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Otay Ranch Records
MSS 0500  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Restrictions
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Processing Information note

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Otay Ranch Records
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0500
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
    Languages: English
    Physical Description: 103.8 Linear feet (126 archives boxes, 49 record cartons, 5 map case folders and 3 flat boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1927 - 1989
    Abstract: The Otay Ranch Records depict the history of San Diego county through the administrative, economic, financial, employment and agricultural documents that describe the operations of this large south county ranch. The documents include correspondence from Stephen Birch, Sr., the original owner of Otay Ranch Agricultural Corp. in 1936, to the ranch foremen, bookkeepers and managers; and financial, agricultural, and employment records from 1936 through the 1980s. Also included is material relating to Birch family history, including copies of letters dating from the 1840s.
    Creator: Birch, Stephen


    Documents related to payroll, located in the FINANCIAL series, are restricted.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1999

    Preferred Citation

    Otay Ranch Records, MSS 0500. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Administrative History

    Otay Ranch, originally a land grant, named Rancho del Otay, by Mexican Governor Echeandia to Maria Estudillo and her brother Jose Antonio Estudillo, was owned and operated by Stephen Birch and his family from 1920 until the mid-1980s. During the 1800s, this area was important for the sheep operations that ran between Mexico and Southern California.
    In 1920, Stephen Birch, the driving force behind the Alaska Copper and Coal Company, which eventually became the Kennecott Copper Company in 1915, bought Otay Ranch and many surrounding parcels of land, totalling about 30,000 acres. Birch was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1872, the second son of a wounded Union Army sergeant who died when Stephen was ten yeras old. Three years after his fathers death, Stephen's mother moved her family to Mahwah, New Jersey to be closer to family. Stephen attended Trinity School, New York University and Columbia School of Mines, receiving financial assistance from his New Jersey neighbors the Havermeyers of the American Sugar Refining Company. Stephen, along with many others went to Alaska to seek gold in 1898. He eventually formed a syndicate, enlisted the support of Daniel Guggenheim and J.P. Morgan and started the Alaska Copper and Coal Company in 1903. In 20 years, Birch controlled a major share of the world's copper production with mines in Alaska, the western United States, and South America, and maintained offices in New York. On June 24, 1916, Stephen married Mary Rand, daughter of Rufus R. Rand, president of Minneapolis Gas Light Company. The newlyweds settled in New York City and had two children, Stephen and Mary. In 1917 Stephen purchased the 730-acre Theodore Havemeyer estate in Mahwah, New Jersey, near where he had lived as a boy and named the estate Mahrapo Farm. He ran the farm as a purebred stock farm, specializing in Guernsey cows and Hampshire sheep. Mary Birch died of cancer in 1930, so Stephen's sister Emily moved to the farm to tend to the children. In 1938, Birch organized the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation to donate money to health services, hospitals, and civic organizations. Stephen Birch resigned as president of the Kennecott Copper Company in 1933 but continued on as Chairman of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the company until he died on December 29, 1940 at the age of 68 following surgery. In addition to his positions with Kennecott and Otay Ranch, Birch was president and director of the Alaska Steamship Company, chairman of the board of directors of the Braden Copper Company, and a director of the Alaska Development and Mineral Company, the Banker's Trust Company of New York, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company, the Colorado and Southern Railway Company, and the Northern Pacific Railway Company. Birch is buried in Hartsdale New York.
