The History of San Andres Street

The History of San Andres Street title=
The Battle of San Pascual (Artist: Walter W. Francis)
Reads 12013

By Neal Graffy

Recently a proposal has come forth to rename San Andrés Street, a thoroughfare named in 1851 for Andrés Pico, a hero to the native-born population of California and a gentleman highly respected by the new “Yankee” residents.

The proponents of the name change apparently know very little of Don Andrés, presenting their complete list of qualifications for the dismissal of this historic street name as follows: “André [sic] Pico was neither a saint nor resident of Santa Barbara.” Their two benchmarks for testing the validity of a street name’s importance would easily call for the renaming of more than a dozen streets in our community including Calle Cesar Chavez.

Over the past week, I have been bombarded with questions about how the street was named, who named it and most importantly, who was “San Andrés.”

To start, San Andrés is one of four streets laid out side by side specifically and purposefully to memorialize two people and two events of the 1846 Mexican American War in California. The other streets are San Pascual, Chino and Gillespie.

Andres Pico (Source: Santa Barbara Historical Society)

Andrés Pico was born November 18, 1810 in San Diego, the third son and ninth of twelve children born to Josef Maria Pico and Maria Eustaquia Gutierrez. Far from the pure Spanish bloodline that most people think constitutes the heritage of California’s early settlers under the Spanish flag, the Pico family’s ethnicity was recorded as mestizo and mulato, a blend of Spanish, Mexican Indian and African.

Andrés’ name can be found throughout the annals of California during the years of rule by Mexico. He was recognized for his aptitude and intelligence and appointed to serve in a number of positions. He also played a part in the various schemes, plots and uprisings that dominated California politics in the 1830s and 1840s.

It was two pivotal events during the Mexican-American War in California that earned him his street and sainthood. In December 1846, Captain Andrés Pico was camped with about 80 men near the Indian village of San Pascual, about 40 miles north of San Diego. He was unaware that American General Stephen Watts Kearny and his force was camped nearby, having arrived after a thousand-mile march from Santa Fe.  Advised by his scouts of Pico’s presence, Kearny decided on a surprise attack at dawn despite the fact that his men and animals were exhausted, cold and wet. He confidently believed that Pico’s men, hardly a professional army, would flee.

Unfortunately for Kearny, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. It was dark and foggy and his men became separated. The surprise attack failed to surprise Pico’s men who heard the advancing Americans and rushed to mount their horses. Orders from Kearny to his men were misunderstood and general chaos now commanded his troops as they descended down a hillside towards their objective. The Californios, superior horseman and formidably armed with long lances, quickly and easily tore into them. The Americans found their gunpowder too damp to fire and firearms were now relegated to clubs and those with swords found them too short to be of service when confronted with the length of a lance. After ten to fifteen minutes of intense fighting, Captain Pico’s men were finally driven back when the Americans pressed two cannon into service.

The battle cost General Kearny twenty-one dead and sixteen wounded including himself and Lt. Archibald Gillespie USMC, who was severely wounded by three lance thrusts. By comparison, Captain Pico only had eleven wounded, none seriously. Two days later, true gentleman that he was, Pico sent a man under flag of truce bringing tea and sugar to Kearny’s camp as well as a change of clothing for the wounded Lt. Gillespie. Captain Pico also traded his four prisoners for one captured by Gen. Kearny. Reinforcements for both sides arrived, but Pico was smart enough to know that lances and horses were no match for the increased American firepower, so he withdrew as the news of his decisive victory at San Pascual was hailed throughout California.    

Within a month’s time, the commander of the California troops, General José María Flores, fled to Mexico relinquishing command to Pico and elevating him to the rank of General. Flores was also acting governor so that title was passed on to Pico as well. (Flores had inherited the position from Andrés’ brother, Pío Pico, who had been governor of California until he departed to Mexico in September 1846.)

On January 13, 1847, acting Governor and General Andrés Pico met face-to-face with Lt. Col. John C. Frémont at the Cahuenga Pass (eight miles northwest of Los Angeles) to discuss the terms and conditions to end the war in California. Pico had sought out Frémont as knew he could arrange for far better terms for his countrymen with Frémont than with any of the other American commanders. Ensuring complete trust between the two was a Pico family affair. Riding with Frémont was Pico’s cousin, José de Jesús Pico, the alcalde of San Luis Obispo and Bernarda Ruiz of Santa Barbara, his great aunt. Alongside General Pico was his brother-in-law, José Antonio Carrillo. The resulting Treaty of Cahuenga, drafted by the Pico team, was anything but a harsh document of surrender. It generously stated that all combatants were pardoned and free to return to their homes, all Californians were granted the protection and all privileges of American citizenship without having to take an oath of allegiance and anyone wishing to leave California for Mexico or any other territory was free to pass.    

