Santa Cruz County History - Places

Aptos History: A Look Back at Centuries of Mid-County History
by John Hibble

Prehistory -- 1799

ca. 7000 BC Indians lived in Santa Cruz County.
ca. 1000 BC The Ohlone Indians occupy the Monterey Bay area.
400 AD Chinese Sailors are rumored to have discovered Monterey Bay.
1542 Cabrillo sailed by our coast.
1578-79 Sir Francis Drake sailed by our coast.
1602 Vizcaino discovers Monterey Bay as a port for the Manila galleons.
1600-1700 Chinese sailing ships are reported.
1769 Gaspar De Portola, together with Father Crespi, leads the first overland expedition through the county Oct. 8 to Oct. 22, and although they discovered signs of the native peoples, they never actually saw the "heathen."
1774 Capitan Don Fernando Javier De Rivera Y Moncada, the Governor General of California, together with Father Palou, passed down the coast from San Francisco to Carmel and on Dec. 11, discovered the Aptos Indian village of eleven huts above the rivers.
1791 Mission Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) was started by Father Lasun, and completed in 1794. The name "Aptos" is first recorded in baptismal records of the Santa Cruz Mission as a local Native American name for our area.
1797 Branciforte Pueblo founded.

1800 -- 1899

1821 Mexican Independence.
1803 Rafael Castro was born at Villa de Branciforte.
1833 The mission was secularized and Rafael Castro was granted 5500 acres as Aptos Rancho from Mexican Governor Jose Figuroa. Castro builds his house at the confluence of Aptos and Trout Creeks.
1840 The Aptos Rancho was increased to 6,685.9 acres by Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado. Flood waters filled Castro's house. He moved to the top of the knoll overlooking the creeks.
1848 California annexed to United States as a territory.
pre-1850 Jose Arano builds first General Store.
1850 California gains statehood. Chinese begin to immigrate. Most local Native Americans have died from disease.
1850's Castro builds Aptos Wharf (Aptos Wharf Road).
1851 Saw mill built on Aptos Creek near town, probably by a group of Frenchmen named Francisco Allemari, A. Placio and Louis Christoff.
1853 Tannery built on Porter Gulch, now the Apple Lane Inn.
1854 Castro converts French sawmill into the Cascade Grist Mill.
1860 Judge Ben Nichols builds a lumber mill in Aptos. Bridge built over Aptos Creek.
1865 Santa Cruz Earthquake.
1867 Wharf enlarged to 900 feet.
1868 Aptos Bridge destroyed to stop Cholera epidemic from Watsonville. Mount Carmel-Calvary Cemetery was laid out on land donated by Castro.
1869 Live Oak House built.
1870 Arano's General Store becomes first Post Office. Frederick A. Hihn builds Sawmill on Valencia Creek. Output 70,000 to 143,000 board feet per day.
1871 First school built. Aptos Mineral Spring becomes famous.
1872 Claus Spreckels buys 2,390 acres east of creek for summer home. (plus 200 more in six months at a price of $30 per acre).
1874 Spreckels builds Deer Park with 12 foot fence to hold wild game. Also sulky race track.
