1891: The Pebble Beach Road

From the “Coastside Advocate,” September 1891.

“The Pebble Beach Raod”

Pescadero is disgusted, indignant, and angry, and well it should be, for one of the greatest attractions and pleasantest features—Pebble Beach–has been formally closed against all. L. Coburn, who owns the land lying between the county road and the ocean, has locked the gate on the road leading to the beach which has been open to the public for thirty years, and emphatically forbids trespassing on his property. As there is no other access to the beach the action appears a piece of spiteful officousness. What Mr. Coburn’s motive is we cannot conceive, as the road through his land does not injure it in any way, and as he is one of the largest land owners in this section it seems that he would be vitally interested in the progress and popularity of Pescadero, instead of depriving it of its chief attraction. Mr. Coburn doubtless has reasons for taking this selfish measure, but we seriously doubt if the reasons are justifiable, whatever they may be. A petition signed by almost every tax-payer in the community has gone to the Supervisors praying them to condemn a road through Mr. Coburn’s property to the beach. As to the beach itself it is below high water mark and of course government tide land. And, as to the road, the law reads plainly that a road that has been used as a highway for five years or longer cannot be closed against the public without special aciton by the Supervisors. Mr. Coburn has made himself universally unpopular by this action and the people are now determined to carry the matter to a final issue and ascertain if Mr. Coburn can legally tyrannize over them as he is endeavoring to.”


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March 1923: Subdivided: 10,000 acres

“Consisting of 10,000 Acres at Pescadero To Be Subdivided”
From the Half Moon Bay Review, March 1923

“Lyon and Hoag announces the placing on the market of the famous Peninsula Farms Ranch at Pescadero (formerly known as the Coburn LC10 ranch.)

This ranch is the last large holding down the peninsula in San Mateo County, close to San Francisco and it is also recognized as the largest body of artichoke and vegetable land in California.

“There are several hundred acres in full bearing artichokes, and the bottom land along the streams which is wonderfully fertile and adapted to the growth of early peas, sprouts, lettuce, cabbage, early potatoes and all other varieties of vegetables.

“The owners have spent a large amount of money in developing an adequate irrigation system at a cost of approximately $100,000, making the largest body of irrigated vegetable land in San Mateo county. The attractive features of this project is the fact that the purchaser steps into a large income from the time he takes possession. Artichokes have been bringing this season from $12 to $18 per crate, and the average yield is about 50 crates per acre, so returns are almost unbelievable, and the growth of artichokes is one of the most renumerative of all farming industries. Owing to the fact that the available land for artichoke growing is very limited, and the industry is only in its infancy many people are being attracted to this particular line of agriiculture and it is the one branch of farming that cannot overdone, as there is not sufficient land with proper climatic conditions available. The Peninsula Farms Property is right in the center of the artichoke district and therefore is attractive on account of the fact that this class of farming in this locality is not experimental but an assured fact.

“The Halfmoon Bay Coastside Artichoke Growers Association is spending a large amount of money throughout the United States at the present time in placing before the people the valuable qualities of artichokes. There are very few green vegetables to be had at the time that artichokes begin to come into the market therefore they demand a very high price and the outlet for this vegetable is unlimited, it being impossible to supply the demand.

“Another very renumerative crop is early Irish potatoes and several cars have already been shipped from this ranch and sold at a fancy price realizing a handsome net return to the grower.

“The bottom land is dark chocolate loam soil, very rich, and all the vegetables grown in and around San Francisco, will do exceptionally well on these lands.

“The owners of this ranch have a rate of $6.00 by truck per ton from the field to the commission house to San Francisco or direct to cars. This is a big item and is cheaper than rail transportation.

“Many locl people have been waiting for this ranch to be subdivided into small tracts and every indication is that it will be rapidly sold to people who know the value of property.

“Since the announcement of the sale of this ranch sales of over $50,000 have been made with many inquiries and every indication for quick market for the whole property.

“The ranch is only a couple hours ride from San Francisco by automobile, is reached via San Mateo/Half Moon Bay and thence to Pescadero.”

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1873: For Sale–Mr. Cleland’s Ranch

September 1873

“For Sale. That well known piece of property on Butano Creek, five miles from Pescadero and four miles from Pigeon Point Landing, known as Cleland’s Ranch, containing 160 acres, 30 acres of it first class bottom land under cultivation, the remainder No. 1 redwood and pine timber land. Improvements consist of a comfortable dwelling house, barn, store house and fine bearing orchard of choice fruit trees. Climate healthful and pleasant. Price $3,500. If desired for a mill site, several hundred acres of fine timber can be bought with the above. F.G. Cleland.”

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Joel Bratman: Travel Vicariously

All photos from Joel Bratman


You’re invited to view my photos from yesterday’s Berkeley Kite Festival.


I’ve also added a couple pages to my “Scenes of the USA” gallery and made a new “Signs of the USA & Canada” gallery.




