Dr. Alan K. Brown’s Book of Place Names for San Mateo County

Story by John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected]

[Dr. Alan Brown’s book of place names is available for purchase at the San Mateo County History Museum in Redwood City. The museum is located in the historic courthouse, an adventure in itself.]

Hi June,
While reading Dr. Brown’s book, “Place Names of San Mateo County,” I came across a listing for Bean Hollow. In the “Coburn’s Folly”/Bean Hollow thread you posted recently, I had hypothesized that Bean Hollow or it’s Spanish equivalent, “Canada del Frijol,” might be from as early as the Portola Expedition, (though I had only my sketchy memory and not any proof.) I had thought that it might have been named after the bean-shaped seeds of the coastal Lupine, some species of which have a long history of being used as a food source, though others are poisonous. Considering what Portola’s expedition were eating by that time in the expedition, it didn’t seem out of the question
Here’s Dr. Brown’s thoughts on the matter:  “This is a precise translation of the Spanish “Canada del Frijol,”  a name which seems to have been applied in the 1840s. Perhaps, some ex-Mission Indian had a bean patch there. The present English translation was in use by 1861. “Arroyo de los Frijoles,” “Frijoles Creek,” and so forth, which are found on most maps, stem from an error on the Coast Survey maps of 1854, and are emphatically rejected locally. The creek running through the hollow is called Bean Hollow Creek and was called in Spanish time the “arroyo de la canada de frijol.”
The Ballena Ranch sketch of 1838 calls it “Canada de la Laguna” (Lake Hollow) and Gonzales’ sketch map of Ano Nuevo Ranch, about 1844, calls it “Canada Sienegosa” (marshy hollow.) “
While Dr. Brown doesn’t have the definitive answer to its origin, I think it’s safe to say it has nothing to do with the Portola Expedition. He’s written several books about the early European explorers to the Bay Area, including Portola, and he’d know if there was a connection if anybody did.
In another matter related to Coburn and Dr. Brown, I had theorized in my posting that the F.L. Lathrop that Mr. Brown had said was the source of the renaming of Bean Hollow Lagoon to Lucerne Lake in 1923 might be related to Jane Lathrop Stanford, the co-founder of Stanford University and the wife of California Governor, Leland Stanford.
I’m not much of a genealogist, but I have been able to confirm that Jane had four brothers. One of them was Charles Gardner Lathrop,   Mrs. Stanford retained him as a member of the Stanford board of trustees, and in 1892 made him treasurer and business manager of the University. During his stewardship of Stanford which lasted until until 1914, Mr. Lathrop had an almost twenty year working relationship with Frederick Law Olmstead. Mr. Olmstead, is the “American Father of Landscape Architecture”.

New York’s Central Park, The Cal Berkeley Campus and Stanford University are just three of the hundreds of famous projects he planned in his career.
(Great Wikipedia article “Frederick Law Olmsted)
When he retired in 1898 because of dementia, his apprentice son, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and another stepson continued his legacy for over fifty years. They were instrumental in starting the National Park system. Many of the Parks’ designs (including Yosemite, where there is an Olmsted Point) are of their creation. (another good Wikipedia article “Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.”)
I know that Charles Lathrop named his son Leland Stanford Lathrop and his grandson was named Leland Stanford Lathrop Jr., but there were three other Lathrop brothers. Perhaps, they wanted just as illustrious names for their sons.
The land company that you mention in “Coburn’s Mystery,” that bought Coburn’s land after his death and that employed the mysterious F.L. Lathrop of Lucerne Lake fame, may have been owned by the Hearst Corporation. He certainly loved coastal ranches. More when I find out. Enjoy. John

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