San Mateo, the city of beautiful homes, was described first by Vancouver, who in his travels, as recounted early
in this book, which took him from Mission Dolores to Santa Clara, passed through the place. In his account he told
of the beautiful park and of the little hill (El Cerrito) back of it where he spent mid day. This was before the
time of the rancheria which stood by the bank of the creek where man and beast might find refreshment while traveling
through this section. The building on the Mission property was a long, low structure, and as Dr. W. A. Brewer describes
it, was arranged so that animals might be stabled in one end while the other was used for hotel purposes. It was
made of dried adobe brick and the roof was covered with the well known Mission tile. When the building was demolished
about 1880 the tiles were piled back of a barn on the Howard property. When Robert Brown of Redwood City took the
contract to build a depot at Burlingame he secured the tile from Mr. Howard and used it for roofing the Southern
Pacific Station in that town.
The first permanent resident of San Mateo was John B. Cooper. Mr. Cooper claimed to have come to that locality
in 1824, although it is doubtful if he was there at quite so early a date.
Mr. William D. M. Howard, who was the proprietor of the Rancho de San Mateo, secured the grant from Governor Pio
Pico in 1846. As it was described it contained two leagues more or less, bounded on the north by the lands of Sanchez,
on the south by the Las Pulgas, on the east by the Bay of San Francisco, and on the west by the mountains.
Probably the second corner was a man named Nicholas Dupeyster, who located on the Howard property and there kept
a public house in an old adobe building, and there in company with D. S. Cook, who in his time was one of the most
prominent men of San Mateo County, opened the San Mateo Hotel.
In 1852, David S. Cook arrived and formed a business connection with Dupeyster, in the hotel business at the Taylor
place, and in 1853 they enlarged their hostelry by the addition of a large frame building, which was brought from
the east in nine different vessels, framed and ready to be put together. They purchased it of Captain Shaw, and
attached it to the original hotel structure, and with these enlarged accommodations continued the business together
until 1856, when Mr. Cook bought out his partner's interest and became the sole proprietor; he eventually sold
out to Stockton & Shafter, who in turn sold to "Tony" Oakes. Capt. Edward Taylor subsequently purchased
the property of Oakes, and a portion of the old hotel that in early days sheltered so many weary travelers under
its hospitable roof, and spread before them its generous reflection, now forms a part of his residence.
In 1852 David Harber, a carpenter, located in San Mateo. In later years he recounted that there was not a fence
between his house and Mission Dolores when he built his home.
In 1854 Frederick Macondray, one of San Francisco's first merchants, settled in San Mateo. Mr. Macondray acquired
a large tract of land on the south bank of the San Mateo Creek and there for several years made his home, subsequently
selling to John Parrott, a native of Fairfax Court House, Virginia. This property remained in the hands of the
Parrott estate until 1927 and is now being subdivided as the Baywood Subdivision and will probably become one of
the most desirable of all of the home locations of San Mateo County. Mr. Macondray later settled in what is now
the city of Atherton and a number of his grandchildren are still honored residents of this county.
In 1859 Henry Husing began trade with a general merchandise store and later Skidmore and Purcell followed in the
same line. In 1861 the Remington brothers, Charles and William, started the first blacksmith shop of the town.
In 1863, shortly after the first train had passed through the section over the new San Francisco-San Jose Railroad,
the town proper was laid out by C. B. Polhemus.
Its boundaries were: 5th Street on the South, A Street on the West, San Mateo Creek on the North, E Street on the
East, covering an area of about 50 acres, and being a part of the Rancho de los Pulgas; later a few buildings,
probably less than a dozen were erected on the north side of San Mateo Creek, among them being the Episcopal and
Outside this small district, the settlement was completely surrounded by three large estates: On the South by what
later became the holdings of A. Hayward, and Wm. Kohl; on the West by the Parrott estate and Taylor homestead;
on the North by the San Mateo Rancho, owned by the Cowards, and on the East by other holdings of A. Hayward.