Four years later, as Salisbury Haley was surveying the town of Santa Barbara and laying out the future streets and blocks, the Town Council appointed Antonio Maria de la Guerra, Judge Joaquin Carrillo and Eugene Lies as the Committee to Name the Streets. Among the 52 names they laid down on the new map of Santa Barbara was “San Andrés” in honor of Andrés Pico.

So why did the Committee to Name the Streets call it "San Andrés" and not "Pico"? Apparently to save us from engaging in further debate over which Pico.   Was it the hero of San Pascual and Treaty of Cahuenga, Andrés Pico?  His brother, Governor Pío Pico?  Their cousin, José de Jesús Pico? By naming the street "San Andrés" and elevating Pico to “sainthood” the Committee displayed how the native Californians felt about him and their sense of humor which can be found winding in and out of our original 52 street names. And, without realizing it, they also named the first street in Santa Barbara for a person of black ancestry.

But Pico’s career wasn’t finished yet. He served in the California State Assembly from 1851 to 1860 and was elected to the California State Senate in 1860. This would make him, so far as is known, the first black elected to those positions in California.

As State Senator, in February of 1859, he presented the “Pico Bill” which proposed to divide California in half, with the southern portion to be the "Territory of Colorado." The bill passed the State Assembly and Senate and was signed by Governor John B. Weller on April 18. The next step was approval by Congress and then it could be placed on the ballot for consideration by the voters of California. However, Congress became distracted by the events leading up the Civil War and the bill was set aside and forgotten.

Prior to the Civil War, Senator Pico had been commissioned as Brigadier General of the First Brigade of California Militia. As the war between the states got underway, Pico, described as a “patriotic gentleman,” was offered the position of major of the First Battalion of Native Cavalry though he declined due to illness. This was an interesting achievement considering he had been in command of troops opposing the American Army a little over a decade earlier!  

Andrés Pico died in Los Angles, February 14, 1876 ending a life of honor, achievement and respect under the flags of Spain, Mexico and the United States.

Changing street names dishonors our history and heritage and sets in motion a bad practice of changing street names whenever a group decides to advocate for one. Instead of eradicating our history, why not create something for future generations to embrace as part of our community’s legacy. If the people of Santa Barbara desire to honor Dolores Huerta, why not create a community garden (a slight play on her last name) – an act that would give to the community rather than removing our history.

Login to add Comments


Show Comments
LincolnLady Aug 14, 2020 01:19 PM
The History of San Andres Street

Thanks for the history lesson. Just recreated my account on edhat so this comment may be a little late. Whatever. History is history, good or bad. We can memorialize the good using street names if we wish. Now off to watch a very historical film - Bullitt. --Cheerio.

NostraChumash Aug 10, 2020 05:01 PM
The History of San Andres Street

Thanx Pitmix.
Does anyone remember what was in SYV. before the casino was built?..(not a member)
The valley was an overdevelopment since long ago.
"Pick yer piason", as is said.

NostraChumash Aug 10, 2020 11:26 AM
The History of San Andres Street

Did you guys know that EVERYTHING already had a name before you arrived?..
Santa Barbara=Syuxtun
The Islands have names,
The creeks, hills & mtns, trees..even some stones had names, but you guys destroyed them.

NostraChumash Aug 10, 2020 10:17 AM
The History of San Andres Street

Not all Natives have or had
"Straight hair", nor did we NOT have facial-hair, body-hair or any other falsity perpetuated throughout history.

PitMix Aug 10, 2020 12:52 PM
The History of San Andres Street

Nostra, I was speaking of indigenous people living in Mexico, like the Aztecs. But this is not a subject that I know very much about so I apologize if I spread misinformation.

PitMix Aug 10, 2020 07:35 AM
The History of San Andres Street

I bet this info is nowhere to be found in high school history books. Is Huerta's name in those books ? If it is, them maybe that tells you something about the historical importance of these two people. She definitely deserves some honor in our town.

PitMix Aug 10, 2020 07:32 AM
The History of San Andres Street

I am told that almost any Mexican-American with curly hair probably has some african heritage. The indigenous people had straight hair. But it is something that is not talked about too much. When I visited Mexico they usually wanted to talk about their spanish ancestors.

