"How to Use This Book" describes and explains the content and form of Monterey County Place Names.


(Note: because of formatting differences, this is not an exact representation of the printed page. A more accurate file in Adobe PDF format is available here)



How To Use This Book

Sample Entry Here is a more or less typical entry showing the type of information that might be found in the main section of this dictionary. Explanations, keyed to the numbers, follow.




Sample Entry Explained


1. The Main Heading This consists of the name of a place, institution, or physical feature in Monterey County. When two or more features are identical in spelling the main heading is followed by numbers to distinguish the two or more different features:

Moss Landing 1. [describing the wharf]

2. [describing the railroad station]

3. [describing the settlement]

The main headings are in alphabetical order taking into account each letter through the entire heading even if the heading consists of two or more words:

Lake San Antonio


Lake Superior


Camp Gabilan


Camp Huffman


Inverted word order has been avoided in the text. In many dictionaries The Restless Sea would be listed as Restless Sea, The and Mount Toro would be entered under Toro, Mount, but not here. Such phrases are entered under the first word whether it is a specific or a generic term.

Lake Majella

Mount Olds

The Palisades

If the official name of a place begins with the first name or initial of a personal name, it is so listed.

Donald H. McLaughlin Memorial Grove

Elmarie H. Dyke Open Space Area

S. F. B. Morse Botanical Reserve

If you do not find a name that you would expect to be included turn to the Index where variant names, variant word orders, synonyms, and obsolete names are listed with directions to the proper main entry.

Aguajito Rancho see Rancho Aguajito

Carmel Library see Harrison Memorial Library

Gabilan Peak see Fremont Peak

Mission Carmel or Mission Carmelo see Carmel Mission

Stray Dog Quartz Claim see Los Burros Mining District

Vincente Flat see Vicente Flat


2. Feature Type This categorizes the geographical entity; for example, a stream, ranchería, city park, railroad "stop," cove, gap, settlement, bridge, canyon, etc.

3. Location The location is given in relation to a well-known feature, or as the number of the Section (Sec.), Township (T), and Range (R). In the sample entry "SWQ Sec.14 T20S R2E" places the mouth of Torre Canyon in the Southwest quarter of Section 14, Township 20 South and Range 2 East, Mount Diablo Meridian, and "just W of Partington Ridge." For additional information see "How to Locate a Given Point in a Section, Township, and Range" on next page.


4. Origin of Name When the origin of the name is known it is given along with, usually, some historical, biographical, or other descriptive data.


5. Quotations Direct quotations which elucidate the origin or other aspects of the geographical name are inset and printed in smaller point size than the main text.



6. See and See also references lead the reader to other entries where additional information is to be found. For example, in this instance information about Joaquín and María de los Angeles Cota de la Torre is to be found under Rancho Bolsa de Potrero y Moro Cojo.



7. Variant Names Here are included synonyms, variant spellings, and other names by which the feature is or has been known or by which it is shown on a map. Very frequently a canyon is also known by the name of the stream which flows through it, thus Torro Creek. Other variants are Tores Canyon and Toro Ravine. If the map name differs from the entry name, the maps bearing the main entry name are given first followed by a semi-colon (;), then the variant names are listed, each separated from others by a semi-colon.

8. Ref Under this rubric are listed:


a. the sources of direct quotations. Thus Woolfenden 1985:28, 51-52 refers to pages in a book by Woolfenden. Full bibliographical data are to be found in the Bibliography:


Woolfenden 1985 Woolfenden, John. R. Big Sur: A Battle for the Wilderness 1869-1985. Pacific Grove, The Boxwood Press, 1981, Reprinted, updated 1985.


If an item is used solely for one entry, such as Steinbeck’s short story, Flight, it will not be listed in the bibliography; in that case, full bibliographical information is given in the reference.

John Steinbeck "Flight" in The Long Valley. New York, Viking Press, 1938.


b. sources used as the basis for describing the feature.


Patent Books C:455, H:280 cite records found in the Patent Books located in the Monterey County Recorders Office in Salinas.


And the abbreviation "p.c." refers to a

c. source of information derived through personal communication — abbreviated as p.c. — (correspondence, telephone conversation, personal interview, etc.). In this case

p.c. JN February 25, 1991 refers to a letter dated February 25, 1991, from Jeffrey Norman in the author’s files.




9. Map A representative list of maps upon which the geographical entity is shown and named appears under the rubric Map. I have attempted to list the earliest and latest map references and samples from in between. If no map is cited, a dated map bearing the name has yet to be located. The map references are arranged chronologically, earliest to most recent. If a map is cited by date followed by a three-letter code it is listed under the list of Maps.


1971LAR = Larson’s Map of Big Sur, The South Coast, and Los Padres National Forest (Monterey Division). Big Sur, R. E. Larson, 1971.


A map cited by date followed by an underlined, three-letter code such as 1984PAR is the current (as of 1991) United States Geological Survey (USGS) quadrangle.


1984PAR = Partington Ridge Quadrangle, USGS 7.5 Minute Series, 1956 photorevised 1984.


If a map is cited by a personal or corporate name, it is a map in a book, atlas, or periodical article and is listed in the Bibliography.


