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How Millbrae came to be
September 01, 2014, 05:00 AM By Darold Fredricks

Photo courtesy of the Millbrae Museum
Early Millbrae (looking west) in the late 1920s.

History is “the past,” and it is also “now.” What is “now” rapidly becomes the “past” and evokes memories that will grow fainter as your years pass.

In 1769, Gaspar de Portola and his men discovered San Francisco Bay from Sweeney Ridge (to the west of present Millbrae). In 1776, the Anza expedition pioneered El Camino Real which became the main road between Mission Dolores (San Francisco) and Mission Santa Clara (San Jose).

Between the 1770s and the 1820s, Rancho Buri Buri was used to graze cattle and horses as well as grow vegetables, etc. for the Mission Dolores. Rancho Buri Buri ran from San Bruno Mountain to Burlingame, and from the east of the El Camino Real to the crest of the hills to the west (15,000 acres). In the 1790s, a mission hospice was built by San Mateo Creek and became a very successful source of food.

In 1822, Mexico took over the Spanish empire in the Americas and the church no longer functioned as the only authority or holder of vast spreads of land. Hundreds of land grants followed, land given to deserving and faithful soldiers.

On Nov. 5, 1835, Rancho Buri Buri was granted to Jose Antonio Sanchez as he had retired from the army. He built an adobe hacienda on the site by a creek just south of Millbrae Avenue. Sanchez died in 1843 and the land was divided up between his 10 children. Jose de la Cruz lost his land south of Millbrae Avenue in a sheriff’s sale and then D.O. Mills bought the land for $10,000. Jose de la Cruz then bought the land south of Capuchino High School from his brother, Manuel, built a corral and home and lived there until his death in 1879. Mildred Cavanaugh Wilson, born in Millbrae, lived on this property and died nearby.

In 1872, Juan Sanchez built the 16-Mile House at Center Street and El Camino Real to provide a income for him and his mother (Francisca Sanchez, wife of Manuel). It became the social center of the area and it was razed in 1971 after a failed effort to save it as a historic structure. The Millbrae Historical Society was born out of the effort to save the building. The 17-Mile House was built at Millbrae Avenue and El Camino Real and served oysters taken from the Bay to the east for many years. It no longer exists.

In 1870, the Spring Valley Water Works completed a dam to the west of Millbrae.

In the 1870s, Darius O. Mills built a 40-plus room mansion on land once owned by Francisco Sanchez and completed an up-to-date dairy to support the mansion. Mills drained the marshes to the east of his dairy using Chinese labor. Chinese labor built the dam also.

In 1872, Custodo Silva (of San Bruno) bought a strip of land through Millbrae know as the “Silva Tract” which now includes the City Hall complex.

On Jan. 12, 1880, Johann Frederick Ludemann bought 72.62 acres for farming from Maria C.S. Sanchez for $5,000. The golf course now owns the property. Ludeman Lane is named for Mr. Ludemann.

In 1889, the Millbrae Tract was opened by silver millionaire William Dunphy.

Rediscovering the Peninsula by Darold Fredricks appears in the Monday edition of the Daily Journal.



Tags: millbrae, built, sanchez, bought, mission, camino,

Other stories from today:

First formal review for Station Park Green: As Kmart closes, 12-acre development slated to take its place
How Millbrae came to be
San Carlos school district considering tax renewal: $78 a year parcel tax set to expire next June

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