History of Lompico
Lompico has a fascinating history that spans back hundreds of years to when the Zayante Indians were the only people in the area. The arrival of the Spanish to the area brought on the era of Ranchos and a local gold rush. As more settlers arrived to the area, the logging generation took hold and the eventual creation of Lompico in 1927 as we know it today. The 1950s brought the Loch Lomond Lake and rising home prices. The 1960s brought the hippy generation to Lompico as famous performers such as Jerry Garcia, of the Grateful Dead, and Janis Joplin sought musical inspiration in the redwood forests around Lompico Creek. These days, Lompico is home to high-tech Silicon Valley workers that enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the relaxing commute.
Lompico's history spans back hundreds of years to when the Zayante Indians, a local tribe of the Ohlone Indians, originally inhabited the area. Early history of the area recalls the Zayante people finding shelter and game in the plentiful forests around Lompico. The area provided them with enough acorns, fish from Lompico and Newell Creek, and small game to live a peaceful, easy life. Temascals (saunas), songs, and games were the rule, while fighting and thievery the exception.
Arrival of the Spaniards
In 1769 the Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portola discovered the land area which is now known as the City of Santa Cruz. When he came upon the beautiful flowing river, he named it San Lorenzo in honor of Saint Lawrence. He called the rolling hills above the river Santa Cruz, which means holy cross. Twenty-two years later, in 1791, Father Fermin de Lasuen established a mission at Santa Cruz, the twelfth mission to be founded in California.
Over the next 20 years word spread throughout the Ohlone Indian tribes, including the Zayante Indians, that the Santa Cruz Mission would provide food, shelter and education if they came to live at the mission. This was a lucrative offer that was hard to turn down and over time most of the Indians chose to live at the mission. Unfortunately, Western diseases decimated the Indian populace and only small groups remained after 1820.
They say that the very last of the Zayante people was a woman who lived for many years beside Zayante Creek. When she died in 1934, she was buried somewhere among the giant redwoods in Henry Cowell Park. Her grave, like her people, is lost now, but we can always remember these wonderful people when we look at the Missions that they helped to build.
Rancho Zayante Era
The Spaniards considered all of Santa Cruz County to be their sovereign property and the few remaining Ohlone and Zayante Indians were not enough to keep them from subdividing the land into Ranchos. The Lompico area became part of the Rancho Zayante, which was granted by Mexico in 1834 to Joaquin Buelna and consisted of 2,658 acres just north of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.
The next year he let his claim lapse and in 1836 Isaac Graham, with his friend Henry Neale, acquired Rancho Zayante and the adjoining San Augustine Rancho via Joseph Majors, who had the required Mexican citizenship in order to be granted a Rancho.
In 1841, Majors, Graham, a German named Frederick Hoeger, and a Dane named Peter Lassen, agreed to erect a mill on Zayante Creek near where it enters the San Lorenzo River. This was reputed to be the first power sawmill in California and was used to mill trees from Lompico.
Gold Rush Era
While building the mill (six years before discovery of gold at a saw mill being constructed in Coloma which resulted in the California gold rush), Isaac Graham found a single gold nugget worth $32,000. In comparison, the flake that set off the California gold rush was no larger than one’s little finger nail. In 1855 gold again was discovered along Zayante Creek in what is known today as Henry Cowell State Park. During the summer of that year, miners realized three to ten dollars a day for their efforts and the gold panning fever spread throughout the San Lorenzo Valley and up into Zayante Creek and its tributaries, including Lompico Creek. Much gold still remains in these creeks but is too cost prohibitive to extract.
By the 1850s, Felton became the hub of the logging industry and the coastal redwood trees that blanketed Lompico became the areas largest export. Early loggers described the area around Lompico as dense, nearly impenetrable redwood forests, howling canyons, and frequent encounters with ferocious grizzly bears, the last of which, a silvertip sow, is said to have been killed near Bonny Doon in the late 1880s. They also struggled with a lack of access and suitable transportation for the timber. Eventually the original trusty oxen were replaced by wood burning donkey engines, of which some tracks can still be found today in Lompico. Between 1890 and 1900 the entire area around Lompico was clear cut and the forest is now in the process of reestablishing itself on the young, steep slopes of marine sedimentary rock common to the California coast.
Most of the San Lorenzo Valley's timber was cut by the early 1900's however, and by 1915 all of the large companies had stopped logging in the area.
While the logging era may have ended in 1915, it left us with a great local attraction, the Roaring Camp Railroad. The railroad now transports tourists from Felton down through the Henry Cowell Redwood Forest to the Santa Cruz boardwalk.