    Otay Ranch was a 30,000+ acre ranch at the initial purchase, growing to almost 90,000 acres, owned by Stephen Birch and his family. The ranch was a large cattle and agricultural operation east of San Diego. The ranch grew and harvested mostly barley, beans and grains, and tried a variety of different crops to test their ability to grow in the southern California climate. Otay Ranch employed a large number of locals, immigrant workers from Mexico and women. Management of the ranch was overseen from New York, so regular correspndence from Stephen Birch Sr., Stephen Birch Jr. and Robert Newell, the corporate manager in New York to T.R. Newbery, the Superintendent at the ranch, Edward Loula, the office manager during the 1950s and 1960s, and Collins Wilkie, the ranch manager during the 1950s and general manager of United Enterprises in 1977, are reflected within the records. The family who lived there, mainly daughter Mary Birch Patrick, and staff followed the rationing restrictions ordered by the government during World War II and sold supplies to the government for the war effort. The ranch expanded by continuing to purchase grazing land for herds of cattle, purchasing neighboring Rancho de la Nacion and Rancho Janal. The crops were sold to wholesalers in San Diego and Los Angeles after being shipped north. As the cities around Otay Ranch, specifically Chula Vista and National City, began to fill with people, Otay Ranch began to sell off parcels of land to developers. By the 1980s, Mary Birch Patrick and the corporation that oversaw operations on the ranch, United Enterprises, sold the ranch to developers for housing developments on Otay Mesa.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Records of Otay Ranch, a large tract of land south of San Diego, showcase the history of farming, ranching, field labor practices, and the daily dealings of a business farm in San Diego County. Otay Ranch was owned and operated by Stephen Birch and his descendents, his son Stephen Birch Jr. and his daughter Mary Birch Patrick. The Birches were central to philanthropic activities within San Diego County, donating money to hospitals and schools. The Otay Ranch collection is arranged in fifteen series: 1) ADMINISTRATIVE, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) AGRICULTURE, 4) LIVESTOCK, 5) LABOR, 6) PROPERTY, 7) EQUIPMENT, 8) FINANCIAL, 9) INSURANCE, 10) BIRCH FOUNDATION, 11) MAHRAPO FARMS, 12) ORGANIZATIONS, 13) SUBJECT FILES, 14) MAPS, and 15) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
    The ADMINISTRATIVE series comprises yearly, quarterly and monthly reports, documenting daily weather reports, employee and cattle counts and permit requests; production reports from the years 1946 thru 1948; purchase orders from the late 1970s through 1987; rainfall records from 1938 through 1987; and weekly meeting minutes from 1978 through 1983. The series is arranged in two subseries: A) Administrative Files and B) United Enterprises.
    A) The Administrative Files subseries contains documents of daily weather reports, labor counts, cattle counts, permit requests, production reports from the years 1946 through 1948, purchase orders from the late 1970s through 1987, rainfall records from 1938 through 1987 and weekly meeting minutes from 1978 through 1983. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.
    B) The United Enterprises subseries contains daily chron files created and signed by United Enterprises, detailing daily management activities from 1978 through 1982
    The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and dates from the 1930s through the 1980s with the bulk dating from the early 1930s through the 1950s. It contains correspondence between ranch owners, the superintendents at the ranch, the bookkeepers, the foremen and other ranch employees, and management in New Jersey and New York.
    The AGRICULTURE series contains information on crop production, the types of crops, planting, irrigating, fertilizing, and crop sales. It documents the process of growing crops in the San Diego area climate and is arranged into five subseries: A) Crop Data, B) Crop Sales, C) Irrigation, D) Pesticides, Fertilizers and Conservation and E) Miscellaneous.
    A) The Crop Data subseries contains inventories and data on crop production from planting to harvest, from the early 1930s through 1986, with the majority of the data from the 1930s to the 1950s.
    B) The Crop Sales subseries contains documents such as contracts and requests from wholesalers on the sales of the various crops produced at the ranch.
    C) The Irrigation subseries contains information on the water systems used on the ranch and water contracts.
    D) The Pesticides, Fertilizers and Conservation subseries contains information on how the crops were cultivated and the type of materials used to produce the best crop.
    E) The Miscellaneous subseries contains documents on acreage, storage of crops, and supply information.
    The ranch was involved in buying, selling and breeding cattle. This series documents the purchases and sales of cattle and horses by the ranch.
    The LABOR series documents the labor required on the farm. It includes information on individuals hired, when they left, and the work they performed. It is arranged in four subseries: A) Employees, B) Time Reports, C) Cattle and Work Schedules and D) Work Orders.
