San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Steele Brothers' Dairies of Pescadero

History of San Mateo County:  1883B.F. Alley pg 246
The pre-story is a little different as told by the California Historical Society, " In the 1850s Clara Steele settled with her family near San Francisco. She missed the delicious cheddar cheese she enjoyed back in Ohio made from a family recipe, so she hired an Indian man to help her wrangle the cattle grazing near her home. With the milk from these cattle she replicated the cheddar cheese she so loved. The results were so delicious that when she introduced the cheese to the San Francisco market it was an immediate hit! Clara, her husband Rensselaer and cousins Isaac, Edgar and George begin making and selling high quality cheese and butter and start one of the first commercial dairies in the United States, known as Steele Brothers. By 1857 the Steele Brothers were so successful they relocated to a 6,000 acre farm in Point Reyes to expand their dairy operation. In 1861 they purchased 15,000 acres in Santa Cruz County. Here is a tax receipt for the Steele Brothers Santa Cruz County property. Note the 7000 lbs. of cheese at a value of $280.00."  National Dairy Month 11 Jun 2013

Whatever the reality of the back story is, in 1862 Isaac and Rensselaer signed a lease for The Rancho Punta de Año Nuevo, originally in Santa Cruz County, with the option to buy a portion of the land from Clark and Coburn.

The Steele brothers set up five dairies: Pocket Dairy at Pebble Beach Hill; a Dairy in Whitehouse Canyon; Green Oaks which was run by Isaac; Cascade which was run by Rensselaer; and Cloverdale which was run by E.W.  Besides cheese the dairies produced butter.

In 1866 the original lease was up and Clark and Coburn regained control of Pocket Dairy and Cloverdale.  The Steele brothers purchased 7,060 acres, the land from Gazos Creek to the Santa Cruz County line.  Rensselaer remained at Cascade which he later divided between his children, Ella and Rensselaer.  George and E.W. moved to land that had been purchased in San Luis Obispo County and remained there even after money troubles forced the sale of much of the land.   Isaac remained at Green Oaks setting up Finney Dairy on his property.  In 1875 the land was converted to growing grain.

Isaac, a master of the State Grange was one of the first directores of the Granger's Business association and a founders and director of the Granger’s Bank in San Francisco. When the bank failed I.C. lost a significant investment.  He also served as a supervisor for San Mateo County.  In the late 1890s he divided his holdings among his family.

Catherine Baumgarten, wife of Isaac's grandson,  gift-deeded the land of Green Oaks to the San Mateo County in 1967 and donated the original papers of General Frederick Steele to the Library at Stanford.  

The Steele Family with San Mateo County Emphasis

1. Nathaniel Steele (1783-1862)  m1 . Esther Benedict .  They had four children who stayed on the east coast.  Nathaniel married second  Dameras Johnson  (Nathaniel followed his sons to CA and died in Marin Co.) 
Isaac Steele (2)
  1. Frederick Steele 14 JAN 1819 NY -  12 JAN 1868 in San Mateo County. Frederick has been in the army and traveled around the west before settling in San Mateo County shortly before his death.
  2. Isaac Chapman Steele 14 AUG 1820 NY - 25 FEB 1903 in Pescadero   married his cousin Huldah Emeline Steele (see below) and they had four children.
    1. Robert Steele - no information known.
    2. Frederick Nathaniel Steele  8 Jul 1846 OH - 24 Sep 1907 Green Oaks Ranch, Pescadero, He married  Chloe Roxyntha Worden (1848-1934)   and they had four children, Isaac, Clara, Emma and William.  Fred recieved Green Oaks from his father.
    3. Effie Nov1850 OH -  25 Oct 1913  Point Ano Nuevo m. Edwin Dickerman (1845-1912) and they had one known daughter.  Effie received New Year's Point Ranch from her father.
    4. George Horace Steele 8 Feb 1860  Petaluma - Death 10 Dec1913   Point Ano Nuevo married Elizabeth Ann Christman (1869-1950) and they had four known children: Rufus, Wilfred, Ella and Bernice. George received Ano Nuevo Rancho from his father.
  3. George Steele  14 May1825 NY -  22 Oct 1901 San Luis Obispo County m Delia Maria Day 1833-1912
  4. Edgar Willis Steele 4 Mar 1830 NY -  18 Feb 1896 in SLO  m Julia P. Stanley 1838-1867 m. 2 Emma Smith 1840 - ? 
  5. Osman N. Steele (              ) a deputy sheriff who was shot during anti-rent riots in New York. Osman married his cousin Mary B. Steele (see below)
2.  John Steele (1779-1845) m. Polly St. John (1807-1858) they had 8 children the following four can be found in San Mateo County
  1. Rensselaer Ebenezer Steele 06 Nov 1808 NY - 14 Nov 1886 in Pescadero  m. Clarissa Ann Jameson 29 Jun 1823
    Rensselaer Steele (2)
    NY - 31 May 1866 
    m2 Hattie Younglove 1839 OH - unknown 
    1. Ella Adaliza Steele 15 Aug 1844 OH -  03 Jan 1919 in Pescadero, San Mateo, CA, USA  m. Rutherford Higgins Brown 1839 – 1897 and they had one son.
    2. Smith Ebenezer Steele 15 Apr 1846 OH - 03 Jan 1863   
    3. Rensselaer Ebenezer Steele Jr. 4 Nov 1869  Pescadero - 11 Sep 1935 in Pescadero m and divorced Gertude Polsen, No known children
  2. Samuel Horace Steele 27 Aug 1910 - 12 May 1896 Pescadero m. Amanda Matilda Remington.  They had four children only one of whom is found in San Mateo County
    1. Charles Edward Steele 6 Mar 1851 OH - 8 Dec 1930 Pescadero m. Ida Jane Moore (1856-1946),  They had five known children.
  3. Mary B Steele 15 Feb 1816 NY OH - 25 Jul 1884 Pescadero m. first her cousin Osman (see above) and second, Seldon J. Finney (1825-1875) and they had at least two children Isaac left Finney Dairy to Mary.
  4. Huldah Emeline Steele 18 Jan 1826 OH - 13 Apr 1896 Green Oaks Ranch, Pt. Ano Nuevo. Huldah married her cousin Isaac Steele, see above.
For more details and documentation of the Steele family genealogy and their San Mateo County Dairies see:
  • California Steele Family Tree   owner: wanderingmtn  This is an ancestry online tree which includes a number of photographs and documents.
  • Catherine B. Steele, Wilfred H. Steele, Linda A. McBride, George H. Steele; The Steeles of Point Año Nuevo, Their Ancestry and Kinship: Showing Their Direct Line of Descent from John Steele, who Emigrated from England to Massachusetts, 1631, 2007 124 pages. (Note: I was unable to find the 2007 version of this book anywhere in the Bay Area.  Copies of a 1971 version are available in various libraries.  The pictures of Isaac and and Rensselaer above were adapted from this book. 
  • Steele, C. B. and Steele, W. H. (1971). The Steeles of Point Año Nuevo:  Their ancestry and kinships
  • Steele, G. H. (1948).  The Steeles of California and their forbearers
  • Cunningham, A.  (1967).  Historic old ranch offered to SM County as park.  Palo Alto Times, July 12, 1967.
  • Library of Congress - Steele Brothers Dairy - Historic American Buildings Survey - Pictures
  • Guide to the Steele Family Collection Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History
  • Roy, W. Cloud, "History of Pescadero, California",  The Story of San Mateo County, California The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company. Chicago, Ill 1928
  • CA State Parks - Steele Brothers Dairy Ranches






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