Santa Cruz County History - Making a Living

Mineral Survey of Santa Cruz County - Introduction
by C. McK. Laizure

In the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce Annual Report for 1926, the chairman of the industrial committee, George H. Cardiff, wrote:

"In an effort to develop the industrial future of Santa Cruz, and recogniz[ing] the importance of building our industries from with the community, the industrial committee was success in having a survey made of the mineral resouces of the county by the California State Mining Bureau....Your committee has deemed it advisable to print this report in full believing that by so doing considerable publicity will be given to the many possibilities of industrial development and expansion.

All sections of the report are available here. The survey gives us a good idea of the mineral resources available and the industries of sixty years ago; it also tells us the general locations of those resources and may explain ruins of mining that we may find today.[RAP-ed.]

The Mineral Survey of Santa Cruz County was printed in the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce Annual Report, 1926. Reproduced by permission of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce.


Prepared by C. McK. Laizure,
Mining Engineer of the California State Mining Bureau

Numbered among the original twenty-seven counties created February 18, 1850, Santa Cruz County was first known as Branciforte. (Coy, Owen C., California County Boundaries, California Historical Survey Commission, Berkeley, 1923) An amendment passed later during the first session of the legislature gave it the name of Santa Cruz, signifying 'Holy Cross.' With the exception of its northern boundary, which originally extended from the ocean due east through a point at the head of San Francisquito Creek to the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the original boundaries of the county were the same as they are at present. In 1868 the northern line was moved southward and a portion of what had been Santa Cruz County was annexed to San Mateo, which had been created in 1856. The new dividing line began on the ocean shore near Point Ano Nuevo, trending northeasterly to the summit of the mountains in a broken line of east and north bearing segments. Since this move in 1868 the county's boundaries have remained unchanged.


Santa Cruz County borders on Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean, its curving coast-line extending from the mouth of Pajaro River, where it enters the bay, northwesterly for 40 miles. San Mateo County bounds it on the north; Santa Clara County lies to the northeast, and Monterey adjoins on the south.

The area of the county is only 435 square miles, making it, exclusive of the city and county of San Francisco, the smallest county in the state. Its population is 26,269 (1920 census). The city of Santa Cruz, the county seat, situated on the north shore of Monterey Bay, is one of the most attractive seaside resorts of California. It is noted for its long strand of bathing beach and equable climate, and is easily reached from San Francisco, 78 miles north, by rail or highway.

The county is traversed by a line of the Southern Pacific railroad from San Jose, via Los Gatos, to Santa Cruz. From there this line continues south-easterly near the coast to Watsonville, the second city in size and principal shipping center of the rich Pajaro Valley, connecting with the main line at Watsonville junction. There is a branch line from Felton that follows San Lorenzo River northward and another from Santa Cruz, running northwesterly along the coast to the plant of the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company at Davenport.

A municipal pier at Santa Cruz permits the docking of ocean-going vessels. Good highways make the county readily accessible to motorists.

Pajaro Valley is noted as an apple growing district. The cultivation of fruits, berries and vegetables and the operation of packing plants and canneries are the principal industries. Poultry raising, commercial fisheries and mining are also important. The later industry, however, is confined almost entirely to the production of nonmetallic structural and industrial minerals.


The greater part of Santa Cruz County is rugged and mountainous. Castle Rock Ridge, which forms the eastern boundary, trends in a northwest direction, approximately parallel to the coastline at an average distance of 20 miles inland. It rises to elevations of over 3000 feet and forms an escarpment with a steep northeastern slope on the Santa Clara County side. To the southeast, between the summit and the ocean, the slope is more gradual but the region is cut by many deep gulches formed by streams flowing westward to the sea.

Ben Lomond Mountain, which rises between Castle Rock Ridge and the ocean, also presents a steep escarpment to the northeast and a long gentle slope on the southwest to the ocean. The parallel arrangement of valleys and ridges characteristic of much of the Coast Range is not prominently developed in this county. Old sea terraces are noticeable at many places along the coast. The hillsides are generally deeply soil-covered and unusually steep, there being many V-shaped canyons in the Monterey shale areas.

