Great Value for Santa Cruz Landlords
Prior to the arrival of Spanish soldiers, missionaries and colonists in the late 18th century, Santa Cruz County was home to the Awaswas Natives. The misnomer Ohlone, while often used to describe the native people of the Santa Cruz area, is a generalized name for the many diverse groups that lived in the region stretching from San Francisco to the Monterey Bay. The diverse and numerous tribes of this region were also earlier referred to by the Spanish as Coastanoan. The term "Ohlone" has been used in place of "Costanoan" since the 1970s by some descendant groups and by most ethnographers, historians, and writers of popular literature. Awaswa was one of the eight Costanoan languages and made up a tribe of Native Americas living in Western Santa Cruz County, stretching slightly north of Davenport to Rio Del Mar. The Awaswas tribe was made up of no more than one thousand people and their language is now extinct. The only remnants of their spoken language are three local place names: Aptos, Soquel and Zayante; and the name of a native shellfish – abalone. The majority of Ohlone or Coastanoan tribes had no written language, and lived in small villages scattered around the Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay regions. Within fifty years of the Spaniards' arrival, the Ohlone or Coastanoan culture and way of life had virtually disappeared in the Bay area. Today, two of the Coastanoan tribes, the Awaswa people 'missionized' in Santa Cruz and the Mutsun people 'missionized' at San Juan Bautista, have joined together as the Amah Mutsan Tribal Band in an effort to protect and maintain the authentic and distinct cultural history and practices.
The first European land exploration of Alta California, the Spanish Portolà expedition led by Gaspar de Portolà, passed through the area on its way north, still searching for the "port of Monterey" described by Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602. The party forded the river (probably near where the Soquel Avenue bridge now stands) and camped nearby on October 17, 1769. Franciscan missionary Juan Crespí, traveling with the expedition, noted in his diary that, "This river was named San Lorenzo." (for Saint Lawrence).
Next morning, the expedition set out again, and Crespi noted that, "Five hundred steps after we started we crossed a good arroyo of running water which descends from some high hills where it rises. It was named "El Arroyo de la Santisima Cruz, which translates literally as "The Stream of the Most Holy Cross").
In 1791, Father Fermín Lasuén continued the use of Crespi's name when he declared the establishment of La Misión de la Exaltación de la Santa Cruz (also known as Mission Santa Cruz) for the conversion of the Awaswas of Chatu-Mu and surrounding Ohlone villages. Santa Cruz was the twelfth mission to be founded in California. The creek, however, later lost the name, and is known today as Laurel Creek because it parallels Laurel Street. It is the main feeder of Neary Lagoon.
In 1797, Governor Diego de Borica, by order of the Viceroy of New Spain, Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca y Branciforte, marqués de Branciforte, established the Villa de Branciforte, a town named in honor of the Viceroy. One of only three civilian towns established in California during the Spanish colonial period (the other two became Los Angeles and San Jose), the Villa was located across the San Lorenzo River, less than a mile from the Mission. Its original main street is now North Branciforte Avenue. Villa de Branciforte later lost its civic status, and in 1905 the area was annexed into the City of Santa Cruz.