The community of Los Osos and its close neighbor, Baywood, share much of their history with the surrounding area in San Luis Obispo County. The area was the heart of the Chumash Indian territory for centuries. Chumash hunters, fishermen, and foragers exploited their local marine, coastal, and river resources. In unique redwood-planked boats, known as tomols, they regularly transported resources from their offshore islands to the mainland. These mariners imported specialized stone blades and drills manufactured on the islands, plus marine resources such as shark, bonito, and halibut. Chumash fishermen used a variety of nets, traps, baskets, hooks, spears, and plant poisons to catch or stun fish and catch seals and sea otters. On the coast they collected abalone and mussels, and the Chumash trade network passed raw marine materials such as fish, whale bones, and oils to the interior. Although the Portuguese conquistador Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first encountered the Chumash in 1542, it was not until 1772 that five Catholic missions were established within the Chumash Nation. After the secularization of the missions in 1833, the Chumash population fell into severe decline. In 1901 the U.S. government allocated 75 acres along Zanja de Cota Creek near Mission Santa Ynez to the surviving Chumash community. Today the Chumash have their own business
council, a thriving bingo operation, and a federal housing program on their small reservation. There are approximately 5000 people who now proudly identify themselves as Chumash Indians.
Spanish explorers first entered the territory in 1542, but it took 200 years for exploration to get underway. With the explorers came Franciscan friars who began to founding missions in the vicinity of Los Osos-Baywood. Between 1822 and 1821, California came under the jurisdiction of Mexico when it gained independence from Spain. Land grants were made to settlers in the area until, in 1848, California became a territory of the United States and San Luis Obispo became one of California’s original 27 counties. Many place names in the area reflect this heritage.2 Burgeoning agriculture and quarrying in the area spurred rapid population growth in the late 1800s, facilitated by overland transport options available trough the Southern Pacific Railroad line. By the 1950s conveyors were installed on the waterfront for unloading sardine boats that accelerated the commercial development of the harbors of the area in response to newly discovered fishing grounds offshore.