Following the period when the county was divided up into districts determined by the old Mexican Land Grants, comes that of a further division of this territory into the large estates of the wealthy. San Mateo is still a county of large estates; and presents the appearance of a typical old English shire, as it preserves the memories of the original landholders and early settlers in the names of its cities, towns, roads and land marks. Many of these early arrivals came seeking a home in the county, even before the discovery of gold in California in 1848.
There are about a score of such representative men, the names of many of whom are still borne by descendents.. A large number still reside in the county, and retain considerable portions of the land grants owned by their fathers and grandfathers. These are the Athertons, Adams, Selbys, Doyles, Johnsons, Haywards, Lathams, Ralstons, Brewers, Macondrays, Bowies, Howards, Parrotts, Borels, Reddingtons, Poetts, Eastons, Polhemus’, Sneaths, Woods, Donohoes, Mills, Tripps and others.
Other well known names, famous in the history of state and nation have acquired an added significance by their close association with the early history and upbuilding of the county, although not remembered as land holders. San Mateo County early became a sort of playground for the business and professional men of San Francisco, attracting also all the famous men of that city’s early days, who spent much of their leisure in the county, either at the homes of their friends or at the picturesque inns of that period.
Could the registers of these various establishments be consulted, with their thousands of names of pleasure-bent pioneers, there would be found among them the, signatures of such leading men of San Francisco’s early days as judge Lake, Judge Haydenfeldt, W. D. M. Howard, Dr. A. J. Bowie, William T. Coleman, Judge Stephen Field, Senator Gwin, C. B. Polhemus, H. F. Teschemacher, three times mayor of San Francisco, Governor Downey, Judge Ogden Hoffman, Recorder Hackett, Joshua Haven, Peachy McDougall, the McAllisters, the McLains, Capt. Irham, Mr. Forbes, Gen. Beale, Gen. Fremont, Gen. Sherman, Mailey Payton, Beverly Saunders, Myers Truett, Lafayette Maynard, Don Jose Robinson, Capt. Macondray and many others.
H. F. Teschemacher who later served three terms as mayor of San Francisco, came to the peninsula region from Boston in 1835. He was on terms of intimacy with all the old Spanish families including the Arguellos, Castros, Estudillos, Pachecos, Sanchez, Vallejos, Noriegas and others. He tells of the time when vessels used to come here from Chile to load with grain from San Mateo Point, then an early and friendly rival as a port of commerce with Yerba Buena (San Francisco). Yerba Buena’s population was then little more than 1500.
To William Davis Merry Howard is unanimously accorded the distinction of being the greatest of pioneers and early settlers of San Mateo County. The high reputation he bore for integrity and business ability lives after him, while his many substantial accomplishments for the good of the county still remain as monuments to his memory. He was a man whom everybody loved, and of whom no one spoke anything but good.
Mr. Howard was a man of great enterprise, both in San Mateo County and San Francisco. He was a prince of hospitality and did much to interest others in the county which he chose for his hone. His house was brought around the Horn from Boston in sections in 1850. When erected it was called El Cerrito (the little hill) and was located on a part of the old San Mateo Rancho. The area of the San Mateo Rancho was 6,538.8 acres, which was originally granted by Pio Pico, the last governor of California under Mexican rule, to his secretary, Cayetana Arenas. In its sweep from the foothills to the bay, it included about one-half of the present City of San Mateo and all of Burlingame and most of Hillsborough, as well as the picturesque Spring Valley lakes that now furnish San Francisco’s water supply. Mr. W. D. M. Howard purchased the San Mateo Rancho for the sum of $25,000, and it cost him this amount in addition to fence his property.
Mr. W. D. M. Howard’s interest in this delightful region which later became his home, commenced in about 1835 when he passed through this territory on his trip up the peninsula from the Isthmus.
W. D. M. Howard was a great fancier of live stock, and in 1857 he imported the first short-horns into California, consisting of the registered bull Orrin, and three cows. The descendents of these, together with later acquisitions, made up the famous Howard Shorthorn Herd, probably the best known in California today.
