John Vonderlin: (1856) The Separation of Counties

Story by John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,
This article apeared in  the January 28th, 1888 issue, of the
“Pacific Rural Press.”
Notes on San Mateo County.
Editors PRESS :—The county of San Mateo is set off from the southern
portion of San Francisco by Act of the Legislature consolidating the city
and county government of San Francisco in 1856, and organized into a
separate county government. While one of the smaller counties in area
in the State, there is perhaps no other county having such a variety of
soil, climate and scenery. The northern and coast portion is within the fog
belt, and among the richest and most productive portions of the State for
vegetables, cereals, natural grasses and the hardier fruits. As a butter-
making section it is unexcelled by the dairy region of Point Reyes. For the
production of vegetables this section is unrivaled by any part of the United
States. A great many carloads of vegetables have been sent East from this
section during the last two years, and shipments will be greatly increased this
year. So immensely profitable is this new industry that a large part of this
section of the county would undoubtedly be diverted to this use if the facilities
of the proposed coast railroad were available. This section, which a few
years ago was held at small figures, bids fair to become the most valuable
land of the State. The time is not far distant when thousands of carloads of
fresh succulent vegetables will be sent away from this region East in January,
February, March and April to grace the tables of our Eastern friends. The
mountainous portion of the county is largely covered by magnificent
forests of redwood, oak, laurel and madrone. These forests, though furnishing employment to a great many woodmen, are still largely unbroken on the
western slope of the Coast Range. Here are opportunities for homes for
thousands of people who love the stately grandeur of mountain scenery and
the silent, primeval forests. But it is on the flats, hills and mountain range
facing the east and sheltered from the trade winds, bathed in summer’s
eternal sunshine, that the greatest immediate changes are about to take
place. From Milbrae southward no more charming country can be found in
any part of the world, with a climate unexcelled, a soil unsurpassed, a variety
of scenery to suit all fancies. This favored section challenges all others in
regard to its numerous advantages. The natural suburb of the metropolis of
the West, the only point which can be reached by land, it is indeed surprising
how it has been neglected so long while other sections having few of its
advantages have become densely populated. This has perhaps grown out of
the indisposition of many large land-owners to divide up their estates and
partly because the transportation company for some reason has
maintained higher rates of communication to this section than to others
equally distant; but all this now seems to be undergoing a decided change.
The transportataion company is reducing its rates, the land-owners are cut-
ting up their land at very moderate prices. We are of opinion that the next
three years will work such wonderful changes in this favored section that the
old residents will scarcely know their surroundings. This section has hereto-
fore been particularly the homes of millionaires, too numerous to mention.
This section was a favorite home of I. C. Woods, W. C. Ralston and Milton S.
Latham, three men whose histories were so strikingly similar, possessed
of keen, penetrating intellects, coupled with great activity, achieved pre-
eminent success in early life, yet met with great reverses and closed their
lives in sadness, if not in despair. They will all be remembered kindly and
sincerely, lamented so long as the old residents live. For beauty of location,
a genial and healthy climate with pleasant surroundings, it would be hard to
find a place more eligibly located than San Mateo, Belmont, the new town of
Phelps, or Menlo Park, while for business and manufacturing no place can
exceed the facilities afforded by Redwood City. A large part of the county is,
and must always be, tributary to her commercial, mechanical, and
manufacturing enterprises. This town has water and railroad facilities
connecting her with San Francisco and other towns, while she has hauled to
her wharves tan-bark, wood, lumber, grain, and other articles which should
enter into her manufactures and mercantile enterprise. When we view the
advantages of her location we can but feel surprised that she has not a
population of 20,000 instead of 2000. For fruits, including oranges,
lemons, limes, figs, olives, nuts, and grapes, a large part of San Mateo
county, east from the summit of the Coast Range, is not excelled by many of
the great fruit belts of the State, while the sheltered parts of the coast side
are particularly adapted to apples and pears. Old Resident.
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