Up to 1888 not a foot of these large tracts of land could be purchased but in that year the first break in the
wall was made. The first opportunity for San Mateo to expand was made when Mr. W. H. Howard subdivided and placed
on the market by public sale the Western Addition to San Mateo, extending from San Mateo Creek north to Poplar
Avenue, and from the Southern Pacific Railroad east to D Street, also some acreage west of the railroad to the
Highway, and as far north as Poplar Avenue.
From that date the Howard Estate has been gradually opened to purchase and settlement.
Later the Hayward property extending from 5th Avenue to 16th Avenue and east from the Highway a considerable distance,
has been handled in like manner. And now, the last barrier has been broken down; only recently the Parrott holdings
have been sold and are already being offered to the public for home sites.
With an ideal climate and locations for homes, it has often been asked "Why has not San Mateo grown faster?"
As can be seen, from the above facts, this section for miles in all directions was held in large tracts the owners
of which had no wish or inclination to sell, so it was not easy for newcomers to secure home sites, and not until
1888 was this at all possible.
Up to the early '80s San Mateo possessed but one general merchandise store, two meat markets, two blacksmith shops,
one repair shop and dealer in building material, a lumber yard, and a few other small business lines.
The population in 1882, in all the section now included in San Mateo, Burlingame, Hillsborough, as far north as
Millbrae, south to Belmont, and west to the Half Moon Bay Summit, was probably not more than 400; the same section
now, 1927, contains at least 25,000.
What is now the beautiful San Mateo Park residence section, was in those early days "Clark's Hay Field,"
given up entirely to farming.
Burlingame was unborn in that locality only a few families resided, including that of Wm. Corbit, breeder of the
famous "Wilkes" race horses; the Donnelly home is still standing on Burlingame Avenue; back in the hills
in what is now Hillsborough lived the Redingtons, Williamses, Poetts, and Eastons; nearer to San Mateo and to the
west were the old homesteads of the Howards, the Parrotts, Haywards, Kohls, Borels, Britts, Caseys, Farrels, and
Quite a good many of the so called early timers or their children still live in and around the old town.
Those who settled in San Mateo in the very early days were John H. Redington who came from Waterville, Maine, and
located there in 1864. His son Arthur H. Redington is now attorney of the city of Hillsborough. Dr. Joseph Henry
Poett, son in law of W. D. M. Howard, received one third of the San Mateo Rancho, his part being a large portion
of what is now Burlingame and Hillsborough. This came to him through the will of Mr. Howard. Dr. Poett in turn
gave twenty acres of his land to his son in law, John H. Redington. Dr. Poett also sold a large part of his holdings
to Anson Burlingame who was famous as a United States Minister to China. Mr. Redington in addition to the twenty
acres which Dr. Poett gave him later acquired 800 acres of land which extended from the bottom of the canyon now
covered by the Spring Valley Lake east toward San Mateo, and this land makes up quite a portion of the present
city of Hillsborough. He called his home Oak Grove.
Mr. Eugene Walker at an early date acquired the title to the San Mateo Hotel and for a number of years was its
proprietor. Hon. James D. Byrnes who for years had large holdings in the San Raimundo district and after whom the
roadhouse, Byrnes' Store, was named and who was one of the most prominent men in politics of the county, having
represented San Mateo County in the State Senate, erected a hotel known as the "Railroad House" which
he immediately leased to Steven Pope.
