Scope and Content
Holland Land Company (Calif.)
Title: Holland Land Company Records,
Date (bulk): bulk 1916-1942
11.8 linear feet
Abstract: The Holland Land Company Records (1909-1953) consist of minute books, scrapbooks, photographic materials, and other records.
The Holland Land Co. was incorporated in 1916. Its operations headquarters were in Reclamation District 999, Clarksburg, California,
Yolo County. During the 1920s, the Holland Land Co. owned more than fifty thousand acres in Solano and Yolo Counties. The
company used equipment including clamshell dredges, ditchers, draglines, pumps, and tractors to build levees and canals and
reclaim Delta marshland. The company built roads, bridges, and buildings on its land and planted a wide variety of crops.
The Holland Land Co. was dissolved in 1942.
Researchers should contact Special Collections to request collections, as many are stored off site.
University of California, Davis. General Library.
Department of Special Collections.
100 North West Quad
Davis, California 95616-5292
Collection number: D-118
Language of Material: Collection materials in
Operations headquarters for the Holland Land Company were in Clarksburg, California, located at the northwestern edge of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Situated in the southeastern corner of Yolo County, Clarksburg was on the west side of
the Sacramento River about fifteen miles south of and across the river from the city of Sacramento. There was no bridge across
the Sacramento River near Clarksburg (until the Freeport Bridge opened in 1929), so Clarksburg area residents depended on
ferryboats for river crossings. Clarksburg was also physically isolated from the rest of Yolo County by miles of tule marshes.
Clarksburg, Lisbon, and Merritt Island were all part of Merritt Township, Yolo County.
During the second half of the nineteenth century, floods were a serious problem for Clarksburg area residents. They built
their homes on high ground and on pilings to protect themselves from rising waters, and some lived in houseboats. Early settlers
made their living by fishing, hunting wild ducks and geese, cutting wood, and doing their best to raise crops and cattle in
the flood-prone Delta marshland. Roads and bridges were either in terrible condition or non-existent, so through the first
two decades of the twentieth century, the Sacramento River was Clarksburg's main transportation route. Passengers and freight
were carried up and down the river on the many riverboats that ran on regular schedules between San Francisco and Red Bluff.
Most farm produce left Clarksburg by boat. Elk Slough along the western edge of Merritt Island was also a busy channel for
In the 1860s the California Legislature passed laws authorizing the formation of reclamation districts, which were to be units
of local government organized and financed by the residents of an area to build levees along the rivers to keep the water
out, and to build canals in the basins to drain the seepage. In 1870, Merritt Island landowners formed the first reclamation
district in Merritt Township, Reclamation District (R.D.) 150, which built eighteen miles of levees, around Merritt Island.
Organized in 1877, the Lisbon District, R.D. 307, built fourteen miles of levees around land north of Merritt Island to Babel
Slough. Though the levees built by these pioneering reclamation districts protected the land against some of the rising waters,
the area still suffered from flooding.
It was not until 1911 that the California Legislature adopted the Sacramento Flood Control Plan. The plan called for federal
and state governments, reclamation districts, and private companies to cooperate in controlling flooding in the Sacramento
River. They would do this by building continuous levees along the entire length of the river, enlarging the mouth of the river,
removing debris from the Sacramento and its tributaries, and creating by-passes in the Sutter and Yolo basins to divert excess
water from the main channel of the Sacramento River. The large profits that could be made by reclaiming and selling fertile
farm land, adjacent to the Sacramento River but protected from flooding, attracted investors to reclamation projects. Many
major projects commenced circa 1911 and were completed by the early 1920s, resulting in extensive and effective flood protection
for Delta land.
In 1911, Isaac B. Parsons of the Bank of Hayward began buying land in the vicinity of Clarksburg for a group of men who were
to form the Netherlands Farms Company. These men petitioned for the formation of a reclamation district, and in 1913 the California
Legislature created R.D. 999. Financial difficulties and the outbreak of war in Europe, led to the dissolution of the Netherlands
Farms Co. on March 3, 1917.
The Holland Land Company, incorporated on May 26, 1916 with three million dollars in order to protect and profit from the
investment made by the Netherlands Farms Co. By the end of 1916, the Holland Land Co. paid off the debts of the Netherlands
Farms Co. and began the work of reclaiming the Holland District (R.D. 999), including Clarksburg. The Holland Land Co. divided
its capital stock of three million dollars into thirty thousand shares worth one hundred dollars each. The first seven members
of the board of directors were: J.V. Mendenhall (president and treasurer), T.A. Allan (first vice president), D. Hadsell (second
vice president), W.J. Seaborn (secretary), M.E. Addis, T.T.C. Gregory, and J.P. O'Connor. In the 1920s, land owned in Solano
and Yolo counties by the Holland Land Co. exceeded fifty thousand acres and was bounded by Ryer Island to the south, the Yolo
Basin to the west, Elk Slough to the east, and the Lisbon District (R.D. 307) to the north.
When the Holland Land Co. began its reclamation work in 1916, the ground of the Holland District was wet and soft and covered
with almost impenetrable tules growing seven to twelve feet high. No roads and levees existed. Reclamation of the Holland
District took about two years, cost $2,500,000, and involved using heavy equipment including clamshell dredges, draglines,
ditchers, and tractors. To remove excess water from farmland in winter and to provide water for irrigation in summer, the
company built thirty-five miles of levees, 150 miles of canals, one 175,000 gallon-a-minute main pumping plant, and eighteen
subsidiary pumping plants. The enormous leather-belt-driven pumps at the main pumping plant of R.D. 999 were installed in
1917. The Holland Land Co. also drained Big Lake and constructed twenty-five miles of roads, one hundred bridges, and over
ninety farm buildings.
