Here come the celebrations of 2006By Joan Levy
Welcome to the year 2006. This is a special year for our Peninsula. It marks the Sesquicentennial of the origin of our county as separate from San Francisco County. It also marks the Centennial of the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906. All year long, newspaper articles, historical groups and municipal governments will be reminding you of these two events.
Sesquicentennial means 150 years, folks. So 1856 was our birthday. The population of the Peninsula was around 2,500. No one here much cared about being separated from San Francisco County, one way or the other. It was a little far to go from the south up to the county seat, but few had any reason to go there anyway. The only people who were interested in a new county were the crooks who planned on using it as a power base for graft and corruption aimed at the 50,000 people of San Francisco and their money.
There were few towns here, if you can call them that. There was Half Moon Bay, or Spanishtown, and a few scattered villages along the coast that provided a saloon and store or school for the families of farmers, fishermen and loggers that worked there. On the bayside, Redwood City's port was getting started and Belmont, Colma and San Mateo had some commercial establishments at strategic crossroads along El Camino Real. Most of the people that were here were pretty spread out.
South San Francisco, Daly City, San Bruno and Millbrae all consisted of a roadhouse or two along El Camino for the convenience of travelers. Burlingame, San Carlos and Menlo Park were not evident at all yet. Woodside and Searsville showed promise of becoming hamlets, and there was a tiny gathering at Crystal Springs where farms dotted the valley that crossed the old Indian trail over the hills to the coast.
Fifty years later, when the second event that we will celebrate occurred, the Peninsula had changed a great deal. The organized corruption that was intended at the origin of the County never happened. San Francisco's rich had discovered the pleasures of having country estates along our Peninsula. Grand houses with horse racing tracks and fabulous gardens had grown up. The requisite workmen and services needed to maintain these places were housed in small villages that seemed to cluster around the train stations that now dotted the old route of El Camino.
Redwood City was an established seat of County government, and San Mateo and Menlo Park had grown. Some resorts were scattered throughout the more picturesque countryside for the benefit of those who did not yet have their own estates. Recreation was a major pastime, although farmers and businesses here were supplying the needs of The City. Its population had now grown to around 400,000. San Mateo County was still sparsely populated with about 15,000 people.
The peaceful existence of the Peninsula was shattered by the Earthquake of April 18, 1906. Many masonry buildings were destroyed. The most significant impact to our county was not from the earthquake, however. The fire that destroyed much of San Francisco after the earthquake displaced many people and caused a shift in bay area population. Some of the relocated San Franciscans came to San Mateo County and changed the pattern of our growth.
So, have fun in the coming year as you hear more about these two significant events in our local history.
Copyright ©2006 San Mateo Daily Journal. Published 01/02/2006.