More than 170 years ago the renegade Indian leader Pomponio stayed one jump ahead of his pursuers by hiding out in a dark, rocky cave on the remote Coastside.
The wily Pomponio led his band of outlaws to the headwaters of what is now Pomponio creek, south of Half Moon Bay and San Gregorio–where they eluded capture by the soldiers who hunted them.
What had driven the notorious Pomponio to seek refuge on the isolated Coastside?
This was a twilight hour in California’s history–and there was a sense of uncertainty in the air. The Spanish Mission rule was coming to an end and the land was soon to be governed by Mexico.
The local Indians did not fare well under Spanish rule. Many were forcibly relocated to Mission Dolores in San Francisco, their numbers decimated by the endless cycle of death from influenza, measles and syphilis–diseases that were epidemic. The horrible deaths that slashed their numbers, combined with humiliation and loss of honor, provided all the ingredients for an Indian “revolt.”
Certainly Pomponio was angry and sought revenge. He had been raised in the Mission system. The files at the San Mateo County History Museum in Redwood City reveal the padres at Mission Dolores had changed his native name from Lupugeyun to Pomponio–apparently in honor of Pomponious, an obscure 6th century bishop.
With freedom on his mind, all Pomponio could think of was devising a plan to escape, including survival once outside the Mission. One day, as the legend goes, with the stars in perfect alignment, Pomponio successfully fled his “prison”.
The young firebrand was now a fugitive. To the demoralized and disease-ridden Indians in the missions. Pomponio was becoming a hero.
…To Be Continued…