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SLOJX County SealSan Luis Obispo County Seal Joseph A. Carotenuti San Luis Obispo County has a birthday this month. On February 18, 1850, Governor Peter Burnett signed legislation creating our County…one of the original 27 (today there are 58). Much younger…but packed with its history…is the County seal and emblem. It’s one of those things you may notice but may not see. If you receive a property tax bill, it’s right there. (You probably pay closer attention (and groan) at the amount!) It’s on all official County documents and vehicles and is a rich resource for study. The Board of Supervisors authorized the first County seal on November 5, 1883. Today’s debuted in 1973 and thanks to the efforts of then-County Supervisor Howard Mankin and the designer, local artist Robert Reynolds, our County Seal has a wealth of information. Just what does the very informative Seal tell us? Here’s the story. First, we became a County before becoming part of the State (admitted into the Union on September 9, 1850). In fact, we were the County “seat of justice” before becoming an official Town (1856) with the same name. With minor adjustments, the County’s boundaries have remained the same and are depicted on the Seal’s background. Thus the “1850” is first the year of the county’s creation and, then, statehood. The Mission was the only building of note and remains one of the oldest structures in the State. Indeed, we are one of eight counties bearing the name of a mission. Closely associated with the Mission era, an “alcalde” (emblazoned across the crown of the Seal) was a combination lawmaker, enforcer, and judge and aptly described the County’s official functions. While we are familiar with a separation of such governmental functions, the County’s first officials were a Court of Sessions… the Chief Judge being the former alcalde. It was not until 1852 that a Board of Supervisors was authorized to replace an essentially judicial body. The most prominent feature of the seal is shared between the four profiles in the center and a menacing bear. We are familiar with the bear as it also occupies a spot on our State Seal …although that bear seems less hostile! Los Osos is named after the familiar grizzly first noticed during the Portola Expedition (1769) when our valley was named la llano de los ossos (Bear Plain). Indeed, many of the historic names in the County (and State) were given during this historic first land expedition from San Diego to San Francisco. • The Chumash generally occupied an area along the coast from around modern Malibu to just north into Santa Margarita. Locally, they provided food and help during the first desperate months after the establishment of the Mission in September 1772. As the population of the Mission(s) grew, it was the native neophytes (newly baptized) who tended the crops and herds, learned to weave, rend tallow, and the many other tasks to sustain a growing community. It was the natives…here and elsewhere…who built the Missions. • The Spanish and then Mexican soldiers were charged with any settlement’s protection. Many of the men assigned to California – not considered a desirable post – married native women and became the ancestors for the great Californios families. Poorly paid…if at all…Mission California had few soldiers. With a presidio (military center) in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco, missions eventually supported everyone. • There is much written about the padres who came to Alta California as part of the “spiritual” conquest. The most famous - the legendary Fray Junipero Serra – personally founded the fifth mission in 1772 but died before the 16th Mission San Miguel was founded in 1797. In all of Mission history (1769 to 1834), 127 Franciscans served in California. The mission bell commemorates the oldest structures in our State. • With the separation of Spain and Mexico in 1821, those isolated from the center of power saw themselves as politically different from the government of the new Empire and then Republic of Mexico. From political discontent to a quasi- independent department, California became a vast network of huge rancheros. With the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, the often-vast land holdings began a slow process of disappearing into smaller parcels. There are many bits of information around the profiles: • As part of Mexican California, our County and Santa Barbara were one of 10 districts…thus the ten stars; • Stunning geological features locally are the peaks of the area with San Luis Peak representative of what have been called the Nine Sisters; • Paso Robles remembers in its name (Pass of the Oaks) not only trees also an essential early food source…the acorn; • While the rope entwining the seal “holds together the heritage” of the County, it reminds us of the riata used by the vaqueros. Indeed, San Luis Obispo was one of the “cow counties” of the Gold Rush days…and afterwards. Everyone had to eat and the County prospered with cattle and grains. Often forgotten in histories of the United States, its westernmost land witnessed Spanish exploration by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542…well before any settlement on the eastern seaboard. The galleon and distinctive Morro Rock named by Cabrillo to the left of the Seal remember this heroic journey. Over three hundred years later, more “Boston” ships came to trade otter and cattle hides and tallow. A few mariners remained to marry into Californios families and received land grants. Locally, rancho owners served on the first Board of Supervisors: John (Juan) Wilson (replaced by William Beebe), William (Guillermo) Dana, Francis (Francisco) Branch and Joaquin Estrada. Samuel A. Pollard was the only non-rancho member (but married into the Dana family of Nipomo). While the County Seal encapsulates our background – the multiple paths – to today, it also holds promise for tomorrow. As a government or as individuals, our motto…suggested by Board of Supervisor’s Secretary, Ann Zaneis…Not for Ourselves Alone is a noble call to all. Before leaving office, Supervisor Mankins wrote of the development of the modern seal. It deserves another printing as it is a valuable resource in the study of local history. Knowing about the Seal may not help with the tax bill, but at least we now know there is more than gold to find in the mines of our past! Learn More About It! Pictures of the County’s Supervisors are seen in the lobby of the County building and www.csac.counties.org provides histories for each county.