cal poly land

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An Illustrated History of Land Acquisition and Development for Agricultural Education

A provisional summary outline

(El Corral Publishing 1985)
by Professor John Stechman
[with kind permission of the author]

  1. Early History
    1. Indians
      1. precursors of Chumash to 7000 BCE
      2. maritime and interior migration for acorns and pine nuts
        1. traces in rock paintings and mortars for grinding in many locations on CPL
        2. pictures of mortars and rock painting in back bay
    2. Spanish
      1. explorers 150-1700
      2. mission founded 1772
        1. cattle, sheep horses grazing
        2. wine and vegetables and wheat--fertile soils
        3. one of wealthiest missions
    3. Ranchos
      1. CA becomes Mexican territory in 1822
      2. mission lands divided and given (granted) to Spanish or Mexican descent
      3. boundaries defined by ridges and drainages, ambiguous, but still indicated on USGS topo maps
      4. feudal cattle barons
  2. The three ranchos which encompassed present Cal Poly Land
    1. San Luisito--San Luisito Creek drainage
      1. 4389 acres given to Guadalupe Cantua in 1841
      2. sold to captain John Wilson 1859
        1. the hero of Joh Henry Dana's "Seven Years Before the Mast"
      3. purchased by Hollister family after 1862-4 drought, when land prices dropped. They ran sheep
    2. El Chorro [waterfall]--Pennington, Dairy and Chorro Creek drainages
      1. 3167 acres granted to Wilson and partner James Scott 1845 who bought adjoining San Luisito Rancho in 1859
      2. heirs sell to Hollisters in 1866
      3. Pennington homestead--outside of El Chorro's northern boundary
        1. Olive trees and remains of Pennington sheep corral from 1880's[pictures]
        2. founder of SLO Republic newspaper 1880
      4. Joseph Gilardi and Charles Walter emitgrated from Switzerland 1891, around 1900 purchased first the Ida Hollister Stowe ranch of 1200 acres and Pennington and Sinsheimer ranches totalling 1000 acres in 1910, and 1000 acre Dughi property by 1915.
      5. Walters family homestead where they lived from 1900-1942 stands west of Cuesta College on Highway 1--occupied now by Farm superintendant Gary Ketcham
      6. Further west a palm tree marks home site of Barney Minette and Joe Barta who lived there till late '30's
      7. In 1942, all these families and Turris, Vollmers and Hollisters were notified by U.S. government that their lands were needed for war effort and given 30 day eviction notices.
      8. "Thousands of acres of prime grazing land were transformed into an army infantry training ground. Protest and eventual suit for evition from and condemnation sale of their property rather than leasing... were filed against U.S. govt. After the war attempts of former owners to regain lands failed...lands eventual declaration as military surplus and subsequent acquisition by Cal Poly.
      9. " grassland...riddled with steel fragments, defaced by delapidated concrete, wooden and sheet metal structures, and scarred by former earther enthrenchments, road beds and exploded moundings. These remnants of military use remain still as mute evidence of the land's deplorable history." 38
    3. Potrero [pasture] de San Luis Obispo-- Stenner and Brizziolari Creek drainages
      1. Estevan Quintana acquired 2000 acres in late 1820's
      2. 3506 acres granted to Maria Concepcion Boronda 1842
      3. 1880's--sons in law, Serrano and Herrera build two story frame home at top of Stenner creek road--also known as "Steiner"
      4. Serrano ranch
        1. name from Miguel Serrano, son-in-law of Estevan Quintana, or his son Manuel Serrano. Manuel and his son Carlos ceased grazing cattle in 1919. Ranch bought by Victor Bello in 1925, [Bello sports?] who never lived or farmed there, but leased to Azevedo family and Antone Bettencourt.
        2. They cultivated land for oat hay and peas
        3. Operated a seasonal dairy
        4. Steam trains stopped for water at Serrano station
        5. Barn still there existed in 1919
        6. Present house transported there from Chorro creek in 1935
      5. Peterson ranch
        1. Brizzolari creek named after Bartolo Brizzolara, prominent land owner and merchant
          1. he bought land from Herrera; deeded it to son, Santiago, who sold it to Phillip Ready in 1882, who sold it to Dawson Lowe in 1887
        2. Owned by Milton and Alena Righetti, who didnt live there but constructed buildings--hog slaughterhouse still stands at lower end of building cluster
        3. Millard and Silvia Albert Peterson bought it in 1936 and managed a cattle and hog operation. They constructed present house.
        4. Sold to Poly only after Millards death in 1950 after years of pressure
