Santa Cruz County History - Places

Coast Dairies Property: A Land Use History

[Excerpt from Coast Dairies Long-Term Resource Protection and Use Plan: Draft Exiting Conditions Report for the Coast Dairies Property, Section 1.0.
Figures and photos referenced in text are not included in this web version.]

1.2 - A Humanized Landscape THE EARLY LIME INDUSTRY

The other early industry, one that will have a direct bearing on the Coast Dairies story, involved the huge limestone deposits that underlay most of Ben Lomond Mountain. Isaac E. Davis and Albion P. Jordan developed those deposits closest to Santa Cruz beginning as early as 1849. As the local newspaper noted in 1856, "The supply of lime rock is inexhaustible of the blue, grey and crystallized varieties; in most localities where the rock is found, the land is covered with timber, to be used in burning" (Sentinel 7/26/1856).

Early Santa Cruz Lime Kilns

The limestone was heated ("burned") in high-heat kilns and the resultant lime was packed in barrels and sold throughout the West to make mortar and whitewash. Since the limestone deposits were located uphill from Santa Cruz, it was a relatively easy downhill trip for the heavy barrels of lime. A wharf was built where present-day Bay Street in the City of Santa Cruz intersects the coastal bluff, and a steep wharf extended into the Bay specifically for the shipment of lime. Davis and Jordan had a virtual monopoly on the state's lime industry and were able to control prices by restraining production. By 1870, the dollar value of lime shipped out of Santa Cruz was higher than any other commodity, even lumber (Sentinel 1/22/1870).

North Coast Lime

As it had with the lumber industry, the North Coast's isolation and lack of dependable shipping restrained the development of the lime industry. It had two of the necessary ingredients--limestone and forests--but it lacked the access to market enjoyed by the lime operators at Santa Cruz. There were several efforts made in the 1860s to ship lime off the landings at Williams, Davenport's and Waddell's, but they were usually brief and only marginally successful.

San Vicente Lime Company

Perhaps the most successful lime operation, and a harbinger for the later story of cement, was the establishment of the San Vicente Lime Company in June of 1875. The company built four lime kilns inland on San Vicente Creek and built a new, thousand-foot long wharf at Davenport's Landing. They planned to ship the barrels of lime on the coastal steamer San Vicente (Sentinel 6/19/1875). During the month of September, the lime company shipped over 4,000 barrels of lime from their new wharf, and the business appeared to be off and running (Sentinel 10/9/1875). In early October, however, as it had with all previous wharves along the North Coast, high waves shortened it by over 300 feet. With its wharf truncated by the sea and the economy in the grip of a serious depression, the company ceased operation (Sentinel 10/16/1875). The huge limestone deposits on the North Coast remained undeveloped, awaiting the arrival of dependable transportation. NORTH COAST SHORE WHALING

The only documented shore whaling station on the North Coast was located just north of the landing apparatus at Pigeon Point. As noted earlier, there is no evidence that anyone ever whaled from the vicinity of Davenport's Landing or processed any whales on that beach.

Pigeon Point Whaling Station (1862 - 1900)

By the early 1860s, the Monterey shore whaling scene had become so crowded that two Azorean [15] whaling companies decided to move, one to Point Lobos (on Carmel Bay) in 1862 and a second to Pigeon Point [16] in 1864 (Gazette 9/23/1864). The whales were hunted for their oil, which was acquired by boiling the blubber in huge kettles, called trypots, set up on shore. Once the blubber was removed from the carcass, the remaining meat and bones were discarded, much to the delight of the grizzly bears living in the nearby mountains. Since California shore whaling was pursued only for whale oil, when the price of oil began to drop (following the advent of kerosene in the 1860s) the industry became less and less profitable. Even when the price of whale oil was at its highest, the Azoreans only saw the dangerous business as a part-time occupation. At Pigeon Point, as in the Azores, the whalers were half-time whalers and half-time farmers (Santos, 1995).