– Joel

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John Vonderlin: 1905: Ocean Shore Railroad Work Begins on the South Coast


We’ve discussed what went on at the southern

coastal gateway to San Mateo through the years

a number of times, including the Ocean Shore rail-

road’s minor construction efforts and major plans at

that location.  This short little article from the June 3rd,

1905 issue of the San Francisco,”Call,” probably

is referring to the Alligator Rock  (Cape Horn) area

of the Waddell Bluffs. This might represent the

OSR’s highpoint, as it would seem to have pulled

one over on the Big Bully of the Block, as S.P.

(Southern Pacific Railroad) was then considered

by many.

Though it turned out to be a meaningless

victory in the end, my guess is the OSR pro-

moters puffed their chests out and spoke with

pride about this maneuver for the rest of 1905.

Enjoy. John




SANTA CRUZ. June 2. — The long

looked-for commencement work, in the

construction of the Ocean Shore Railway,

the new electric line which is to be built

between this city and San Francisco, be

gan to-day. A gang of thirty-five men

was put to work grading around a high

point at Waddell Creek. There is room

for only one railroad around this point

and the one which comes last must tun-

nel the hill.

The Ocean Shore engineers stole a march

on the Southern Pacific which has de-

clared its intention to build a coast line.

This leaves the Southern Pacific the al-

ternative of running its line up Waddell

Creek to Big Basin and around the hill

to Pescadero.

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1966: Richfield Corp May Build on Pescadero Land

September 15, 1966 story from the Half Moon Bay Review

“Atlantic Richfield Corp. has been negotiating for an option to buy 5,700 acres south of Pescadero to develop a planned community of vacation and “second” homes, it was revealed recently.

“Reportedly involved in the transaction would be the former Humphrey Ranch–about 5,000 acres—and 700 acres of the Frank Latta Ranch.

“According to published reports, the rumored total purchase, price is $6 million. None of the principals would confirm the figure.

[Image below: Frank Latta]


“Latta confirmed that the big oil company was ‘dickering for an option,’ but added that he was not optimistic about a sale because their price was too low.

“He pointed out Richfield was only one of the many firms interested in the property, and said that no further negotiation meetings were scheduled.

“According to a report contained in a Bay area newspaper, Richfield has already obtained options on both parcels of land, and must decide whether to buy them within 60 days.

“However, Latta said talks for an option on his property are still going on.

“The Humphrey property is owned by a Honolulu group. A representative from Hawaii was reportedly due in the Bay area last week to discuss a possible sale.

“Richfield spokesman Sherwood Chillingworth was quoted in Los Angeles as saying his company had retained two consulting firms to conduct engineering and economic studies of the land.

“He was quoted as saying the company has no plans for oil exploration on the property. If the purchase goes through, he aid, a ‘recreational type of community’ would be developed made up of weekend and summer homes.”

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1862: “Narrow Escape from a Grizzly”

“Marysville Daily Appeal, Friday, May 2, 1862: “Narrow Escape From a Grizzly.”

“A correspondent from the ‘Santa Cruz Sentinel,” writing from Pescadero, gives the following account of a hunting adventure:

On Friday, the 11 inst., Thomas Dale, Rufus Morgan and others were in pursuit of a grizzly bear, which had been committing depredations on the San Gregorio and vicinity. Finding the bear, they succeeded in killing one of the cubs, and wounding the old bear in the neck, which retreated, as they supposed, down the hill to the creek. They had pursued but a few paces when they came upon, and so suddenly that she succeeded in catching Rufus Morgan and mutilating him in so severe a manner that all hopes of his recovery seemed impossible. Dr. Goodspeed was called and rendered immediate aid. Find the skull badly fractured, by the bear biting him so as to tear away the temporal bone, opening to the brain–also destroying one eye, which eye, luckily, he had lost the use of some years since–and shockingly  mangling his left arm and hand; the wounds were dressed by removing a portion of the superior ‘maxilary’ bone, which was displaced. Dr. Goodspeed has hopes of his recovery, if the wound should not be complicated with ‘erysipelatous’ inflammation.”

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1907: Frederick M. Steele passes

September 26, 1907

“Frederick M. Steele died at his home near Pescadero Tuesday morning, September 24, his death caused by heart failure. He was well known and prominent on the coastside, and owned large property interests at Pigeon Point. He was 62 years of age and leaves a wife, two sons and two daughters to mourn his loss.”

[Note from the author of the obit: “It has been a long time since any news came out of Pescadero. Whatever there has been came through the correspondent in San Gregorio.”] Very interesting.


May 1955

“Ida J. Steele, 90-year-old Pioneer, Dies”

“Death claimed one of Sa Mateo County’s oldest pioneers last night when Mrs. Ida J. Steele, 90, after a brief illness in the home in which she had been born in Pescadero.

“The home, the first American-built house in the Pescadero Valley, was erected in 1855 by Mrs. Steele’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Moore. It had been the scene of her parent’s golden wedding anniversary, and 16 years ago Mrs. Steele and her husband, the late Charles E. Steele, celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in the residence.

“The lumber for this home was hauled from Santa Cruz by oxen and many of the original pieces of redwood flooring still remain in the home, along with a century-old clock that is still running after coming across the country in a covered wagon.

