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History of San Luis Obispo 6History of San Luis Obispo 6 Joseph A. Carotenuti City Historian/Archivist The focus of governance in 1850 was on the County – not the community. Legislation from the State directed much of the activities of the counties with an emphasis on the judiciary. A Court of Sessions led the County leadership as the Board of Supervisors was not legislated into existence until 1852. Mariano Bonilla, the last alcalde for San Luis Obispo, was the leader of the Court. When you have time, visit an interesting pictorial display of the Supervisors outside their Chambers…including the ancestor of a current one. The new State’s legislature (first meeting in San Jose in December 1849) had little time for the few settlement as the first laws passed addressed County issues; not the various local outposts. Federal 1850 Census (taken after Statehood in 1851) counted 336 souls in the new county. There were undoubtedly more but no census taker was going to brave the countryside – and various bandits – to find more. For residents of the eventual city, the question must have been “Why do we need any more government (or expenses) since we already have the County bureaucracy?” There was no rush to establish the framework for local sovereignty. Thanks to Myron Angel’s History of San Luis Obispo County (1883) and his interviews of pioneer settlers, a vague recounting of these formative years is possible. An early map compiled from his survey by William Rich Hutton (who moved on to become a premier engineer with the Washington Bridge (New York) as his most enduring legacy) is referenced in many early land petitions. Unfortunately, the map has been lost. Most likely, Hutton’s survey encompassed today’s downtown with a short radius from the intersection of Monterey and Chorro Streets. The earliest preserved correspondence is an 1864 letter from the Federal Surveyor’s office in San Francisco acknowledging a willingness to survey the town…but for a fee. There is no indication it was accepted locally. As background, before Statehood, San Luis Obispo was little more than a mission settlement. Commerce in hides and tallow and then crops had brought an emerging population to the central coast. Initially known as “Boston” traders (regardless their point of origin), a few mariners stayed with grants of land and others through a variety of attempts to earn a living. Among this latter group, John Jacob “Jake” Simmler is profiled in this month’s Journal Plus magazine. In one’s life, service in local governance was in addition to other efforts…and not a major one. Despite the remoteness in the vast state, the pioneers – by design or accident – remained to contribute to the evolution of the community. Propelled by the need to support themselves and family (a shared goal today), a few stepped beyond personal gain in service to others. All deserve celebration today. Next time: How do the earliest records portray San Luis Obispo? Questions? Contact: jacarotenuti@gmail.com