1875 Chinese fishing camp established at China Beach (New Brighton Beach) that is home to 29 fishermen. Catholic Church built. Aptos Hotel built by Spreckels on site of former Indian Village. Spreckels Drive was the private entrance to the resort. Three trains from Santa Cruz deliver over 1,000 people, plus another 500 by private conveyance, to the dedication picnic for Spreckels' Aptos Hotel.
1876 Cypress trees planted around cemetery and down Santa Cruz Watsonville Road (Soquel Drive). On May 7, the Santa Cruz Railroad opened. The first train runs through Santa Cruz County. "Betsy Jane" and "Pacific" left opposite ends of the county and met in Aptos. The narrow gauge railroad was promoted and partially financed by Hihn and Spreckels. "Jupiter" is now in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
1878 "Anchor House", (Bayview Hotel), built by Joseph (Jose) Arano. China Beach fishermen shipped 177,000 lbs of fish on the train. Camp San Jose visitor campground opened on the bluff at New Brighton Beach forcing the Chinese fishermen to move down the coast toward Aptos.
1881 King David Kalakaua of Hawaii visits Spreckels. Southern Pacific buys Santa Cruz Railroad and begins laying standard gauge track.
1882 The Loma Prieta saw mill was built in Aptos Canyon, including post office, express office, stores, cabins and a hotel. The town grows to 185 residents and the mill is expanded to produce 140,000 board feet per day at full production.
1883 Southern Pacific and 225 Chinese laborers complete laying standard gauge track and build spur line into Aptos Canyon. Bayview Hotel adds third floor.
1883-1923 The logging era produces 140 million board feet of lumber. Aptos expands to three hotels, 13 saloons, a deep sea pier, two railroad stations and five railroad spur lines. Aptos Creek was dammed to float lumber. Valencia Creek was tapped for the town's water supply.
1885 Hihn builds a narrow gauge railroad spur line to the Valencia saw mill using Chinese labor. Train cars were originally drawn by mule. The old Valencia meeting hall still stands at the corner of Valencia and Bear Valley Road. The house across the street used to be the stage coach stop, general store and post office. (Both have now been relocated together at that intersection.)
1886 Spreckels forced out of Hawaii.
1888 Spreckels opens the largest beet sugar factory in North America in Watsonville. Mangels House built by Claus Mangels. Mangels was brother-in-law to Claus Spreckels. The house is virtually a copy of the Spreckels mansion.
1889 Aptos pier destroyed by storm.
1890 Hihn Apple Packing Plant built behind Bayview Hotel, today the site of the Village Fair Antiques shop.
1896-97 Spreckels tore down the Aptos Hotel and used materials to build the town of Spreckels near Salinas. He also moved several whole buildings from Aptos to Spreckels. He also moved his sugar factory to that location.
1898 Sugar factory closed in Watsonville.
1899 James Leonard builds Aptos General Store with money from La Selva Beach gold mine. Post Office moved to new store with Tom Leonard postmaster. Second Aptos School built by Spreckels.

