History of San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo is a city in the US state of California, located 190 miles north of Los Angeles and 230 miles south of San Francisco. The City of San Luis Obispo serves as the commercial, governmental and cultural hub of California's Central Coast.
One of California's oldest communities began with the founding of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in 1772 by Father Junípero Serra as the fifth mission in the California chain of 21 missions. The mission was named after Saint Louis, a 13th Century Bishop of Toulouse, France. It grew up as a farming center and came under US control in 1846. During the lawless and violent Gold Rush period (1848–1855), much of the land continued to be held by Mexicans, who established an economy mainly based on the hides and tallow industry.
The first half of the 19th century was the age of the great rancheros. Common to both the Spanish and Mexican periods in California was the chronic shortage of currency. This forced Californians to turn to various methods of barter to conduct business. The universal item of barter was the cattle hide. This form of exchange was so popular; cattle hides came to be known as California banknotes.
The hide and tallow industry declined by the mid-1840s, which was greatly accelerated by the discovery of gold in California in 1848. The catastrophic floods followed by a devastating drought in the mid 1869s destroyed the cattle industry in California, bringing to an end the grand ranchero era. Mexican ranchers sold many of their holdings, and the area became a center for beef- and dairy cattle production.
After 1894 San Luis Obispo became a railroad division place. Oil is shipped through Port San Luis, located along the Pacific coast 9 miles southwest of the city. San Luis Obispo once had a burgeoning Chinatown. Laborers were brought from China by Ah Louis to construct the Pacific Coast Railway, roads connecting San Luis Obispo to Paso Robles and Paso Robles to Cambria, and 1884 to 1894 tunneling through Cuesta Ridge for the Southern Pacific Railroad.
The town’s Chinatown revolved around Ah Louis Store and other Palm Street businesses owned and run by Chinese business people. After the Mexican–American War annexed California to the United States, San Luis Obispo was the first town incorporated in the newly formed San Luis Obispo County. It remained the center of the county to the present.
San Luis Obispo boasts safe streets and a low crime rate, but that has not always been the case. Back in the days of stagecoach bandits and cowboys, San Luis Obispo had a lousy reputation for complete lawlessness. In the 1800s, it was referred to as “Barrio del Tigre” or “Tiger Town” in English.