William H. Howard, son of W. D. M. Howard was another prominent figure in the county’s early life. Upon what is now Burlingame, William H. Howard maintained a magnificent . herd of dairy Shorthorn cattle. The dairy barn in which they were housed was taken down about ten years ago and removed to Merced County where it stands today.
As early as 1887 William H. Howard planned a subdivision of a part of the town of Burlingame, and this original subdivision was used practically in its entirety when the property was actually sold in 1905 and the succeeding years.
In 1889 William H. Howard held an auction sale of some of his San Mateo properties comprising a portion of the eastern and western additions.
That portion of the land south of Burlingame and east of the State Highway, on which the present town stands, belonged to William H. Howard.
William Davis Merry Howard was a native of Boston, Massachusetts. He married Miss Agnes Poett, daughter of Dr. Joseph Henry Poett. There was one son by this marriage,-William H. Howard who married Miss Anna D. Whiting of Boston. The children by this marriage were W. D. M. Howard, Gertrude Howard (now Mrs. F. S. Whitwell of Boston) ; Edward W. Howard, who married Miss Olivia Lansdale of Philadelphia; Frances S. Howard and John Kenneth Howard. Edward W. Howard was the father of five children: Olivia, William Henry, Anne, Gertrude and Marian.
Mrs. W, D. M. Howard survived her husband and later married his brother, George H. Howard. The children by this union were. Miss Julia Howard (now Mrs. E. 1). Beylard), George Howard, Miss Agnes Howard and J. H. P. Howard.
The descendents of W. D. M: Howard and also those of his brother Geo. H. Howard still retain large portions of the original W. D. M. Howard holdings.
William Davis Merry Howard’s father was Eleazar Howard of Boston, Massachusetts, whose father was William Howard the great grandfather of William Howard Taft, former president of the United States.
The name of William Davis Merry Howard is recalled by San Mateans for many things, but perhaps one of his greatest claims to remembrance is the signal service he did posterity in planting practically the whole county to eucalypti, thus covering many bare spots and establishing for all time a series of windbreaks to temper the velocity of the winds that used to sweep through the county in the days gone by, without check or hindrance.
The following inscriptions are to be found on the Howard family tomb, in the Episcopal Church of St. Matthew, of San Mateo, which stands near the center of the vast tract that was purchased and owned by W. D. M. Howard. They are fitting memorials of a prominent and most useful life.
This Monument Was Erected On This Spot
Within The Original Church Of Saint Matthew
In Memory Of
William Davis Merry Howard
Agnes Poett Howard, His Wife
William Henry Howard, His Son
Who Together Also Gave The Land On Which
The Original Church Destroyed In The Earthquake Of
April 18, 1906 Was Built And On
Which This Present Church Now Stands
Entombed Beneath This Monument
William Davis Merry Howard
Born May 2nd, 1819
Died January 19th, 1858
William Henry Howard
Born June 3rd, 1850
Died October 19th, 1901
Winding Roads Through Hillsborough Estates
The interment in this church of George H. Howard is commemorated by a bronze tablet in the chapel placed there by his, daughter, Mrs. E. D. Beylard.
Darius Ogden Mills was one of the county’s best known pioneers, although other sections of the state, such as Sacramento, also claim him for their own. He was born in North Salem, Winchester County, New York, on September 23, 1825. On September 5, 1854, he was married to Jane Templeton Cunningham of New York. He began his career as a clerk in New York City and later became cashier of the Merchants’ Bank of Erie County in Buffalo. In 1849 he came to
California and became a merchant and dealer in exchange in Sacramento.
He founded the bank of D. O. Mills & Co. in that city, which institution is still the leading bank of the Capital city. From 1864 to 1867 he was president of the Bank of California of San Francisco. After this institution was wrecked by his successor, he again took charge of it and headed it until 1878, placing it on a sound basis.
He was regent and treasurer of the University of California from 1868 to 1880 and founded the Mills Professorship of moral and intellectual philosophy. He was also one of the first trustees of the Lick Estate and of the Liek Observatory on Mount Hamilton.
Shortly after his successful operations in California in the commercial world, Mills, in returning to New York, spent much -of his time in looking after the poor people and became noted throughout the country as a philanthropist. He built a number of hotels for the poor.