In the region of San Lorenzo River and Boulder Creek the hills are heavily wooded and several redwood groves contain trees of gigantic size. The drainage basin of San Lorenzo River includes nearly one-third of the county. Pajaro River drains the southern portion, flowing westward and forming the south boundary of the county. Numerous small perennial streams flow down the west side of Ben Lomond Mountain to the sea.


The Santa Cruz Quadrangle, the geology of which has been mapped and described by J. C. Branner, J. F. Newsom and Ralph Arnold, (U.S. Geological Survey Santa Cruz Folio No. 163) includes the greater portion of the county. The reader is referred to this folio for a detailed geological history of the area and description of the formations.

That half of the county lying northwest of the Southern Pacific railroad (excluding only the Ben Lomond Mountain block) and Castle Rock Ridge along the eastern boundary are composed of Tertiary (Miocene) marine sandstones and diatomaceous shales. The area east of Santa Cruz and extending to the base of Castle Rock Ridge is also composed of Tertiary (Pliocene) sedimentary formations including marine and freshwater sandstones, shales and gravels. Quarternary sands, gravels and clays predominate along the southern boundary and Pajaro River Valley. Ben Lomond Mountain is an upward tilted granitic block, the core of which is quartz-diorite but containing relatively small areas of metamorphic schist, marble and limestone. All of the sedimentary formations have been much folded, crushed and broken and numerous faults have been noted.

Mineral Resources

Records covering the variety, amount and value of the minerals produced in Santa Cruz County extend no farther back than 1894, but there was considerable production before that time, especially of gold, bituminous rock, limestone and lime.

Although it was 44 years after the organization of the county and 46 years after mining became an established industry in the state before any segregated county record of output was begun, in the succeeding interval of 31 years between 1894 and 1924, inclusive, the total recorded value of minerals produced has amounted to nearly $50,000,000. This large total includes no metals except a negligible amount of magnetite (iron ore) from black sand; no petroleum, the most valuable nonmetallic found in the state; and no 'war minerals,' the production of which materially increased the mineral output of many of the counties from 1915 to 1918.

In 1924 the mineral output of Santa Cruz County was valued at $4,339,233, giving it tenth place among the fifty-eight counties of the state. As will be noted by referring to the table of mineral production, the variety of commercial minerals is small and practically confined to the structural materials, bituminous rock, cement, clay, lime and limestone, sand, gravel, and crushed rock. A number of other minerals are known to occur in the county, but they are of minor importance at their present stage of development. Among these are coal, gold, granite, iron, mineral water, and petroleum. Still other varieties mainly of mineralogical interest are cinnabar, graphite, gypsum, melanterite, and talc. Magnetite, chromite, ilmenite, garnet, olivine, zircon, quartz, and platinum are constituents of some of the beach sands.

Further development may place some of these on the commercial list, but the future production of Santa Cruz County will no doubt continue to be made up chiefly of the common structural and industrial nonmetallics which have contributed most to its mineral production in the past.

The last general report on the mines and mineral resources of the county is contained in State Mineralogist's Report XVII, 1920. The oil possibilities were discussed in Bulletin No. 89, 'Petroleum Resources of California,' 1921 (out of print).

In order that these data might conform to the new series of county reports, begun in State Mineralogist's Report XXI, 'Mining in California,' 1925, and continued in succeeding numbers, the county was visited in January, 1926. New developments, corrections and changes noted since the former reports were published are included herein.

The courteous assistance rendered by local chamber of commerce officials, property owners and operators is gratefully acknowledged.

Table of the total recorded output, 1894-1924, inclusive.

>>Continue with:

Bituminous Rock   Gold Mineral Water
Black Sand Granite Moulding Sand & Peat
Cement Iron Petroleum & Potash
Clay Lime Stone Industry
Coal Limestone   

The Mineral Survey of Santa Cruz County was printed in the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce Annual Report, 1926. Reproduced by permission of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce.

Interested in the Stone Quarries of Santa Cruz County? the Santa Cruz Libraries found this interesting historical resource at Stone Quarries and Beyond.

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geology, mining


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