Small tribes of Native Americans first made their home here in the Salinas Valley many centuries before the first European explorers came to California to build a president in Monterey and missions in Carmel, Soledad, San Juan Bautista and the San Antonio Valley.
During the time of Spanish rule settlements developed around the missions here on the Central Coast, but the area remained largely undeveloped until after Mexico overthrew their Spanish rulers and began granting lands in Alta California to its people.
“Salinas” is Spanish for ‘salt marsh’ because at that time there was a large slough that ran through the area. The Mexican government granted Sausal and Nacional among some of the first ranchos after Mexico seceded from Spain in 1822. It was on adjoining parts of these ranchos that “Salinas City” was born after California became a territory of the United States.
Early in the gold rush years James Bryant Hill bought Rancho Nacional and became a pioneer in the agricultural industry by farming wheat; the valley had primarily been used for cattle and other livestock from the time of some of it’s earliest settlers until the 1920’s. Sometime in 1854 Mr. Hill was named postmaster of Salinas, even though there was no town “officially” of that name yet. In 1852 Jacob Leese purchased Rancho Sausal for $600, later he sold 80 acres to Elias Howe. Howe built an inn called “Halfway House” at the intersection of the Monterey-San Juan Bautista and the Los Angeles-San Francisco stage lines in 1856.
In 1867 Alberto Trescony, Alan Riker and William Jackson formed a partnership with cattle rancher Eugene Sherwood and laid out a city plan of a half-square mile. Realizing the importance of the railroad to getting the agricultural products to market, Sherwood offered Southern Pacific Railroad free acreage for the right-of- way and a depot; which opened its doors for business in 1872, that was also the year that “Salinas City” became the seat of Monterey County. Two years later the name was changed to the “City of Salinas” and incorporated.
The agricultural industry began to change from hides and tallow to more of what we are know for to this date; products like grains, beans and of course sugar beets. After World War I the “green gold” of lettuce, broccoli and artichokes helped to make Salinas one of the wealthiest cities per capita in the U.S.
In our community today the Spanish heritage is reflected in the names of our streets, lakes, shopping centres, recreation areas and school districts. Salinas is a very multi-cultural city with contributions being made for many different groups such as: The Chinese, Mexican, Dutch, African Americans and Germans just to name a few.