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Who was San Mateo Anyway?

Learn all about the tax collector whose namesake is the county we call home.

Saint Matthew is believed to be an apostle who collected taxes from the Hebrew people.
Saint Matthew is believed to be an apostle who collected taxes from the Hebrew people.
We're surrounded by saints in the Bay Area — Francisco, Carlos, Bruno, Cruz, Clara, Ramon, Leandro, Jose, and of course, Mateo.

But do you know the stories behind the names of so many cities in Northern California? Here's the skinny on San Mateo, a man so special he has a city and a county named after him:


San Mateo, spanish for Saint Matthew, is said to be an early follower of Jesus and an apostle. According to Catholic.org, he was a tax collector, a fact all too convenient considering San Mateo County has the highest sales tax rate of any of California's "San" or "Santa" counties. 

Matthew is recorded as being the author of the first gospel. He was one of the Twelve Disciples and the New Testament says he witnessed the Resurrection. 

Little is known about his later life, but some texts mention Matthew traveling to Persia and Ethiopia to preach the message of his religion.

Catholicism spread along with imperialism to Mexico, which, according to Calisphere, included a small area called Rancho San Mateo in what is present day Burlingame, Hillsborough and San Mateo (city). 

In 1846, Pico Pio, the final governor of California when it was still part of Mexico, granted the land to the United States. California became a state in 1850 and San Mateo County, named for Rancho San Mateo in the north, was officially formed in 1856. 

So next time someone asks you, "Who was San Mateo anyway?" you can give them a little inside info (and you have a scapegoat for those obscene tax rates). 

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