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The San Francisco Peninsula was home to the Ohlone Indians up until 1750. They were a resourceful people who took advantage of both the ocean and the bay for their food, and constructed theiri homes and canoes of the tule reeds that were abundant along the bay and the nearby creeks. They didn’t live in large groups, though. There were probably thousands of them in the area, but it’s thought that only a few dozen would have actually resided what is now called San Bruno. In this area, three hunting camps have been discovered: two that wear close to the creek that travels through the Crestmoor Canyon and one by the San Bruno Creek that flows through the San Bruno City Park and Junipero Serra County Park.
During 1775, the western shore of the San Francisco was discovered and scouted out by Captain Bruno Heceta. This is where the name of the City of San Bruno began. The largest area in that part of the peninsula was given the name of Mount San Bruno by Captain Bruno Heceta, and the City of San Bruno was then named after the mountain. In this new city is where two major roads connected; today you can tell where these were by the paths that the Bayshore Road and the Mission Road take.
Jose Antonio Sanchez acquired the San Bruno land in the 1820’s. The Mexican Government presented him with the land to honor his years serving the military. This property ran all the way from San Bruno Mountain on the north side, southward to Burlingame, and from east bay to the western side mountain ridge. In 1843, Sanchez died. He had nine heirs that then received the property, divided up between them. However, the Mexican Government needed to inventory the entire property before it was released to them, which took quite some time and cost a pretty penny.
During this time, the Mexican-American war started (in 1846). This was unfortunate for Sanchez’s heirs. They lost their land through the courts after the U.S. won the war in 1848, and the majority of the land was bought out by the Bank of California founder; Darius Mills. Thus begins the story of San Bruno’s early statehood.
Along, what’s known as today, El Camino Avenue and San Mateo Avenue, James Thorpe built a camp area in the early 1850’s. This area was used to water your horses while traveling the old road that ran from San Jose to San Francisco. However, it went through a number of ownership exchanges and had its name changed several times. In 1875 it became Uncle Toms Cabin under the direction of August Jenevein. Uncle Toms Cabin was transformed into a place for drinking and eating and gaming, and did well for its almost 75 years in existence… before it was demolished by the city in 1949.
A Few Interesting Tidbits:
· In 1862 the San Bruno house was built because of the railroad that was going to be running from San Francisco to San Jose. It burned down several times, but was never rebuilt after the third time in 1901.
· San Bruno became an official municipality in 1914
The Tanforan Shopping Center area was once used to raise horses, and a horse racing track. It eventually even held car races and even airplane races. It burnt down in 1964.