The History Of Santa Maria California, and Pioneer Families,Oil Fields, Orcutt, Agriculture & Construction, Santa Maria BBQ
Oct 28, 2012
Recently, the Old Town Orcutt Revitialization Association had an opportunity to get a sneek preview of the New Far Western Tavern when they held their most successful annual fundraiser in this beautiful western location prior to its opening to the general public. Today, many people know the oil history of Old Orcutt, but few know of its predecessor La Graciosa. We should all be proud of our rich and colorful local history.
Early historical records and a book by Bob Nelson called “Old Town Orcutt” tell us that in 1868, Absolom Stubblefield, fresh from the Northern California gold fields, made his way down the treacherous Cuesta Grade. He traveled with his family, Indian guides and 160 head of cattle and horses and took advantage of the Homestead Act of 1862 to make his home on 320 acres of free government land in the Orcutt foothills. Other homesteaders with familiar names such as Halloway, Righetti, Twichell, Glines, Hobbs and Martin soon followed.
A former Irish soldier, Don Patrico O‘Neill, opened La Graciosa a trading center, consisting of a store and saloon, around 1863 near the present location of Old Town Orcutt, and by 1870 it had 370 inhabitants living in surrounding shanties. The saloon doubled as a school, courthouse and post office. The small community was served by the Coast Line Stage Co., which also went through the new settlements of Guadalupe and Los Alamos.
Like other western towns, the forerunner of Orcutt was rough and had its share of homicides. The first two recorded were between arguing cattlemen and later between drinkers in the saloon.
Just as in a western movie, the area had a famous outlaw, Soloman Pico. Pico inhabited Solomon Peak, where he had an excellent view of riders coming across the dusty Santa Maria Valley. Pico arranged ambushes as the unsuspecting travelers slowed to come up Solomon Grade. The Stage was held up many times and many townsfolks thought the postmaster was part of the gang, but more than likely the gang could see the coach leave from their vantage point on Soloman Peak. It is said Soloman Pico‘s Desperados later became the basis for early western movies.
An 1877 land dispute caused La Graciosa to fade to a memory until the oil boom of 1904 revived the area. During the first 100 days after “Old Maud“ came in on Orcutt Hill, the oil gusher produced a million barrels of oil. By 1906, Orcutt, named after William Orcutt, a Union Oil geologist, was a bigger trading center than Santa Maria.
As late as 1905 cattle were still driven down the dirt road of Clark Avenue on the way to the rail center. Cowboys and oil workers bellied up to the bars and the boom attracted prostitutes, saloons, drinking and gambling. Slowly over the years, the town has tamed.
Since its heyday, Old Town Orcutt has been in slumber mode as it became old and tired, but today thanks to the efforts of the Old Town Orcutt Revitalization Association, the Orcutt Cultural Center has experienced a renaissance. New and remodeled commercial units now total about 50, with new restaurants at 11 with more to come.
With the completion of the Far Western Tavern, this town cornerstone anchor, has completed the transformation of Old Town into a tourist mecca and economic driver for the Santa Maria Valley.
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If you have stories and/or photos that tell the Old Orcutt story, please share them with our readers. You may mail them to P.O. Box 2545, Orcutt, CA 93457; or email them to email@example.com.