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Santa Cruz County, California

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Location: Santa Cruz County, Californiamap
Surnames/tags: Santa_Cruz_County_California California
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Early History of Santa Cruz County, California

This profile is part of the Santa Cruz County, California One Place Study.

Cities & Towns

  • Aptos

The name Aptos is Ohlone, meaning "the people". Aptos was traditionally inhabited by the Ohlone Awaswas people. The first European land exploration of Alta California, the Spanish Portolá expedition, passed through the area on its way north, camping at one of the creeks on October 16, 1769. The expedition diaries don't provide enough information to be sure which creek it was, but the direction of travel was northwest, parallel to the coast. Franciscan missionary Juan Crespi, traveling with the expedition, noted in his diary that, "We stopped on the bank of a small stream, which has about four varas of deep running water. It has on its banks a good growth of cottonwoods and alders; on account of the depth at which it runs, it may be that it cannot be utilized to water some plains through which it runs.

In 1833 the government of Mexico granted Rafael Castro the 6,656-acre Rancho Aptos. Initially, Castro raised cattle for their hides, but after California became a state in 1850, Castro leased his land to Americans who built a wharf, general store, and lumber mill. The original town was located where Aptos Village Square is now. In 1853 a leather tannery was built, and the main building is a bed & breakfast inn.

Bayview Hotel, Aptos, California In 1878 Augustia Castro, daughter of Rafael Castro, and her husband José Arano built the Victorian, Bayview Hotel in Aptos village. The hotel is a Santa Cruz County landmark. It is Santa Cruz county's oldest operating hotel. It has been a State Historic Monument since 1974. In the mid to late 1800s, a series of major epidemics hit the area. A particularly bad one occurred in the early winter of 1868. Cases of smallpox were reported among the poor of San Juan Bautista. Efforts were made to localize the rapidly spreading disease, such as barricading the roads leading in and out of San Juan Bautista. These efforts failed, however, and when cases appeared in Watsonville, Santa Cruz citizens attempted to again quarantine the disease by destroying the Aptos Bridge. These efforts again failed and only created a rift between the two cities. The death toll of the smallpox epidemic lead to the local press publishing of the latest remedies available for home use as well as methods to prevent the spread of smallpox and inoculations.

By 1872, Claus Spreckels, the sugar millionaire, began buying the land from Castro. He built a hotel near the beach and a summer mansion and ranch with a racetrack for his horses. A large area was fenced and stocked with deer for hunting, and became known as "the Deer Park," home of today's Deer Park Center. With the coming of the railroad, the town moved to the other side of Aptos Creek.

From 1880 to 1920 redwood timber harvesting became the major industry, and Aptos became a boomtown. The Loma Prieta Lumber Company logged all of what is now The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. The Valencia Mill logged everything to the east. Within 40 years the hills were bare, and apples became the next industry. The Hihn Apple Barn is a historic building from that era; in 2016-2017, the building had been relocated nearby to be used as a grocery store and make way for a shopping complex.[1]

  • Ben Lomond
  • Boulder Creek
  • Brookdale
  • Capitola
  • Davenport
  • Felton
  • Freedom
  • Los Gatos
  • Mount Hermon
  • Santa Cruz
  • Scotts Valley
  • Soquel
  • Watsonville

Historical Attractions

Online Resources

Cemetery Records

Find A Grave - Santa Cruz County [2]

Census Records

  • 1790 United States Census [3]
  • 1800 United States Census [4]
  • 1810 United States Census [5]
  • 1820 United States Census [6]
  • 1830 United States Census [7]
  • 1840 United States Census [8]
  • 1850 United States Census [9]
  • 1860 United States Census [10]
  • 1870 United States Census [11]
  • 1880 United States Census [12]
  • 1900 United States Census [13]
  • 1910 United States Census [14]
  • 1920 United States Census [15]
  • 1930 United States Census [16]
  • 1940 United States Census [17]

Land Records


Santa Cruz Sentinel Watsonville Pajaronian


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