A Man Named Hollister

It is doubtful that William Welles Hollister could envision the mark he would make on California while he was driving his 6,000 head of sheep from Licking County, Ohio, to California. Hollister’s 2,000-mile trek, on which he was accompanied by a brother, a sister, and 50 herdsmen, ended in what is now San Juan Bautista.

When he arrived, only 1,000 of his original 6,000 sheep were alive. Still, he parlayed what was left of this Ohio wool “on the hoof” into one of California’s great private for-tunes.

He is responsible for colonizing the town of Hollister in San Benito County and Lompoc in Santa Barbara County. “Because so many California towns are named for saints,” said one of the town or-ganizers of Hollister in San Benito county, “let’s name this one for a sinner.”

Hollister was an industrious person. His fortune swelled during the next 14 years. He sold his San Justo Rancho in San Benito County to move back to the Santa Barbara country he admired so much while driving his band of scraggly sheep up the coast.

Colonel Hollister, in partnership with the Dibblee Brothers, Thomas and Albert, seized every opportunity to purchase land grants. They bought the Refugio Rancho in Santa Barbara County, along with several other land grants, including the Lompoco, Las Cruces, Salsipuedes, San Julian, and Mission Viejo.

Hollister’s main desire was to acquire the Tecolotito Canyon area on the Dos Pueblos grant, which he had coveted 17 years before on his sheep drive.

The property was on the market, but it had a cloudy title. The minor heirs of the original grant holder were still alive and there was a question of whether the property could be sold. This didn’t deter Hollister from plunging ahead with the deal. The legal-ity of the purchase was still in litigation when he died.

Money was of little consequence to the now-wealthy Hollister. He built more than six miles of fencing, virtually unheard of in Santa Barbara County. He established a dairy herd and imported a landscape gardener to plant velvety lawns and exotic flora around the property.

He widened the county road, now Hollister Avenue, linking Santa Barbara and Go-leta, and bordered it with an avenue of palms and pines.

Always adventurous, Hollister imported 25 bushels of Japanese tea plants, which he thought would grow in the soil and climate of his Dos Pueblos Rancho.

He hired two Japanese tea planters to plant his 50,000 seedlings. A frost killed the entire tea project overnight. The Refugio Rancho is probably the first working cattle ranch apart from mission op-eration in Santa Barbara County.

Hollister and the Dibblee brothers purchased the prop-erty from the heirs of Capt. Jose Francisco de Ortega, who acquired the grant in 1834.

James J. Hollister, Sr., a son of Col. Hollister, supervised Rancho Refugio, running it in a style not unlike the “Old West.” He was known for employing the “bloody hide” method of drawing stray critters from the chaparral-choked canyons on the ranch.

It was a method supposedly invented by the Ortegas and involved the placement of a hide from a freshly butchered bull over a bush. The odor of the fresh hide drew bellow-ing cattle like a magnet from the brushy hillsides without the need of vaqueros.

Gov. Juan B. Alvarado granted 13 major ranches in Santa Barbara County between 1836 and 1842. The first grant bearing Alvarado’s signature was La Punta de la Concep-tion, a 24,992-acre tract. It was later divided into two better-known ranches, La Espada and El Cojo.

These names, meaning “the sword” and “the lame man” were dubbed on the proper-ties by soldiers of the Portola Land Expedition that passed up the coast in 1769 in search of the ensenada of Monterey.

In the 1860s, Chinese workers were brought to Santa Barbara County from Canton by Colonel W. W. Hollister to work on his Goleta Valley estate and to serve as bus boys, chefs, and waiters in his hotel.

Between 1869 and 1877, W.W. Hollister planted 25,000 almond trees, 1,500 English walnuts, 1,500 orange trees, 1,000 lemons, 500 limes, and 750 olives.

Col. Hollister’s land grants included Lompoc. Here, vast herds of his sheep grazed before he sold part of his holdings to the Lompoc Valley Land Company in 1874. The lands consisted of the Lompoc Rancho and the Mission Vieja de la Purisima Rancho. The town was laid out nine miles from the coast, near the center of the Lompoc Valley. The lots sold well and the town flourished.

The Chumash Indians called the area "Lum Poc", meaning little lake or laguna, for a now vanished lake. The Spanish called it "lumpoco" accenting the second syllable. By the time settlers began to arrive in the valley, the name had been Anglicized.

The founding fathers of Lompoc modeled their city after Vineland, N.J., a thriving termperance community, and proposed that it be called New Vineland. However, the citi-zens of Lompoc opposed the idea. Another try in 1939 to change the name to La Purisima was also defeated.

(Alton Pryor has been a writer for magazines, newspapers, and wire services. He worked for United Press International in their Sacramento Bureau, handling both printed press as well as radio news. He traveled the state as a field editor for California Farmer Magazine for 27 years. He is now the author of 10 books, primarily on California and western history. His books can be seen at http://www.stagecoachpublishing.com. Readers can email him at stagecoach@surewest.net.)

Source: www.isnare.com