D. O. Mills died suddenly at his Millbrae home on January 3, 1910 of heart trouble.
There are now living at Easton, San Mateo County, two of his descendents, Mrs. Adeline M. Easton, his sister, now at an advanced age; and Ansel M. Easton, his nephew, at whose home she now lives.
The Mills holdings in San Mateo County amount to about 3,700 acres, one-third of which are tide lands.
Mr. D. O. Mills was one of California’s famous pioneers, as well as one of the early settlers in San Mateo County. He was a multimillionaire and one of the best known bankers in the United States.
It is of interest to know that the daughter of D. O. Mills married Mr. Whitelaw Reid, who from a reporter became an editor, then a newspaper proprietor, and was finally rewarded for his literary prowess by being appointed Ambassador to England.
The immediate Whitelaw Reid and Mills district is known as Millbrae which was laid out by Olmstead in the up-to-date little city of Millbrae. In this location are some of the most beautiful residences in the county, and for that matter in the world. They are reached through winding avenues lined with palms, cacti, redwood, eucalypti, acacia and pepper trees, together with various other strange and curious specimens of plant life brought from Australia, New Zealand and Africa.
William T. Coleman, famous as the leader of the Vigilantes, also built his home in this county, in the neighborhood of the D. O. Mills residence near Millbrae. He made a great fortune by locating the greatest borax deposit in the world.
The name of Dr. Joseph Henry Poett is one that was closely identified with the County’s early history. He was the father-in-law of W. D. M. Howard, and received one-third of the San Mateo Rancho or what is now Burlingame and Hillsborough, through the will of W. D. M. Howard. He in turn gave twenty acres of this to his son-in law, John H. Redington. Mr. Poett also sold part of this land to Anson Burlingame who retained it for a short time only.
John H. Redington, one of the earliest pioneers of the county, came to San Francisco by way of the Isthmus of Panama in 1849, and finally in either 1863 or 1864 he settled in San Mateo County. His eastern home was in Waterville, Maine. He received twenty acres of the original San Mateo Rancho from his father-in-law, Dr. Joseph Henry Poett. To this land he added by purchase until his holdings amounted to 800 acres. This land is about two miles northwest of Burlingame where Hillsborough is now located, and it extended to the bottom of the canon, now a Spring Valley lake. Here: he built his residence. On this land was also the residence of Mrs. Williams whose daughter married Alfred Poett, son of Dr. Poett.
Mr. Redington dispensed a lavish hospitality at his home which at that time was the only estate between El Cerrito, the residence of \=l. D. M. Howard at San Mateo, and that of D. O. Mills at Millbrae. Mr. Redington’s place was called Oak Grove, of which the only remaining relic is the station of that name on the Southern Pacific Railroad between Millbrae and Burlingame.
The names of his descendents are, Alfred P. Redington, John P. Redington, Sarah E. Redington, Mrs. Francis \V. Wilson,-all of Santa Barbara, California; Arthur H. Redington, of Hillsborough, and Laurence W. Redington of Honolulu. Arthur H. Redington is now living at Hillsborough.
Notable among the early settlers in San Mateo County was the Rev. Alfred Lee Brewer D. D., who came to San Mateo in 1865. In the early years he officiated in the Episcopal churches in San Mateo, Belmont and Redwood City. St. Matthews, his school at San Mateo, became famous all through the west.
Dr. Brewer was noted throughout California as an educator and philanthropist. He was an able preacher and a capable administrator in public affairs. He had a high sense of honor, and his reputation for integrity gave him a prominent place among the distinguished men of the state.
There are few people living in San Mateo County today, more intimately identified with its interests or better acquainted with its history, charms and resources than Henry P. Bowie.
His first praiseworthy accomplishment was in 1879 when he planted Coyote Point with 120,000 young trees and levied 650 acres of the adjacent land. The trees remain as a landmark today; grown to a height of over one hundred feet, they can be seen for miles in every direction. Shortly afterwards he employed John McLaren, now superintendent of Golden Gate Park, as head gardener of the San Mateo Rancho, to plant all the back hills of the San Mateo Rancho with groups of eucalypti, pines and cypress,-thus creating for all time the excellent climatic conditions of this section of the county, including the cities of San Mateo, Burlingame and Hillsborough. Later on lie introduced the graceful Abyssinian banana, an ornamental shade tree, the first specimens of which were planted upon the San Mateo Rancho.
