Cambrian: Opinion

Cambria came into being 150 years ago this year

Jeremiah “Jerry” Johnson established the town’s first livery, then the Washington Saloon, and was one of Cambria’s earliest entrepreneurs. This is the only known photo of Johnson.
Jeremiah “Jerry” Johnson established the town’s first livery, then the Washington Saloon, and was one of Cambria’s earliest entrepreneurs. This is the only known photo of Johnson. 1991 Pinedorado program

Cambrians should know that we are not an incorporated city, so we will not refer to being “founded.”

It is best to say that we were established about 1866, even though the Native American Salinan and Chumash tribes had been trading here for centuries; the de Anza expedition camped near here on the way north to San Francisco; Don Juliano Estrada maintained an extensive cattle rancho that encompassed this huge area; and the first Anglo settler (Jeremiah Johnson) came down Santa Rosa Creek Road about 1860 and camped where present day Bridge Street meets Main.

That’s a lot of history that predates the establishment of H. Phillip Kaetzels’s wheelwright and wagon-making where the county road crossed Santa Rosa Creek; and William Leffingwell Sr. built his sawmill a couple of miles away.

William Grant and George W. Lull built a small store on the county road which became Main; and Domingo Pujol, who had bought out most of the Estrada land grant, began selling large parcels of land of varied sizes after he received clear title in 1866.

The resulting flurry of land speculation, and business and home construction stimulated the future of the little village as a commercial center between the county seat of San Luis Obispo and San Simeon. A post office was established in 1867 in the Grant, Lull and Company Store, but the town was not officially named Cambria by the U.S. government until January 1870. Previous appellations had been Santa Rosa for the creek and San Simeon for the district; the June 1870 census lists Cambria for the first time.

Cambria Pines by the Sea, pronounced with a long “a,” was not even a twinkle in anyone’s eye until its development in the west village in the 1930s.

The fascinating tales of our history are chronicled in many books available at the shop in the Cambria Historical Museum, as well as plat maps of early properties indicated by their owners’ names by Peter Aloysius Forrester. A large display of historical structures resides in the exhibit room with other artifacts, and a related booklet for a self-guided tour is available.

Sesquicentennial Plans

A small but dedicated corps of volunteers, led by Historical Society Events Chairman Penny Church, will contact Cambria’s community organizations, nonprofits, businesses, schools and churches and others to join in the fun of commemorating 150 years of local history. Efforts are to be coordinated with the collaboration of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, Cambria Tourism Board, The Cambrian and all advertising entities.

By utilizing already established programs such as Heritage Day on Memorial Day week-end; Fourth of July; Pinedorado Parade and carnival on Labor Day weekend; Scarecrow Festival; and Harvest Festival in October, it is hoped that participants will organize and implement a fun activity during those events.

The Historical Society is too small to organize a townwide celebration by itself.

Some suggestions garnered from other communities include, but are not limited to, Beard and mustache contest, art and photo displays, hat decorating, music in the park, cake walk or box lunch social, ice cream social, storefront displays, quilts and handiwork show, church open houses spotlighting their history, vintage car show, scavenger hunt, and essay and coloring contests.

Involvement and commitment are essential to making the sesquicentennial celebration a success throughout Cambria in 2016, so get on board! Choices will be first come, first served, so contact Penny at 927-1442 about plans.

We also begin our annual schedule of speakers in the museum parlor soon, and will feature historian Dr. Dan Krieger at the annual Recognitions Dinner on Sunday, Feb. 28. Check our website and Facebook page as details unfold.

Consuelo Macedo’s column is special to The Cambrian and appears the first Thursday of each month.

About the museum

The Cambria Historical Museum and bookstore, at 2251 Center Street at Burton Drive, are staffed by volunteers from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays; the gardens and backyard nursery are open all day every day.

▪ Phone: (805) 927-2891.

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