Santa Cruz County History - Making a Living

Dairying in Santa Cruz
by Isabel H. Raymond

[In 1896,"Santa Cruz County, a Faithful Reproduction in Print and Photography of its Climate, Capabilities and Beauties" was published. Its aim was to promote Santa Cruz and "to attract the attention of people in other parts of the country" (Prologue). It is a collection of articles on a wide variety of topics. The following article by Isabel H. Raymond appears on pages 64-69 and gives us an idea of what Wilder Ranch was like at that time.--RAP ed]

Among the astonishingly varied resources of the tract of country known as Santa Cruz County,-a little Cosmos in itself, one of the most profitable is dairying. The rich and succulent grasses which spring up in the dark hours of a winter's night, after the first good November rain, keep the bare, round shoulders of the foothills, and the nest-like valleys in between, verdant through all the winter and spring months; and, even when embrowned and dried by the rainless weeks of summer, they retain their nutriment and are as rich in the elements which go to the production of milk and cream as in their junior days.

The grazing lands occupy about 25,000 acres of rolling country along the coast in the northern part of the country, reaching to the San Mateo line. The same formation and soil extend up into the Pescadero country, where the dairying interest is also important and profitable. In the south, below Aptos, and on toward the Pajaro Valley, about 35,000 acres are devoted to grazing and pasture.

A typical dairy is that owned and managed by D. D. Wilder, about four miles north of the city of Santa Cruz. It consists of 2,330 acres rolling gently upward from the sandstone cliffs along the Pacific coast, --cliffs which are sculptured by wind and weather into the most curious and picturesque forms. One "natural bridge" on this property is quite well known to sightseers and well worth driving out to see; while the beaches near by are the home of all sorts of shell fish and marine curiosities, and are much sought as resorts for picnics the year round.

Photo of Wilder Ranch
Undated photograph with the caption "Dairy ranch
on the Coast Road." From the layout of the buildings,
it appears to be Wilder Ranch.

Delos D. Wilder is of old Connecticut stock, having been born in West Hartland in 1826. Boyhood life was not too easy for the farmer's lad, whose first salary was the magnificent sum of $6.50 per month, -and half of that in "store pay." But by inheritance and absorption he accumulated a store of thrift, energy, experience and good judgement which have proved a fortune to him, and which he did not-as have others-leave behind him when he came westward to the land of manana and poco tiempo. Nature is lavish and generous here on the seaward side of the Sierras, but, all the same, if a man will not work neither shall he eat, that is, his diet is very likely to be confined to beans and bacon unless he marries his own energy and good sense to the virgin virtues of the soil and the climate.

Mr. Wilder came to California in 1853, going through all the adventure and experience of a seven months' trip across the plains. He tried mining while in Placer County, but the land allured him, and in June, 1859, he started a chicken and dairy ranch in Marin County on a bit of leased land and $200 capital. From this little nucleus grew success. In 1867 Mr. Wilder was married to Mrs. Miranda Finch, formerly of Michigan, and went to dairying on a more extended scale in the same county. In I871 they came to Santa Cruz, and a partnership was formed with L. K. Baldwin, which lasted until 1885, the firm owning a tract of 4,030 acres, and acquiring an enviable reputation for the making of the finest butter. When, in 1885, a dissolution of the partnership was agreed upon, the ranch was divided into the "upper" and "lower" places, and the partners were to bid for a choice. Mr. Wilder secured the lower place of 2,330 acres, paying for it $32,000. There was a ranch house upon this place, and many natural advantages, especially in the way of springs and streams. The stock upon the ranch was divided between Mr.Baldwin and Mr. Wilder proportionatelly with the land. Since the division of the ranch Mr. Wilder has let no year pass without important additions to the place, utilizing to the utmost its many natural advantages. Looking from any of the encircling hills down into the miniature valley where lies the home place, one fancies he has come upon a whole village tucked away under the hill's brow, so populous and so busy does it seem. There is the residence of twenty rooms, porches and gables overgrown with vines and roses, and with blooming flower gardens surrounding it: a substantial cow barn, with accommodations for 206 cows, a horse barn for 15 horses, with sheds for farm implements; wagon houses; a blacksmith shop, a machine shop, two granaries, the low white dairy house, with its big clean rooms for the separators, the milk cooler, the dynamo and water power, the office, etc.; quarters for the men, and everything necessary for operations on the most complete scale.

If the visitor arrives late in the afternoon, when milking time is approaching, the cows are coming home, 300 of them: there are 500 head of stock in all. The father of the herd is a big Holstein with a pedigree as long as that of the Vere de Veres. As the sun lowers, the electric lights glimmer here and there throughout the place, and every man is at his post to do his share of the business in hand,-the caring for the milk and stock. No cheese is made on this ranch, but milk and cream are sold in large quantities in Santa Cruz, and butter is the chief product. At milking time that portion which is to be carried to "town" for sale is poured into a tank above the milk cooler, an ingenious device by which all the animal heat is extracted at once. The milk falls over a corrugated face of tin lined with copper, inside of which a stream of cold spring water passes back and forth. The milk, which goes into the tank with a temperature of about 90 degrees, emerges therefrom with a temperature of about 60 degrees, while the water, after its zigzag course down the inside of the cooler, comes out several degrees warmer than the milk.