“A year after Mrs. Steele was born, her father built the community’s first school house near his home and hired a teacher at his own expense. The building served as a community social hall and as a church for several different religious faiths. Later a public school was constructed.

“Mr. and Mrs. Steele were married in 1880, Mrs. Steele devoted the rest of her life caring for her family and a flower garden that in pre-war days was one of the showplaces in Pescadero.

“She is survived by a daughter of Mrs. May Pinkham of Thorton and three sons, Norman E., Charles E., Jr. and Grover Steele, all of Pescadero. She has 16 great-grandchildren. Her nephew is Chief Deputy Sheriff Walter Moore of San Mateo County.

The funeral will be held at 2:30 p.m. from her home in Pescadero and arrangements are being made by the Dutra Funeral Home in Half Moon Bay.


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John Vonderlin: Unhappy, Unpaid Ocean Shore Laborers


Story from John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,

Here’s an article that has a little piece of the complex puzzle of why the Ocean Shore Railroad failed. I was  happy to see the employees of the Unemployed co-operative   league, my favorite union, getting involved in this, no matter the irony.

My guess is this story is more complex then the plaintiff’s lawyer asserts. With few banks, little literacy(signed with an X)  and a “Wild West” scene at the labor camps with saloons, gambling, extortion, prostitution, and violent crime,  having paychecks become legal tender is problematic. And how Mr. Genatto, the “humblest citizen,” the man who did the hard work, is protected by Mr. Backus being able to cash his check, I’m not quite sure. He may may have accepted it for gambling losses, a night’s drunken binge-ing or other misguided pleasureseeking.

On the other hand, after working a long, hard day at a dangerous job, to have the company make me wait until I could go to San Francisco, (or HMB) to get that whole dollar I earned, burning a hole in my pocket, might irritate workers hankering to spend it on some of the fine entertainment I mentioned..

I will agree with the lawyer that earning $1 a day, for backbreaking dangerous work, makes one a member of the “humblest citizen” class. But, ironically, those humblest of citizens, at least got fully paid, unlike almost all of the investors and many of the contractors and suppliers of the Ocean Shore Railroad.  Enjoy. John



Test Case Will Be Made Against

Time Check System by

Co-operative League

Attorney Denounces Railway

Company and Threatens to

Go the Limit in Court

As a test case in the campaign

against  the  time – check system, – suit

was filed in the justice  court yesterday

by Backus, a member of the Unemployed

co-operative league against the Ocean

Shore railway company for a claim

of $29.50.

The time check was .made payable

to^ A. A Genatto,  a  laborer, and after

passing through .various hands was as-

signed finally to  Backus,  who declared

in his complaint, that he was unable to

collect.  The check, according  to the

data on its face, was payable April 15,

1909, for 30 days’ work, done, during

the month of December 1908, at the

rate of $1 a-day. Of the total amount

50 cents was deducted for hospital

service. (What! no health care benefits?)

Attorney G.B. Benham, representing

the plaintiff, said that the case was a

test one. “We are anxious to find out,”

he  said, “by what right these firms

refuse to pay their  workmen,  and

whether or not they have a legal

ground for their  action. This is the

first case and it will be followed  by

scores: of others.”

Backus, was emphatic in his denun-

ciation. “The present instance,” he

said, “is one of many, but it has been

selected for prosecution because of its

aggravated character.  We propose to

go the limit in showing up this corporation,

which has always received generous

treatment from. San Francisco and

which is guilty of such inhumanity to

one of its humblest citizens.”

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John Vonderlin: Opinions on Beach Closures and He Meets Author Rob Tillitz

Story by John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Photo by John Vonderlin

[Image below: Author of “Bootlegger’s Cove” signs books in Pescadero recently.]


Hi June,

Budget problems have caused there to be threats of closure of every level of Parks. Arnie threatened to close more then half of the State’s.  San Mateo will be hurting too, and may close County Parks. For locals it may be a two-edged sword. While less people will come out to the beach parks if they are chained shut, more people will create there own routes to the beach, vandalism may increase at shuttered sites, problematic parking will increase, and with no trash service, littering will for sure. I’m sure business people are scared about the decline in visitors and the cash they bring. Whether this all happens is up in the air, but nothing should happen until the Fall.

I went to Rob’s booksigning at the Country Store in Pescadero. Town was jammed, something I usually try to avoid encountering. But, it was nice to sit and talk with him and his girlfriend (?) Barbara. He has deep local roots obviously, given some of the folks  that stopped, talked and got a signed copy of his book. Being an outsider, I only knew of most of them, but he’d worked with, for, or grew up with them all. I’ve attached a few pictures I took. As you can see I was battling the bright sun behind him.

While he was enjoying himself, I couldn’t help but think how flacking a book could get tiring real fast. After you’ve touched in with family, friends, associates, and their communities it’s on to: serail strangers in serial strange places. The sameness would contrast poorly with the uniqueness of the creative actions to bring your work into existence. But money and success are powerful lures. Enjoy. John —

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