In September 1919, the Holland Land Co. formed an additional $450,000 company, the Holland By-Pass Company, to enclose with
levees nearly three thousand acres in the Yolo Bypass. Members of the board were W.J. Seaborn (chairman), A.J. Ottem (secretary),
J.G. Sweet, E.A. Ingalls, and S. Brown. Circa March 1924, when the Holland By-Pass Co. accomplished its purpose, the company
was dissolved and all its assets were transferred to the Holland Land Co.
After the levees were built, the Holland Land Co. prepared its land for planting by using teams, plows, and horse-drawn Fresno
scrapers. Circa 1918, the Holland Land Co. began planting crops to sell for cash and to set an example for prospective buyers
and tenants. Formerly Superintendent of the Netherlands Farms Co., Gus Olson (1888-1970), an engineer and General Manager
of the Holland Land Co., farmed successfully on the newly reclaimed land at the company's headquarters. Under Olson's direction,
the company experimented with a wide variety of crops including alfalfa, asparagus, barley, beans, celery, lettuce, potatoes,
sugar beets, and wheat. The company also established a nursery of five hundred thousand fruit and shade trees, and more than
one hundred thousand fruit trees were planted in the district. Pear trees were particularly well-suited to the Clarksburg
In the spring of 1918, once the Holland Land Co. had completed much of its reclamation work and the Clarksburg area was protected
from seasonal flooding, the company began developing and marketing its land. Most of the lots it sold were for farms and residences,
but some were for commercial enterprises. The company's policy was to sell a buyer not more than three thousand acres, at
a minimum of $250 per acre, with a ten percent down payment and ten annual payments. The company sought to attract university-educated,
experienced farmers who would farm their own land and contribute to community life. Therefore, many families associated with
the University of California, Davis (then the University Farm) settled in Clarksburg. The Holland Land Co. sold its land holdings
off quickly and paid its first one dollar dividend to its stockholders in 1922. It continued to pay dividends even during
the Great Depression years. On December 23, 1942, with all of its land, in private hands and maintenance of the reclamation
system the responsibility of R.D. 999, the Holland Land Co. was dissolved.
Clarksburg: Delta Community. Woodland, CA: Yolo County Historical Society, 1988.
Scope and Content
The Holland Land Company Records span the years 1909 to 1953, but the bulk of the materials date from 1916 to 1942. The records
are arranged in four series: 1. Minute Books, 2. Scrapbooks, 3. Other Records, and 4. Photographic Material. Five of the minute
books were created by the Holland Land Co., and one is the work of a subsidiary, the Holland By-Pass Co. Minute books hold
articles of incorporation, by-laws, annual reports, minutes of stockholders' meetings, and other legal and financial documents.
The three scrapbooks contain clippings, flyers, and other materials promoting the Holland Land Co., its properties, and California
agriculture in general. The photographs contained in the Holland Land Co. Records are rich sources of information about Clarksburg,
California history and land reclamation and agriculture in the California Delta region during the early part of the twentieth
century. Included are numerous photographs of Clarksburg area buildings, people, crops and fields, waterways, modes of transportation,
hydraulic facilities, and land reclamation and agricultural equipment. Many of the images are identified.
Other materials related to the Holland Land Company Records and to the history of the California Delta region may be found
in the following collections at Special Collections:
D-044: Liberty Farms Company Archives.
D-196: Reclamation District No. 551 Archives.
D-394: Colby E. "Babe" Slater Collection.
D-405: McKinnon Ruble Family Papers.
The Clarksburg Branch Library of the Yolo County Library also holds materials related to the history of Clarksburg and the
Holland Land Co.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Holland Land Company (Calif.)--Archives.
Holland By-Pass Company--Archives.
Olson, Gus, 1888-1970.
Reclamation of land--California--Solano County.
Reclamation of land--California--Yolo County.
Delta Region (Calif.)--History.
Sacramento River (Calif.)
Collection is open for research under regular Reading Room rules and copyright restrictions.
Gus Olson, Jr. (Nov. 14, 1914-Nov. 22, 1990), gave the Holland Land Co. Records to the Library in December 1976. He was the
son of Gus Olson, Sr. (Dec. 2, 1888-Sept. 21, 1970), and Mabel Lawlor Olson (1894-1969) of Clarksburg, California.
Gus Olson, Sr., was an engineer, who moved to Clarksburg in 1914 to become Superintendent of the Netherlands Farm Co. In 1916,
he became General Manager of the Holland Land Co. in Clarksburg, a position he would hold until 1941. From 1916 onward he
was a member of the Board of Trustees of Reclamation District 999. Gus Olson, Sr., served as a Regent of the University of
California from 1951 to 1960.
Melissa Tyler processed these records and created and encoded this finding aid.
[Identification of item], Holland Land Company Records, D-118, Department of Special Collections, General Library, University
of California, Davis.
Copyright is protected by the copyright law, chapter 17, of the U.S. Code. All requests for permission to publish or quote
from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf
of the Department of Special Collections, University of California, Library, Davis as the owner of the physical items and
is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.