Freitas Adobe Highlights

Image of the adobe after it’s 1906 Victorian renovation.
The adobe structure as it looked with the wooden Victorian additions removed.

Native American Use

Exposed section of Mission aqueduct showing mission roof tiles and sandstone slabs.s
Dotted line shows how aqueduct crossed project area
1850 drawing of Mission San Luis Obispo
Cheyanne removing overburden from cobble porch
Cobble porch cleaned
Shell, Prosser, copper and bone buttons and studs
Brass, ceramic, leather shoe button, and celluloid stud
Steel cloth-covered buttons
Brass shoe button, Prosser buttons, shell buttons and a Jet shank button.
Straight pins used in tailoring.

This page presents some of the adobe highlights

Types of money used through time

Spanning 225 years, the adobe’s residents had to adapt to changes in cultures and the money system.

Clamshell beads were the form of currency used by the Chumash tribes for ~5,000 years before the arrival of Asians or Europeans. Both clam disk beads and olivella spire-lopped beads were discovered at the adobe. One soapstone disk (of bead size) was also discovered and lost likely in the process of becoming a bead.

Abalone shell bead and spire-lopped Olivella shell bead (prehistoric currency)
Chinese coins minted between 1644 and 1722
Gold flake representing Early California currency 1850+
1883 Liberty Head nickel (modern government made currency)

A section of the original Mission
water transport system

Discovered SE of the adobe, a short section of the Mission aqueduct was discovered. First observed as a broken layer of Mission roof tiles (Teja) and a few broken slabs of siltstone. Once exposed, it was discovered that the roof tiles had collapsed in on a small ditch about 7″ deep, 10″ wide, with a hard-packed clay base. Historic research had discovered that a water transport system moved water from an uphill spring to the Mission reservoir (see map).

The ditch had been covered with a double layer of Mission roof tiles and, when needed, siltstone slabs had been placed across it to facilitate foot and wagon traffic without disturbing the ditch.

Reconstructed broken roof tiles that covered the aqueduct
Exposed aqueduct trench showing collapsed roof tiles
Field drawing showing how water trench would have been protected by roof tiles

Adobe’s cobblestone porch was full of secrets

Feature 1 was a cobble pavement measuring 58 feet long, 7 feet wide, and centered on the south wall of the adobe. The cobbles were laid down on end with some extending 8+ inches into the ground. The surface of the cobbles appeared to be covered with the same whitewash as the plaster walls of the adobe. The cobbles were also covered with a fine sandy gravel. Prior to exposure, this feature was covered with at least 2 inches of soil.

A 4½-foot wide break in the cobble pavement, directly in front of the adobe door, was paved with Anglo bricks laid on edge between wooden guides. South of, and immediately adjacent to the cobble walkway were occasional large boulders, pieces of ladrillo (Mission floor tiles), and a host of other cultural items that presumably had fallen off the cobble porch during the period of its use.

Feature 1 plan map showing showing data recovery areas.

Though most of the cobble porch remained intact, proposed foundation footing trenches required that 5 data recovery units be excavated within the area. In addition, all surface soils removed from the cobble surface were screened and materials collected.

Cobble porch fully exposed

Materials found on the cobble porch indicated that it was constructed at the same time as the adobe and that household materials had been dropped on and between the cobbles up till ~1903 when the porch was covered by a wooden floor as the adobe was converted into a Victorian-style home.

These materials included Native American items, Mission-era materials, Chinese materials, and EuroAmerican items. Money, ceramics, clothing materials, recreational items, hunting, teaching, and food remains were all represented. A surprising number of buttons and clothing fasteners were discovered (many more than would be expected from normal household discards).

Historical documents indicate that in 1846, the mission and it’s buildings and grounds were sold to Petronillo Rios. California gained independence from Mexico in 1846 and became part of the United States (1850). A petition was filed for the property in 1859 by Mr. Osgood. In 1861, a second petition was filed for the property by Fernando Martinez. Martinez, his wife, and 4 children lived at the adobe till 1864, when he sold it to Valentine Mancilla.

In 1876, Mancilla sold the property to Don Dolores Herrera who owned it till ~1903. City documents indicate that Herrera’s brother (Basilio) lived at the adobe with his wife and six children for 27 years. The 1900 census lists the children as Bramlio (30) a saloon keeper, Maggie (28) a seamstress, Refugio (25) a house keeper, Victoria (19) an artist, Lorina (17) and Guadalupe (12) in school.


The surprising number and range in types of buttons and clothing fasteners recovered from Feature 1 was likely due to the fact that Maggie Herrera (a seamstress) was one of the 6 children who lived at the adobe up until 1903. In 1900, Maggie was 28 years old. The selection of buttons, suggests that Maggie worked from the adobe and took care of a wide range of clients from various professions from the military to general laborers.

Most of the buttons were from regular work clothes. These included Prosser buttons (1850 to present) (sometimes called “Chinas”) that were both plain and decorated (2B-52, 53, 146, 2C-50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 99, 100, 143). Also
shown are shell buttons (2A-15 and 16, 2C-55, 56, 144). Steel and steel cloth-covered buttons were recovered (2B-54 and 145, 2C-45 and 46). One vulcanized rubber button (1849 to present)(2B-55), one bakelite button (1910-1930) (2C-98), and a leather button (2C-142) were found.

Also recovered were buttons from fancy clothing. Two brass buttons were recovered; one with a geometric surface pattern and loop shank (2C-141) and one 1850’s Scovill’s & Co. Federal Navy Button with an eagle on an anchor (2C-47). Another loop shank, Navy button made of painted celluloid with a fouled anchor design was recovered (1869-1920) (2C-48). A jet, self shank, oval button with surface grooves was found (2C-49) (Sprague 1985).

Other fasteners were also recovered including straight pins, safety pins, and clothes hooks.

Shell buttons
Prosser buttons (1850 to present)(sometimes called “Chinas”) both plain and decorated. Also
shown steel and steel cloth-covered buttons
Fancy clothing buttons: One bakelite button (1910-1930), a leather button, and two brass buttons; one with a geometric surface pattern and loop shank.
1850’s Scovill’s & Co. Federal Navy Button with an eagle on an anchor (2C-47). Loop shank, Navy button made of painted celluloid with a fouled anchor design was recovered (1869-1920) (2C-48). A jet, self shank, oval button with surface grooves was found.

Feature 1 Time Markers

An examination of the Feature 1 time markers suggest a beginning time of use no earlier than 1785-1790, and a cutoff in use around 1903. Between these dates, there appear to be three periods of use represented by different artifact categories. The first period (1788-1834) spans the Mission Era and is represented by mission ceramics, Chinese coins, wrought and cut square nails, Lusterware, and Vaseline beads.

The second period (1834-1870) spans the Mexican Rancho and Early California Statehood Eras. During this period, the manufacture of two types of mission ceramics ends, however, percussion cap firearms are developed as are 4 types of buttons (including the Scovill Federal Navy button). Trade in light blue seed beads also begins.

The third period (1870-1903) spans the early San Luis Obispo City Era and has the greatest number of time markers with the addition of shotgun, 38cal and 22cal firearms, Celluloid buttons, wire nails, clay and glass marbles, porcelain dolls, purple glass, and whisky flasks.

The cutoff date of 1903 was based on the lack of time marker items that should have been recovered, but didn’t exist in the Feature 1 area. Examples include selenium glass (1914-1932), machine made bottles (1914+), machine made marbles (1905+), plastic buttons (1930+), a change to exclusively wire nails (shortly after 1900), and others.