No Sidewalks Here: A Pictorial History of Hillsborough, California

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9781881529361: No Sidewalks Here: A Pictorial History of Hillsborough, California

In 1824, a 16-year old named William Davis Merry Howard, son of a wealthy Hillsboro, New Hampshire shipping magnate, sailed on one of his father's ships from Boston around Cape Horn to the West Coast. Upon returning home, he convinced his father of the fortunes to be made in the West and returned to California some fifteen years later. Howard became a partner in a general merchandising firm in 1845. The following year, he purchased "Rancho San Mateo" from the Mexican governor, Pio Pico. The Rancho was a tract of land that became the city of San Mateo. He paid $25,000 for the tract, or approximately $3.88 an acre. For the next few years, Howard and his wife, Agnes, lived in a comfortable life on the isolated Peninsula. Here they built a fine home which they called "El Cerrito" and made San Mateo a successful working ranch. When the Gold Rush began a few years later, the thousands of prospectors flooding California needed provisions and only a few outlets were present. In a short span of time, Howard and his partner became wealthier than even the most successful gold seekers. Mexican rule ended legally in 1848 and California became a state in 1850. Although Howard himself died in 1856, his children and his wife's family "set the pattern for genteel living down on the Peninsula," according to historian Frank Stanger. The Howards, the Poetts, and several other families became the leading members of the community. By the late 1860's, parcels of the Howard estate had been sold in pieces large enough to provide ample estate property for the new generation of the founding families. The area also became attractive to many San Francisco businessmen who wanted to live in a relaxed country setting while working in the city.

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