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


Woodside is situated in a setting of wondrous beauty at the southern end of San Raimundo Valley and was all covered by the San Raimundo Grant made to the Coppinger family and later owned by John Greer and family. Woodside was the scene of the greatest early activity in all of the bayshore section of San Mateo County and here were located the mills which supplied San Francisco with its first lumber, and this lumber in turn gave the county seat of San Mateo County its name of Redwood. One of the earliest settlers of Woodside was R. O. Tripp, whose history has already been given. In 1850 the first school was started there, and there the county organization of library associations was founded. In Woodside also the first movement for the formation of a temperance organization had its inception. The account is told in Moore and DePue's Illustrated History of San Mateo County, published in 1878: "The story goes that a widow lady, with a marriageable daughter, was keeping boarding house near the town. Mother and daughter threw the combined weight of their influence in favor of the good cause that had not then many advocates in the redwoods. The gallant young men of the neighborhood were never so fully persuaded of the evils of intemperance as when listening to the arguments the pretty daughter. The consequence was that a flourishing organization was effected that doubtless accomplished much good. Of course, the man is no friend to the cause who reports that, as soon as a certain stranger came and married the daughter, the organization became suddenly less popular."

Of the early settlers we could mention J. R. G. Winkler and family, John Walker and family, A. A. Neuman and family, the N. Hansen family, C. D. Hayward, who for years was county assessor of San Mateo County, William Byrne, Thomas Shine, whose son George is now village blacksmith, W. Sickert, who manufactured much good wine, N. A. Andreen, Peter Hanson, who kept the hotel at Whiskey Hill, the entrance to the town, Hugh McArthur, whose daughter Belle was one of the most popular girls of Woodside and who is now the wife of F. A. Mighall and resides at the family home, a son, Henry McArthur, is secretary of the Businessmen's Association of Palo Alto, and Mervin, another son, is in the butcher business in Redwood City. Another old timer who still resides in Woodside is J. J. Kelly.

At the present time Woodside is served by a fine store which is the property of James V. Neuman, who for years was county surveyor of San Mateo County. The Congregational Church in the village is under the pastorate of Rev. B. St. John. The fire department with a fine equipment is under the supervision of a paid fireman and has rendered splendid service since its inception two years ago. Woodside is now the home place of very many wealthy residents of San Mateo County.

North of Woodside is the West Union which formerly housed many prosperous farmers, but which has now become the property of the Spring Valley Water Company and adds to the water shed of that corporation. South of Woodside is the Searsville-Portola section and here in a beautiful place covered by spreading oaks, madrones, and manzanitas, Portola and his men made the discovery of the Great San Francisco Bay and here was located the lost village of Searsville. Intimately connected with beautiful Portola Woods is Searsville Lake, which covers a broad expanse of former valley land between Stanford University and the Mountain Home Road that runs from Woodside into Portola Valley. Searsville, like Crystal Springs, Pilarcitos, and San Andreas, is an artificial lake created many years ago for water supply purposes.

The following description is taken from "San Francisco Water," published by the Spring Valley Water Company: "About 1887 Spring Valley Water Company planned the construction of a tunnel 24,500 feet long, from San Francisquito Creek to Crystal Springs Reservoir for the purpose of conveying the waters of the creek to the reservoir, and thus augmenting the storage there. This plan was later abandoned, and in its stead a dam was projected at Searsville together with a pipe line that would carry five million gallons of water daily to the Belmont Pumping Station, whence the water would flow into San Francisco. The original idea was to carry the dam to a height of 105 feet. It was built in 1891 to a height of fifty feet, giving a reservoir capacity of 329.5 million gallons. The Searsville (or Portola) Reservoir (it is known by both names) was not further developed, and was never connected with the Spring Valley system, it passing into the possession of Stanford University."

Prior to the construction of the dam Spring Valley had of course acquired a very large acreage. Only the old timers in that section of San Mateo can visualize what happened when Spring Valley proceeded to clear the projected reservoir site. To know at second hand that there was a flourishing village where Searsville Lake now spreads its placid water is not the same by any means as to have seen the village itself, as imagination is slow in these matters to supply an adequate picture from no matter how complete a description.

A flourishing village indeed was Searsville, born of the lumber business of that region. It had its day of prosperity and high life, and then it passed out of existence as completely as if swallowed up by the sea. The end came about thirty five years ago, and today, doubtless, there are many living in that beautiful region who have never heard of such a village existing.

In the late '40s there came to this part of San Mateo County a sturdy band of pioneers who saw in the immense redwood forests that covered the mountain and the eastern valley great promise for a lumber industry. They built crude mills and manufactured lumber and shingles. Hundreds of the largest trees were in or close to Searsville, and so the site of the village was fixed. The woodsmen built homes there for their families. Hotels and stores followed. Then came the school, and by the middle of the '50s Searsville was firmly established and gave promise of becoming a town of importance.

As the years wore on, lumber making facilities improved and increased, and soon great forests of redwood giants had disappeared, and one by one the mills closed down until none was left. Despite this serious setback, the old village lived quite prosperously out of the farming industry that took the place of the lumber trade.

