The Coburn Mystery: Chapter 45

The Pebble Beach War, 1891

“In question is the farm famed locally from Shasta to Tia Juana as a producer of precious stones; it lies on the ocean edge and is off the highway. The access to it has of old been by way of a gate opening with a pasture field then down a wagon track to a camping spot.”  [from a newspaper article.]

“This matter was got up by a few speculators picking pebbles to sell them…” Loren Coburn

“…Sunday is the day for mobs….” Sarah S. Upton Coburn

In the eyes of the locals the crooked cow trail that led from the village to Pebble Beach was a public road.  They called it the Pebble Beach Road. It had been a custom, a gesture between good neighbors harking back to the ranchero days, of allowing travelers to pass over privately owned land without exacting a toll.

Loren Coburn cut the heart out of the neighborly feeling when he crisscrossed his land with fences laced with barbed wire. He nailed up Keep Out signs.

Trespassers had good reason to fear Coburn:  his hired men had murdered popular Scotty Rae during a struggle over Pigeon Point Landing.

Pebble Beach was located on Loren Coburn’s 150-acre Pocket Ranch, part of the much larger Butano Rancho, home to a dairy farm where hay and other grains were grown. He was running cattle on the ranch and there were cattle trails everywhere. But besides “growing pebbles” at Pebble Beach, this was “great strawberry country,” some 1,000 acres of luscious berries, red and black. They grew in a sandy soil easily sifted away by the sea winds.

“You go through a gate and you go right along to Pebble Beach,” explained Alexander Moore, who had been there in 1851 before [almost) anybody else. “If you want to go down to the dairy houses you have to go to the right, but you keep to the left if you go to Pebble Beach.”

Despite the fences, nobody seriously believed that Loren Coburn would lock the Pescaderans out of Pebble Beach. Yet, in September 1891, he did exactly that.

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