Historic San Ramon

San Ramon

Photo circa 1890. Courtesy of Museum of the San Ramon Valley and the San Ramon Valley Historical Society.

People in San Ramon enjoy their community and love all that it has to offer. With modern homes and shopping centers as well as present-day features such as streetlights and crosswalks, it may be difficulty to envision what San Ramon looked like over a century ago. However, the city of San Ramon is rich in history and there are many important stories that make the city what it is today.

San Ramon’s Ever-Changing Inhabitants

Originally home to Seunen, Ohlone and Costanoan Indians, the San Ramon area became grazing land for Mission San Jose after 1797. California is rich in history when it comes to its network of missions and their development over the years. The San Ramon area eventually became home to Jose Maria Amador’s 16,000+-acre ranch known as Rancho San Ramon.

The first American settlers arrived in 1850. The original families were the likes of Norris, Lynch, Harlan, McCamley, Crow, Bollinger, Meese, Glass and Wiedeman. You will see these names peppered throughout present-day San Ramon in the form of street and neighborhood names. Those early settlers have left an indelible mark on the city of San Ramon and each family will be featured as part of our Historic San Ramon series.

The 1860s were a significant decade for San Ramon – lots of growth in a few short years. In 1860 the church was dedicated. After that the first general store was built in 1863. A stage line between San Ramon and Oakland was established in 1864 and the San Ramon Grammar School opened in 1867.

What’s in a Name?

The name “San Ramon” was originally given to the creek coming out of Bollinger Canyon. Three local ranchos included the name: Rancho San Ramon, Rancho San Ramon Valley, and El Sobrante de San Ramon. According to the history books, Ramon was a mission Indian who cared for the sheep at Mission San Jose. According to Jose Maria Amador, the “San” was added to conform to Spanish name custom.

Over time the city went through a series of name changes. First, it was called Brevensville, for a local blacksmith named Levi Brevin. Next it became known as Lynchville for William Lynch who was an early pioneer in the area. Later it was known as Limerick when a number of Irish settlers inhabited the area. In the 1850s a post office was established. It was known as the San Ramon post office in the village of Limerick. It wasn’t until 1891 when the railroad arrived and was known as the San Ramon Branch Line of the Southern Pacific. However the name “San Ramon” finally took hold after the railroad line was extended into Pleasanton. The city did not incorporate until 1983, almost 100 years later.

San Ramon

Photo circa 1890. Courtesy of Museum of the San Ramon Valley and the San Ramon Valley Historical Society.


Over the next few weeks we will be covering some of the important people, places and events that have shaped modern-day San Ramon Valley. Click here to read all the related articles.

If you are planning to move to the San Ramon Valley area, contact Villa Properties at (925) 519-0794 for help in finding your perfect home.