Many of today’s mammoth fires, like the Chimney Fire near Lake Nacimiento, affect wilderness areas and communities built in their midst. Earlier fires were the great enemy of cities and towns on America’s western frontier.
Santa Margarita was once famous for vaqueros, bears and a circus. Today, it’s home to several excellent wineries, restaurants and lots of good people enjoying life in a small rural town. It’s also home to one of the largest surviving Mexican land grants, El Rancho Santa Margarita de Cortona.
In 1851, Joaquin Carrillo, grandson of the founder of the Santa Barbara Presidio, became judge in the district court from Los Angeles to Monterey. A hasty decision to fire the county clerk would end up being a costly error.
The anticipated arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad traveling through the recently completed Cuesta Tunnels was a major moment in San Luis Obispo’s history. May 5, 1894, was “celebrated with a band, barbecue and cannon fire as the train pulled in. The evening finished with fireworks and a grand ball.”
It was an event that Federico Fellini might have memorialized in film. The remains of a young woman of about 16 were found in Rome’s ancient catacombs in 1853. A marble inscription on her tomb read, “to the soul of the innocent and pure Vibiana.” A laurel wreath that early Christians used to symbolize martyrdom was chiseled above her name.
Utopian communities have long been drawn to California. The three-story Coffee T. Rice home, which now stands in the middle of a mobile home park along Highway 1, was bought by the Theosophical community and became the Halcyon Hotel and Sanitarium, attracting patients from throughout the United States.
“The Box: A Memoir” recounts tragedies that befell families decades apart in San Luis Obispo and Vietnam. Lynne Ludwick Higgins wrote the book decades after her uncle, Eddy Schultz, died during the Vietnam War.