1900 -- 1999

1900 Hundreds of Native Americans still camped on the beach and were employed cutting firewood and working in fields and orchards.
1905 Lam Pon and Ralph Mattison (L & M) apple dryer built in downtown Aptos.
1906 San Francisco earthquake.
1908 Spreckels died.
1911 The Porter Sesnon family built a grand summer home called "Pino Alta." The home and landscape coasts exceeded $60,000. The home is now called "Sesnon House" and is part of Cabrillo College.
1919 The movie "One Way Trail" was filmed at the Loma Prieta Lumber Mill.
1920 Castro House burns.
1920's Rio del Mar Beach becomes notorious unloading point for bootleg liquor. On July 5, the San Christina Investment Co., formed in 1909 to administer the trust of the Spreckels.
1922 The Spreckels estate sold 2,390 acres to Fred Somers of Pomona for $87.45 per acre. He pre-sold land at $216 per acres to finance the purchase.
1924 First telephone service.
1925 Monroe-Lyon-Miller of Los Altos took over the property at $400 per acre. Seacliff Company begins development. Over $100,000 in lots are sold. Seacliff is unable to persuade Paul Woodside to sell his cliff-side property. Ultimately the Sheriff is called to the property. Woodside, Sheriff Trafton and Under Sheriff Rountree wind up killing each other.
1926 Golf Lodge and Course built. Designed by Willie Locke, inventor of the nine iron. Rio Flats leveled and raised seven feet. Rio Del Mar name coined.
1927 Aptos Chamber of Commerce founded on June 20.
1928 Redwood Village built by William Parker on the former site of Spreckels' stables. The redwood grove was thinned and the timber milled to construct cottages for vacationers. (In 1974, the cottages were converted to shops.) Third grammar school was built on land donated by Monroe, Lyon and Miller. A concrete dam was built on Aptos Creek to create world's largest fresh water swimming pool, with bathing pavilion (torn down between 1931 and 1935).
1929 Spreckels Mansion burned. Aptos Creek Bridge opened May 17. Monte Toyon deeded to Methodists. Rio del Mar Country Club Inn built.
1930 The concrete ship "Palo Alto" was towed to Seacliff and beached. It was developed as a nightclub. The ship was built in 1919 for use as a tanker in the war, but was not completed in time. The ship was stripped, then rebuilt to include a 54 by 154 foot ballroom that featured big bands like Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey, plus a 54 square foot swimming pool and an 84 foot by 54 foot dining area. After two seasons the owners went broke and the following winter a storm cracked the ship amid-ships.
1933 Deer Park Tavern built by N. J. (Shorty) Butriza, a Yugoslavian. The Tyrolean style building was originally decorated with hunting trophies and music was supplied by a Hammond organ built for the place. The widening of Highway 1 in 1947 forced Shorty to move it to its current location.
1935 Catholic church closed.
1936-40 Rio Del Mar Airport is opened. It was located on the bluff between Cliff Drive and Bayview Drive. This private strip was operated by Durward M. Davis. Elevation, 70 feet. There were two hangers, three runways, wind cone, gasoline and water pumps. Phone Santa Cruz 587.
1937 Beach Club built and opened on Feb. 22.
1941 Rio del Mar Improvement Association founded. Peter and Olaf Harken spent the war years with Mr. and Mrs. Martin Jonguneel.
1942 Bayview Hotel moved to current location.
1945 About this time the last two remaining Aptos Native American had a heated argument and one slew the other. The winner of the fight to the death, a Native American known as Jimmie, worked on the Hihn Ranch for the remainder of his life. He died about 1951.
1947 Beach Club closed.
1948 Highway 1 constructed. Deer Park Tavern moved to present location.
1955 Beach Club purchased by the state and demolished. All that remained of the club was a comfort station.
1956 Aptos Golf course rebuilt.
1959 Cabrillo Community College opens in temporary location at Watsonville High School. The permanent site required equal distance between Santa Cruz and Watsonville.
1961 Aptos Ladies' Tuesday Evening Society formed to defeat a cement batching plant planned for Aptos Village. "World's Shortest Parade" inaugurated. Southern Pacific tried to block off entrance to Bayview Hotel. Aptos Ladies' Tuesday Evening Society overcame Southern Pacific.
1962 Cabrillo College Aptos Campus opens. Nisene Marks Park dedicated. Resurrection Church built. Rancho Del Mar Shopping Center built.
1963 Aptos Beach Inn burns on March 17. Aptos Seascape Corporation of San Diego, buys Krag Ranch in May. Five hundred acres and nine holes are added to golf course.
1966 Beach Club comfort station removed.
1967 Rio Del Mar interchange added to freeway.
1969 Aptos High School built.
1976 Railroad Centennial celebration held in Aptos on May 7.
1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake hit on Oct. 17, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale.

Major industries have been: leather hides, cattle, vegetables, wheat and flour till 1880, gold, Redwood lumber, Hazelwood for barrel hoops, Tan Oaks for the tanneries, dairy products, apples, tourism and education.

This article originally appeared in The Mid-County Post, February 15, 2000 - February 28, 2000.

Copyright 2000 the Mid-County Post. Reproduced with the permission of the Mid-County Post.

View similarly tagged articles:

Aptos, Chinese Americans, Claus Spreckles, logging, ranchos, tanneries, wharves and piers


It is our continuing goal to make available a selection of articles on various subjects and places in Santa Cruz County. Certain topics, however, have yet to be researched. In other cases, we were not granted permission to use articles. The content of the articles is the responsibility of the individual author. It is the Library's intent to provide accurate local history information. However, it is not possible for the Library to completely verify the accuracy of individual articles obtained from a variety of sources. If you believe that factual statements in a local history article are incorrect and can provide documentation, please contact the Webmaster.