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April 24, 1861: Los Osos

April 24, 2011

Wilson Ranch

Site of Wilson Ranch, Los Osos; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Wilson Ranch

[Today], we went [to find fossils]. The fossils occur on a ranch of Mr. Wilson, an Englishman. Our road lay down the valley of Osos, toward the sea, west of San Luis Obispo. Mr. Wilson has several ranches together, about 80,000 to 100,000 acres, keeps 20,000 head of cattle, 1,000 or 1,500 horses, etc., living in patriarchal style, monarch of all he surveys. His “farm” is about thirteen or fourteen miles long and nearly as wide. He seemed like a close-fisted old fellow, but treated us well. The fossils lay on a high hill. We could not get within two and a half miles of them with our wagon, so we camped by a brook. We packed the specimens down on mules.

In rough, broken hills, at about 1,800 feet elevation are these immense beds of fossil oysters. The shells are as numerous as in a modern oyster bed, all grown together, and of gigantic size, a foot to fifteen inches long, half as wide, and the thickest shell, sometimes five inches thick. (See also Pacific Railroad Reports, Vol. VII, Pt. 11, p. 45, for a description of similar ones.) They would weigh from ten to thirty pounds each. We packed down several mule loads of these and other fossil shells.

As we stayed over night, we camped. We declined an invitation to stop with Mr. Wilson a mile distant, as a child died the day we arrived and was to be buried the next. We sat by our bright camp fire until the bright moon rose, then went to bed on the green grass, in our blankets. The wind blew up fresh from the sea a few miles distant. We could hear the breakers, although they were five or six miles off. It is glorious to watch the stars and moon before going to sleep, but unpoetical to turn in the night and bring yourself in contact with a portion of the blanket soaked with dew, and ugh, how cold! But I have always slept gloriously in the open air, whenever I have tried it.

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