The following story is from the manuscript titled "Looking Back Down an Old Trail Through the Eyes of a Pioneer," by John McDougall (1930), in the collection of the Monterey County Historical Society. McDougall's fascinating book will be published by the Society shortly. Follow this link for more information.
One day when I was still quite a young man a lot of the older settlers in this part of the Salinas Valley got together in the old Halfway house run by Austin Smith, that stood in what is now Main Street. The object was a discussion of the question of establishing a town. Among those present, as near as I can remember, were the following:
From Blanco district: James Bardin, Sr., George Condon, James H. McDougall, Potter, Beaver, Smith, Billings, Washington and Clabe Winker, Tash, George and Tom Holmes, Anton Gigling, Tex Robinson.
From Natividad: George Graves, Tom Graves, Captain El Graves, Sam Giles and his partner, Charles Louis, Sam Faneuf, Eugene and Fred Sherwood, P. Soto, Mike Alpit and Patton.
From Hilltown, William Johnson, Captain Relply, Tad Davis, Jesse D. Carr, and others.
Captain El Graves presided.
After the crowd got together someone asked, "How about a town being built here?"
The reply was from Eugene Sherwood, who said "I will give the land here and I have brought old Captain Relply to survey it for you." With that Sherwood produced a map of the original survey of this city. The survey was accepted and it was decided to go ahead with the town building.
The question of a name for the town was next brought up. While they were discussing that important matter, a man came in with a handful of stuff that looked like salt. The man gathered it along the shore of one of the numerous salt ponds that formerly existed in this neighborhood. Early residents, I am told, depended entirely on these ponds for their salt supplies. It was deposited during high water and easily obtainable when the water receded.
Soto examined it and exclaimed in the Spanish language, "Es Salina."
That gave Captain El Graves a hunch. Addressing the gathering he said, "Let's take that "Es" and put on the other end of the next word and call it "Salinas." Graves suggestion was adopted. Hence the name of the present flourishing city.