John Vonderlin: Willowside Dairy: Yesterday and Today

Story by John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,
This is an excerpt from the 1883 “History of San Mateo,” book available for reading or downloading at There is a section in the book covering the dairies of San Mateo and this description of the still existing Willow Side Dairy is included in it.  These days, as they describe below, they raise herding dogs and offer stockherding lessons. They also seem to host a number of competitions and other community events. It is on Stage Road so I must have driven by it. I’ll see if I can get some photos of the historic buildings the next time I drive by. Enjoy. John

Located just outside rustic Pescadero, CA, on the coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Willowside is a herding facility on the site of a restored historic 19th century dairy farm. Various sized enclosures, large open fields, and a wide range of sheep accomodate the needs of herding students from novice to advanced.

Willow Side Dairy Farm. — North of Pescadero, and at the head of the val-
ley of that name, is situated R. H. Brown’s Willow Side dairy farm, em-
bracing a tract of twelve hundred acres of fine arable and pasture land. The
capacious barn — a two story structure, covering an area of sixty -four by one
hundred and twenty feet, is built on an elevated piece of ground a few hundred
yards from the main road from Pescadero to Spanishtown. The cattle are
stanchioned in four rows of stalls. A system of water-tight gutters, skirting
along the row of stalls, receives all the manure from them, both liquid and
solid. The floor is traversed by four tramways, on which a box car travels,
following along by the manure troughs, and collecting from them the offal.
When the car is filled, it is run to the rear end of the building, where it goes
on a platform car, which, running on a track. of its own, carries the loaded
box car to the dumping place, to be utilized in enriching the soil of the farm.
The barn has stalls for one hundred and twenty -eight head of cattle.
The upper floor is the hay floor, having a capacity for storing twenty-two
tons of hay. Here also are two feed cutters, one for cutting roots, and the
other for hay. The latter is driven by horse power, and the hay, as it is cut,
falls into a receptacle below, where it is mixed with grain, and in this shape
fed to the stock.
There is another barn close by, in which seventy-five head of cattle and
young stock can be sheltered, and the hay and feed for them stored.
A short distance down the hill from the first mentioned barn is the dairy
house, three stories high, and twenty-four by forty feet square. It is built
over an excavation in the hill-side, the face of the excavation fronting the rear
wall of the first story; this first or basement story is divided into two com-
partments, in one of which is kept the tubs and everything used for packing
butter. The size of this room is sixteen by twenty-four feet; the other is the
butter room, twenty-four feet square. Its walls, as well as the walls of the room
directly above it, are packed with saw dust, by which means an even tempera-
ture is preserved through all seasons of the year. The second floor is divided
into rooms corresponding in size with those on the floor below. The smaller
one contains a large iron boiler, always full of hot water, which is conducted
by distributing pipes to every part of the building where its use is required.
The larger apartment on this floor is the milk-room. In the center of it is an
elevator for raising or lowering milk from one floor to the other. Outside of
the building and close by the milk-room, is a one hundred and twenty -five-
gallon tank, into which the pails of milk are emptied as it comes from the cow,
and from which it passes through a pipe into the milk room. The top floor is
used exclusively for making and curing cheese. Cleanliness is a cardinal fea-
ture in the entire building. Evervthing has an air of freshness and neatness,
nothing whatever of an offensive nature being allowed to accumulate; all the
refuse is carried away through pipes to the hog-pens. (Bacon, anyone?)
There is also on the premises a stable and barn for horses, complete in all
its details. Mr. Brown has now one hundred and sixty-five head of cattle on
the farm, but when the improvements already begun are completed, he will be
able to maintain two hundred and fifty cows, and take care of their products.


Biography of R.H. Brown

R. H. Brown. This gentleman, who is one of the prominent dairymen of
the coast, was born in Pointe Caupee Parish, Louisiana, November 25, 1839,
and received a thorough education in his native state. In 1860 he left his
southern home and came to California, via New York and the Isthmus of
Panama. His first settlement was in Klamath county, where he mined until
1862, afterward migrating to Idaho, where he remained engaged in mining,
sawmilling, etc., until 1872, when he returned to San Francisco. During a
period of seven years Mr. Brown acted as secretary for various mining com-
panies, finally removing in 1879 to this county, where he purchased an exten-
sive dairy ranch, a full description of which is given in another portion of
this work.


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