Indians of the San Ramon Valley
In 1772, the first westerners traveled through the San Ramon Valley. In his diary for March 31, Father Juan Crespi said that they "came to three villages with some little grass houses. As soon as the heathen caught sight of us they ran away, shouting and panic-stricken." The next day he noted that the Valley had "level land, covered with grass and trees, with many and good creeks, and with numerous villages of very gentle and peaceful heathen. It is a very suitable place for a good mission."
Spanish priests first recorded the names by which San Ramon Valley Indians were known to their neighbors: Tatcan and Seunen. The Tatcans were part of the Bay Miwork linguistic group. The Tatcans lived in the Alamo-Danville-San Ramon area in the watershed of the San Ramon Creek. The Seunens were Ohlone (Costanoan) speakers and lived south of today's Norris Canyon Road in San Ramon and Dublin. A huge marsh around today's I580-I680 interchange provided rich food supplies for Indians in that area.
In the fall of 1794 the Bay Miwok Saclans (from Walnut Creek-Lafayette) and Tatcans went to Mission Dolores in San Francisco. The Spanish weapons and their unusual gifts intrigued the Indians; some of them wanted to ally themselves with the powerful newcomers. But, only months after they moved to Mission Dolores, an epidemic swept the Mission. In the spring of 1795 a large number of Indians fled the Mission and returned home. For nearly ten years the Saclans and other neighboring tribes fought against the Spanish -- "gentle and peaceful" no more.
Founded in 1797, this Mission attracted Seunens beginning in 1801, although Seunens and Tatcans went to Mission Dolores as well. Had it not been for the hostility of many tribes in the inland valleys, the Spanish would have placed Mission San Jose in the Amador, San Ramon or Diablo Valleys, instead of a mere 13 miles from Mission Santa Clara.
The inland valleys became part of Mission San Jose's grazing land and recruitment area. An Indian named Ramon lived in the San Ramon Valley and tended mission cattle and sheep during the winter months; he later was an alcalde of the Mission Indians. His name was given to the Creek and Valley, with "San" added to conform to the Spanish usage of the day.
Ultimately contact with the Spanish destroyed the Indians' way of life. The livestock ravaged their carefully nurtured meadows. Western diseases and Spanish cultural and spiritual expectations altered Indian society forever.