Early recognition of Mr. Bowie’s public activities came in his election as the first president of the San Mateo County Development Association, whose membership included such men as George Ross. Mr. Camel, and John T. Doyle.
Subsequently he laid out El Cerrito Park, a portion of the Bowie estate where his home is now located. Under his management considerable of this property was later sold at public auction, thereby establishing real estate values in this section for all time though considerable more of this estate was also disposed of to the Spring Valley \\cater Company, and others, a large portion still remains unsold.
When Mr. Bowie was a young man just beginning his law career, he was employed by John L. Doyle to take important testimony in the famous Pious Fund Case that had then assumed a world-wide importance and fame. At the Franciscan Monastery of Santa Barbara he took the testimony of the celebrated Padre Sanchez, a very aged man who was the only remaining living witness. It was upon this testimony that the case was won and about three million dollars secured for the Catholic Church of California. General Rosecrans was also employed by Doyle to secure documentary evidence at the library in the. City of Mexico, but Mr. Bowie has the distinction of being the only lawyer to take the testimony of a living witness in this case.
Mr. Bowie was instrumental in the founding of the San Mateo Leader, the first newspaper published in the City of San Mateo. This paper was under the management of Mr. Kirkbride and Mr. Jury, who pledged themselves never to allow their sheet to be used for any unworthy purpose, and faithfully kept their promises. The San Mateo Leader was recently absorbed by the San Mateo News Publishing Company.
Mr. Bowie retains his interest in the current county affairs ; and from the time that Hillsborough was established as a city of the sixth class, he has held the office of judge of the Recorder’s Court. He was the president of the County Commission of the Panama Pacific Exposition.
Mr. Bowie married Agnes Howard, widow of George H. Howard and former widow of W. D. M. Howard. Mr. Bowie survives his wife.
Aside from Mr. Bowie’s recognition in San Mateo County for his public services, he has earned a world-wide reputation as the greatest authority on Japanese art. He has written and published a work upon this subject which has achieved a wonderful success, winning recognition from leading critics in Europe and America.
Charles B. Polhemus came to San Mateo County from San Francisco in about 1858, and purchased a tract of land which covered all that portion of the present area of the City of San Mateo from the creek to Alvinza Hayward’s place and the County Road. He laid out the City of San Mateo on the Pulgas Rancho side of the Creek.
Mr. Polhemus erected a house next to the Hayward estate, and lived there until 1866, when Peter Donohoe bought it from him. He was a member of the firm of Polhemus, Donohoe & McLaughlin who were the original promoters and part owners of the railroad from San Francisco to San Mateo and San Jose, which later became the Southern Pacific. In this work lie was associated with Mr. Main and Mr. Newhall. The San Mateo depot was built in Mr. Polhemus’ grain field. This tract was afterwards sold out by him. He then moved to San Jose where he died in 1904.
Mr. Polhemus came to California from South America and founded the house of Alsop & Co., Commission Merchants, in San Francisco. In 1851 he married Matilda J. Murphy. Three children were born to them, Stanhope Prevost (deceased), George Bissel (deceased), and Mary Josephine, now living at Meran, Austria. He is survived by a widow and one son Charles B. Polhemus, Jr. Frederick Macondray, one of San Francisco’s first merchants settled in San Mateo in 1854 while this part of the peninsula belonged to San Francisco County. Coming from Boston, Massachusetts the early home of W. D. M. Howard, he chose his California home in the same county as this other sturdy pioneer. He acquired a large tract of land on the south bank of the San Mateo Creek within the present site of the City of San Mateo. This he subsequently sold to John Parrott.
The children of Mr. Frederick WV. Macondray are F. W. Macondray (deceased), Mrs. James Otis, and Miss Martha Macondray. The grandchildren are, Mrs. Perry lyre, Mrs. Inez Moore, Atherton Macoidray, Henry Macondray, R. A. Macondray, and F. L. Macondray, children of his son, F. W. Macondray. The children of Mrs. James Otis are James Otis, Mrs Hall McAllister, Mrs. Lake and Charles Otis.