The shore whaling industry in Central California ended in the late 1880s, but not because of a dearth of whales. Within a season, the whales, who had been migrating well off the coast, moved their route back, and by 1890 they were cavorting in Monterey Bay in full view of the retired whalemen. A Monterey newspaper complained, "Whales have been so thick in the bay of late as to make fishing exceedingly hazardous. They come into the bay about dusk and pursue the mackerel all night long, much to the detriment of the fishing industry." (Cypress 8/9/1890)

In the late 1890s, for reasons not yet understood, the shore whaling industry revived for a couple of seasons, and the Pigeon Point Whaling station followed suit: "The Pigeon Point Whaling Co. have been making some fine hauls of their immense game lately. They captured several fine whales within a few weeks, chiefly 'California greys.' The boys are much encouraged at the prospect of a very profitable season." (Surf 2/4/1898) Despite whalers' successes at Pigeon Point and elsewhere, by 1900 the old-fashioned shore whaling industry on the California coast was at an end. As the twentieth century dawned more modern methods were used to pursue a dwindling supply, and they supported a dwindling industry elswhere on the Central Coast until 1924 (Lydon, 1984).

Though no whaling ever occurred at present-day Davenport, the increasing popularity of whale-watching in the 1970s led to the town's adoption of a whaling motif. The large whale-shaped Davenport sign on the west side of the highway and the name "Whale City" that adorns the bakery and tavern in the center of town continue to be a cherished emblem of whaling at this spot. EARLY NORTH COAST TOURISM

Isolation as an Asset

The very isolation that frustrated the development of the North Coast's forests and limestone deposits made it attractive to those seeking a place to camp, fish or hunt. In the 1860s a growing number of factories and mills lined the San Lorenzo River, and the stream became increasingly diverted, dammed and flumed. With the pollution caused by dumping effluent and sawdust directly into the river, it is easy to understand the decline in recreational potential on the San Lorenzo and nearby Soquel. Meanwhile, the North Coast streams continued to be relatively unspoiled.

San Vicente Creek

An article written in 1866 placed San Vicente Creek at the top of the county's streams:

"The best [trout fishing] stream probably, is the San Beicente [San Vicente], ten miles up the coast, a large creek emptying into the sea. In this stream, trout bite as rapid and as strong as in Eastern streams, and [are] even more abundant and delicious. The largest trout caught (by Mr. Begelow, the insurance agent), being over 22 inches long and weighing about four pounds. In this stream the largest average from ten to fifteen inches." (Sentinel 1/13/1866)

Laguna Creek

In a lengthy article meant to be a guide to the camping and fishing spots in the county, a trout season-opening article written in April, 1874 touted Laguna Creek:

"Probably the best known fishing and camping ground [in Santa Cruz County] is Laguna Creek, situated about nine miles up the coast...The beauty and attractiveness of this spot, the scenery and surroundings alone are sufficient without its fishing advantages to call forth a visit from all strangers. There are but few who visit Santa Cruz but also explore Laguna Creek. Starting, say two or three miles back from the coast and following the creek down to its mouth, ending in the lagoon, a day's fishing would probably give to the experienced angler from one hundred and fifty to two hundred trout. [emphasis added] The trout, though very plenty [sic] in this stream, are not as large as in many of our other streams. Experienced anglers, however, prefer these smaller fish to the larger, being sweeter and daintier to the taste. Salmon trout, very large, are also frequently caught at Laguna Creek. (Sentinel 4/4/1874)

"Trout Slaughtering"

Since there were neither limits on size or number of fish taken, the numbers of trout taken from the streams was often astonishing. The year 1891 was a tough one for North Coast trout. An article published in early June noted: "Messrs. Tom Dakan and Rob Dudley whipped the San Vicente for trout Sunday with immense results. Eight hundred and fifty is the record they are willing to make their affidavit on, and all caught with a hook." (Surf 6/2/1891) Later in June, 1891: "Chas. B. Richardson drove a merry party to Scotts Creek Saturday and the trout slaughtering was a great one. Here it is, beginning at the largest catch.." The article then listed a total of 1,516 fish taken between seven anglers with one named "Bootsie" taking 675 (Surf 6/30/1891).

