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History of Watsonville, California

Mar 12, 2008
Human existence extends back as far as 10,000 years in the history of Watsonville, California. Costanoans were the first indigenous people to the area. Near streams and down by the bay remains of ancient camping areas have been discovered.

The earliest natives hunted elk, birds, and rabbits along with sea life. The area is an integral part of Pajaro Valley, which is located five miles offshore from Monterey Bay.

Europeans and Mexicans descended upon the region in 1769. They were on a voyage to expand the missions of Baja, CA. One of the first things they noticed were what are now referred to cost redwoods, a very tall type of tree in the area. Three missions sprung up in the area: Mission Santa Cruz, Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, and Mission San Juan Bautista.

When Mexico gained its Independence the land the three missions sat on was granted to citizens of Mexico. Seven "ranchos" were established from the land grant: Bolsa de Pajaro, Bolsa de San Cayetano, Laguna de Calabasas, Los Corralitos, Salsipuedes, San Andres, and Vega del Rio del Pajaro.

During 1848 prospectors flooded the area during the boom of the Gold Rush in the Sierra Mountains. Some had a level of success with finding gold. Those that didn't cashed in on farming due to the population explosion in the region. Land was fairly inexpensive to purchase during this time.

Many ethnic groups came to the region during that time: African Americans, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, and Northern and Southern Europeans. Direct descendants of Californios and Ohlones indigenous to the area, kept a very strong presence.

The history of Watsonville, California involves the city being founded in 1852 then becoming incorporated in 1868. Its name was adopted from a judge by the name of John Watson. The judge brought litigation against Sebastian Rodriguez who owned Rancho Bolsa de Pajaro. When Watson lost the suit against Rodriguez he moved out of the area, but his name stuck as the city's name tag.

Food manufacturing facilities and agriculture of fruit, vegetables, and flowers are still the mainstay of the economy in the city and has been for a century and a half. Potatoes, wheat, and lettuce were some of the most popular crops grown in the region. More than eighty varieties of crops can be produced in the area due to the rich soil.

The Agricultural History Project does much to educate people on how the region has produced crops for more than fifty years. They work to preserve knowledge of prior farming techniques so they can be shared with subsequent generations. Some former facilities that produced frozen vegetables have since moved to Mexico.

Due to the high reliance upon agriculture as an industry, development of the area is closely safeguarded. Other industrial factories, service, and tourist jobs abound in the area. Granite quarrying is a mainstay in the area. Also, production of parts made of aluminum and brick making are characteristic of the area. The city is touted as the "Strawberry Capitol of the World."
About the Author
Seb Frey is a Watsonville, California Real Estate Broker specializing in Santa Cruz Real Estate. He is fluent in Spanish and enjoys helping people find their piece of the American Dream in Santa Cruz. You can find Seb's blog at SantaCruzHomeBroker.com/blog.
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