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SLOJX Street Names II Streets of San Luis Joseph A. Carotenuti Today is surrounded by yesterday. There is a hint of history in plain view – literally - on most every street corner. For instance, Cal Poly – formally known as California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo – has had a fair share of historical probing but not so with the neighborhood around the academic oasis. While the school is now over a century old, surrounding street names recall several prominent early pioneers. Each deserves – and will receive - a more complete biography but here are some very brief notes on a few of the more famous. Put on a pair of comfortable shoes and start walking through time! The Graves family began locally when William J. married into the family of Jose de Jesus Pico, a cousin of California’s last Mexican Governor. One of the earliest petitions to the then-Town of San Luis Obispo is his for property at the site of William Dana’s Casa Grande…today’s Court Street. A veteran of the Mexican-American War, he was one of only two lawyers in the newly designated County and later served as a judge and County Treasurer. A member of both the State Assembly (1854) and Senate (1874), when Graves died in 1884, flags were flown at half-mast for 3 days - a sign of the community’s esteem. A short block nearby remembers one of the earliest pioneers of the County seat. Dr. William Williams Hays was born in Maryland, graduated from Georgetown University in 1861, studied at the Smithsonian Institute and was chairman of the Town of San Luis Obispo’s Board of Trustees (1870-72) as well as an avid meteorologist. His adobe home close to the Mission remains beneath years of careful restoration. Hays eventually moved to the area now bearing his name. An early proponent of care for the indigent, he was a founder and first director of the community’s General Hospital. A man of many talents, for years he submitted weather data to the community’s newspaper. Most histories of the County and City remember to note Walter Murray as a co-founder of the Tribune newspaper in 1859. Arriving here six year earlier, his service to the settlement included early efforts as a town trustee, lawyer, Assemblyman (1858) and County judge among numerous accomplishments. Born in England, a veteran of the Mexican-American War (Stevenson’s Regiment), he has left a considerable amount of correspondence detailing life in the 1850s and 60s. Of particular historical importance are his newspaper articles of the life and conditions of the early settlement and county - a most interesting glimpse into the past. The terror of lawlessness led him to be one of the founders of the Vigilance Committee (1858). Probably the most recognizable local surname on a statewide basis is Pacheco. Coming to California with Mexican Governor Echeandia in 1825, Romualdo married into the Carrillo family of Santa Barbara and was one of two casualties in the Battle of Cahuenga Pass. His young widow, Dona Ramona, and her two sons entered local history after her second marriage to Scotsman John Wilson who among his extensive land holdings included the Mission of St. Louis. Jose Antonio Romualdo, Jr. and his brother Mariano were educated in Hawaii and both played prominent roles in the civic and economic life of the area. Romualdo continued his political career and was elected Lieutenant Governor. He became California’s only Hispanic governor (1875) to complete the term of Governor Newton Booth who went to Washington, D. C. From Sacramento to the Federal capital, he served three terms in the House of Representatives. Certainly, the premier land speculator and developer in the county was Chauncey Hatch Phillips. Arriving here in 1864, he first partnered with H. W. Warden (another street near Hawthorne School) to open the first bank in the county. Among a variety of land developments, he is most remembered for Templeton although there exist on older maps of San Luis Obispo a notation as to the “Phillips Addition”. Phillips was responsible for dividing the Morro y Cayucos Rancho into town lots as well as a less successful attempt to do the same in Los Olivos. Loren Nicholson’s Rails Across the Ranchos provides the best overview of the energetic entrepreneur’s work to bring the railroad to and through the county. Other prominent names surrounded the University: Loomis, Henderson, Carpenter, Hathway, and Stenner. These (and many others) pay tribute to some of the earliest members of what was simply a little noticed settlement in the middle of the new state. There is one glaring omission for some sort of recognition near the university…Myron Angel. If there is one figure regarded as the “father’ of the college, Angel’s efforts to have some sort of institution of higher learning located on the central coast deserves some remembrance. One possible reason for the omission is the lack of interest in street names in the earliest years of the community except an ordinance changing Mission to Monterey Street. Names were often more directional than specific while others were named by land developers…as happens today. Beginning at the oldest municipal crossroads – the corners of Monterey and Chorro – few streets commemorate individuals or families. There seems neither civic vanity nor pride in personalizing street names. Streets carrying family names simply designated the early owners of the surrounding property. Higuera (Spanish for “fig”) in the downtown area, for instance, most likely began referring to fruit trees while the expanse south went across land owned by Tomas Higuera and Johnson Avenue traverses some land originally owned by Charles H. Johnson. Unfortunately, there is no current ordinance even suggesting use of pioneer names for streets and other public places. Remembering our civic ancestors would be an appropriate addition to the history of the community. Learn More About It? Do you know the origin of your street name?