History of San Mateo

The history of San Mateo can be traced back to 1776 when Spanish explorers came here in search for a location to begin a colony. Father Font, one of the missionaries, named the small stream they slept by as "San Mateo Creek." In the year 1793, the mission fathers created an outpost at San Mateo Creek to bring the Church and to oversee the converted Christians. The outpost was the very first building that was built in San Mateo by non-residents.

In 1822 when Mexico got its independence from Spanish rulers, free trade opened in San Mateo. With the Mexican land grants some residents bought acres of land in the region. In fact, the ranches were so big that what is now San Mateo city is made up of portions of two of the ranches - Rancho de las Pulgas and Rancho San Mateo. This period lasted for about three decades.

Coming of the rail road:

In the year 1861, railroad construction to link San Jose and San Francisco began. The track was finished in 1864 and the first service from San Mateo commenced on October 17, 1863. The train took thirty-seven minutes from San Francisco to San Mateo.

With the opening of railroad several rich San Franciscans got attracted towards San Mateo. The region became an ideal place for constructing summer and weekend homes. These properties were constructed for some of the most influential people of the West. 

Most of the population that was found in San Mateo, at that time, was mainly made up of people who were employed to maintain the great mansions. During this phase, the estate owners purchased large parcels of land, making sure that San Mateo property was only owned by some families.

The Churches

As San Mateo became a community, its citizens wanted to set up permanent worship houses. The first church that was built was a Roman Catholic Church on a piece of land given by Charles Polhemus. 

The second church was constructed by the Episcopalians on a land donated by the family of George Howard and consecrated on 1866. The church was made out of stones that were taken from the Crystal Springs quarry. It was, for several years, the only stone church in the state of California.

Establishment of Schools

There were two schools established in San Mateo, one for boys and one for girls. However, Ms. Buckmaster's School for Girls was short-lived, and in 1887 was transformed into a private school for boys. 

In 1866 a military and classical school, St. Mathew's Hall was also opened. The school was reputed to be an outstanding institution that drew students from different parts of the continent.


1889 saw several important events in the emerging San Mateo Community. The Crystal Springs dam was constructed by Herman Schussler. The completion assured that the people would receive good quality water for drinking, ensuring further growth in the region. 

With the construction of the dam, several people from different parts of the country also moved to San Mateo. In the same year, William Howard decided to subdivide a part of his estate. Even though subdivision had been tried in the past, this was certainly the first successful effort at selling smaller sections. With this, middle class emerged in San Mateo.

Since then, San Mateo has developed into a metropolitan with people from all over the world calling it home. The place is well managed with its highly developed transportation system and residential colonies. Residents can hire yellow cabs or get mass transportation services to go from one place to another. There is no dearth of entertainment, business opportunities and events for tourists and residents alike.