Z Aug 09, 2020 04:36 PM
The History of San Andres Street

San Andres Street? You're kidding? Really? No offense to the neighborhoods involved, but really? Dolores Huerta is a great woman. City should get into it, Rename State Street or its lower mile in her honor.

a-1597015005 Aug 09, 2020 04:16 PM
The History of San Andres Street

For anyone suggesting that an existing street, park, or other facility have its name changed, note that City Ordinance 3485 first requires that the current name be found to be “inappropriate”.

PitMix Aug 10, 2020 12:54 PM
The History of San Andres Street

So tell me, what was 'inappropriate' about Salsipuedes Street that they were able to rename a portion of it for Cesar Chavez? They follow the Golden Rule, those that have the gold, make the rules.

REX OF SB Aug 10, 2020 10:09 AM
The History of San Andres Street

Not quite. Here's the dictionary definition: "not suitable or proper in the circumstances." Seems pretty clear to me.

PitMix Aug 10, 2020 07:29 AM
The History of San Andres Street

Luckily that can mean almost anything you want . It's like enacting a law that has the word "significant" in it. Mean anything you want it to.

YELLOWFIN Aug 09, 2020 09:37 AM
The History of San Andres Street

In response to TMO's comment "When will this desire to erase our history pass...?": For each place there is a huge amount of history leading up to our time. Showcasing one part of a place's history obscures all the other parts but doesn't erase it. Honoring Dolores Huerta doesn't erase the good that Andres Pico did and honoring Andres Pico doesn't erase the good that Dolores Huerta has done. It just doesn't call your attention to it. The interesting thing to me is that I didn't know the history of this street name, so I'm grateful for the history lesson. It indicates that naming a street after somebody doesn't honor them forever. I actually think that naming a park after Dolores Huerta would be great as there would be ample space for a monument explaining how she improved so many lives. It would be better than a name on a pole. In any case, let's please honor Dolores Huerta in some way.

a-1597014508 Aug 09, 2020 04:08 PM
The History of San Andres Street

To rename a park, per City Ordinance 3485, the existing name has to be found to be “inappropriate”.

SantaBarbaraObserver Aug 09, 2020 09:25 AM
The History of San Andres Street

Great tale. Super interesting that Andrés Pico was the first African-______ member of the State Senate. I am surprised that his name is not more well known based on that fact alone... As for the renaming: I suppose we cant let history get in the way of our feelings about such matters. After all, in today's America the feelings of the ignorant are far more important than those of either the majority of people or even the facts... Its people's feelings, above all else that has proven to be the most important thing in America in 2020. Facts be damned, reason be gone. Science and history are just liberal lies after all... Do not trust the experts or the educated, instead go with your feelings and of course, the sage advice of your favorite talk show host or reality TV charlatan turned politician...

tMo Aug 09, 2020 08:58 AM
The History of San Andres Street

Bravo Neal! Thanks for the history and loved the story. And "general chaos now commanded his troops"! Love it.
When will this desire to erase our history pass....?

Bird Aug 09, 2020 07:38 AM
The History of San Andres Street

Thanks very much for the history lesson. Let the neighbors and other city residents call a street whatever they want and if enough begin to do so then the city as a whole will take notice and the name probably will be changed. City streets belong to all of us, not just their abutters. Next year will be the 170th anniversary of the street name San Andres - perhaps Santa Barbara should have a celebration of the names!

a-1596955613 Aug 08, 2020 11:46 PM
The History of San Andres Street

So....rather than honor a 90 year old Civil Rights icon who has been fighting for better working and living conditions for marginalized peoples for 70 years; a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom; someone who did all the work and more that her male counterpart did.....Yeah, let’s keep the street named after a fake saint who won a 15 minute battle and lost the war..... And Graffy needs to do more research into what the committee compiled than what he states in his second paragraph (which he got off a posted flyer). Hundreds of pages of documentation and petitions supporting the name Calle Dolores Huerta have been submitted to the City, per its ordinance’s requirements on street naming. Anyone who really wants to hear about the Project to Honor Dolores Huerta should tune in to the meeting of the Neighborhood Advisory Council on August 24. The agenda will be posted here in the next few days.

Ahchooo Aug 09, 2020 12:16 PM
The History of San Andres Street

A lot of us are on board with honoring Dolores Huerta. We object to the disruption it will cause to businesses and residents to change San Andrés Street, and since we also now know that Andrés Pico was an okay guy, we want to keep this street name as it is.

Miss Aug 08, 2020 07:27 PM
The History of San Andres Street

Love this !
Thank you Neal!! You are a local treasure and we should find something to name Graffy!
Please write more mysteries. Such wonderful books that make me feel I am living in those times. Fascinating and intensely enjoyable!

ParvoPup Aug 08, 2020 07:02 PM
The History of San Andres Street

Thank dog I live in Lompoc.

