THE STEARNS RANCHOS
A Day’s Ride With the Agent – A Brief Description of the Country Traversed
(Anaheim Gazette, December 30, 1882)
A reference to a map of Los Angeles county … will show the not inconsiderable portion of the county grouped under the title of the Stearns Ranchos. These ranchos encompass the San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana, Los Coyotes, La Habra, Las Bolsas and La Bolsa Chica, and embrace 140,000 acres of land, and together with 60,000 acres in San Bernardino county was purchased in 1868 from the late Abel Stearns by a syndicate of San Francisco capitalists, Of the land in this county hey have sold about sixty thousand acres in small tracts, and have remaining unsold a total of 80,000.
Mr. R.J. Northam, to whose charge this vast estate is committed, makes his headquarters at Anaheim, and land buyers have of late been numerous enough to keep him on the road almost every day. It is no easy task to traverse this princely estate day by day, and answer the thousand and one questions with which an intending purchaser bombards a real estate agent; but Northam is equal to the occasion, and a day’s jaunt with him over the ranchos is, to those unfamiliar with the country, a pleasant excursion.
Let us in imagination accompany him in a drive over the ranchos, and ask him to point out the various characteristics of the localities through which we pass so rapidly. Leaving Anaheim we proceed in a north-easterly direction to what is now known as North Anaheim. On the verge of town is a sandy, cactus strip, which though dreary enough now, will yet be covered by vineyards and orchards. This sandy strip is narrow and well defined and is passed in a few minutes’ drive….
As we drive through this region, our companion points to vineyards planted last year in which over ninety per cent of the cuttings flourished; to orange orchards, young and old, in which the trees are as thrifty and clean as it is possible for trees to be. There are some very beautiful places in North Anaheim, and land there is changing ownership quite often, and always at an increased rate. The Land Company, as the owners of the Stearns Ranchos are commonly designated, have a few small tracts for sale in this vicinity at reasonable figures. Some choice land is held by private parties at $100 per acre, and the tendency of price is still upward.
Continuing our journey we came to La Habra, one of the most magnificent ranchos in the county as regards soil. Unfortunately, by reason of lack of water for irrigation, the rancho has been given over to sheep owners, whose flocks have found upon it good grazing. But the time is near at hand when every acre of this rancho will be eagerly sought for by the viticulturalist and the fruit grower. It is rumored that even now the Company are preparing to utilize the immense natural reservoirs on the rancho by filling them in winter from the Santa Ana river, a project … easy of accomplishment. When this is done, the land which is not now worth $1 and acre for fruit growing purposes will readily command over $100 per acre, for the soil of La Habra is as rich as that of any other part of the county – or the world.
Traveling west, by barely perceptible roads, but which are perfectly familiar to our chaperone, we pass over some hilly country on which thousands of sheep find rich pasture, and find ourselves in Orangethorpe district. The soil here is of a different character from that previously described, but is as fertile, judging from the appearance of the vineyards and orchards which here cluster quite thickly. Here also land has been bought at a great rate during the last two or three months, and tracts which could have been bought for $50 an acre six months ago could not now be had for less than double that price. As an illustration of this, we will quite one tract of 160 acres, which was offered for $5,000 a year ago. The owner closed it out three weeks ago for $10,000. The Company has several tracts in this district, ranging from $45 to $55 per acre….
Centralia, a few miles east of Artesia, is quite a settlement, and there are a number of very thrifty, handsome farms in the district. Northam calls our attention to several orange orchards which look clean and healthy, and we know of our own knowledge that the grapes raised here are very superior. Land is also valued here at from $35 to $40 per acre.
Driving in a southerly direction we reach Westminster, where the Company has quite a large body of land. No extended reference to that thriving locality is needed from our pen, for has not our valued correspondent depicted elsewhere in this issue its advantages, triumphs and achievements in a manner at once convincing and interesting? Suffice it to say that all he has said of it as a fruit, dairy and stock country is amply substantiated by what is seen in driving through the colony.
Traveling still towards the south we reach the ranchos La Bolsa Chica and Las Bolsas, a famous “hog and hominy” locality. It is pre-eminently a corn country, and the yield of some of the fields is simply marvelous. The land is selling here at from $30 to $40 per acre, and the agent is seldom without applications for the purchase of land in this rancho.
Turning homeward, and approaching Anaheim from the southwest, Mr. Northam points out several fine tracts of land near town which range in price from $30 to $40 per acre. It is all good vineyard land, and suitable for general farming, and will doubtless ere long be the homes of many people.
Such is a brief and general description of the territory seen during a day’s drive. We have passed over half a dozen different kinds of soil, and experienced half a dozen different climates – for it is a peculiar and noticeable fact that the atmosphere varies greatly in localities not far apart. But take it all in all, we doubt whether in any part of the inhabitable globe there is a finer body of land of similar extent, or on which can be grown productions as diverse and numerous.