HomeThe Refugio ValleyHuman Settlement

Human Settlement

Humans occupied these lands about 6,000 years ago. The original peoples were tribal, lived in villages and were hunter-gatherers on land and water. To catch waterfowl and fish, they launched boats of tule reeds from the wetlands of the San Pablo Bay shoreline and Carquinez Strait. 

At this first European contact, the Bay Area was one of the most densely populated places in North America. Remains of indigenous works have been documented in the Pinole and Rodeo watersheds, and along Carquinez Strait. HHS holds no records of such sites in Refugio Valley. 

The lands of the Pinole and Refugio Valleys were contested territory during the span of Spanish occupation from 1772 to 1823. Alta California, the colonial project of Spain, had reached the Pinole and Refugio Valleys in 1772 with the Fages expedition. Indigenous Karkin and Huichun peoples were coerced into the Spanish mission system of servitude. 

The town of Pinole is among the earliest European-settled places in California. It took shape as an agricultural port during the span of Mexican Alta California. With a Spanish land grant in 1823, it began as the Martinez family ranch engaging in the California commerce of the time: trading cattle, hides, tallow and produce for finished goods in sail-powered oceanic trade. 

Leading up to 1878, the new people of Pinole were Americans; the old people were descendants of the Mexican or Spanish settlers. Pinole had been transformed by the Americans arriving in the Gold Rush of 1848 and after California statehood in 1850. 

Today, the San Francisco Bay estuary is the center of a  metropolis, the home of seven million people. 

Indigenous Settlement


Two hundred fifty years ago, the estuary was the center of an almost unimaginably different landscape, the home of about...

European Settlement

First Contact & Spain Mexico Californios Americans Gold Rush Settlement of Pinole Civil War Period