Fall Equinox 1998 || Volume I, Number 2


By Boon Hughey

During the early 1880's a Portugese native by the name of Manuel Dutra was living somewhere near San Simeon, earning his living on a whaling ship which plyed the coastal waters. During his days off he must have spent some time hiking the local backcountry, because in 1885 he and his wife Locadia packed up and moved to a lovely little valley just to the north, where on September 1st they homesteaded a large and beautiful grassy meadow ringed with pines, oaks, laurels and sycamore. They received the legal patent for the 160 acres on February 9th, 1886. Three years later, on October 11, 1889, Dutra bought the adjoining 160 acre parcel to the east from neighboring homesteader Thomas Flynn, making up the balance of his ranch.

Apparently Dutra was the first one to settle this beautiful valley in what is now the Silver Peak Wilderness Area, as the creek which drains it, Dutra Creek, bears his name as does the flat on which he lived and farmed. He did have another neighbor, however, immediately to the west, by the name of Francisco D. Martinez. Interestingly, the present-day locale of the USFS Dutra Flat Camp, with all its barbed wire, steer manure, and cypress trees, actually lies on the homestead site of Martinez, not Dutra, yet his name is all but forgotten there today. Such are the vagaries of toponymy.

Dutra's place was located on the larger and lower flat, just beyond and below the camp on the way to San Carpoforo. The remains of his orchard can still be seen on the upslope hillside - 2 old pears trees and a peach tree - somehow standing resistant to the centuries and even bearing the occasional crop. Toward the south edge of the flat grow a few venerably old cypress trees, in the lee of which Manuel and Locadia's cabin once stood. All that remains of it today are a few foundation stones and rusted fragments of cast-iron stove.

Manuel Dutra passed away in 1918, having reared no children to carry on his name. One can only imagine how pleased he would be, however, to know that the Dutra name has in fact been carried on through time, only by the land that he called home.

Sources include:

Monterey County Place Names, 1991, Donald Thomas Clark, Kestrel Press
Land Status Book, 1934, Santa Barbara National Forest, Monterey Division
USGS Cape San Martin 15' Quadrangle, Edition of 1921

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