The name of Wm. C. Ralston figured more brilliantly in California history for a short period perhaps, than that of any other man of his day; and will linger for all time in the annals of both his state and county.
Wm. C. Ralston and D. O. Mills were the organizers of the Bank of California, of which institution Mr. Ralston became the cashier and president. His business activities in the city of San Francisco covered a wide field, extending into other states. Many of these, unfortunately were not inspired by sound business judgment.
In 1866 he purchased an extensive country seat at Belmont in San Mateo County, to which he added extensive improvements, and made this the background of a series of entertainment’s that. would rival those of an Indian prince in their expenditure and prodigality. So costly were these hospitalities. that it was taken for granted that the Bank of California furnished him the money for them to impress the world with its unlimited resources.
At times he would have from two to three hundred guests at his Belmont home. In the seventies, before the failure of the Bank of California and his tragic death, it was his usual practice to drive down the peninsula every afternoon in summer in a crowded tally-ho coach with six horses which he changed at San Bruno. He made the trip in two and one-half hours. Mr. Ralston would also often drive a four-horse team from San Francisco to his home.
The amount of land acquired by Ralston in the county amounted to 180 acres located one mile west of the present Belmont station.
The decendents and present members of the Ralston family are, Lizzie Fay Ralston (widow), Mrs. W. C. Ralston Sr., now living at Georgetown, El Dorado County, Cal., WV. C. Ralston, Jr., 25 Broad St… New York, Mrs. Arthur Page (Emelita Ralston), San Francisco, and Mrs Louis Victor Bright (Bertha Ralston), 136 last 65th St., New York.
Other famous men to own homes at Belmont were Senator Sharon, Colonel Cipriani and Governor McDougal.
Robert Orville Tripp, a native of Foxboro, Massachusetts, was, one of the earliest pioneers of the county. He came from New York, and passed through Mexico -in 1849 on his way to California. On October 30th of this year he settled where the present town of Woodside has sprung up, acquiring about 126 acres of land.
He was prominently identified with the early lumbering operations in the Woodside district, and has the distinction of sending the first big shipment of lumber to San Francisco, on a raft specially constructed for this purpose.
Mr. Tripp died March 31, 1909 at the age of 93 years. Adeline Tripp, the only living member of the family is now living at Woodside, where she owns a large tract of land.
Faxon Dean Atherton is another one of the oldest pioneers of the southern part of the county. He was formerly a merchant of Valparaiso, and later one of the leading capitalists of San Francisco. His house was ever the scene of friendly gatherings of notable people from all over the world. His family and descendents are still residing in their homes in various parts of the large tract formerly owned by them.
Mr. Atherton settled in San Mateo County in 1860, at Fair Oaks (now Atherton) where he purchased 640 acres of land. This tract is located on the County Road between Atherton and Menlo Park.
His descendents are, Mrs Dominga G de Atherton (deceased), Mrs. Maria Alejandra Atherton de Rathbone (deceased), Frank A. Atherton (deceased), Mrs. Elena Amanda-Atherton de Selby (deceased), George Henry Bowen Atherton (deceased), Mrs. Isabel Eulogia Atherton de Edwards (deceased), Faxon Dean Atherton and Mrs. Florence Alice Atherton de Eyre, now living at Menlo.
Mayor Selby, another resident of Menlo Park, was a man of great ability and popularity. It was he who built the Selby Shot Tower in San Francisco and founded the Selby Smelting Works.
The present holdings of the Selby family consist of about 400 acres at Atherton fronting on ‘the beautiful Selby Lane. Mr. Percival Selby is the only representative of this family residing in San Mateo County.
The description of Menlo Park would not be complete without mention of the name of John T. Doyle who spent more than one half of his long life at his home in Menlo Park. Considered one of the most thoroughly equipped common law lawyers in America, Mr. Doyle’s chief claim to. grateful remembrance was his instrumentality in securing for the Catholic Church of Upper California a vast sum of money known as the Pious Fund. He presented the claim of the Catholic Church before the Hague Tribunal, and judgment was given for the entire sum, amounting to about $3,000,000. This was the first award ever made by this tribunal.