Another of the very early settlers was Dr. Alfred Lee Brewer who was sent out by the missionary society from Detroit,
Michigan, to take care of the Episcopalian work of this diocese. He began with mission stations at Redwood City
and San Mateo in 1865 and held his services in the public schoolhouse where both the Congregational and Methodist
denominations also held forth. Among the other early religious workers who were present at practically the same
time, were Rev. Father E. Dempsey, of the Catholic parish, and Rev. D. F. Watkins, pastor of the Congregational
San Mateo was the terminus of the San Mateo-Pescadero and Santa Cruz stage company which belonged to Taft, Garretson
& Company. This company ran a line of Concord coaches daily to Pescadero and tri weekly to Santa Cruz, carrying
the mail for Pescadero and way tations. The stations served by this line were Crystal Springs, San Feliz, Byrnes'
Store, Eureka Gardens, Half Moon Bay or Spanishtown, Purisima, Lobitas, San Gregorio, Pescadero, Pigeon Point,
Seaside, Davenport, Santa Cruz, and the distance covered was seventy eight miles.
One of the interesting institutions of San Mateo in the early days was known as Laurel Hall. It was a school
for "Young Ladies and Little Girls," situated about one mile south of San Mateo and one half mile west
of the county road. Mrs. L. A. Buckmaster-Manson, the proprietor, began Laurel Hall in 1864. Prior to that she
had been in the public schools and seminaries of Vermont and New York. She arrived in San Francisco in 1856 and
taught in various places until she settled in San Mateo. Coming from Sacramento where she was employed she purchased
twenty seven acres of land from D. S. Cook at one hundred dollars per acre. She then secured a loan without interest
and erected a boarding school which in May, 1864, was opened with eleven pupils. Later she added a gymnasium to
the property. In 1871 Mrs. Buckmaster-Manson had trouble in renewing her loan. She, therefore, appealed to some
of the wealthy people of the section and a number of public minded citizens donated different amounts and were
then known as founders or donors of the school. In 1875 Rev. E. B. Church assumed the management of the school,
remaining two years until June, 1877, when Rev. George H. Watson and Mrs. Watson, of Freehold, New Jersey, became
the successors. In July, 1878, Mrs Buckmaster-Manson again resumed the responsibility of the institution. The school
flourished for a few years when it suspended operations. The property was then acquired by the Episcopal Bishop
of San Francisco and the Armitage Orphanage was conducted cn the property until 1912, when it was closed.
Others who were early residents of San Mateo were Peter Donohue, who came in 1866 and purchased the Polhemus home.
A list of the earliest settlers of San Mateo would include the following families: Alt, Anderson, Brown, Burke,
Bartlett, Byrnes, Coleman, Fitzgerald, Gaines, Goodhue, Goodspeed, Hayne, Hintz, Hobart, Husing, Jennings, Keegan,
Kearn, Kertell, Kirkbride, Laurence, Levy, Maley, Masterson, Moore, Morse, McLean, Nash, O'Grady, Parodi, Pease,
Peckham, Powers, Sharon, Sands, Sheehan, Sullivan, VanWinkle, Wisnom, Weigerson, Wyant, Young.
The early physicians of the community were Doctor Goodspeed, Doctor Morse, and Doctor Rice.
In 1868 the firm of Levy Brothers shifted its scene of activity from the coast side to San Mateo, this firm consisting
of four brothers, Fernand, Joseph, Armand and Adrian Levy who had just arrived from France. Subsequently they opened
branches in San Gregorio in 1878 and Pescadero in 1883, and owned the stage line to San Mateo.
On returning from France after the Armistice, Edmond Levy, son of Fernand, purchased the interest of his uncle,
Adrian, and became general manager. Adrian Levy now resides in San Francisco. Armand Levy is the only one of the
four brothers who has passed away. The other brothers, Fernand and Joseph, are still actively interested in the
In 1920 Levy Brothers in partnership with John D. Bromfield, who had just sold his daily paper, the San Mateo News
Leader, established a store in Burlingame, with Bromfield as manager. This business flourished and in 1925 the
firm built the present department store building on Burlingame Avenue at a cost of $120,000 for the land and $130,000
for the building. The members of the firm are all interested in civic and community interests.
