In Portola's narrative of the first expedition in search of
Monterey Bay he makes several allusions to the Indians through whose
country they were passing; sometimes referring to them as very
friendly and sometimes as hostile.
The Indians of the county were an inferior race, and not to be
compared to the fierce warriors of the plains west of the Rockies.
They were not red or copper colored, but almost as dark as Negroes.
In stature they were rather short but their well knit frames
possessed great strength and endurance.
Father Engelhardt, in his "History of the California
Missions," thus describes their way of living: "Their habitations
were primitive, consisting in the summer of a mere shelter of brush.
Their winter quarters were a flimsy structure of poles fixed in the
ground and drawn together at the top, at a height of ten or twelve
feet. The poles were interwoven with small twigs, and the structure
then covered with tules or tufts of dried grass. In some places
these dwellings were conical in shape ; in others oblong, and their
size ranged according to the number of people living in them.
"At a distance they resembled large beehives or small
haystacks. On one side there was an opening for a door, at the top
another for smoke. Here the family, including relatives and friends,
huddled around the fire without privacy and without beds or other
furniture. In these huts were kept a few baskets, a stone mortar or
two, some scanty rags of clothing and food obtained from the hunt.
All refuse food and bones were left where they were dropped, giving
the earth the appearance of a dog kennel. Fleas and other vermin
abounded in this mass of filth, which soon became too offensive even
for savages, and they adopted the very simple method of setting fire
to the hut and building another."
These Indians waged few wars against other tribes; but
from time to time they attacked the missions in the nearby regions,
despoiled them and carried away the converts as prisoners and
In 1792 George Vancouver, the English navigator who
traversed this region on horseback, from the Mission of San
Francisco to that at Santa Clara, described the Indians as quite
numerous throughout the peninsula. Some, he wrote, roamed through
the country, while others inhabited villages adjacent to the
Those who came under the refining influence of the
priests were taught the tenets of the faith and the rudiments of
farming; while the young women were instructed in the weaving of
coarse but serviceable cloth. Many of the younger women were
persuaded to live entirely within the enclosures of the missions,
until they were married, when the Franciscan fathers fondly hoped
that they would in turn convert their husbands.
When the grain and other products of the field were
harvested, these were fairly divided among the Indian families, in a
sort of Utopian manner. At the
Mission of Santa Clara, where the natives were more numerous
than at the
San Francisco Mission, twenty-four bullocks were slaughtered
every Saturday night to meet the needs of the community. Of this
number the priests only appropriated six for their own use.
From this time on, the numbers of the Indians dwindled;
and when settlers began to slowly establish themselves in the
country, they found only a scattering of natives. These were located
mostly in the neighborhood of Halfmoon Bay, and at a place later
known as the 17-Mile House. The lumber jacks at Searsville found
less than half a dozen inhabiting that part of the country.
Indian mounds located in various parts of the county,
are evidence of a large Indian population which had been there for
many generations. These mounds were the former sites of Indian
villages. and acquired their elevation through receiving the refuse
from the camp and the bodies of the (lead. Upon the crest of these
mounds can be seen the remains of the "sweat house" or council
chamber where the braves held their powwows and also indulged in hot
Scattered about and half buried in the ground have been
discovered many evidences of Indian life, such as stone mortars,
crude fishing tackle, animal traps, weapons, stone cooking utensils,
ornaments of shell and stone, and ashes of the dead.