We name our streets either A,B,C, etc. or First, Second, Third, etc.

Takes the drama and potential shame out of the equation.

You guys down south are entirely too conflicted.

REX OF SB Aug 08, 2020 05:19 PM
The History of San Andres Street

There’s a new multipurpose bike path under construction on Modoc Road. Why not name that after Ms. Huerta?

Minibeast Aug 08, 2020 04:49 PM
The History of San Andres Street

EASTBEACH: Chino " . . . commemorates the victory of the Californians at the first major engagement in 1846 between the defenders and the invading United States troops at Isaac Williams' Santa Ana del Chino Ranch." (According to book "Pathways to Pavements.")

Minibeast Aug 08, 2020 07:14 PM
The History of San Andres Street is a great resource for out-of-print books. There are two copies of "Pathways to Pavements" for sale there now at about $30 apiece, including S&H. I looked to see a copy on eBay just this minute, listed at $105 + S&H. Hmm. Too bad I let the Silverfish nibble at my old copy.

EastBeach Aug 08, 2020 05:29 PM
The History of San Andres Street

Thanks MINI! I wonder if that 1953 book is at the library? I found it @Google Books but searches return only short snippets. For fun, I picked a neighborhood street (Ferrelo Rd) and found out it's named after Juan Cabrillo's pilot! Fun stuff.

EastBeach Aug 08, 2020 02:35 PM
The History of San Andres Street

Neal Graffy wrote: "The other streets are San Pascual, Chino and Gillespie." .... What does Chino Street commemorate? Perhaps the Battle of Chino at Rancho Santa Ana del Chino?

EastBeach Aug 08, 2020 02:06 PM
The History of San Andres Street

I believe Pico Boulevard in LA is named after Andrés brother Pío. Coincidentally I'm reading Steve Inskeep's "Imperfect Union" about John & Jessie Fremont. It only mentions Andrés Pico's victory over Kearny so nice to have more details about the Battle of San Pascual.

Ahchooo Aug 08, 2020 01:07 PM
The History of San Andres Street

I’m so glad to learn this history! Now I’m certain we must keep San Andrés Street. We can find another way to honor Ms Huerta.

Schifter Aug 09, 2020 11:04 PM
The History of San Andres Street

He was also the first California senator with African heritage. Did you read the article?

a-1597014753 Aug 09, 2020 04:12 PM
The History of San Andres Street historically meaningful to name it after a fake saint who won a 15 minute battle and lost the war....

a-1596917365 Aug 08, 2020 01:09 PM
The History of San Andres Street

I don’t see why you say the author doesn’t care for the group proposing the name change. It seems very clear that what he objects to is changing historically meaningful names.

Babycakes Aug 08, 2020 01:02 PM
The History of San Andres Street

A suggestion that should not upset anyone would be to rename Bohnett Park to honor Dolores Huerta.....Dolores Huerta Park/Gardens/Fields. I think the name Bohnett is somehow related to the Sambo's restaurants, of which the name was renamed because of the offensive name. Or even consider a more centrally located park, De la Cruz Park on Haley/Cota.

EastBeach Aug 09, 2020 04:29 PM
The History of San Andres Street

Floyd "Newell" Bohnett was not only one of the Sambo's founders, he was a city councilman and the 40th mayor of SB back in the 50's. That said, I don't know if the park is named after him .....

a-1596988459 Aug 09, 2020 08:54 AM
The History of San Andres Street

Completely agree with you! Renaming the park is the easiest thing to do in this situation.

And all you peeps who insist on calling it "San AndreAs" as in the earthquake fault...please stop, it hurts my ears (yes, I'm a native for all of my 56 years). I lived on San Pascual when I was little and remember going to Foodland in my stroller.

GeneralTree Aug 08, 2020 12:38 PM
The History of San Andres Street

This is a great history lesson - but the last paragraph had to go and inject politics. I do not agree with this statement "Changing street names dishonors our history and heritage and sets in motion a bad practice of changing street names whenever a group decides to advocate for one. Instead of eradicating our history, why not create something for future generations to embrace as part of our community’s legacy." Seems like the author doesn't care for the certain group making the proposition. However, in the specific case of this street name, I would not want to see it changed as San Andres is a part of our culture and history as Californians. I'm certain there is another street in Santa Barbara with lesser significance that could be renamed.

a-1597075394 Aug 10, 2020 09:03 AM
The History of San Andres Street

Tune in on August 24 to the City NAC meeting and you will hear about the brief (dozens, if not hundreds of pages long) the group field with the City in May. Graffy only talks about a flyer found on a telephone pole.

Please Login or Register to comment on this.