The San Mateo Mutual Building & Loan Association was established in San Mateo in 1896 under E. A. Husing, president,
and C. H. Kirkbride, secretary, and E. A. Husing, J. T. Jennings, James D. Byrnes, R. L. Mattingly, Phil M. Roedel,
Clement Dixon and C. M. Morse, board of directors. This association has flourished and has helped to build many
homes in San Mateo.
In 1894 Phil M. Roedel started the first bank in San Mateo which he conducted until the time of his death.
St. Matthews Episcopal Church-Rev. G. A. Easton, began services in the summer of 1864. Mr. Easton left in the fall
of that year and was succeeded by Rev. A. L. Brewer. In July, 1865, Mr. George H. Howard donated a two acre tract
for a church on the north side of San Mateo Creek and east of the county road, at the same time opening a subscription
for the church building with a liberal amount. In October the church was organized with Messrs. George H. Howard
and Edward Taylor as wardens and A. H. Jordan as clerk and treasurer. The corner stone of the church was laid October
12, 1865. Rev. C. B. Wyatt of Trinity Church, San Francisco, officiated. The stone for the building was taken from
a quarry on the Crystal Springs Road. It was the first American church building of stone in California. The church
was finished and consecrated on May 1, 1866, the Rt. Rev. Kip, D. D., Bishop of the diocese, officiating. Bishop
Kip was aided by the Rt. Rev. Scott, D. D., of Oregon, and many clergymen of this state and Oregon were present.
Mr. Brewer, the rector, in addition to his work as missionary in charge, opened a private school known as St. Matthews
Hall, which he continued in a building adjoining the church until 1892, when it was moved to the Brewer tract.
Here it was conducted after Dr. Brewer's death by his son Rev. W. A. Brewer, until 1915, when it was closed. Doctor
Brewer had in his school and mission work an assistant who served with him stations at Belmont, Redwood City, and
Mayfield. In 1867 the rectory of the church of St. Matthew was built through the generous interest of William F.
Babcock and A. H. Jordan. The church as erected was a beautiful ivy covered structure, perhaps one of the most
beautiful in its rustic beauty of all of the buildings in the state, and within it was enriched by monumental sculpture
and rich stained glass windows. It stood until 1906 when the great earthquake damaged it so severely that it was
removed and shortly afterwards the beautiful structure which now stands in its place was reared. Dr. Walter H.
Cambridge is rector in charge of the Episcopal work in San Mateo.
The Congregational Church was organized May 7, 1864, and four years later a beautiful site was donated to the church
society by Mr. George H. Howard. January 3, 1865, a substantial and well planned church was dedicated. Rev. J.
H. Warren was the first pastor of this congregation and continued until 1864 when he was succeeded by Rev. M. J.
Savage, who remained until 1866. There have been a number of pastors in charge, the present one being Rev. Dr.
Charles L. Kloss. The first church officers were, Steven Tilton and William Dow, Deacons; William Dow, clerk, and
S. C. Goodhue, treasurer. The present officers are: Deacons and Deaconesses - Dr. A. E. Benner, A. T. Cooper, G.
C. Elwood, W. A. Rutherdale, Geo. H. Forsyth, Mrs. J. C. Nowell, Mrs. G. N. Forsyth, Miss Ethel Conlong, Mrs. C.
Trustees-B. A. Gayman, J. A. Cole, J. C. Nowell, R. A. Folsome, A. S. Lamond, Mrs. P. A. Oliver, Miss Ruth Sudden.
Clerk, Lewis E. Goodier; treasurer, H. P. Phillips; Sunday school superintendent, A. J. Watson.
The Methodists and Christian Scientists also have thriving organizations in San Mateo. The Methodist Church began
its activities about 1900 and its growth from that time has been remarkable and rapid. In a section of the state
where church going is not so popular as it is in the eastern parts of the country the San Mateo Methodist work
deserves particular notice. Headed by Charles N. Kirkbride, the well known attorney, and his father, C. H. Kirkbride,
a retired minister, the Methodists began services, a pastor was assigned and now in a beautiful church, free from
debt, a large congregation worships every week.