      6. Cheda ranch
        1. John Cheda immigrated around 1872. Married Nancy Gross in 1880 and lived on Boysen ranch [west of Stenner Glen, below Highland]. Moved to Johnson ranch with eight children in 1899, purchased Chapman place--160 acres along Stenner creek below railway trestle; purchased additional 300 acres from railway to highway 1 between 1907 and 1912
        2. Irrigation system developed by son Ernie between 1927 and 1932, led from Stenner creek above the trestle by hand dug ditches and flumes to a hold reservoir and then to pastures. [pics in Stechman]
        3. Land divided again and apportioned to heirs in 1945.
        4. Cal poly litigated for condemnation of Cheda, Peterson and Serrano ranches 1950-51
  3. Cal Poly ownership
    1. School founded in 1901--influence of Myron Angel, W.H. Mills of UP railroad, Assemblyman Warren John and State Senator S.C. Smith
    2. $50K appropriation by legislature
    3. Property south of town too expensive; Lowe property--281 acres at the mouth of Poly Canyon--chosen because it was cheap and would provide view for railroad passengers
    4. First director, Leroy Anderson, states purpose of school: "an institution which will give boys and girls training in the arts and sciences which deal peculiarly with country life" p.12
    5. "the bucolic aim for Cal Poly of fulfilling a neeed to train students in teh arts and sciences which deal with country life stated by Diretor Leroy Anderson in the School's first catalogue of 1903 has been attained." P.39
    6. Water supply increased 1909-10 with wells near Stenner Creek and reservoir fed by dams on Brizzolara Creek
    7. Johnson Tract of 628 acres from top of Horse canyon to Highway 1 and from Highland drive to the Swine Unit purchased in 1918 to secure water and watershed
      1. Johnson got it from Felipe Moragas in 1870; previously it was under control of Mission
    8. In 1929 M. Fiscalini Dairy property of 177 acres--along lower Stenner Creek near Highway 1 near Poultry Unit--purchased, for well and additional grazing and row crops
    9. Garcia farm of 114 acres--from Perimeter drive to Slack St.--purchased in 1944 after college leased it for dairy grazing. Garcias have retained house and grounds and entry way until present
    10. Bello or Serrano Ranch--at top of Poly and Stenner Canyons--bought by Walter Wells in 1944 to reserve for Cal Poly.
    11. 49 acre adjacent tract leased from SP railway for $25/year.
    12. President McPhee, urged by Ag Faculty, convinces State official Joel Burkman to "fulfill a neeed for 1800 acres of rangeland and water rights. Cal Poly"condemns and purchases Serrano, Peterson and Cheda ranches in 1950-51."
    13. Ranch management
      1. 2700 acres managed by "Farm Committee" under dean Varn Shephard--Shephard reservoir. Undertook many construction projects
      2. They approved request for establishing botanical garden southeast of Brizzolara Creek and Peterson house by Biology professor Robert Hoover in 1953
      3. By 1957, Ag wanted more grazing acreage so they could turn good soils to cultivation to accommodate growing enrollment. [NB: acreage increased with enrollment]
      4. State Senate bill made $500K available for purchase. SLO Grange opposed college purchase of land at LOVR and Hwy 101 and directed attention to Govt land at Camp SLO. 507 acres leased near Chorro Lake
  4. Government Grants--continued expansion 1961-1982
    1. In 1961, Ag leases 582 acres of Camp SLO for farming and grazing--Chorro Creek Ranch. Bottomland levelled. Reservoirs constructed to store water from wells and Whale Rock reservoir.
    2. Escuela and Chorros Creek ranches including those tracts were granted to Cal Poly as two parcels totalling 2357 acres in 1968 by dept of HEW which had received it as surplus land from army
    3. Justified by large student enrollment in Ag: 1884 in 1968. At that time 720 acres under cultivation and 3430 acres of rangeland managed for grazing.
    4. Land also granted to Cuesta and Dept of Parks and Rec. [for Chorro Park]
    5. Much development of Ag. Structures in 1960's followed land acquisition
    6. Escuela ranch has classroom, corral, crops and machinery building and corral, 11 fenced grazing units--for student enterprise management
    7. Parks and Rec. couldnt manage all the land and surrendered it back top HEW. Poly applied and was awarded Walters Ranch--743 acres, connecting Chorro and Escuela Ranches in 1985 This section is devoted entirely to grazing and grass production.
    8. 452 acres were granted to State dept of Fish and Game for use as an educational and recreation firearms range.
    9. By 1983 University owned more than 6000 acres--650 farmed and 4000 grazed. There were 3442 ag school majors



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