San Lorenzo County Park
A Rural Agricultural Museum

King City, CA

November 11th, 2002

Normally I don't comment on campgrounds we have stayed in.  That part of the website is under the control of my wonderful wife, Laura.  But as we passed through the central coastal area of California I was so impressed with one park that I decided to make a story out of our stay.  The park itself is a fine place with all the amenities normally expected in a government park. This place was a old farm equipment buff's dream.   One side of the road leading into the park and back to the campsites was lined with old tractors and machinery of all sorts which were in use around the turn of the century.  They are not sealed off or restricted.  I could get right up and personal with any one of the displays.  As if that wasn't enough there was a small one room museum which depicted the industries that made up the flourishing economy of the county. After all that, there was still more.  Several of the old structures, that originated in the county, had been moved onto park property and can be seen with a guide at scheduled times. A mild climate, rich soils, high quality irrigation, water and skilled farmers combined to make the Salinas Valley the most productive vegetable district in the world. At the turn-of-the-century, the Spreckels Sugar Company let in the development of a dependable abundant and economical source of irrigation water. This set the stage for the vegetable industry.  The fledgling little farming community started exporting lettuce to the surrounding major cities like San Francisco.  In 1934 a major shipping breakthrough was made when ice-bunkered refrigerated rail cars made their appearance.  Shipments could now be made to the most distant of places in the US. Soon, vegetables of various types were introduced and the county has never looked back.  
Having wandered throughout the rows of machinery and enjoyed all the old time gadgets that made farming possible around the turn of the century, it was time to turn our attention to the main building in the park. It was an 1903 railway station which had been the hub of King City activity.  In 1884, when millionaire lumberman Charles King purchased 13,000 acres of San Lorenzo Rancho with the intention of raising wheat, people thought he had lost his mind.  Not only did they believe that wheat would never grow in the valley, the only way out was an old wagon road.  But King had a friend in railroad magnet Collis Huntington.  As Huntington planned to bring the rails to King City, local residents wanted the track to follow the river.  King on the other hand offered a straight shot through the valley over his land if they promised to protect his cattle.  By 1886 some 1500 Chinese workers began laying track south from Soledad. with the first engine rolling into King City early July.  
As we entered the station-turned-museum we met a neat young lady and her two energetic helpers.  Rachelle Conyers spent the afternoon taking us around the museum area and talking about the various buildings and displays.  The main
room of the museum was dedicated to the businesses that generated the population and the prosperity of the valley during its early development. From timber to wheat to lettuce then on to artichoke and broccoli.  Her daughter, Alexis Smedley, in turn took us through an old cookwagon.  This vehicle was in integral part of the annual harvest of local crops.  Each week during the harvest season, crews went into the fields for a week at a time.  The cookwagon provided all their meals.  Rachelle's son, John Smedley took us through the ticket office of the old train station and demonstrated the telegraph system.  It was fun to see the kids taking part in the history of the park.  They were a couple of delightful helpers.  The park has become the collection point for many of the heritage buildings which have been moved from their original location, restored and put on display.  There is the La Gloria School built in 1873.  In addition to providing a place for education, the school was used as a meeting place for everything from music to debates.  There is also the Spreckels House, built in 1897 at a cost of $1,960.  It was built by the Spreckels Sugar Company for its employees. The roof was shingles and the siding was redwood, with the interior walls covered with cloth. There were many other things to be seen.  A blacksmith shop and a windmill plus several new attractions in the planning.   All in all it was a great time just wandering around on our own in the evening hours looking at all that was offered on display.

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