Story by John Vonderlin
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I’ve always been mildly curious about the origin of the town of Pescadero’s name ever since I first became aware of the town a few years ago. If you look up the word in a Spanish dictionary you’ll find it means “fishmonger,” a seller of fish. Its components are “pescado” (the root noun), or fish in English (more specifically a fish that has been caught for food, as “pez” is the word for a free-roaming fish) and the “ero” suffix, which is used for someone who deals with the root noun. Hence a pescadero is a person who deals in caught fish or a fish monger. Just as a vaquero (cowboy) is one who deals with cows (vaca).
In the old newspaper articles I see that citizens of Pescadero were referred to as Pescaderoites, instead of the currently used Pescaderans. Since when translated, neither a Fishmongerite or a Fishmongeran seems like a very good moniker for the citizens of the town, I’m glad there is another more pleasant connotation for the town’s name.
Dr. Alan K. Brown in his 1960 book, “Place Names of San Mateo County,” relates this:
Pescadero… In 1833 “El Pescadero” (The Fishing Place) was the name of the valley place (sic) around the present town. By the middle 1850’s the Spanish village here was called “the Pescadero.” In the late ’50’s American settlers took over the place, which they were inclined to call “Piscadero.” : this pronunciation can still be heard. The present form of the word was standard by the ’60’s.
The land grant record of 1833 states that the place had “previously been called San Antonio’s: this may be the the same name as the Indian village San Antonio mentioned in the Santa Cruz Mission register between 1795 and 1802.
In the 1883 book, “History of San Mateo County,” an unknown author expands this further when he writes:
Pescadero–The name suggests, not only to the inhabitants of San Mateo county but the thousands of tourists who have sought out the romantic and picturesque scenery of the Pacific coast-a spot where nature seems loth (sic) to expose her charms, and slyly hide Pescadero among the mountains. Here a recess in the coast hills widens to a perfectly level plain of several hundred acres, into which two perennial streams drop down from their weird sources in the dark forest of redwood, and rush out of the narrow gateway into the sea.
Of civilized men, this little valley first attracted the the attention of one (sic) Gonzales, a Spaniard, who obtained a grant of it from the Mexican government, called the Rancho de San Antonio or Pescadero. Perhaps the hundreds of anglers who have decoyed the speckled trout from the Butano and Pescadero creeks have never reflected that the great abundance with which these streams were filled gave rise to the name of the grant and the town. Gonzales came upon the grant with the intention of erecting a permanent residence, but soon after died.
I found one last source of information about the historic names of Pescadero in a Berkeley undergraduate’s geography paper that was prefaced, apparently by his professor, with this rather deflating introduction, but contained the most extensive coverage of this matter I’ve been able to find. Please note that Dr. Brown’s information about “one Gonzales” actually refers to Juan Jose Gonzales, and it would seem that he accomplished much more than dying “soon after.”
This is a paper that was written by a very =) fallible undergraduate student at the University of California at Berkeley. It was written for an Islands and Oceans Geography course, as a “California Beach” research project.
geography.berkeley.edu/PersonalPages/R_Levinson/Pa… (dogpile.com… websearch Pructaca to find)
“The Pescadero area was once inhabited by the Ohlone, a small group of Indians that was a part of a larger tribe known as the Coastanoans. There are several known shell medden mounds in the area, but their location is not disclosed to the public due to fear of vandalism. According to Jean Ferreira, in a personal interview with Rena Obernolte, the mounds were discovered in the 1970s, but have not been excavated (1996: 7). Frank S. Viollis, in discussing the area with Steven Dietz on May 2, 1979 discovered that Mission records show that a village called Pructaca was located near modern day Pescadero (1979: 10).
In 1769, Pescadero was first entered into recorded history by Portola, as he passed through the area in search of Monterey Bay. The Pescadero Marsh is located on two former Spanish land grants: the Butano Grant and old San Antonio of Pescadero Grant. The region was being used by the Mission Santa Cruz for pasture when Juan Jose Gonzales petitioned to receive a grant in 1833. He received a grant for the land, totalling 3,282 acres, extending from the Pomponio Creek in the north, to the Butano Creek in the south when the Mission was secularized. He was very successful, and went from a herd of 700 in 1834 to 4,000 cattle and 500 horses in 1840 (Violli 1979: 14). He sold 800 acres of his land to Eli Moore, and passed on the remainder to his siblings. The Butano Grant to the south, which encompassed a small portion of the Pescadero Marsh was officially passed on to Romone Sanchez in 1844.”
The bit of info about the Indian village called Prutaca being near where Pescadero is now, is bolstered by the register of rancherias and villages from which neophytes were drawn for Mission Dolores, which can be found at the following website. The inhumane treatment and shameful death rate of the hapless “converts” is also detailed at this website.
Lastly, whether it was called Pructaca, el Pescadero, The Fishing Place, the Pescadero, Piscadero, or Pescadero, I think Mr. Shakespeare illuminated the essential truth when he said, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so Romeo would, were he not Romeo called.” Enjoy. John