The Catholic church is the oldest religious organization of the community. It was started in mission times and
has had a prominent part in church activities of San Mateo County. St. Matthews Catholic Church is an imposing
brick building on A Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. It is built on property donated by Mrs. Abby Parrott. Father
Timothy Callaghan has been pastor of the church for over forty five years and is greatly beloved by all of his
A large percentage of the people belong to fraternal organizations. The Masonic order, Royal Arch Masons, Eastern
Star and the DeMolay are all represented. The Odd Fellows have an old and prosperous organization. The Elks, Knights
of Columbus, Knights of Pythias, Foresters, Red Men, Sons of St. George, are all represented. The Native Sons for
many years had a prosp.erous parlor but in 1926 it was merged with Redwood City Parlor, No. 66. The headquarters
of the various trades unions are located in San Mateo and San Mateo's American Legion Post is one of the most active
organizations of the community.
The elementary schools are under the direction of Superintendent Geo. W. Hall. Mr. Hall became principal at San
Mateo in 1894 when Miss Etta M. Tilton, his predecessor, became county superintendent of schools. Mr. Hall has
seen the department grow from one building with six teachers to a department of six splendidly equipped buildings
with fifty teachers in charge.
The high school was organized in 1902 in the old St. Matthew's school building. It soon outgrew its quarters
and a new and up to date structure took its place. This building was used until July 1st, 1927, when it gave way
to the San Mateo Junior College.
The new high school which was erected east of the Railroad is a beautiful new edifice erected on a large tract
of land that slopes toward the bay. It is of brown pressed brick and was designed by Captain Ernest Norberg and
his brother John, local architects who have planned many structures in San Mateo County. The building and grounds
cost in excess of $400,000 and form a complete school plant. A wonderful set of chimes is to be installed in the
school by Mrs. Charles S. Howard in memory of her son Frank R. Howard, who was a student at San Mateo High and
who was killed in an automobile accident May 9, 1926. These chimes cost $12,000 and are said to be wonderfully
tuned. The high school is under the supervision of Superintendent W. L. GIascock and John Wasley is principal.
The San Mateo Junior College is also under the supervision of Mr. Glascock. The dean is Mr. Robert Hopkins. The
college was opened in 1923 in the old Kohl home in the beautiful city park of sixteen acres which the city of San
Mateo acquired in 1922. The old house served its purposes well but the College grew so fast that it was decided
to take over the high school building and provide new quarters for that institution. This change was accordingly
made in July, 1927, and the San Mateo Junior College is now in its own building and is providing the first two
years of a college education to the high school graduates of San Mateo County.
San Mateo was incorporated September 4, 1894, and following are the officers who have served the city, with the
dates of their election:
December 30, 1895-Trustees: A. H. Payson (president), Geo. W. Dickie, R. W. Wisnom, Chas. Herbst, J. H. Hatch.
Clerk: R. H. Jury.
February 3, 1896-Trustees : Geo. W. Dickie (president), R. W. Wisnom, J. H. Hatch, Chas. Herbst, Alfred B. Ford.
April 20, 1896-Trustees : A. B. Ford (president), J. H. Hatch, W. Wisnom, W. B. Lawrence, Jos. L. Hague.
August 2, 1897-Trustees: A. B. Ford (president), J. L. Hague, Robert Wisdom, W. B. Lawrence, G. W. Dickie.
April 18, 1898-Trustees: Alfred B. Ford, Jos. L. Hague, W. B. Lawrence, Chas. M. Morse, Geo. A. Kertell.
September 6, 1898-Trustees : A. B. Ford (president), J. L. Hague, C. M. Morse, Geo. A. Kertell, D. F. Walker.
February 6, 1899-Trustees : A. B. Ford (president), H. H. Taylor, Geo. A. Kertell, Chas. M. Morse, Jos. L. Hague.
