Montaña de Oro/Pecho Coast Timeline
Approximately 9000 Years BP to 1769—Chumash and their ancestors
1769- Portolá expedition
1769-1830—Spanish Period. Not much development due to inaccessibility and rugged terrain. Possibly some smuggling.
Mexican Period (1830-1850)—area that is now the park was divided into two Ranchos
Rancho Cañada de Los Osos (North)—granted in 1842 by Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado to Victor Lanares
Rancho Pecho y Islay (South)—granted in 1843 by governor Micheltorena to Francisco Padillo.
[Padillo later became an infamous bandit and was lynched in 1860]
1845—Grants were consolidated and granted by Governor Pio Pico to Juan Wilson and James Scott. They were partners from 1839 to 1848 in sea otter hunting and trading and real estate speculation. Scott left the area and died in 1850. Wilson stayed in the area until his death in 1861. Inherited by Wilson's wife, Ramona Carillo Wilson and daughter, Ramona Hilliard. Ramona [Hilliard] never lived on the ranch—lived in San Francisco in high style and accumulated a lot of debt.
1891-Ramona [Hilliard] sold southern portion of ranch to Luigi Marre and continued to operate the northern portion as leased land.
Alden Spooner Jr. first leased in 1892. Began developing the area now known as Spooner Cove as headquarters of the El Pecho Ranch.
In 1901 Henry Cowell of San Francisco acquired a note of indebtedness on the Hilliard property and took control of the ranch. It was sold by Cowell's widow to Alden Spooner Jr. in 1902.
Spooner built the tunnel-chute and warehouse shortly after leasing the property.
Spooner family successfully farmed, raised cattle and operated a dairy until 1942. During the Spooner occupation, and until their internment following the onset of WW II, Japanese tenant farmers and their families lived on the ranch and grew crops on the coastal terraces. there was a school (Pecho School) in the area just south of the cove for the children of these families. In 1942, Spooner sold the property to to O. C. Field
According to the Natural History Association of San Luis Obispo Coast, the land that now makes up Montana de Oro State Park was used largely for grazing sheep until 1892. Then Alden B. Spooner Jr. leased, and later purchased, the land around Islay Creek.
Among other agricultural uses, he developed a creamery. Goods were transported to and fro via coastal steamers that tied up along the wharf at the southern end of Spooner’s Cove.
His northern neighbor, Alexander S. Hazard, also farmed and ran a dairy. It was Hazard who planted the hundreds of eucalyptus trees still growing along Pecho Valley Road at the north end of the park. Hazard had hoped to market the long straight lumber as the need for timber increased, but the stringy wood was not acceptable.
Irene McAllister, who later owned the land, named it Montana de Oro, Spanish for “Mountain of Gold.” Springtime visitors will see firsthand the bouquet of wildflowers that inspired the name.
In 1965, the state purchased the land for its parks system.
The Spooner’s Cove wharf, warehouses and many of the agricultural buildings are long gone, and much of the land has returned to its natural state. All that remains of the Hazard and Spooner legacies are the trees, skeletons of the Islay Creek barn and milldam, and the Spooner Ranch House, now used as an information center.
Field farmed until 1954 then sold central portion of property to Irene McAllister who named the ranch Montaña de Oro
Land was acquired by California State Parks in 1965.
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