DeLorme 1986:31 means the map is found on page 31 of DeLorme Publishing Company’s Southern California Atlas & Gazetteer. Freeport, Maine, DeLorme Publishing Company, 1986.


How to Locate a Given Point

in a Section, Township, and Range


Surveys of federal public domain in California began in the early 1850s following the system of rectangular patterns established at that time. This pattern had evolved from the findings of a 1784 Congressional committee headed by Thomas Jefferson.

According to the plan, as finally modified and adopted, land was to be divided into townships 6 miles square with boundaries running due north, south, east, and west, and townships were to be divided into 36 sections 1 mile square. Principal meridians and base lines were established as a reference system for the township surveys.— Thompson (1979, pp.80-81).

This is a simple statement explaining a very complex situation (for example, the dimensions given cannot be accurate because of the curvature of the earth, convergence of meridians, irregular terrain, etc.), but for our purposes it serves us well.

The meridian (121° 54´ 47´´) governing surveys in Monterey County is named the Mount Diablo Meridian (named for Mount Diablo through the summit of which the meridian runs, N to S) and individual Ranges are described as being either E or W of that meridian.

The base line governing surveys in the county is 37° 52´ 54´´ (which runs E to W through the summit of Mount Diablo). In all cases townships are arranged in tiers N or S of the base line. In Monterey County all townships are S of the base line.

Beginning in 1851 the United States Surveyor General for California began surveying all public lands in Monterey County. The work resulted in a set of Township Surveys consisting of 116 individual sheets covering the entire county, except for lands included within the ranchos. Thus, most maps issued by governmental agencies since then do not show the lines of sections, townships, and ranges (Secs. Ts & Rs) for lands within the rancho boundaries. However, some maps show hypothetical lines for each Sec. T & R within ranchos. Unfortunately it is impossible to include in this volume a single map showing location of all Secs. Ts & Rs without reducing it to such an extent to render it useless. However, each of the 78 current USGS 7.5 minute series standard quadrangle maps (with a scale of 1:24 000) covering Monterey County show Secs. Ts & Rs.

The array of townships within the county is from Township 12 South through Township 24 South, and the spread of ranges is from Range 1 West to Range 16 East of Mount Diablo Meridian.

Citing the location of a specific place by Quarter, Section, Township, and Range pinpoints its place with exactitude. For example, the mouth of Torre Canyon is in the Southwest quarter of Section 14, Township 20 South, and Range 2 East, Mount Diablo Meridian, cited as SWQ Sec.14 T20S R2E.

Locating this spot simply requires moving step by step from one tier to another, that is from range to township to section, to quarter.




Cluster Names


Many Monterey County place names trace their origin to a common element — a person or family (Dolan, Gamboa, Pfeiffer, Post, San Antonio), a generic term (Bear, Lion, Madrone, Salmon, Wildcat), or a descriptive term (Bald, Big, Black). Rather than repeat the origin of each name I have chosen to introduce a opening statement that can apply to the entire group. Such entries are marked by a left margin vertical bar. Thus:


Bear The next 14 entries, each bearing "bear" as part of the name, probably were named for "the largest and most notable of our native animals" (Gudde). They perhaps recall an incident such as the sighting or killing of a bear. Bears, at one time, were quite common in Monterey County. Gordon notes that

The first account of the California grizzly comes from the Vizcaíno party at Monterey in 1602.…The grizzly was probably extinct in the Monterey Bay area before the turn of the century.

See also the entry: The Bear Trap.


Ref: Gudde 1969:24; Gordon 1979:139




Gamboa Each of the names of the next group of features traces its origin directly or indirectly to members of the Gamboa family, particularly Sabino Gamboa, a pioneer settler in the area.


Sabino Gamboa came to homestead in the Big Creek area around 1880….Sabino Gamboa’s father was a Spanish Basque who came to California "around the cape" on a sailing ship bound for Monterey. The ship was blown off course in a storm and anchored instead in San Francisco. Sabino’s father headed south and settled in the mountains near Santa Cruz, where Sabino was born in 1850. Sabino grew up in the Santa Cruz region, but seeking isolation he moved down the coast to Big Creek.…His first house on the coast was built into the hill on the ridge behind what are now called the Marble cabins. Eventually he homesteaded 160 acres of land on the ridge between Big Creek and Vicente Creek and built a second home. — Georgette.

County records show that Sabino Gamboa received patents to 150.44 acres in Sec.31 T21S R4E on September 5, 1891; this would be about 0.5 m inland from Gamboa Point. On April 29, 1878, Gamboa married Anita Avila, daughter of Vicente Avila (see Salsipuedes Ranch), and they had six children: Ellen, Lottie, Annie, Marie, George, and Jake. Sabino Gamboa died in 1903. See also San Antonio.


