A Brief History of Paso Robles
Paso Robles history
By Paula Sartain, Paso Robles Historical Society
Taken from Virginia Peterson’s “Short History of Paso Robles” (1993)
The City of Paso Robles is located in the northern part of San Luis Obispo County on the original trail chosen by the Franciscan Friars which was known as the King’s Highway, or the El Camino Real. One of the historic El Camino bells hangs in the Paso Robles city park.
Our early history relates that Paso Robles was known to the Indians and the Mission Fathers as the Springs, or the HOT SPRINGS because of the many hot mineral springs in the area.
Before the Mission Era, the area was inhabited for thousands of years by the Salinan Indians.
The Paso de Robles Land Grant of six leagues (25,933.18 acres), was purchased by brothers Daniel and James Blackburn and Lazarus Godchaux on August 1, 1857 from Petronilo Rios. Daniel became the owner of the one league of land which became the town of Paso Robles west of the Salinas River. The other two owners preferred the open land of five leagues for raising cattle and sheep.
There was little in the town site in 1857, except the remains of a wooden shanty of logs built around the main spring that was located on the NE corner of what became 10th and Spring Streets. This is where the first bath house was built. The spring dried up in 1906 and later the bath house burned down. The spring became active again as a result of the December 2003 earthquake.
The first post office was established June 14, 1867, as the HOT SPRINGS, however, by November 21, 1867, the name was changed to EL PASO DE ROBLES to reflect the name of the historic land grant.
Drury James moved to Paso Robles in 1868 and purchased a half interest in the Paso Robles town site. Thus, we often refer to Blackburn and James as the founders of Paso Robles.
Blackburn and James envisioned the city that would be come a health resort and, certain the first train would reach the town by 1886, they surveyed the town site and maps were made. The first train arrived October 31, 1886. About two weeks later there was a celebration and a train brought prospective buyers who toured the area and enjoyed the barbecues. A “Grand Auction” was held on November 17th, which resulted in the sale of many lots.
Paso Robles became a “Health Resort.” Many dignitaries came here to regain their health including concert pianist Ignace Jan Paderewski who enjoyed the hotel and purchased a ranch west of town. The Pittsburgh Pirates made the hotel their spring training home from 1924 through 1934 to enjoy the health benefits of the mineral and mud baths.
The ranches in the outlying areas were very important to the Paso Robles area. On these ranches could be found large herds of cattle and horses, grain crops, garden produce, and fruit and nut orchards. At one time, Paso Robles was known as “Almond City” because the almond growers created the largest concentration of almond orchards in the world. Some of these orchards can still be seen in the area and many of these ranch lands have become vineyards for many wineries. The business people, to show their appreciation to the ranchers, established Pioneer Day in October 1931 as an annual city holiday. This is still celebrated today.
By 1940 there were 3,045 residents in the city. In November 1940 construction on a new Army base began 13 miles north of Paso Robles. Camp Roberts opened in February 1941 and the war years began in December of 1941. Changes in Paso Robles came through the influx of workers, Army officers, trainees and USO entertainers. The USO was an active place in Paso Robles.
Gradually, various sections of land surrounding the city of Paso Robles were annexed into the city. In 1980, Paso Robles boasted of having 9,045 residents and in 1993 there were 21,000. Current population is approximately 30,000. People continue to come here for the climate, recreation, retirement, employment, business and other opportunities.
We hope all those who come here and those who have lived here will continue to preserve the beauty of the area and the heritage of those who have made Paso Robles what it is today.
See original story at Paso Robles Historical Society