“Mountain” Mike Merritt Leaves No Dairy Farm Unturned

Story by Mountain Mike Merritt, Butano Park Seasonal Interpreter

Email Mike ([email protected])

Hi June,

I wanted to highlight the history of the valleys (Cloverdale Valley and Butano Valley) surrounding Butano State Park along Cloverdale Road. Leading south from Pescadero, the road winds through the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, past our local farms and into the protected POST and California State Park lands. This posting will focus on Cloverdale Valley.

Our European history began in 1768 when Don Gaspar de Portola, the man himself, strolled right through the Cloverdale and Butano valley on his way to discovering the San Francisco Bay. Because of their remote locations, the Spanish missions influence was slow in reaching the area.

During Mexico’s control of California, the valleys were part of several ranchos,  including Ricon de la Ballena (between Bean hallow and Gazos Creek), Rancho Butano to the north, and Rancho Punta de Ano Nuevo, a combination of lands from ranchos that left a legal mess.  Simeon Castro’s Rancho Punta de Ano Nuevo consisted of over 17,000 acres, including much of what is now Ano Nuevo SP and SR, as well as Butano SP. It was later to become the exclusive property of Loren Coburn

Enjoy and please feel free to respond to any information I have offered.

“Mountain” Mike Merritt

Butano SP Interpreter

Cloverdale Valley

Known to be the area along Cloverdale road between Gazos Road and the saddle near the Blue House Farm.

*Some may extent the name of the valley all the way along Butano Creek to Pescadero. This larger area I refer to as the Butano Valley, not to be confused with the Butano Canyon area. The Butano Valley runs from Pescadero south to the Blue House Farm.

Edgar Steele & The Cloverdale Dairy

Edgar Steele was born in 1830 in New York. In 1863 Edgar Steele built the Cloverdale Dairy in the area between the Butano and Gazos Creeks known as the Cloverdale Valley. Edgar worked 16-hour days for eight years, milking 20 cows himself, handling general business matters at the dairy, and keeping the books for The Steele Brothers firm. Thoroughly drained, in 1864 he leased his dairies for a comfortable yearly income of over $5,000 and went back East for a long rest. He toured the Southern States for couple of years after the Civil War, and married a Tennessee general’s daughter, Julia P. Stanley.

When the Point Reyes lease expired his vacation ended and Edgar returned to California to look for new land for the Steele milk cows. He would find cheap land near San Luis Obispo and moved with his wife to begin a dairy there. (Tess Black)

Horace Gushee took over the Cloverdale operation sometime prior to 1867 with 125 cows. Gushee made cheese.

The next to lease the land from Coburn and Clark was C. S. Walker in 1882. “Next is the Cloverdale Dairy, C. S. Walker proprietor, on shares for the Steele Bros. Clark & Coburn ranch, lease to run for two years, 100 cows milked, made cheese and butter, the butter being packed, and at present worth 30 cents per pound. Four men are employed at a monthly price of $35 each.”

A goat ranch was located in the Cloverdale Gulch, (a small ravine in the middle of the valley) in the 1930’s. It was operated by Joe Abbotti, who previously lived on Goat Hill, an area in the Little Butano Canyon.

The Cloverdale Valley fell into other ownership including the Peninsula Farm Company in the 1920’s, Shoreland Property and the Snows in the 1950’s.

Lawrence Silva was the last to work the land by running cattle. During the Silva lease the property was owned by Joseph Crummer.

On May 27, 1969 the Hoover House on Cloverdale Road midway between the park and Gazos Creek Rd burned to ground. The exact location is currently not known as well as the history of the house. *Looking for photos.

Cloverdale Road was paved in 1972 from Pescadero to the park entrance.  San Mateo County undertook the project primarily to improve access to Butano SP.

On August 2, 1973  a Cow Barn in Cloverdale Gulch was bulldozed by Lawrence Silva. The history of the barn is unknown but it may have dated as far back as to the 1860’s when Edgar Steele built his dairy in the valley. *More info and photo’s are needed.

This is the last surviving evidence of the dairy and ranching days in Cloverdale Valley. Its origins and use are unknown. Currently it is located on state park property. Please refrain from visiting as it is fragile and has yet to be studied. I will post more pictures upon request on it to satisfy you explorers.


Want to read a book about Pescadero? Check out Tess Black’s History of Four Pescadero Families

This entry was posted in "Mountain" Mike Merritt. Bookmark the permalink.