The First San Mateans
The first inhabitants of what is now the City of San Mateo were members a triblet of the Ohlone Indians (called Coastanoans by Spanish explorers). This Tribe lived in the area from South San Francisco to Belmont for at least 4000 years before explorers first arrived on the Peninsula. Downtown San Mateo's mild climate and fresh water creek made this area ideal for its first inhabitants and a large village once stood at today's Laurel Creek and El Camino Real.
In 1776, Spanish explorers came to today's San Mateo. During a scouting trip to locate a place to start a colony on the Peninsula, Lieutenant Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza, Padre Pedro Font, Lieutenant Jose Joaquin Moraga, and eleven soldiers set up camp in San Mateo. Father Font named the creek that they slept by "San Mateo Creek." In 1793, the mission fathers in San Francisco created an outpost of the mission on the Peninsula. The outpost was at San Mateo creek and was established to bring the Church to the Peninsula, to organize and oversee the newly converted Christians in livestock herding, and to provide food for the Mission. The outpost was the first building built in San Mateo by non-natives.
Incorporating into a Town
The year 1889 saw many important events in the developing San Mateo Community. Under head engineer, Herman Schussler, the Crystal Springs dam was completed. The completion of this project assured that the people of the San Mateo would have quality drinking water, allowing for further growth in the area. The activity surrounding the construction of the dam further added to San Mateo's growing population. It was in the same year as the dam's completion that William Howard had part of his estate opened for subdivision. Although subdividing had been attempted in the past, this was the first successful attempt at selling smaller plots of land. With this, the middle class moved to San Mateo. In this same year, Richard H. Jury and Charles N. Kirkbride established the Leader, San Mateo's first successful newspaper and one of the earliest proponents of the incorporation of San Mateo. On September 3, 1894, in a vote of 150 in favor of and 25 against incorporation, San Mateo became a town.