April 16, 1900-Trustees : Duncan Hayne (president), Geo. A. Kertell, Chas. M. Morse, James P. Brown, H. H. Taylor.
April 21, 1902-Trustees: Duncan Hayne (president), Jas. P. Brown, Jno. P. Weller, M. J. Powers, H. H. Taylor.
April 18, 1904-Trustees: William H. Brown (president), J. H. Hatch, Geo. A. Kerte11, M. J. Powers, J. P. Weller.
April 16, 1906-Trustees: W. H. Brown (president), Geo. A. Kertell, H. F. Gittings, J. H. Hatch, M. J. Powers.
April 15, 1907-Trustees: Geo. A. Kerte11, H. F. Gittings, M. J. Powers, W. H. Brown. Vacancy, One.
May 27, 1907-Trustees : Geo. A. Kertell, H. F. Gittings, H. Kroger, Wm. H. Brown, M. J. Powers.
April 20, 1908-Trustees: J. E. Casey (president), M. J. Conway, C. M. Morse, M. J. Powers.
April 27, 1908-Clerk : John D. Morton.
December 14, 1908-Trustees: J. E. Casey (president), C. M. Morse, M. J. Conway, Wm. H. Toepke, M. J. Powers.
January 17, 1910-Trustees: M. J. Conway, Oscar P. Hicks, Wm. H. Toepke, M. J. Powers, C. M. Morse.
April 18, 1910-Trustees: C. M. Morse (president), M. J. Conway, 0. P. Hicks, J. J. O'Brien, M. J. Powers.
May 2, 1910-Clerk: Joseph B. Gordon.
April 15, 1912-Trustees: M. J. Powers (president), Gale H. Campbell, Terence Masterson, J. J. O'Brien, Frank E.
April 19, 1912-Clerk: E. S. Moulton.
August 9, 1912-Clerk: Elma F. Early.
December 2, 1912-Trustees: M. J. Powers (president), W. J. Eva, T. Masterson, F. E. McCormick, J. J. O'Brien.
January 20, 1913-Trustees: M. J. Powers (president), W. J. Eva, T. Masterson, F. E. McCormick. Vacancy, One.
April 7, 1913-Trustees: T. J. Branson (president), W. J. Eva, T. Masterson, F. E. McCormick, M. J. Powers.
April 20, 1914-Trustees: F. P. Simmen (president), T. J. Brady, W. J. Eva, T. Masterson, F. E. McCormick.
April 17, 1916-Trustees: F. P. Simmen (president), Thos. J. Brady, R. Campbell, W. J. Eva, F. E. McCormick.
May 6, 1918-Trustees: W. J. Eva (president), Thos. J. Brady, R. Campbell, F. E. McCormick, J. F. Turner.
April 21, 1919-Clerk : E. W. Foster.
April 19, 1920-Trustees: Thos. J. Brady (president), Robert Caldwell, Benjamin J. Bogue, Elsa S. McGinn, J. F.
April 16, 1923-Trustees: F. J. Smith (president), J. J. Sharon, J. E. Casey, J. R. Fairbanks, W. J. Eva.
April 13, 1925-Trustees: F. J. Smith (president), J. J. Sharon, T. J. Brady, A. J. Watson, F. E. Beer.
May 4, 1925-Trustees: J. J. Sharon, J. E. Casey, A. J. Watson, F. E. Beer, F. J. Smith.
April 11, 1927-Trustees: F. E. Beer (president), A. R. Cotton, M. A. Poss, A. J. Watson, J. E. Casey.
Those who have served as treasurer in the city of San Mateo are: Wm. Herbst, E. Goodspeed, Henry Hagen, W. F. Turnbull,
Jas. A. Lee, Chas. A. Ginnever.
Mr. E. W. Foster is city clerk and Mr. Thomas Burke is chief of police of San Mateo.