I've been interested in Santa Cruz history ever since I've moved here, but even more keenly so since this is where I'm raising my children. I've looked for good history materials, but have never found anything more than a few pages, until my husband came home with Santa Cruz County: Parade of the Past written by Margaret Koch. It's an older book, published in 1973, but is by far the most thorough I've ever seen.
A couple of my favorite characters so far include Adna Hecox and Elihu Anthony. They moved to Santa Cruz County back in the 1840s, and both were Methodist ministers. Hecox preached a sermon while he was camped in Sacramento, on the trail, which was the first Protestant sermon ever preached in California. He and Anthony moved their families to Santa Cruz where they started agricultural businesses. Hecox was also elected mayor (a position of considerable importance under Mexican rule), and was the county's supreme court justice--and at a time with no written law code to go by, he had to weigh each case with what he knew of Biblical justice. He was later appointed by the U.S. federal government to man the lighthouse that was built at Steamer's Lane (the lighthouse that stands there now is a replica of the older one). His daughter tended the lighthouse after he passed away.
By this time the Santa Cruz Mission had been nearly abandoned, or taken over by secular government offices. When the Mexicans took over California, all the missions were secularized and given out to regional governments. Hecox and Anthony began Methodist church services in a home and Hecox donated some of his land to build the church on his property--the first Protestant church building in California!