Some North Coast residents didn't bother with the niceties of hook and line. As the fish populations began to decline, local Fish Patrol wardens [17]stepped up their efforts to stop the wholesale depopulation of local streams. A San Francisco newspaper noted in 1891 that, along the North Coast there was an "unpleasant state of affairs": "The Portuguese, who live within close proximity to the streams, have been slaughtering young grilse by the thousands and salting them down for their own use. The law-breakers use giant-powder cartridges and seines which reach from bank to bank, thus preventing any possibility of the fish ascending the stream." (Surf 10/5/1891)

Organizations to Foster Trout Planting and Habitat - 1875

From the early 1850s, trout fishing was a popular attraction to bring visitors to Santa Cruz County, and, as the streams became heavily encumbered with factories and mills, and fishing pressure increased, many saw the need for restocking the county's streams. In the late 1870s, an organization named "The Santa Cruz Organization for the Propagation and Protection of Fish" was formed. The organization was committed to helping catch game law violators as well as encouraging the stocking of local streams. In 1878 10,000 trout were brought in from a state hatchery and planted throughout the county. Described as the "McCloud River variety of trout" the fry were two months old and approximately one inch long (Sentinel 4/20/1878). A plant of 1,250 pounds of "Eastern trout fry" was made throughout the county in 1892, again under the auspices of a local fishing club (Surf 4/20/1892) (see Appendix 1.2.2, interview with Tom and Richard Dietz, for a description of hunting and fishing in the 1920s-50s). NORTH COAST ABALONE

The two primary consumers of abalone--Native Americans and otters--were all but removed from the Central California coastline by the late 1840s, and the Yankees who came into California with the Gold Rush considered them to be nothing more than very large, inedible snails. For the Chinese, however, the mollusks were a delicacy, and they knew how to dry them for shipment across the Pacific. The California coast must have looked like heaven to a fisherman coming from the heavily fished Chinese coast, and they were the first to harvest abalone commercially in California. Using pry-bars, wedge-tipped poles and gaffs, the Chinese worked the intertidal zone (the Chinese never dove for abalone in California), gathered abalone, dried and baled the meat and shipped it to Chinese markets in San Francisco and across the Pacific. The shells were sold to button and jewelry manufacturers, and oftentimes they brought higher prices, per weight, than the meat (Lydon, 1985).

In the 1880s, harvesters and consumers began to change. John Carpy, the owner of a Santa Cruz seafood restaurant obtained a secret recipe "from an old Spanish woman at Monterey" which made the abalone meat "soft and tender." Carpy was reluctant to divulge the secret, but said that he was not only cooking and selling them in Santa Cruz, but also shipping abalone prepared with his "secret" to restaurants in San Francisco (Surf 11/10/1883).

Carpy was getting most of his abalone from the North Coast, which had heretofore been largely unexploited. An account in 1894: "On Sunday a party of abalone gatherers drove into town [Santa Cruz] with an immense wagon load of abalones, which they had gathered some thirteen miles up the coast. They had 118 in all. They are gathered for the San Francisco market." (Surf 1/2/1894) By 1898, the mollusk was evolving into a "toothsome univalve": "Tom Amaya was on the streets [of Santa Cruz] today with a wagon load of abalones. These toothsome univalves, once so plentiful near Santa Cruz, have been 'hunted' out until a successful gatherer must now go some distance along the coast. Amaya's load was the result of a two day's trip as far as Pigeon Point."(Surf 1/6/1898) In 1901: "The extreme low tide yesterday afforded mussel and abalone gatherers to reap a large harvest. Perhaps the most successful in the latter line were Joe Perry and George Bowes who brought down two wagon loads gathered from the rocks near the Yellow Bank." The abalones were monsters in size and found a ready market." (Surf 1/2/1901)

"Abalone Tides"

All three of the above occurred during January when the lowest tides occur on the North Coast. Low tides were locally known as "abalone tides" as they were most often associated with gathering abalone (Photo 1-2).

