Weeks family, which acquired large property interests. Bartlett Weeks resided first in La Honda. In 1858 he moved to Pescadero and made his home in that place. One son, Edward, is still a resident of the old home place of his father. Mr. Bartlett Weeks was a public spirited citizen and was the president of the Pescadero Creamery Company, an institution which had its inception in the early '90s, and which was one of the principal industries of the section for some ten years. Albion Weeks was another of the old timers, he having located in Pescadero in 1856. The McCormick family, John, James, and William, were others who followed shortly thereafter. In 1856 John Beeson opened a blacksmith shop and during the same year H. C. Bidwell and J. N. Besse opened a merchandise establishment. It later became known as Besse & Garretson through Mr. J. G. Garretson's taking an interest in the firm. Samuel Bean, who for many years afterwards was a resident of Redwood City, opened a hotel in 1860. In 1863 C. W. Swanton opened the Swanton House, which for years was the most popular summer resort in San Mateo County. It consisted of a central hotel and a number of cottages grouped around the gardens in which roses and fuchsias grew in profusion. Dick Doherty ran the first stage from San Mateo to Pescadero. In 1857 Alexander Moore imported a teacher to take care of the educational interests of the community, and in 1858 Dr. I. R. Goodspeed, who for years was one of the prominent physicians of San Mateo, began his work in San Mateo County as the teacher in the Pescadero school. John Tuflly had the first grist mill in town. The mail to the section for years was handled by the S. L. Knight Stage Company, which ran by way of Woodside, Searsville, La Honda, and San Gregorio. The climate of Pescadero has always been remarkable and the abundance of fish and game in the neighborhood made it a sportsman's delight, in the olden days, while the beach known as Pebble Beach, which is about three miles from town, was an attraction that brought people there from year to year.

Among those who engaged in the mercantile business for a time were J. G. Garretson, A. P. Thompson, Cerighini & DeBenedetti, and J. H. Hughes. In 1883 Levy Brothers opened a branch of their Half Moon Bay store, which was continued for a number of years and finally sold to McCormick & Winkle and was later conducted by James McCormick, Jr., until his death. J. C. Williamson came to California in 1869 and located just south of Pescadero. In 1873 he entered the employment of P. G. Stryker, for whom he worked for some time, afterwards engaging with John Garretson. In February, 1885, he entered the mercantile business on his own account and has been most successful from that time to the present date. His son, Frank, is now associated with him in the business and together they maintain a fine general merchandise business.

Pescadero has but one church at the present time, which is of the Congregational denomination. This work was begun on May 27, 1866, and in 1867 the church and the parsonage were dedicated. About ten years ago the property was deeded to the Congregational Church Association of California and is now conducted as a mission station with occasional pastors in charge. The Methodist Church was the first Protestant church to locate on the coast side of San Mateo County, it having been established in 1861, but discontinued its activities about 1900 and the property was acquired by the Pescadero Social Center Corporation in 1920, and is now used for all civic purposes. In 1865 Pescadero had one of the most thriving library associations to be found in this section of the state, but as time went on interest lagged, the books were placed as part of the public school library and for years no work was done in this line until the opening of the San Mateo County Public Library, when a branch was opened and met with considerable popularity.

Pigeon Point is located five miles southward from Pescadero and is the landing and shipping point for the town. This point secured its name from the wreck of the clipper ship Carrier Pigeon, of 1,100 tons, of Boston, which occurred on the point on May 6, 1853, a large number of passengers being drowned. In 1857 the Sir John Franklin from Baltimore was wrecked on the same point, the captain and eleven men losing their lives. In 1859 the British iron bark Coya, with coal from Newcastle, was wrecked there with a loss of twenty seven men. Seven years later the Hellespont, a British ship, struck the coast and went down with a loss of seven men. The last wreck of any importance on the coast at this point was the Columbia, which struck in 1897 and was torn to pieces by the jagged rocks. The Columbia carried a cargo of white lead and for years Pescadero was known as the "spotless town" of San Mateo County because each home was always covered with a fine coating of white paint. Because of the dangers of this particular point the United States Government in 1866 appropriated $70,000 for the construction of a first class light and fog signal at the point, and in 1872 the fine big lighthouse was completed at a cost of $125,000. The lens was taken from the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras, where it had been placed in 1863, and for years this lighthouse was the only first class light on the coast of California. During the Spanish-Mexican regime the point was known as Punta Ballena, which signifies the point of the whales, and for years whaling operations were carried on in this section with varying success. Pigeon Point is situated on the Rancho Punta del Ano Nueva, and it was upon this ranch that Portola and his followers found the big, round house which excited their curiosity when they made their march up the coast in search of Monterey, on which expedition instead of finding that port they discovered San Francisco Bay. This rancho early passed into the possession of Clark and Coburn and the Steele Brothers, and for many years Loren Coburn contended with the people of the State of California over a right of way from the highway to Pebble Beach, and when finally he was compelled to give the right he located a large hotel by the side of the beach, which for years was unoccupied and was known as "Coburn's Folly." Loren Coburn located at Pigeon Point in 1872 and resided there until he moved to Pescadero, and later with his brother in law, J. Upton, maintained the Pescadero Stables. Mr. Coburn's first wife was Miss Mary Upton, who died in 1897, leaving one son, William W. Coburn, who from early childhood was mentally incompetent. Later Mr. Coburn married his sister in law, Miss Sara Satira Upton, who was murdered in the old home place in Pescadero in 1919, and the mystery of her murder was never solved. Loren Coburn died in 1916, leaving his vast estate to his wife and son and relatives.

