By Irene Phillips
Las Encinitas Rancho, a Mexican land-grant of one square league or 4,431-03 acres, was given to Andrés Ybarra by Governor Alvarado on July 3, 1842, and a United States land-patent was granted on April 18, 1871. Being half way between the mission at San Diego and that of San Luis Rey, it proved to be a convenient stage station, where horses were changed. In later years, it became a train stop for the California Southern Railroad.
After the Kimball Brothers gave the major portion of the National ranch as a subsidy for bringing the railroad to San Diego County, they began buying land outside the limits of the ranch. Encinitas was one of these purchases, made from Mannasse & Schiller in November of 1880. It was rented for the next four years, one year being to Joseph Mannasse, one of the former owners.
Attention was drawn to the ranch when an ostrich farm was established there. On February 21, 1884, the National City Record said: “The ostriches have laid 10 eggs since they arrived at Encinitas. The boss egg weighed 3 lbs. and 11 oz.” The ostrich venture must have been of short duration, for on August 24 of the same year, Kimball Brothers ran an advertisement in the San Diego Union: “Rancho Encinitas, 4,400 acres. The best ranch for its size for a Colony.” Colonization was a favorite method for settling land, during that period.
The advertisement was answered by Theodore Printher, favorably known in Colorado, who was planning to organize a colony. With several others, Printher arrived in San Diego September 27, and Frank Kimball showed them several locations. “Took the party to Jamul,” he noted in his records, “Also to Otay and then went to Encinitas and examined the springs in the northeast corner; then went down the east side to the southeast corner, then up to the location of the dam across Elijo Creek, through the valley and nearly to the ocean. The stage overtook us at San Dieguito and we came home.” Two days later he recorded: “At work on the Printher Colony scheme.” The following day the National City Record mentions the name of the colony at Encinitas as “Olivenheim.”
On October 3 Kimball was in San Diego and saw the Articles of Incorporation for the Colony, and received $400 to bind the bargain on the sale of the Encinitas Rancho for $65,000. The contract was made by Printher, Conrad Stroebel, Paul Flossig and others. So began the Olivenhain venture; shortly afterward, a courageous little group left their homes in Colorado, for the new colony. On November 8 Kimball noted that he had “Carried apples to the first installment of Colony Olivenheim (sic) which came down by steamer. Consisted of some 60 persons, including children.”
On November 29 he wrote: “Left home at 4 1/2 A.M. and, with Warren, reached the nearest crossing to the southwest corner of Encinitas and walked to the Ranch House. Found the Colony people plowing, grubbing, burning brush and building fence. Staid for an hour, then rode to the old Ranch House where we had lunch with Mr. Stroebel.” To all appearances, harmony prevailed at Olivenhain.
The National City Record next reported progress at the colony –“The old ranch houses have been put in condition, some not having been used for 13 years. Six hundred acres of land has been burned off and the mesa soil is being turned to the sun for the first time since Adam was a boy. On the southeast corner, Conrad Stroebel has laid out a road. Membership is now 700.”
On February 15, 1885, Kimball received some disquieting news, and made an investigation of the methods used in land sales. “I sold the Colonists land at $15.00 per acre,” he wrote. “The best land was sold by the Colonists to newcomers at 5 acres for $125 and, with a house, for $225, leaving the wild, rough land for the poorer Colonists to buy for 5 acres for $80.” In June, Printher wrote to Kimball asking for “time,” and explaining that “Things are not going well at the Colony.”
One complaint of the colonists was about the lack of water, so Kimball asked a group of National City men to accompany him to Encinitas, to look over the colonists’ problem. He took along a lunch for twenty or more people, and they had a conference with the ranchers; it was agreed that those able to hold their property and develop it should remain on the Rancho, and the balance of the land should revert to the Kimballs. One of the committee suggested that if they would clean things up around the springs and fence them off from the sheep, the water supply would be ample.
The legal dissolution of the Colony soon followed. To quote from Kimball’s records, under date of July 8, 1886: “Committee from Olivenheim (sic) here. Our lawyer, Mr. Conklin. Am conveying about 446 acres of land to the Trustees … at $15 per acre and required them to annul the old contract for sale of Rancho Encinitas.
“To N. H. Conklin for Olivenheim (sic) arbitration, fee, $20.”
So closed the Olivenhain venture. Conrad Stroebel came to National City, where Kimball gave him work as manager of the Kimball Brick Kilns, but within a year he returned to the east, probably a poorer but wiser man.
During 1887-88, Kimball set out many acres to grapes—”25,000 grape cuttings to Rancho Encinitas. To sell for $2.50 a thousand.” In 1893 when Kimball’s property was tied up in a trust deed to pay debts incurred by unprofitable investments, as well as by the embezzlement of funds by an employee of the Bank of National City (for which Kimball was held responsible) it became necessary to separate property held jointly by himself and his brother, Warren Kimball. At that time, Warren took over Frank’s share of Rancho Encinitas.
The soil which was first turned to the sun by the Olivenhain Colonists has proven adaptable to raising flowers on a large scale. Poinsettias, especially, have brought fame to the thriving community of Encinitas.