The rest of the milk is poured directly from the pails into a tank of a capacity of 150 gallons, from which it is conveyed to a smaller tank and thence to the circular separator, -a little round tin box, tightly covered, in which a mysterious transformation occurs, by means of which the thick, luscious, yellow cream pours out of a pipe on one side into a receptacle, while the skim milk, quite blue and exhausted, finds its way into a vat on the opposite side.

Now, the heart and lungs of all this big enterprise is the water power, which was Nature's gift to the place, and by which the vital principle, electricity, is generated. A very fine stream of water crosses the home place. Six years ago Mr. Wilder built a dam in the main creek on his own place, 9,000 feet from his house, and flumed the water to a reservoir on a hilltop not far away. Thence, by an eight-inch main pipe, with a fall of 216 feet, the water is conveyed to a Pelton wheel in a small building in the rear of the dairy house. The possible horse-power from this is one hundred, but the twenty horse-power now in use is amply sufficient for all present needs. This is belted from one side of the wheel directly to a Thompson-Houston self-regulating dynamo of 150 lights, which supplies a current of 110 volts. Every building on the place is amply supplied with incandescent lamps, while three arc lights on tall masts illuminate the grounds and furnish an "artificial sunrise" by which the cows are supposed to rise at an abnormally early hour and prepare to give down their milk. Mr. Wilder tells, with much gusto, of having been accused of cruelty to animals by some Orthodox silurians when he first introduced this innovation upon the ancient methods!

The "Pelton" is belted to a countershaft on its other side, and thus makes the "wheels go round" all over the place. It drives two cream separators, a churn, lathes, a barley crusher, wood saw, bone grinder, cabinet saws, wood planer, emery wheel, grindstones, circular saws, coffee and fanning mills; thence, by long cable, it gets its work in at the cow barn on a hay and feed cutter and pumpkin grinder. That dynamo is an important piece of machinery, and the list of its services that I have given shows another thing; -its owner and proprietor sees that not a volt nor a pound of horse-power is wasted. There is neither making nor mending done outside of the place, and everything is as methodical as clockwork and as trim as a New England housekeeper's kitchen.

M.D.Wilder, son of D. D. Wilder, is the electrician of the place, and he has introduced, also, electric heaters and motors for the house sewing machine, the forge, and other small machinery, besides a small dynamo and circuit for all-night use.

The Wilder place has also the advantage of the City pipe line from Eagle Canon, which crosses it, and, in return for right of way, Mr. Wilder is entitled to certain use of it. With a pressure from this line of 280 pounds to the square inch, and a fire hose always in readiness, the family need pass no wakeful hours in fear of fire.

For household purposes the water of an ice-cold spring in a hillside is piped to a reservoir 700 feet from the house, while an irrigating ditch one mile long, taps the main creek, and, during the dry months, furnishes water for the gardens, orchards and several acres of fodder and vegetables.

This short story has a moral, but it is hardly necessary to elucidate it. The good God generally has an ample reward for the man who uses his gifts with wisdom and with industry, especially in Santa Cruz County. The coast road dairies above Wilder's are those of Ed. Anderson, Pio Scaroni, Antone Sylva, Joseph Enright, T. Respini, Moretti J. Filippi, A. Gianonnii and C. Lombardi.

Beyond Wilder's, in a snug little valley which is the outlet of Eagle Glen, a picturesque, cliff-bounded canon where Cojo Creek cuts down to the ocean, is a typical small dairy. Mr. and Mrs. Antone Sylva have given their 180 acre ranch the name of Eagle Glen Dairy, and a more thoroughly kept and well arranged place it would be hard to find. They have occupied the place twenty years, have built them a pleasant home, with plenty of western windows looking out upon the sea, and Mrs. Sylva's excellent taste and loving care have made her flower garden the admiration of all visitors and passers-by. Forty cows are milked, and their product is all manufactured into butter, which has a first-class reputation for quality. The city pipe-line crosses the farm and provides ample water-power for churning, etc. Electricity will soon be introduced. Then comes Supervisor Enright's cheese dairy. Genial Joe Enright is a general favorite, especially with his neighbors along the "Coast Road." He has served his district well as Supervisor, and the improvement in grades, bridges and roads has been general.

Mr. Enright manufactures cheese only upon his farm, and it is good cheese, too, with a rich flavor and a luscious quality well worth testing. He and his good wife are popular for their ready answers to all charitable, church and public-spirited calls for aid, and Mr. Enright's fine baritone voice and musical skill are in pretty constant demand. He has considerable influence with his fellow members of the Board of Supervisors, and uses that influence for the good of the county every time. His father was the late James Enright, a leading citizen and capitalist of Santa Clara County.

Besides his dairy interest, Mr. Enright possesses a mine of bituminous rock on his property, which only needs development to make it yield a good income. Take it all in all, Mr. Enright is one of the most prosperous and promising of the young ranchmen of Santa Cruz County.

View similarly tagged articles:

agriculture, dairying, farming, North Coast, parks, Wilder Ranch


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