Just when I think I know all the answers to questions asked about Atascadero’s history, I find out I don’t. I dropped by the Atascadero Historical Society’s museum recently and John and Bobbie Barta, our senior docents, said a man was there asking where Tarantula Hill was located.
I told them I didn’t know, but suggested to Bobbie that she check out a government map hanging on the wall. When Atascadero served as a training ground in the period between 1904 and 1912, government maps listed all sorts of names, such as “Coyote Flat,” “Henry’s Fork,” “Estrada Spring,” “Cemetery Hill” and more.
The U.S. Army occupation of the old Atascadero rancho then owned by Jason Henry is well chronicled by Dorothy Lowe of Templeton in her excellent book, “Camp Atascadero — First Joint Maneuvers United States Army and California’s National Guard, 1904-1912.” The title is almost a book in itself.
Lowe published a reconnaissance map that details a number of sites in the military training grounds, and right there on Page 22 you’ll find, among other landmarks, Tarantula Hill.
It appears to be almost across the road then known as Eagle Ranch Road (now Atascadero Avenue) from the border with Baron Von Schroeder’s Eagle Ranch, property that will be the subject of a public meeting tonight before the Atascadero Planning Commission.
There are plans being made to develop the historic Eagle Ranch into homes. In fact, near Tarantula Hill is listed Eagle Ranch Gate. Atascadero municipal services will need to serve this proposed new subdivision.
Tarantula Hill isn’t too far away from Cemetery Hill at the corner of El Camino Real and Santa Barbara roads. Most of us know the site as Dove Cemetery, which was obliterated to make room for a commercial complex that never got built.
An interesting side note to all this training camp history is that it was under the command of Maj. Gen. Arthur MacArthur — yes, the father of World War II’s Douglas “Dug-Out Doug” MacArthur.
The map in Lowe’s book, dated 1904, lists three railroad sites which include Dove, Henry and Asuncion. Dove and Asuncion (down near the Estrada Adobe and Estrada Springs on Traffic Way) were eliminated when E.G. Lewis purchased the property in 1913.
Henry became the Atascadero stop for the Southern Pacific located at about where Curbaril Avenue crosses the railroad tracks.
It is always exciting to learn little tidbits about the history of your home town.
I find it equally interesting to know that many of those sites still bear those names 100 years later, such as Frog Pond Mountain (on the western limits of the city), Paradise Valley (running along Santa Lucia Avenue) and the “Henry House.”
Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. His column appears here every week. He can be reached at 466-8529 or email@example.com.