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Rather than rich soil, white settlers were attracted here by the possibility of free land.In 1821, after the Mexican War of Independence, the mission lands in Santa Maria Valley were made available for private ownership under a Mexican land grant called Rancho Punta de Laguna.The townsite was recorded in Santa Barbara in 1875.The new town was named Grangerville, then changed to Central City.Between 18, four of the valley's settlers, Rudolph Cook, John Thornburg, Isaac Fesler (for whom Fesler Jr.High School is named), and Isaac Miller (for whom Miller Elementary School is named), built their homes near each other at the present corners on Broadway and Main Street.The only recorded earlier snowfall was in January 1882. Agriculture plays an important role in the city's economy.The Santa Maria area is home to an increasing number of vineyards, wineries and winemakers and is centrally located to both the Santa Ynez and Foxen Canyon areas of Santa Barbara County's wine country, and San Luis Obispo County's Edna Valley-Arroyo Grande wine country.
The petroleum industry has had a large presence in the area since oil was first discovered at the Orcutt Oil Field in 1902.
The valley is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and to the east by the San Rafael Mountains and the Los Padres National Forest.
The city of Guadalupe, California is approximately 9 miles (14 km) to the west of Santa Maria.
It became Santa Maria on February 18, 1885, since mail was often being sent by mistake to Central City, Colorado.
Santa Maria was chosen from the name Juan Pacifico Ontiveros had given to his property 25 years earlier.