Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

37. A New Beginning

Rancho San Francisco, sprawling from beyond Bouquet Junction to the waters of Piru Creek, had seen several owners since the Del Valles sold out to William Wolfskill.

Thomas R. Bard, acting as agent for the Philadelphia and California Petroleum Company, purchased it, but since he could produce no oil on the property, he sold it to a pair of Santa Barbara lawyers, Charles Fernald and Jarrett T. Richards, for thirty-three thousand dollars. During May, 1874, they placed the following advertisement in the Ventura newspaper:

Contains 48,000 acres and is situated on the River Santa Clara. The lines of the Southern Pacific and the Atlantic and Pacific Railroads are surveyed through portions of this rancho. It contains a large quantity of
Is well watered and timbered, on the line of travel between Los Angeles and Cerro Gordo and other interior mining districts and is a first rate property for colonists and small farmers.
Prices of arable land
$6.00 to $12.00 per acre

At those outrageous prices no one would buy the estate, which went up for sheriff's sale when the partners defaulted on their payments.

On Jan. 15, 1875, the ink was blotted on a deed exchanging most of the land in the Santa Clarita Valley for ninety thousand dollars, or about $1.84 per acre. The new owner was a fifty-year-old businessman from San Francisco named Henry Mayo Newhall.

Newhall was born May 13, 1825 in Saugus, Massachusetts, where his ancestors had settled two hundred years earlier. He acquired the skills of an auctioneer, but at age twenty-five he took off for the California gold fields to make his fortune.

After a few futile months in the northern mines he drifted down to San Francisco, where he fell back on his old trade — buying and selling shiploads of merchandise. Soon he was able to build a two-story, New England-style brick home in the fashionable South Park district of Rincon Hill. There, during the fall of 1852, he brought his bride, Sarah Ann White. They had three sons — Henry Gregory, William Mayo and Edwin White Newhall — before Sarah Ann died in childbirth six years later. Henry Mayo promptly married her sister, Margaret Jane, and from this union came two more sons, Walter Scott and George Almer.

Newhall busily expanded his business empire, branching out into wholesaling, insurance, real estate and railroads. He presided over the construction of the first rail line out of San Francisco — until Southern Pacific stepped in and bought him out for more than a million dollars.

Newly installed as a vice president of Southern Pacific, he took his profits and purchased five old land grant ranchos from 1872 to 1875, totalling 114,271 acres, scattered between Los Angeles and Monterey.

A year after he acquired Rancho San Francisco, Newhall turned over a right of way to Southern Pacific for the sum of one dollar. Another dollar bought Southern Pacific the site for a depot and a town to be called Newhall.

Late in 1878, Newhall and his eldest son, Henry Gregory, set up headquarters in a large-frame house and hired a crew of Mexicans, Indians and Chinese to plant corn, flax and alfalfa, while plowing five hundred acres for cultivation.

The operation would eventually become The Newhall Land and Farming Company.

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