The name of George Gordon, who was another of the early residents of Menlo Park, is still remembered for his extraordinary energy and commercial success. It was he who built the first sugar factory in San Francisco, and also laid out and built South Park. one of the most fashionable residence sections of the young city. His residence upon the south bank of the San Francisquito Creek just over the boundary of San Mateo County, later became the home of Governor Stanford, the founder of Stanford University. Governor Stanford deeded part of this estate to this university, describing the land as “Menlo Park” in the deed. The site of the University is located just a short distance from where the old residence stood.
Mr. I. C. Woods another of the well known settlers in the southern part of the county, came to California from New Bedford, Massachusetts. His home, which he called “Woodside,” was at Menlo Park surrounded by an estate of eighty acres or more, where now stands St. Patrick’s Seminary. At that time this was part of the Pulgas Grant. “Woodside” was the scene of many delightful entertainments and week-end parties, almost dividing honors in this respect with Belmont, the country seat of Wm. C. Ralston. During these occasions, visitors were numerous and were lavishly entertained. The guests went down the Bay on a steamer from San Francisco and landed at Ravenswood on the bayshore. They were then driven in carriages to the Woods’ home.
“Woodside” was so far superior to any residences established at that early date-1852-53-that it continued to attract much attenion up to the time of its decay and final destruction by fire, ten or twelve years ago.
The initial movement towards making Menlo Park a favorite location for the country seats of wealthy gentlemen was begun by Mr. Woods. Unfortunately his residence there was abruptly. ended by the tragic failure of the Adams and Company Bank in which he had been a partner. At this time “Woodside” passed into the hands of his brother-in-law, Mr. R. Emmett Doyle.
None of his descendents are now living in the county. A son, Robert Woods lives in San Francisco; Anne H. Woods Lewis, the widow of a naval surgeon, lives in New York; a grandson, Edward Churchill Woods is in the U. S. Navy; and a granddaughter, Mrs. J. Bebb is living in New York.
Mr. Alfred Robinson (affectionately called “Don Alfredo”) was one of the best known and most popular characters of the county’s early history. He married into a Spanish family at Santa Barbara named de la Guerra, and subsequently became the agent of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company.
One of the oldest settlers in San Mateo County was John Parrott who built his first home in the location which was at that time the nucleus of the City of San Mateo, being a little settlement of about a dozen houses. Baywood is the name of his first location in San Mateo.
Mr. Parrott came to San Mateo County in the month of January, 1860, and took a prominent part in the early upbuilding of the county. He was a native of Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia. where he was born April 16, 1811. Mr. Parrott’s former home in California, before he came to San Mateo County was at 620 Folsom Street, San Francisco which has since become a part of the business district of that city. Mr. Parrott erected one of the first large and substantial business blocks of the rapidly growing metropolis, on the northwest corner of California and Montgomery Streets which is still standing among the skyscrapers which have since sprung up all around it. This building was constructed of granite which was imported by Mr. Parrott from China for this purpose. Mr. Parrott took an active part in the financial affairs of the growing city of San Francisco, being particularly interested in banking and railroad building.
The members of the family still living in the county are Mr. John Parrott, Mrs. G. P. Hayne, Mrs. J. A. Donohoe, Mrs. A. H. Payson. Viscontess de Tristan, C. de Guigne, Jr., R. Y. Hayne, and Mrs. Edward Tobin.
Other important names, well known and prominent among the early settlers of the county are Capt. Voiget, G. H. Rice, B. V. Weeks, John D. Husing, J. H. Hatch, Henry Warren Walker, Will Frisbie, Henry Beeger, Geo. W. Fox, Frederick Botsch, John Hanley, Albert Hanson, P. J. Maloney, John Christ, . Peter Hansen, Hon A. F. Green, Horace Hawes, John C Edgar, Peter Casey, Charles W. Swanton, John H. Sears, Loren Coburn, Henry Wurr, Lawrence Kelly, A. Eikerenkotter, John Hadler, Hon. J. P. Ames, Rudolph Miramontez, Antonio Miramontez, Lemuel T. Murray, Geo. Winter, Judge James W. Bicknell, Hon. Chas. N. Fox, Chas. Felton, Benjamin Gordon Lathrop and many others.