Site  by Lynne Landwehr © 2004





Features and Information:
     The Estrella Adobe Church


 From Myron Angel’s 
1883 History of San Luis Obispo County
(pp. 378-379),
comes this account of
early settlement in the Estrella Valley:

"Southeastward from the old mission of San Miguel, the valley of the Estrella Creek stretches toward the mountains dividing San Luis Obispo from Kern County.  A large tract of land this is, which remained, until a very recent time, entirely unoccupied and useless, except as furnishing feed for wild animals and a comparatively small number of cattle and sheep.  Since the occupation of the country…it has been regarded as a portion of some Mexican grant, and it was along in the ’seventies before it was accurately known to be Government land and open to settlement.  The further discovery was made that the soil of the region, while dry and barren in appearance, was really fertile and well adapted to agriculture.  Consequent upon these discoveries, a somewhat rapid immigration set in, and creditable improvements were effected.  By 1881, the land on and near the Salinas [River] had been taken up, but still a very large quantity of land of nearly as valuable soil remained vacant further up the valley.  This land is a rich, sandy loam, sparsely covered with nutritious grasses.  Live-oak and white-oak trees are met with at intervals, and water is obtained at an average depth of thirty feet.  School houses were speedily built, and the settlement improved rapidly.  Old settlers speak of droughts occurring two years in five.  The soil is as rich as that of any part of the Salinas Valley, and not dryer.

"Those who farmed the Estrella in 1876 realized good crops, according to some scribbler, who also reported a school of fifty pupils, a first-class wheat yield, and a goodly number of pretty and otherwise attractive girls!  The credit for this embarras de richesses  [overabundance, embarrassment of riches] was doubtless owing to the soil itself of unexampled fertility.

"Fine crops were reported in 1878, and in the following year 3,000 acres of wheat and barley were sowed in the Estrella plains, but with a poor result.  So general was the failure of crops that several settlers abandoned their locations, and removed to other places.  The next year—1880—proved fruitful, and the forty families, who by that time had collected themselves on the four miles square of land, made good and substantial progress in their new homes.  Rev. H.E. Adams brought his family to Estrella, and preached the gospel there, becoming a permanent and honored resident.  The Reverend Holdridge held forth twice in each month on the sublime teachings of Scripture, and a weekly Sunday-school was established with a good attendance.  The common school was sufficiently attended to justify eight to ten months’ schooling.

"T.J. Stevens, J.T. Truman, W.S. Humphreys, W. H. Tuley, George Stowell, and others had previously settled there, and were progressive farmers and valuable citizens.  J. Hanson sold his place this year [1883] to A. Smith, Windsor to Brookshire, J. Moody to N. Rude, and Messrs. Coda, Pepper, and the brothers James, John, and Augustus Huston arrived in the valley.  Another arrival was the Rev. J. Brooks, of Colusa, who joined his fortunes with the new settlement.

"P.T. Wagner put out his large orchard in these latter years, and had, in 1881, 750 trees of various sorts, which did well, and showed the capabilities of the soil and climate for raising all fruits which can bear a temperature as low as 20º Fahrenheit.  There is a prevailing notion, and apparently a well founded one, that the fruits of the eastern section are of better quality than those raised west of the Santa Lucia Range—a fact due, they say, to the absence of atmospheric moisture.  The absence of moisture is a fact not yet disputed, and seems able to fix the truth of the assertion concerning fruit.  It also enters into the question of the quality of wheat than which none elsewhere grown is superior to that of Estrella, and indeed of the whole interior region of San Luis Obispo County. Gluten, the portion of wheat flour which makes paste sticky, mucilaginous, is a very valuable component, being most easily digestible of all vegetable food, therefore suitable for infants and invalids, and besides, in the manufacture of Italian pastes—macaroni, vermicelli, etc., which require a large proportion of gluten to enable them to hold together in process of manufacture.  Probably no portion of America is better adapted to the growing of hard varieties of wheat suited to such purposes than is the Estrella region, and experiments may in time suggest such an industry as macaroni-making for the support of a portion of the people of this section.

"In 1881 the total acreage in wheat and barley, reckoning from Margarita on the south to San Miguel on the north, and from Paso Robles to W.T. Sheid’s place, was 8,625 acres, of which thirteen-sixteenths was wheat. 

"In 1882 the California Immigration Society took or promised or threatened to take, steps toward filling up the Estrella and Salinas region with immigrants, of whom 500 “honest and industrious families” were reported on the road; but Estrella is not the more populous because of them.  The wilderness has remained unpeopled except those whom the excellence of the land or other circumstances have brought along.

"In 1882, the young people of Estrella organized a literary society whose sessions, devoted to declamation, recitation, vocal and instrumental music, debate, etc., were attended largely.

"The topic most in the minds of the people of Estrella has been the railroad.  Ever since its advent in the Salinas Valley, it has been supposed at various times to be on the point of starting on into the neighboring county of San Luis Obispo, its natural destination, and many hopes for the advancement of the interior region have been pinned thereon.  Besides the obvious lack of transportation, the natural and unavoidable lack of water presents the greatest obstacle to successful agriculture in the valley, and this obstacle is one that cannot in any way now visible be obviated.  Unless possibly by sinking of artesian wells, already done to some small extent, and fairly successful, the problem remains unsolved."


[Reprints of Myron Angel's 408-page History of San Luis Obispo County, first published in 1883,  are available through Friends of the Adobes, tel. 805/467-3357.]


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