San Miguel



  • Throughout history, the town of San Miguel has alternated between a bustling bery bustled or dormancy. Today, it is an unincorporated town with a census of about 2500 people. Also, it is, the home to the Mission San Miguel Arcángel (Note: visit my web-page about the San Miguel Mission)

  • It is Located on the old stage coach route which used the Old El Camino Real.
  • It really came alive when the Southern Pacific Railroad came through town to join the city of Salinas to Santa Margarita. There is still evidence of the railroad sidings and warehouses. 

Need photos of railorad warehouses. 

  • With the advent of the automobile, Highway 101 was built. It joined with Mission Street south of town by the Rios-Caledonia Adobe and continued north through town. When 101 was re-routed to the west of town, it bypassed downtown, and ran parallel to the old El Camino Real.  Like so many small towns along the Old El Camino Real, San Miguel died when highway buisness was re-routed away from the center of town. 

  • Today, it may be a sleepy little town, but it is not so diificult to visualize how it has been episodically unruly. First, there were the outlaws and rebels during the Rancho era; and then, it was a bustling farm town after the Railroad came through. It’s final frenzy of activity was during WWII, when there were more than 14 bars and 13 brothels to service soldiers in nearby Camp Roberts during WWII. 

Nearby Historical Sites: 

  • The Rios-Caledonia Adobe is an old inn and stage coach stop. It was built in 1835and served the El Camino Real travelers more than a century ago and is a stellar example of California’s Mexican-era Architecture. It was built by Petronilo Rios, a corporal commanding the Mission San Miguel guard and later the owner of the Rancho Paso de Robles. Local labor was use. (Ah-hem, the term local labor is a euphemism for native Amiercan forced labor). In 1846, the Adobe was sold to Rios (of the Rios-Caledonia Adobe) and William Reed. From 1868 to 1886, George Butchart operated the building as a stagecoach stop, hotel and tavern. After that it was used for various purposes such as an elementary school, businesses, and as a residence. In 1923, Charles Dorries purchased the property with 6 acres and restored it as a tourist attraction. In 1964, the County of San Luis Obispo purchased the adobe.  In 1968, it was restored by the Friends of the Adobes, a non-profit organization with the purpose of preserving history in the northern San Luis Obispo and Southern Monterey County Areas. It was damaged by the 2003 earthquake and was closed for a while. Today, it is open to the public on Friday -Sunday, if local help can be found. It is crurently operated by California State parks, Office of Historic Preservation. 

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Estrella Adobe Church was the first Protestant church to be built in northern San Luis Obispo County. It was built  in 1877 by the Southern California Conference of the Methodist Church. Water and mud were hauled from the nearby Estrella River and the adobe bricks were made on-site. This church was part of the “Cambrian [Preacher] Circuit”  of Cambria, Las Tablas, Estrella, Oak Flat, Corral de los Julos, Ranchita, Cholame, Palo Prieta, La Panza, Creston, and Shandon. The circuit took more than a month for a preacher to cover and when he completed his circle, he had covered over 300 miles. After passing through a variety of hands, the church fell into disrepair until 1950, when the History and Landmarks Committee of the Paso Robles Women’s Club decided to take action. Mr. Jesse Crettol, Sr. a master builder of adobe structures, was hired to rebuild the church with over 5,000 new adobe bricks. Restoration was completed in 1952Since 1968, The Friends of the Adobe has maintained the building and grounds. Typically, an church service, which is open to the public, in conducted in late May every year. 

Camp Roberts  was an Army training facility composed of 42,784 acres.

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In 1902, Congress authorized a study to locate and describe lands suitable for development of the new military posts. El Rancho Nacimiento was one of those sites. The use of the site was debated between California and Washington, D.C. Camp Roberts opened in 1941 and was among the largest military training facilities in the world at the time.  The area was very active during WWII and local communities hopped as they serviced both Camp Roberts and Ft. Hunter Ligget. 436,000 WWII infantry and artillery troops passed through training here. My father-in-law trained at Camp Roberts. He told stories of going to Paso Robles and San Miguel on leave and getting inebriated and passing out in the downtown plaza. Many celebrities trained here, including Caspar Weinberger, Red Skelton, Robert Mitchum, and Bob Newhart. Camp was officially closed by the Army in 1970 and became a California Army National Guard facility in 1972. Today, it hosts annual training of the California Army National Guard and it rocks the earth when the war occur during the summer.

Today’s Community:

  • This is a sleepy little town with few services or shops. However, there are a LOT of things to do in the San Miguel area for the traveling or local tourist. 

Things to do: 

  • Explore San Miguel
  • Visit the San Miguel Mission
  • Visit the Rio-Caledonia Adobe, Museum, gift shop, and research library.
  • Visit the Estrella Adobe Church (located about 5 miles east of San Miguel on Airport Rd. (Note: typically, there is an annual memorial service in late May hosted by the Friends of the Adobe.) 
  • Visit the Camp Roberts Historical Museum, which is a repository of the entire history of one of America’s largest and most historic Army installations.
    • It is one to the general public on Thursday and Saturdays, from 9 AM to 4 PM.
    • Exhibit topic range from the indigenous Indian tribes to early ranchos through WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Wars and to present-day mobilizations in the Middle East. Admission is free.
  • Visit the Estrella Warbird Museum and the Woodland Auo Display at the Paso Robles Airport on Airport Rd. 
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    • The Estrella Warbird Museum “is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of military aircraft military vehicles and memorabilia to those who flew and worked on military aircraft. Our approach, however, is not to glorify conflict but rather to make a future generation aware of the fact our way of life does not come without sacrifice. ”
    • The Woodland Auto Display is filled with classic automobiles, historical racing cards and unique artifacts from the world of automobile history and racing 
  • Go Wine tasting on the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail
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    • A 19-mile trail of award winning wines that is located int he beautiful rolling hills around San Miguel. 
    • Wineries: Locatelli, Villa San-Juliette, Cinquain Cellar4s, Four Sister Ranch, Ranhita Canyon, San Marco Creek, Tackitt Family Vineyards, Bon Niche, Gravceyard Vineyards, J&J Cellars, P.S. Cellars, Mystic Hills, and Riverstar Vineyards. 
  • Have a drink at the historic Elkhorn Bar , which is the second-longest operating bar in California and has been in operation since 1853. As would be expected, it has a rich history. It was frequented by many famous outlaws, such as Frank and Jesse James (their uncle lived in the area). During prohibition, it was a hoppin’ joint. The bar’s front was a barbershop but it served drinks. The patrons would throw their drinks through the a trapdoor into the cellar when the cops arrived. The trapdoor still exists. It was one of 14 bars in San Miguel that serviced soldiers during WWII. Supposedly, the bar is haunted with poker playing and posterior grabbing ghosts. Today, the walls are decorated with mementos of the past and ghost stories are told. The Sunday that I visited, the bar was full of women of all ages, No men. Obviously, it is safe enough for single women to visit. 


Books and References

Anderson, Burton. The Salinas Valley: A History of America’s Salad Bowl. Monterey County Historical Society. 2000.

Davis, Al, Master Sergeant (Retired). Historic Californai Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields. Camp Roberts.

History in San Luis Obispo. The (1879) Estrella Adobe Church.

Wikipedia. San Miguel, California.ángel

Wikipedia. Rios-Caledonia Adobe.

Wikipedia. Camp Roberts, California.,_California