China Ladder

The Chinese presence on the terrace north of Davenport's Landing was persistent enough to name a local access point for them, and local Davenport residents remember a ladder leaning up against the coastal bluff down which Chinese abalone hunters climbed to have access to the isolated intertidal rocks. Donald Clark gives the following explanation for the name: "The name applied to an access point along the shore of the Pacific about one-half mile southeast of Pelican Rock. On top of the bluff was a shack in which lived several Chinese, who obtained abalone from the rocks below and dried them for the Chinese trade. From the bluff they followed a trail, then down a rope, and finally a ladder to reach the beach." (Hoover, 1966) "The beach at the foot of China Ladder was known as China Ladder Beach, and the nearby gulch became known as China Ladder Gulch." (Clark, 1986)

Japanese Abalone Divers and Hard-Hat Diving in Central California

In 1898, a group of Japanese immigrants imported the technique of hard hat diving to Point Lobos just south of Monterey. Since the Chinese had not ventured any deeper than they could reach with a pole at low tide, the abalone beds beyond that depth were virtually untouched. At first the Japanese fishermen dried the abalone as had their Chinese predecessors, shipping the dried meat back to Japan. But the Japanese soon added a modern cannery to their operation at Point Lobos, and the canned product began appearing in local stores. As the business grew, the Japanese divers expanded their range, venturing ever-farther south along the California Coast, following the path that the Chinese intertidal gatherers had laid down decades earlier. (Lydon, 1997).

The Japanese immigrants not only inherited and modernized the abalone industry pioneered by their Chinese predecessors, they also fell heir to the anti-Asian racism that characterized so much of California's history. From their entry into the abalone business, the Japanese and their techniques became the targets of both county and state regulations. Between 1899 and 1939, the Japanese divers worked within an ever-tightening net of rules and regulations. By imposing minimum diving depths and closed areas, the Japanese were driven south down the coast from Monterey and deeper into the water.[18]

Meanwhile, increasing pressure was being brought on the abalone resource by non-Japanese abalone hunters. Several marine biologists argued that it was not the Japanese divers who were decimating the resource, but the "sportsmen" who used extremely low tides to harvest their huge catches. In January of 1912, for example, we have the following note in the local newspaper:"A wagon piled high with abalones was on the street today. In it were a part of 800 of these shellfish that were gathered by Joe Fritz and L. Kelly at New Years Point." (Surf 1/4/1912) In 1940 the leading abalone biologist in California noted that the disappearance of the abalone from the intertidal area should be laid at the feet of the sport fishermen, not the commercial divers (Bonnot, 1940). Following their forced internment during World War II, the Japanese did not return to the abalone industry. DEVELOPMENT OF NORTH COAST WATER RESOURCES - THE 1890S

Water for the City

Beginning in the early 1850s, Frederick Augustus Hihn supplied water to Santa Cruz through his private water system, the Santa Cruz Water Company. The two main sources of water were the springs above the site of Santa Cruz Mission and upper Branciforte Creek. A second private system was developed on Majors Creek in the early 1880s and managed locally by W.H. Duke. In the mid-1880s the Duke system collapsed financially, and the city of Santa Cruz, seeking an alternative to the Hihn monopoly, began efforts to acquire the system. They tarried too long, however, and Hihn bought the system before the city could act. In response, Santa Cruz then decided to develop its own water system. In 1889, after investigating the potential of a number of coastal streams (including Branciforte Creek, Carbonero Creek, and Majors Creek), the city decided that Laguna Creek had the greatest potential (Surf 9/17/1889; 9/18/1889; 12/7/1889).

Construction of the city's Laguna Creek water system began in the spring of 1890 and was completed in December of that year. A dam was constructed on the creek and a ten-mile water main, 14 inches in diameter, carried the water to a 60,000,000-gallon reservoir located above the city on High Street. The system was able to deliver water at ninety pounds pressure at its hydrants on Cooper Street in downtown Santa Cruz (Surf 9/30/1890; 10/17/1890).

