Southern Monterey County



  • The region surrounding Lockwood was occupied primarily and continuously inhabited by Salinan people. These people were careful land managers, employing burning techniques. The resulting landscape caused early explorers to comment on the “park-like” nature of the landscape. They ate a diet rich in mixtualized acorns, vegetables, berries and grasses, as well as game. 
  • Prior to colonization, there were 20 Salinan villages in the San Antonio River area but the coming of the Spanish and the establishment of the San Antonio Mission disrupted their way of life. 
  • The San Antonio Mission was the first agrarian based community in the area and a major contribution was made by Father Sitar, who designed a complex water system of dams, aqueducts, irrigation ditches and reservoirs to irrigate crops and turn a grist mill. These were built with conscripted labor. “After harvest, the fruit was dried and stored, the olives were pressed to make oil, wine was made for the padres, and the grain was gathered to feed livestock. Many of the foodstuffs, such as the grapes, were carted north to Monterey for trade.”
  • Raising livestock was a primary source of income. Prior to the gold rush, cattle were raised for hides, tallow and dried meat. 
  • Under the new Mexican rule and after the Missions were secularized in 1835, Commandants of the presidios and the Alcades of the pueblos were given the authority to grant lots of land to private individuals within their jurisdiction. Later, former mission land was granted to private individuals outside the pueblos. These land grants,grants known as Rancho Grants, were intended to encourage agriculture and industry, to reward soldiers, and to provide land to settlers who held no property.”
  • Between the years 1838 to 1846, eleven ranchos were formally granted within the South County Area.  These included Ranchos San Lorenzo, San Bernabe, San Benito, San Lucas, San Bernardo, Milpitas, Los Ojitos  Pellet (Pleat), San Miguelito, El Pig, and Shalom. On the average, the ranchos were a little larger than the typical 9,000 acre grant. The majority of the grantees were Mexican or of Spanish descent. 
  • Because of economic downturns, a severe drought/flood cycle (1862-1867), and proof-of-title requirements imposed by the new government of California, many Ranchos were sold and sub-divided in the 1860s.
  • Many of the Salinan, Spanish and Mexican people who occupied the Mission stayed in South Monterey County.  
  • By the mid-nineteenth century, the land around the Mission San Antonio and the public domain that surrounded those lands were settled quickly in the mid-1860s and 1870s by an influx of Europeans and US citizens who were aided by the Homestead Act of 1862 and subsequent homesteading laws. Some of the early pioneers arrived from Island Fohr in Germany’s North Frisian Islands. Some were from Basque country. And some traveled overland from the Eastern US. Some of the homes are still occupied by the original families of these early pioneers. 
  • Likewise, some of homestead farms and ranches are still operated by the same families ~160 years later.
  • During the late 1800s, two occurrences created opportunities for these the new homesteaders. First, the combine harvester was invented, and next, the Southern Pacific Railroad extended, south, through the Salinas Valley. This opened up transportation of farm goods to urban centers. 
  • Unfortunately, not all towns prospered by the turn of the century as a few were bypassed by the rail line. The town of Jolon, for example, was in steady decline from losing its status as a major stage stop. The railroad had replaced several major routes, including the El Camino Real and a new roadway was created that paralleled the rail line and the Salinas River. The town of Pleyto was eventually submerged under the San Antonio Reservoir after the construction of a dam on the San Antonio River in 1964, and the town of Lockwood never prospered after being bypassed by the railroad.
  • South Monterey County has been continuously ranched or dry-farmed  such that its rural historic landscapes have been shaped by and reflect the area’s climatic conditions, its special archeological records, the settlement and demographic trends and cultures, and its day-to-day occupational activities.  Hence, the area is unique. “Over the many years that the South Monterey County Area has developed, many different ethnic groups have lived and worked in the area; some as ranch owners and others as hired help. Each group has made their mark on the land, whether through their agricultural practices, innovative technologies, building techniques, or cultural traditions.”
  • Unique historical architecture of the area: 
    • Most of the area’s adobes are built not of sunbaked bricks, in the Spanish Colonial style typical of the missions and historic homes that dot the state, but of clay that is “rammed” into wooden forms. Walls are built up layer after layer in foot-high courses. They were also built later than the typical California adobe – the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And they look nothing like the colonial adobes that most people are familiar with, generally simple, low-ceilinged buildings with protruding roof beams. They are a type and a period of adobe buildings that most people – don’t know exist. Their appearances vary. Some…are in vernacular styles from Germany or France [and] immigrants from these countries imported the rammed-earth technique…There must be 150 adobes – homes, smokehouses, bunkhouses, barns. The area includes the hamlets of Lockwood, Bryson-Hesperia, Bradley, San Ardo and the ghost town of Jolon. The local Rural Adobe Network believes that, “The cluster of historic rammed earth structures in South Monterey County appears to be one of the largest and most unusual in the United States.”

Books and References

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