and Laura’s great-great grandfather was Gabriel Sibrian.
(I told Laura I am not familiar with the Sibrian name. Are you?)
In Half Moon Bay, the Miramontes name is ubiquitous: it’s the name of a street where real members of the Miramontes family reside. It’s the name of the southern point of Half Moon Bay. (Pillar Point is at the northern edge). And—the town of Half Moon Bay sits on the original Miramontes grant.
Marian Miramontes, wife of Bill, was the first telephone operator in town and she was very active in the local historical society.
They’re a huge family, the Miramontes’s, spread all over the country–to get a feeling for there’s a wonderful photo of the family celebrating an anniversary near where the San Benito House stands.
Laura, who lives in the East Bay, is tracing the history of her great-great grandparents and is looking for new leads.
She says: “…I also have a very old photo of I believe my great great grandpa Sibrian he was riding a Stage Coach in what looks to me like either sand dums or snow. I’m told that it is sand from the coast in Half Moon Bay ( Spanish Town)….”
These are unaired excerpts from a 1980 interview I did with Bill Miramontes for the documentary “The Mystery of Half Moon Bay”
Carmen Miramontes & Chico Gonzales celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary in Half Moon Bay.*
Bill: Carmen Miramontes was known as a midwife–or a doctor–in Half Moon Bay. When she married Chico Gonzales they went on horseback on a trail to Mission Dolores. They were married at Mission Dolores in San Francisco.
Bill: I used to haul peas and grain and hay to San Mateo. We’d leave at 4 in the morning and we’d get to San Mateo about 11 with a load. A whole day and all we could pull over the mountain…One ton per horse. You
had six horses, could only haul six tons. Which wasn’t very much as a paying proposition.
Bill: It’d take a whole day in the old days if you wanted to go to San Mateo. If you wanted to go to San Francisco, you’d have to figure on almost two days.
Bill: They’d drive their horse & buggy to San Mateo. Take the streetcar to San Francisco. When the car came that really helped this city.
Bill: I know what Half Moon Bay will become–it’ll be a residential district.
(The cover illustration is of Half Moon Bay)
Bill: I worked for Standard Oil [in Half Moon Bay] for 53 years. There was just enough oil in the ground to encourage people to drill for more. They’ve been drilling here since before I was born…We drilled a well on Shoults Flat. It flowed for three, four days over the top. A very light quality of oil, like distillate…just a little pocket of oil.
Photo: San Mateo County History Museum. Visit the Museum and the new exhibits at the historic, beautiful Redwood City Courthouse.
In Part 2 Bill Miramontes was telling me about the rise & demise of the Ocean Shore Railroad– that the main reason for its failure was the stiff competition from cars and trucks (that could transport vegetables from Half Moon Bay to market in San Francisco faster).
Bill: The train just ran out of passengers and freight because it was so much better to buy fresh vegetables picked the same day and have [the produce] at the market the next day. If they put the vegetables on the train they had to pick it, sort it and then bring it down to the train and it would stay there one or more days on the tracks. It could be three or four days before it got to the market.
Bill: When they got solid tires, trucks were better than cars. They were slow, even 8-10 miles per hour but they’d leave at 10 and get to San Francisco at 1 or 2 in the morning.
Bill: The artichoke was a big item in those days, fresh and green. When shipped by the train artichokes would be–after you pick them–and they sit for 2, 3, 4 days–they get kind of withered and dark.
Bill: People started buying Fords or cheap cars and they’d go to San Francisco in an hour and a half. On the train it would be an all day trip. The Ocean Shore Railroad ran out of passengers and that’s why they failed.
Bill Miramontes: My father–being that he worked on the highway–used to commute from Half Moon Bay to Pedro Valley on the Ocean Shore. On holidays, or Sundays, he didn’t work so he’d take me with him to San Francisco.
Bill: My father was a huge man. He’d take me to San Francisco to see the town. I used to get a big kick out of going down to see the waterfront. Around noon you’d see all those beautiful teams come in. They’d put the feedbags on ’em…All these beer companies that have matched horses, matched teams of fours…beautiful. Their harnesses, all glistened, polished.
Bill: When we’d go to San Francisco, I couldn’t stand looking in the ocean over Devil’s Slide. I used to jump across the train and look out against the hill….You’d look right over the water, oh brother….I couldn’t bear that…we’d go round, in through the tunnel and around….
June: How long did it take?
Bill: About an hour.
Marion Miramontes: Oh, longer than that, honey. They used to make all those stops every mile or two.
Bill: About two hours. Every time we had a little rain we had a landslide…rocks on the track around Devil’s Slide. During the latter part of the life of the Ocean Shore they used a gas train… it didn’t pay them to run a big steam engine down here. They’d bring down 30-40 people…had this gasoline bus…it was really a bus….on the tracks and could hold 40-50 people.
Photo: Gas train at Moss Beach
Bill: [The Ocean Shore Railroad] failed because these farmers who were so close to San Francisco started using trucks–people from Half Moon Bay started buying trucks and cars and doing their own hauling and riding into San Francisco in their own cars.
The Miramontes-Gonzales Family celebrating a family anniversary on Main Street, Half Moon Bay, mid-19th century*
In 1980 I interviewed Marion and Bill Miramontes for the documentary âThe Mystery of Half Moon Bay.â?
Marion had been the townâs first telephone operator as well as a respected local historian. She penned occasional articles for the âHalf Moon Bay Reviewâ?. Bill worked for Standard Oil during the time that the company had a large presence on the Coastside.
The history of the Miramontes family reaches back to the adobes of Half Moon Bay, originally known as San Benito. The Miramontesâ were major rancho owners, their property including the present town of Half Moon Bay. In their honor, the southern point of Half Moon Bay was named Miramontes Point
Here are some excerpts from the interview, which, unfortunatelyâand sadly, did not appear in the final show that aired.
I met Marion and Bill Miramontes at their home on the west side of Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay, located on the original land grant.
Marion: We purchased this property on December 8, 1943. It was originally sold December 8, 1861– and it was owned by John Miramontes, Billâs uncleâ¦ we are living on the original Miramontes land grant now.
My grandfather, P.P. Quinlan came from England in 1868 and had a blacksmith shop here [Half Moon Bay]. In 1870 he sent to Ireland for my grandmother. They were married in St. Patrickâs Church in San Francisco in December of that year. The original Quinlan house still remains on San Benito Street in Half Moon Bay.
Bill: In those days, there werenât tractors like there are now. All the roads [around here] were made by mules with Fresno Scrapers [earth movers].
Bill: I helped with the section from Pedro Mountain to Montara. They had mostly Hindus that went ahead and cut all the brush by hand. Then, theyâd come up with plows and mules.
The first trip they made from Pedro Mountain to Pedro Valley, up to the top of the mountain and back, it took them one whole day to make that round trip with the mules blazing the first trail.
[It was] sure a windy road by car to San Francisco from Half Moon Bayâ¦If you really wanted to go fast—youâd skid âround those turns. You could make it in an hour, an hour and five minutes.
Marion: Two hours to San Francisco by Pedro Mountain.
…to be continued…
*Photo, courtesy San Mateo County History Museum. Visit the museum located in the historic Redwood City Courthouse, Redwood City.