Big Creek Power - 1896

With their municipal water system in place, the City of Santa Cruz began to look for electric power, along with almost every other California municipality: "In the 1890-1900 decade, the fever of hydroelectric development was sweeping California. Men everywhere were looking for sites where water could be dropped from higher elevations to drive wheels and turbines at streamside." (Coleman 1952) In 1895 the transmission of hydroelectricity over a long distance was proven possible by the opening of an electric system between generators at Folsom and the city of Sacramento 22 miles away (Coleman, 1952). The Folsom system inspired others throughout the state to build similar systems, and not surprisingly, Santa Cruz leaders began looking toward the North Coast.

In 1896, Duncan MacPherson, the editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, urged the city to investigate the possibility of using Horace Gushee's irrigation dam on Laguna Creek to form the basis for a city-owned hydroelectric facility. Once again the city was outrun by an entrepreneur. Fred Swanton went farther up the coast to the Scotts Creek watershed, surveyed the hydroelectric potential of Big Creek, and in what he later claimed was a record fifty-eight working days, constructed a hydroelectric system from scratch. On June 12, 1896, the falling waters of Big Creek drove a generator that pushed electricity seventeen miles to Santa Cruz for a huge, public party in front of the Odd Fellows building on Pacific Avenue (Surf 6/13/1896). Surf Editor Arthur Taylor expressed mixed feelings about the system, recognizing the price that the creek had to pay for the power:

"The stream known as Big Creek which empties into the ocean about twenty miles up the coast is one of the largest streams in the county and flows through a most picturesque and romantic canyon. It has been a favorite trout stream since American occupation of California, barring the obstruction of three falls, one 90 feet, one of 60 feet and one of 250 feet. Many an angler has questioned the wisdom of placing these obstructions in a good trout stream where distance, declivities and boulders combined to render them inaccessible to sightseers, but this is all solved now for we know that those falls are what has made the Bgt Creek Electric Light and Power Company's scheme a success."(Surf 6/10/1896) (see Photo 1-3)

During the first two years, Big Creek power was off as often as it was on. Swanton and his engineers could not have timed their hydroelectric venture at a less opportune moment, as the seasons of 1897-1898 and 1898-1899 saw less than half of the typical rainfall. By the second year of the drought, the flow in Big Creek no longer had sufficient volume to drive the generator and Swanton had to purchase a steam generating plant and install it to supplement the hydroelectric equipment (Surf 12/21/1898). Meanwhile, the persistent wind and salt air of the North Coast played havoc with the transmission line into Santa Cruz. In 1900, when he was approached by several investors who wished to purchase the company, Swanton was ready to sell. The new owners refurbished the dams and flumes and re-routed the transmission line by running it directly over the mountain to Ben Lomond and then down along the San Lorenzo River into Santa Cruz. (Surf 2/6/1900). Other improvements were made and the power plant continued to provide electricity through the 1930s. The wildfire in September of 1948 destroyed a considerable part of the flume work and dams, and the last owners (Coast Counties Gas and Electric) did not replace them. The power plant site is still marked on the current USGS. quadrangle.



15Though the Azores Island were part of Portugal and emigrants from there were technically Portuguese, they preferred (and continue) to be called Azoreans (Santos, 1995).

16 Pigeon Point was named for the clipper ship Carrier Pigeon that wrecked there in 1853 (Alta 6/10/1853).

17The California State Fish Commission was established in 1870 and, as the Fish and Game Commission, began to hire wardens in 1878. The warden in Santa Cruz County reported to the county Board of Supervisors.

18 For a complete list of the regulations, see Lydon, 1997, p. 85.

Other sections:

View similarly tagged articles:

fishing, limestone, North Coast, water supply


It is our continuing goal to make available a selection of articles on various subjects and places in Santa Cruz County. Certain topics, however, have yet to be researched. In other cases, we were not granted permission to use articles. The content of the articles is the responsibility of the individual author. It is the Library's intent to provide accurate local history information. However, it is not possible for the Library to completely verify the accuracy of individual articles obtained from a variety of sources. If you believe that factual statements in a local history article are incorrect and can provide documentation, please contact the Webmaster.