STANFORD VINA RANCH
Among the model agriculture properties of Tehama County is numbered the Stanford Vina Ranch, Vina, California, owned and operated by the Stanford Ranch Company, Incorporated. The history of the ranch is an interesting one and dates from 1843. It was in the summer of that year that two men, General John Bidwell and Peter Lassen, then in the employ of General Sutter, were tracking some horse thieves from Sacramento northwest through the Sacramento Valley; and as they reached the river bottom near Chico, General Bidwell thought he had never seen a more fertile or inviting country. Peter Lassen thought the same when he arrived at the fertile spot where Deer Creek empties into the Sacramento River. After catching the horse thieves near Red Bluff both Bidwell and Lassen returned to Sacramento, where they obtained Mexican land grants, and by the spring of 1844 were farming their new lands, Bidwell at Chico and Lassen at what has since been called Vina, due to the immense vineyards formerly there.
Lassen knew good land and water rights and since 1844 this Mexican grant of his has been known the state over for its deep, rich and fertile soil. In 1881 Senator Leland Stanford acquired the property and at his death it passed to Stanford University. Its history is generally known to lovers of agriculture and horticulture. In 1846 General Fremont spent three weeks there. In 1848 the first Masonic lodge in California held its first meeting on the ranch there. In 1869 Gerke brought vines and trees from Los Angeles by pack mule and soon had a flourishing irrigated vineyard and orchard, famed throughout the valley. Irrigation had been started several years previous to this.
When Senator Stanford acquired the ranch he used one portion for his famous race horses, another for his range cattle, another portion for sheep and still another for a registered Holstein-Friesian dairy herd, which contained the first advance registry Holstein ever in California. With all this stock business, Senator Stanford planted an immense vineyard of five thousand acres, brought wine-making from France, erected extensive brick buildings for winery purposes, also planting English walnuts, pecans, chestnuts, oranges, lemon, grapefruit, figs, peaches, pears, prunes, apricots and almost every commercial variety of fruit or nut tree, all of which did well from the start.
In 1918 Stanford University sold the land and since then some of it has been subdivided. The following is copied from Page 72, of the Soil Survey Report of the United States Department of Agriculture. “The Vina fine sandy loam, because of its depth, friable structure, natural fertility and water holding capacity, is one of the most valuable soils in the area. It is all capable of irrigation and considerable development along this line has taken place. It is too valuable a soil for grain growing, although heavy crops are obtained with irrigation. Peaches, prunes, almonds, apricots, bush fruits, grapes, melons and truck crops are all grown with success. With good methods of irrigation and under local climatic conditions this soil has a wide crop range as any other soil in northern California.”
Gravity irrigation water is obtained from Deer Creek, a wonderful stream that heads in the snows and lava beds near Mount Lassen. The water is handled and distributed by the Stanford Vina Ranch Irrigation Company, a mutual water company, with a charge of one dollar per acre per year for water. A high degree of efficiency is maintained in the operation of the ranch, which for eleven years has been under the progressive management of Colonel F. T. Robson, who is part owner thereof.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.