Pescadero at one time was the home of a Masonic lodge which because of the lack of members united with Haywards Lodge of Half Moon Bay. Since April, 1875, Pescadero Lodge No. 226, I. O. O. F., has flourished and is still active. There are also parlors of the Native Sons of the Golden West and Native Daughters of the Golden West in the community. In the latter '70s Pescadero boasted of one of the finest brass bands in the county, and the justice of the peace, J. R. McNulty, was the leader of the band. Mr. McNulty's son, George, is now one of the city councilmen of Redwood City, and a prominent business man.

Dr. I. R. Goodspeed was the first physician of the community. Dr. S. S. Stambaugh also practiced for a time, he being followed by Doctor Jewell and Doctor Beatty. About 1890 Dr. Charles L. McCracken located in Pescadero and for fourteen years was known from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz. In 1905, while serving as a member of the Board of Supervisors from the Fifth Township, he was appointed tax collector of San Mateo County and served in that capacity until his death in 1909. Dr. C. V. Thompson located in Pescadero a short time after Doctor McCracken left and has been the resident physician since that time, and also serves as supervisor of the Fifth Township and was for several terms chairman of the County Board of Supervisors. Dr. J. C. McGovern, now of South San Francisco, began his practice as a dentist in Pescadero and was followed by Dr. D. E. Blackburn, who in 1907 became supervisor and continued in that position until his death six years later. Pescadero, like Half Moon Bay, is unincorporated and has a population of about 1,000.

In his book of "Sketches of Life in the Golden State," written in 1872, Col. Albert S. Evans has given a little sketch of conditions around Pescadero. Speaking of the oldest settler, Colonel Evans says: "At Pescadero the claim of being the oldest inhabitant is disputed between Don Salvador Mosquito, a Mission Indian, and Senor Don Felipe Armas, a Californian of Spanish parentage. Armas remembers when King Kamehameha of Hawaii found that the cattle which had grown up wild on his islands had become an unbearable menace, and sent over to this county for vaqueros to kill them off, and he (a historical fact), Aromas, was selected as one of the party. He was then said to be thirty five years of age, but so many years have elapsed since that time that he has lost the run of them entirely. Salvador Mosquito was baptised under another name. His tribe many years ago dwindled down to some forty or fifty, who, under the command of the chief, Pomponio, made their headquarters in the redwood forests above Pescadero, near the source of the stream now bearing his name. From thence they made periodical forays on the ranchos below, but as the good Fathers had caught and converted all of their female friends, they went down to the old Mission San Clara or San Jose and breaking into the corral one night carried off a mahala apiece from under the very noses of their pious guardians. For this daring act of sacrilege they were pursued by the Spanish soldiers to their mountain fastness and exterminated. Mosquito, not being big enough for slaughter, was caught and baptised, he is a 'buen Christiano, especially when about half full of whiskey." In describing Pescadero, Colonel Evans tells of a fishing trip which he took with Mr. Thompson, the landlord of the hotel, and his description follows: "The row down the creek was short. We saw hundreds of mallards and teal, which we could not shoot, because the law forbids it until the 15th of the month, and large flocks of long billed curlew and other birds, such as crows, buzzards, gulls, etc., which we did not want to kill. There is a bar at the mouth of the creek, and we chained our boat to a high rock inside it and walked down to the ocean. The shores were lined with drift, trunks of great pine and redwood, timbers of wrecked ships, and the scenery was wildly romantic. We passed the festering carcasses of half a dozen great sea lions, which had been killed by a fishing party with Henry rifles some weeks before. The fish come into the creek with the tide and bite best before the ebb commences. If the sea lions who cover the rocks just outside follow them into the creek, the fish all run out and there is no more sport that day. So the fishermen shoot some of the sea lions to make the rest leave. Before we reached the mouth we saw two wolves on the opposite shore, running around by the edge of the breakers and playing like dogs. One ran off when he saw us, and the other lifted up his nose and voice and treated us to a most perfect illustration of the `lone wolf's howl,' and then followed his companion. As we rounded the bluff, we saw some rocks just off shore covered with sea lions. The rocks we stood on, and which are covered at high tide, were encrusted with mussels of immense size. Some of them measure twelve inches in length, and Thompson tells me that he has seen them fifteen inches long. They are fat and luscious, and a few epicures come down to the coast every season to indulge in clam bakes and mussel roasts; but this species of shell fish is so common, and consequently so cheap, that not one in ten of the people of California ever eats them. In holes in the rocks, filled with pure sea water, we saw curious things like great sunflowers, with bright green petals. These we could not detach from the rocks, and at one touch they would curl up into a slippery ball with all the petals hidden inside.

