Santa Barbara County – Then and Now

Old house interior, farm, orchard

This website includes a copy of the Santa Barbara County Metsker map, created by Charles T. Metsker the Map Man, in 1925. I contacted the Historic Map Works (, the company that purchased rights to the map collection. They do not have a copy of the Santa Barbara County map, and advised that as long as I have a copy of the original map to scan, it may be included on my website without violating copyright. While I don’t find any specific information as to the date of the map, it shows Camp Cooke which existed from 1941 – 1953, and is the current site of Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Santa Barbara County covers a large area – 2735 square miles, including a portion of Los Padres National Forest, and the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, which now belong to the National Park system.

The largest towns extant at the time of my novel, 1922, still exist, but there were well over 100 small settlements and “service towns,” with names like Arlight, Muscio, and Betteravia in north county, and Orella, San Augustin, and Drake to the south.

In 1922, new highways were being laid, and more Americans owned cars than ever before. But many people in the area still traveled by horse or wagon. A journey through the area might require an overnight stay along the route. For those who did own cars, engine trouble might waylay a traveler for a day or two, until fresh parts could be brought in from one of the larger towns.

In 1925, there were 113 library branches in Santa Barbara County. The school directory for Santa Barbara County (1918 – 1919) lists 74 public schools throughout the county, one for every tiny settlement and berg and the larger towns, as well.

Santa Barbara County in the 1920s was an agricultural wonderland, replete with farms, ranches, orchards, dairies, a channel rich with tons of fish that were pulled from the sea each year.

We’ll explore each of these arenas in future posts.