Richard Gird’s ownership of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino included some major successes including the founding of the town of Chino, and some notable failures, mainly the massive debt he incurred.  So, he arranged to sell the ranch for about $1.5 million to two successive firms, the Chino Ranch Company and the Chino Beet Sugar Estate and Land Company, but both businesses failed to do much in a depressed economy during a drought period.  This month, we take a look at the Chino Ranch Company.

Mr. Gird’s sale to this firm was made in late 1894.  The principal figure was Chauncey H. Phillips, a native of Ohio who came to Gold Rush California and lived in San Jose before moving to San Luis Obispo.  There, he became prominent in real estate and banking.  He owned a large amount of land in what is now the coastal town of Cayucos, above Morro Bay, and founded the town of Templeton.  Near San Jose, he developed Morgan Hill and San Martin.  Undoubtedly, his success with large ranch property seemed a good omen for acquiring the Chino Ranch.

Mr. Phillips had other partners, including his namesake son, and a trio of real estate promoters: Carroll Gates, Abram Pomeroy, and Walter Vail.  Mr. Gates cut his teeth in the business working for David Jacks, a powerful figure in Monterey, and came to Los Angeles during the Boom of the 1880s, where he and Mr. Pomeroy went into business.  Mr. Gates then met Mr. Vail, owner of the Empire Ranch near Tucson, Arizona.

Mr. Vail, born in Nova Scotia, Canada, was raised in New Jersey and came west in his twenties.  After working in mining in the silver boom town of Virginia City, Nevada, he came to Los Angeles when the boom busted.  His uncle was in Los Angeles and suggested Mr. Vail try cattle raising in Arizona.  The Empire was not only a cattle ranch, however.  Silver was stumbled upon by a ranch hand and about $500,000 extracted in several years to Mr. Vail’s benefit.

Mr. Gates acquired a half-interest in the Empire after Mr. Vail’s lucky silver strike and the two grew the property to a massive 1,800 square miles.  They also leased Warner’s Ranch near Temecula and, after the Chino Ranch years, acquired another 87,000 acres in the Temecula area, where a Vail Headquarters is located off Highway 79.  Mr. Gates also was involved in developing the Santa Maria Valley north of Santa Barbara and at Corcoran in the San Joaquin Valley.

Mr. Pomeroy was born in Michigan and lived in Indiana until his family migrated to California during the Gold Rush, settling in San Jose.  The Pomeroys were prominent figures there and he worked as a merchant, but he looked for more when he came to Los Angeles in the early 1880s and got into real estate just in time for the boom late in the decade.  A partner was George W. Stimson and the duo developed Pismo Beach near San Luis Obispo and Puente (now La Puente) not far west of Chino.  Mr. Pomeroy had a hand in development throughout greater Los Angeles and the Inland Empire.

The Chino Ranch Company advertised in newspapers and magazines for the development and management of 41,000 acres and highlighted the fact that about half that land was set aside for raising sugar beets (introduced by Mr. Gird), while 10,000 acres was considered excellent for citrus and another 11,000 acres was ready as dairy land.  

But it was sugar beets that were most heavily promoted.  The company claimed 4,000 acres were devoted to the crop, producing 50,000 tons that generated 15 million pounds of sugar.  It boasted that the Chino Ranch was the second largest producing area in the U.S. behind Watsonville, near Monterey, and the first on the planet in yields of tons per acre and sugar produced per ton.

The firm announced in late 1895 that 4,000 acres was to be irrigated to attract buyers wanting farms.  Yet, the company, despite the impressive pedigrees of its principals, defaulted on the terms of its contract with Mr. Gird and the enterprise ended. 

Next month we turn to the Chino Beet Sugar Estate and Land Company.

(Paul Spitzzeri, a historian and author who lives in Chino Hills, maintains a blog on the history of Carbon Canyon called carboncanyonchronicle.blogspot.com.)

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