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Current-day El Cerrito spurred out of the original 1834 Rancho San Pablo land grant (an area known as “Los Cuchigunes” or “San Pablo”), in which a 17,000-acre tract was endowed to and settled by the Castro family. While the Castros inhabited the area early on, William F. Rust—a journeyman blacksmith from Germany—is recognized as one of the founding members of El Cerrito. Rust arrived in 1883, settling in San Pablo and eventually establishing a blacksmith shop between Oakland and San Pablo. In 1909, a post office was instituted within Rust’s store, earning the city the name “Rust”—a name that was changed to “El Cerrito” in August of 1916.

As more people settled in the area, the question of incorporation loomed. Ultimately, the matter was settled, as El Cerrito was incorporated as a city on Aug. 17, 1917. At this time, the community encompassed a population of 1,400, which gradually grew to reach 3,852 in 1930, and 7,000 by 1940. El Cerrito has certainly grown from these early days, with more than 23,500 and hundreds of businesses calling it home today.

While the City of El Cerrito continues to develop and evolve with the changing needs of these times, it has successfully maintained its much-treasured heritage. Thanks to the work of such organizations as the Historical Society, El Cerrito’s past is protected through the preservation of historical structures, artifacts and documents. The year 2007 symbolized El Cerrito’s 90th anniversary, which was celebrated all year long through community-wide events and the publication of interesting compilations outlining the area’s vibrant history.

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