History Pages: 26 - The Farmers

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Wilder Ranch house 2.jpg

The town of Santa Cruz continued to grow during the late 1860s, but many new names also moved into rural areas, pursuing various agricultural ventures. On the North Coast, dairy farming was soon to become a major industry. One of the pioneers among North Coast dairymen was Delos Wilder. In partnership with Levi Baldwin, the two established a pair of dairy farms that became one of the most successful and longest-lasting in the County. The Wilder family continued to operate the ranch until 1969, keeping it in one piece until it became Wilder Ranch State Park in 1974. Since then, the state park and many volunteers have restored many of the ranch buildings to their late-19th-century glory days.

Wilder Baldwin map.png

The detail at right, from the 1889 Hatch map, shows the Wilder and Baldwin lands, on the former Rancho Refugio. Ranch buildings include an 1830s adobe built by the original grantee, Jose Bolcoff. Some other familiar (to readers of this blog) names can also be found. To the right (east) of Wilder’s ranch is Meder Creek, named after former ranch owner Moses Meder. That creek is now known as Wilder Creek.

North of Baldwin, near the top of the map image, you can see the names Davis & Cowell. That parcel is the former Samuel Adams Lime Company, sold to Davis & Cowell in 1869. The lime company land is also now part of the state park, following a period when it was known as Gray Whale Ranch. To the east of Meder Creek on the map is the Eli Moore ranch.

Logging continued and accelerated as a major industry in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but more open mountainside areas provided other agricultural opportunities. Brothers John and George Jarvis planted a new vineyard on the hillsides above Scotts Valley. They called their new home Vine Hill and became major wine producers. In 1876, the Jarvis brothers got into retail, constructing a building on Pacific Avenue to house a wine & spirits shop. There are still some small vineyards in the Vine Hill – Jarvis Road area, but the centers of County wine production are elsewhere and most of the Jarvis hillsides are once again covered by forest.

Corcoran lagoon.png

East of Santa Cruz and Branciforte, in the unincorporated area known today as Live Oak, numerous small farmers began to cultivate some of the former cattle lands. William Trevethan was one of them, settling on a 66-acre Eastside farm in 1856.

According to an 1870 biography published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Trevethan supported himself and his family on his small farm by “cultivating it and hauling lumber with teams, his sons assisting”. The farm’s location is remembered today by Trevethan Avenue, which runs north from Soquel Avenue.

Farther out to the east, Irish immigrant James Corcoran acquired 160 acres near the lagoon (shown at left) that now bears his name. Corcoran was one of the lucky ones during the Gold Rush and apparently used his bounty wisely, becoming a successful wheat farmer and investor.

Next: History Pages: 26 - The Quiet Years