"We went back to our boat as the tide came booming in, and prepared to fish for salmon trout, as they are called; really they are yearling and two year old salmon. They will bite at a worm, spoon or fly, but best at worms. I had hardly put in my hook before a noble fellow made the line fairly hiss through the water for a few minutes. Then we drew him, panting and exhausted with his struggles, alongside the rocks, and with a landing net got him into the boat. He was twenty inches in length, and the handsomest fish I ever caught. Great crabs came in also with the tide and we dipped several of them out with our net. In two hours we corralled fourteen salmon-trout, losing several more by hooks breaking, and then the slack water coming on and the fish ceasing to bite with avidity, hoisted sail and went swiftly gliding back up the stream to the hotel. It was, all in all, the best morning's sport I have ever enjoyed in my life, and I have shot and fished from the Red River of the North to the Rio Grande, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific."

Colonel Evans then continues and gives the following description of Pebble Beach as it appeared fifty five years ago:

"Pebble Beach of Pescadero is a great resort, especially for ladies and children in the summer season. Two ledges of sharp jagged rocks jut out into the ocean about two hundred and fifty yards apart. Between them extends a sandstone bluff some thirty feet in height, in front of which stretches the beach some twenty to fifty feet in width at high or low tide. The beach is composed wholly of pebbles, from the size of a grain of wheat to that of a good sized walnut. They are of all colors - white, red, brown, yellow, green and variegated. Those of a beautiful opaline hue are most plentiful, and all are highly polished by attrition. Plain agates, moss agates, cornelians and greenstones abound; and it is claimed that the more precious stones, including diamonds and rubies, are sometimes met with. The wife of Francisco Garcia, a well known saloon keeper on Montgomery Street, in San Francisco, has a genuine diamond which she found here, but I am not certain that it was placed there by purely natural agencies. Hundreds of tons of the pebbles are washed up by every storm, and it is supposed that there is a layer of stratum of soft rock or clay in which they are imbedded, extending out into the sea from beneath the sandstone. Every day, in summer, many ladies and children go down to this beach pebble hunting, carrying their lunch baskets with them. They lie down at full length upon their faces on the drifts of polished pebbles, and with a stick dig down into the mass in search of special beauties. A quart of fine ones is a good day's work, and a lady of unusually fastidious taste will frequently work all day for a cupful. Collections of these pebbles may be seen in most of the better class of houses in San Francisco, and along the coast, though they cannot be considered of any great value. I walked along the beach, but did not see any diamonds, and filled my pockets at random. Some of the moss agate and similar stones make really handsome jewelry when cut and set in gold. Santa Cruz, lower down the coast, has also a pebble beach, but it is not equal to this at Pescadero."

San Mateo County Memorial Park is situated in the Harrison Canyon five miles east of Pescadero, on what was formerly the William McCormick lands, consisting of 320 acres. The writer of this history, while county superintendent of schools, visited the Wurr School and while talking to the children learned that the redwoods, the last big stand on the public highway in San Mateo County, were to be cut. He took up the matter with the County Board of Supervisors at their next meeting, and a committee was appointed to look into the matter and the property was purchased for $65,000, a levy being made in the 1923 and 1924 tax rate to pay for the tract. This memorial park contains some of the finest of the big sentpervirens to be found anywhere in this locality. There are a number of fine camping sites and a living stream runs through the place all the year. Since the county has acquired it all of the undergrowth has been cleared and permanent camps of the Boy Scouts and Young Men's Christian Association have been established there. The place is for the benefit of the public of the State of California and as time goes on will become one of the very popular camping places.

Pescadero has a fine new high school building located on a seven acre tract. Mr. Edwin Williman is principal of the school and has acted in that capacity since the organization of the school six years ago.

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