Creation of Lompico
As with most of the San Lorenzo Valley, once the logging era ended, the old Rancho Zayante was subdivided and sold off to land developers who created the neighborhoods of Olympia, Zayante and Lompico.
Lompico was officially founded on August 17, 1927 and was well publicized in the San Jose and San Francisco papers. To help get the word out about Lompico, the land developers worked out a promotion with the San Francisco Chronicle that for every new subscription to the paper, one free plot of land would be granted. There were only a dozen or so plots actually ”given away,“ but the promotion successfully drew large amounts of buyers to Lompico.
Most of the purchasers of land tracts in Lompico were wealthy San Franciscans that were looking for a place close to the beaches of Santa Cruz, yet in the relaxing, bucolic Santa Cruz Mountains, to build their summer homes. The development of Lompico also enticed people from other parts of the Bay area and from the many hot inland valleys, who flocked to the shady, creek filled haven of the Lompico. In the early days of Lompico (1920s to 1940s), Lompico had its own brass band, and there were numerous evening concerts in Lompico Park.
Up until the 1950s Lompico was a rustic vacation spot, aided by a nearby rail link to San Francisco. Parents enjoyed drinks at the Lompico Club House, while their children played in a spacious freshwater pool.
Creation of Loch Lomond Lake
In the post-World War II era, the city of Santa Cruz began to grow at an extremely fast pace. To address the need for new sources of drinking water, in the late 1950s the city began searching for possible new water sources. Lompico became the center of attention throughout Santa Cruz County as a large piece of land on the West side, which was owned by a succession of wealthy families, among them was Addison Newell, the man after whom the creek running through the property was named, was purchased by the City of Santa Cruz for $1.5 million. On the property, the City of Santa Cruz created a man made lake that would supply Santa Cruz with all their water needs.
The man made lake, which became known as Loch Lomond Lake, not only benefited Santa Cruz but also Lompico by providing it with its largest park, full of hiking, biking and running trails, and an 87 acre lake stocked with Bass, Trout and Bluegill. As a result of all these improvements to the area, Lompico property prices jumped up in 1963 when the Loch Lomond Lake Park opened.
While the Loch Lomond Lake was being built, a large fire burned through parts of the park. If you look closely, you can still see some scars on the fire-retardant coastal redwoods.
In the 1960s, Lompico again gained notoriety as it took center stage to the hippy generation as famous people such as Jerry Garcia, of the Grateful Dead, and Janis Joplin sought musical inspiration in the redwood forests along Lompico Creek.
Jerry Garcia's family owned a house in Lompico and it was in Lompico, at the age of four, where Jerry had his right middle finger chopped off by his brother. His brother Tiff was chopping wood, and Jerry may have been fooling around when he failed to move his finger fast enough from the descending ax blade. Jerry mostly remembers the shock of a buzzing sound vibrating in his ears during the drive to the local doctor's office. Unfortunately, reattachment, common today, was apparently not an option then for Jerry was surprised to discover that he had lost two thirds of his middle finger when the bandages came off in the bathtub sometime later. Jerry Garcia's brother, Tiff, put the incident clearly, "We'd been given a chore to do...he'd hold the wood and I'd chop it...he was [messing] around and I was just constantly chopping." Local legend has it that Jerry Garcia's finger is still somewhere in Lompico.
In the 1960s, it was very common to see Jerry, Daniel and Tiff playing some Wilbur Harrison tunes up on the Lompico Club House (a.k.a. The Dog House) dance floor on warm summer nights. Jerry and Daniel would play guitar and Tiff would beat on a cymbal and a box. This trio became locally known as the "Garcia Brothers" and were well enjoyed at the old Lompico Club House and down by the Lompico Creek where they would jam from time to time.
At the far Northern end of Lompico is a large plot of land known as Islandia. This serene section not only is the headwaters for Lompico Creek, but once contained a large, beautiful house that became extremely popular in the 1960s. Most famous of its residents was Janis Joplin who would jam with her group, "Big Brother and the Holding Company." Janis often spoke of the redwood forest around Lompico as being divine inspiration for her music.
Silicon Valley Generation
In the 1980s, Lompico went through another transformation as the growth spurt in nearby Silicon Valley and its accompanying housing requirements started a trend which continues to the present. Many of the summer homes of the wealthy were soon converted to year-round homes by workers who were happy to find homes at lower prices in such beautiful surroundings.
The beauty of the Santa Cruz Mountains not only attracted many full-time employees looking for affordable housing, but also many of the high tech business of Silicon Valley.