It was in 1890 that Searsville was given its death blow. Spring Valley Water Company conceived the plan of storing the water of the streams near the village, and by means of a tunnel, diverting it to Crystal Springs Lake west of San Mateo. The land of Searsville was purchased from its owners and work was begun on a concrete dam near the town.

In the following year, when the water backed up against the dam and began to flood the adjoining low lands, the good folk of Searsville realized that it was time to move. They made good use of the short time at their disposal, and inside of a week not a single house was left in Searsville. Some were demolished, some were moved away, fences were torn down, gardens were uprooted, and when the work of destruction was complete there was hardly a vestige left of the lively old village.

From an article contributed to the San Mateo Times-Gazette in 1891 further information about the town of Searsville is to be had. The article was written by James V. Swift, a most respected citizen of Redwood and a prominent figure in the political and journalistic life of the county. Mr. Swift as a cub reporter on the Times-Gazette, drove from Redwood City to Searsville at the end of October, 1891, to see the curtain rung down on the village. He wrote:

"When a reporter of the Times-Gazette drove over that way yesterday all was bustle and activity. It looked as if the water would come up inside of twenty four hours from the way that houses and barns were being torn down and fences removed. On the road just this side of Searsville was a small frame house mounted on a sled, drawn by six horses, slowly working its way toward high ground. This house was formerly owned by Charles McLaughlin, and was purchased from the water company by Harry Cutter, who conducts a saloon around the turn below Eikerenkotter's. A respectable frame house could be bought for from $5 to $50. A force of men were at work on Eikerenkotter's store taking it to pieces. The lumber will be hauled to Redwood City and used sometime in the future in building a house on some lots owned by Julius Eikerenkotter. The hotel will stand and will be used by the water company. George Eikerenkotter will for the present go out of business. It is reported that the postoffice will be taken by J. H. P. Gage, foreman for E. F. Preston, and will be located somewhere near the present place. The row of pretty cottages below the hotel has been torn down, the shrubs and ornamental trees, and fruit trees removed and the fence taken away. As the road leading from Eikerenkotter's Hotel and store toward Preston's will be partially submerged, a force of men has been engaged in laying out and building a new road from the hotel across the fields, which will join the old road near the foot of the mountain.

"Three or four old timers gathered near the hotel and mournfully gazed on the work of demolition, and as each familiar old landmark gradually faded away they became reminiscent, and the yarns they told of the life and bustle of that lively little burg of years ago would fill a big book how the mill boys used to come into town, and spend Sunday afternoons at horse racing, fighting, and other amusements; of the famous games of poker and the high stakes that were wagered on the races. There was more life in Searsville then than there is now in all of the county. That was when the old men were boys; when dollars were as plentiful as dimes are today and everyone had more than he knew what to do with. But there came a day of degeneration for the little village. When the timber on the eastern slope of the mountains was used up, the mills closed down and their employees departed for other sections of the state.

"There are but few of the sturdy pioneers now alive who first made their homes in Searsville. Among them are William Lloyd, John Sears, William Page and Joe Spaulding of Mayfield, William Smith and Dr. S. S. Stambaugh of San Francisco, Morris Doyle, and some others whose names could not be learned.

"It is said that the first settler there was a man named William Brown, who purchased a portion of the Coppinger grant and called it the Mountain Home Ranch. In July, 1852, John Smith came and resided there continuously up to a few years ago, when he returned to Sweden, his native land. The next year brought August Eikerenkotter, who started a store, and shortly after the birth of his daughter, Mrs. Klumpp, built the fine hotel that still stands. All of Mr. Eikerenkotter's children, except Charles and Edward, were born and raised at Searsville. John Sears of La Honda came in 1853, and also started a hotel. He afterwards sold out to Moses Davis, father of Alf and Steve Davis. This hotel stood near the bridge below Eikerenkotter's. It was burned a good many years ago. About the same time Denis Martin came and entered largely into the lumber business. The name Searsville was suggested by a journalist who visited the place in 1854 and wrote several articles descriptive of it for the San Francisco Alta. William Lloyd came in 1856. He was engaged to come from San Francisco to move one of Denis Martin's mills over the mountain. He concluded to make his home at Searsville, and moved his wife and one child (now Mrs. Townsend) down from San Francisco, and has lived there up to a short time ago. Mr. Lloyd is a blacksmith, and shortly after his arrival started a shop. In 1857 Daniel Ford moved up from Redwood City, also starting a forge, and remained a short time before moving back to Redwood. Mr. Lloyd is full of reminiscences of Searsville's early days and tells many interesting stories of its old residents.

"Among the mills that were run in the vicinity were the Mountain Home mill, Denis Martin's two mills, the Smith mill, the Mastick mill, Spaulding's mill, and Templeton's mill. All of the lumber cut by them was hauled through Searsville, and all of the employees spent their money there, and this no small item.

"Searsville lost its importance when the mills closed down, but during recent years has attracted the attention of many wealthy people in search of homes, and around it have been built up homes, and numbers of beautiful residences. Its hillsides are dotted with trees and vines, and nowhere in the state can be found more attractive scenery or a more healthful climate. The new order of things will rather increase than diminish its attractiveness."

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