San Luis Obispo History

San Luis Obispo History


San Luis Obispo is one of the oldest communities in California. More than ten thousand years before the Mission next to San Luis Creek was founded by Father Junipero Serra and his Franciscan monks in 1772, the indigenous Chumash Indians were the first inhabitants of the area. Their villages to the south were near estuaries at a time when sea levels were higher and farther inland than they are now. Latter day Chumash built the Mission.

By the nineteenth century, Mexico declared independence from Spain and the missions were secularized, priests were forced to leave and California missions fell into disrepair. (The San Luis Obispo Mission was reconstructed several times during the nineteenth century.) The land previously controlled by the clergy was redistributed to Mexican citizens giving them a level of prosperity that they had never known.

In 1850 California became a state and the Gold Rush drew hoards of would be miners away from the smaller towns to seek the Mother Lode. San Luis Obispo grew isolated and it was necessary for those left behind to reduce the lawlessness which erupted by forming a Committee of Vigilance to stamp out the violence in the city. When an extreme drought wiped out the area cattle herds in the 1860’s, local Mexican landholders sold out to businessmen like George Hearst. The new Anglo ranchers began raising cattle for beef and dairy operations.

The railroad finally reached San Luis Obispo in 1894 boosting its economy and spurred the founding of a new vocational institution, California Polytechnic School. During World War I, San Luis Obispo farmers supplied the overseas troops with navy beans and after the war, the area boomed with dairy farms, seed production and field crops.






Fair
56°
Fair