Ref: Patent Book F:40; Georgette 1982:20-23; Garsia 1985:20-21; Jones 1989:132-133




Monterey County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary contains 2719 main entries; this represents 2542 distinct place names plus 134 entries that are duplicate names — for example there are five features named Copperhead Canyon — and 43 nicknames. If all the alternate or variant names are added, the total number of place names would be well over 4000. Lovers Point, for example, has been known by at least ten other names or variant spellings, and Salinas River by over fifteen. Monterey County Place Names covers a wide spectrum of features, both natural and man-made — towns, settlements, ranchos, rancherías, neighborhoods, post offices (past and present), parks, camps, trails, railroad "stops," bridges, creeks, falls, springs, lagoons, lakes, beaches, points, gulches, hills, ridges, mountains, groves, and many, many more categories. It includes names both old and new, current and obsolete. I have arbitrarily excluded schools and streets; these would require another volume. I have generally excluded subdivisions. But when does a subdivision become a settlement? Some of the place names included clearly had their origin in tracts or subdivisions approved by the county, but over time they have taken on the characteristics of a settlement (defined by USBGN as a "populated place or area with clustered or scattered buildings and a permanent human population [such as a] city, settlement, town, village.")






ca circa, about

 C center  

Cal California

 CalTrans California State Department of Transportation  

CCC Civilian Conservation Corps

 Co County  

DPW Monterey County Department of Public Works

 DTC The author  

e, E east

ft foot, feet

 H half of a section (used with compass point, e.g., SH, south half of a section)  

JDJ John D. Jernegan

JN Jeffrey Norman

 LAPL Los Angeles Public Library  

LPNF Los Padres National Forest

m mile, miles

 MDB Mount Diablo Base and Meridian  

n, N north

 n.d. no date NDGW Native Daughters of the Golden West  

No. number

NSGW Native Sons of the Golden West

 p., pp. page, pages  

p.c. personal communication

 PVCRR Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad  

Q quarter of a section (used with compass point, e.g., NEQ, northeast quarter of a section)

 q. v. quae vide, which see  

R range

 RW Richard ("Rick") Wilkerson  

s, S south

 Sec. section  

SPRR Southern Pacific Railroad

SPT Southern Pacific Transportation

 SRL State Registered Landmark  

T township

 UCSC University of California, Santa Cruz  

USBGN United States Board on Geographic Names

 USC&GS United States Coast and Geodetic Survey  

USFS United States Forest Service

USGS United States Geological Survey

w, W west


Possessive Form


The possessive form of a place name which includes an apostrophe is avoided in the main entry, thus the form Lovers Point is used instead of Lover’s Point or Lovers’ Point and Bixby Landing, not Bixby’s Landing. The United States Board on Geographic Names discourages the use of the possessive form with an apostrophe and no such phrase appears on current USGS quadrangles for Monterey County. For the sake of consistency I have not used an apostrophe in any main heading. This does not mean to imply that one form is correct. Local usage determines that. In the body of the entry, when quoting, I have used the form used by the author cited.



"Name Tags"

Sources of quotations in the "name tags" at the end of each chapter:

Carter, Charles Franklin. Some By-Ways of California. San Francisco, Whitaker & Ray-Wiggin Co., 1911.


Dillon, Richard H. "Names on the Land" In: Special Libraries, Vol.62, No.10, October, 1971.

Emrich, Duncan. It’s an Old Wild West Custom. New York, Vanguard Press, 1949.

Gilliam, Harold. "Place Names Tell Tales" in This World, January 20, 1985.

Gudde, Erwin G. California Place Names, The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1969.

Herrera y Tordesillas, Antonio de. [ I cannot remember where I found this quote].

Julyan, Robert Hixson. Mountain Names. Seattle, The Mountaineers, 1984.

Lydon, Sandy "Introduction" in Donald T. Clark’s Santa Cruz County Place Names. Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Historical Society, 1986.

Marinacci, Barbara and Rudy. California’s Spanish Place-Names: What They Are and How They Got There. San Rafael, Presidio Press, 1980.

Matthews, Constance Mary. Place Names of the English Speaking World. New York, Scribner, 1972.

Meadows, Don. Historic Place Names in Orange County. Balboa Island, Calif., Paisano Press, 1966.

Mencken, Henry Louis. The American Language; an inquiry into the development of English in the United States. 4th ed., cor., enl., and rewritten. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1937.

Norman, Jeffrey. "Names on the Land" in Big Sur Land Trust News, Summer 1990.

Petersen, William. "Spanish as She Is Spoke in California" in Alta Vista Magazine, April 28, 1991.

Stegner, Wallace. "George Stewart and the American Land" in George R. Stewart’s Names on the Land. San Francisco, Lexikos, 1982.

Stein, Lou. San Diego County Place-Names. They had to call it something. San Diego, Tofua Press, 1975. Second edition; fourth printing, 1983.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Across the Plains. London, Chatto and Windus, 1892

Stewart, George R. Names on the Land. A Historical Account of Place-naming in the United States. Fourth edition. Introduction by Wallace Stegner. San Francisco, Lexikos, 1982.

Taylor, Isaac. Words & Places. Illustrations of History, Ethnology & Geography. With an Introduction by Edward Thomas. London, J. M. Dent & Sons, and New York, E. P. Dutton & Co., n.d. Everyman’s Library Edition

Tether, Louise. Place Names of Marin. Where Did They Come From? San Francisco, Scottwall Associates, 1986.