    A) The Employees subseries is arranged alphabetically and includes applications for employment, employment permits, employee housing and accommodations, and labor and wage reports. Also included are three card file boxes which contain employee information cards.
    B) The Time Reports subseries, arranged chronologically from 1937 through 1983, contains employee time reports. C) The Cattle and Work Schedules, arranged chronologically from 1979 through 1983, document the work employees did with cattle.
    D) The Work Orders subseries documents the daily work required on the ranch, including mending fences, clearing brush, harvesting, etc. and who performed the work. The subseries is arranged chronologically from 1938 through 1983.
    The PROPERTY series contains information on ranch property and buildings and the management of them. It is arranged alphabetically in three subseries: A) Facilities, B) Land and C) Security.
    A) The Facilities subseries includes papers on the construction, maintenance and work performed on the ranch buidings and fencing.
    B) The Land subseries documents land purchases, acreage and any other improvements made to the land, and includes land leases made by the ranch.
    C) The Security subseries has documentation of daily visitors and requests for more patrolling by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department of the perimeter of the ranch.
    The EQUIPMENT series documents the acquisition, maintenance and sale of farm equipment including vehicles, harvesting tools and the fuel required by the ranch. It is arranged in three sub series: A) Vehicles, B) Fuel and C) Farm Implements.
    A) The Vehicles subseries contains vehicle registrations from 1936 through 1978. The ranch workers were required to have special permits for different vehicles and those are also included as well as documents on the purchase of vehicles.
    B) The Fuel subseries contains documentation on fuel purchased for the vehicles and farm implements, and on any fuel rationing the ranch was required to follow during war times.
    C) In the Farm Implements subseries there is information on tractors, harvesting combines and other farm machinery. There are also ledgers that document the monthly costs of maintaining farm implements.
    The FINANCIAL series contains information on the financial and accounting practices of the ranch. It shows in detail how the ranch made money, where it went, how the ranch paid the employees and how it documented the large number of accounts. The series is arranged in eight subseries: A) Accounting, B) Requisitions, C) Sales and Delivery, D) Ledgers, E) Banking, F) Payroll, G) Receipts and H) Taxes.
    A) In the Accounting subseries are auditing papers; different ranch account information, especially on what each numbered account represented; information on bills payable and deposits; general account journal entries ranging in date from 1948 through 1954; and purchase orders.
    B) The Requisitions subseries contains information regarding requests by the ranch for money and supplies. The documents begin in 1936 and run continuously thru 1955 and then include 1960 and 1978.
    C) The Sales and Delivery subseries contains receipts of product sales, showing the price products sold for, not describing in depth who bought the products, which is contained in the AGRICULTURE series.
    D) The Ledgers subseries is arranged chronologically from 1938 through 1974 and contains account and general journal ledgers.
    E) The Banking subseries is a collection of deposit and withdrawal slips for every transaction made by the ranch. It is arranged first by banking institution, then chronologically. Bank of America documents range in date from 1936 through 1973. The Wells Fargo documents range in date from 1970 through 1985 and the First National Bank documents range from 1948 through 1969.
    F) The Payroll subseries is arranged chronologically. It contains information on employee wages and pay schedules. This material is restricted. G) The Receipts subseries contains all the receipts from purchases and expenses by the ranch between 1936 and 1955, and then from the 1960s through the 1970s.
    H) The Taxes subseries contains information on various county taxes such as livestock, fuel, property, and sales, as well as tax refunds.
    The INSURANCE series contains information on insurance coverage held by the ranch, including documents concerning accident reports and workmen's compensation. It also includes information on provisional crop insurance from 1937 through 1951.
    The BIRCH FOUNDATION series contains information on the Birch Family and on the philanthropic foundation they founded. The Birch Foundation gave money to many organizations to help fund community projects. The series is arranged in two subseries: A) Birch Family and B) Birch Foundation.
    A) The Birch Family subseries contains personal correspondence of Mary Birch, Birch family geneaology, copies of old family letters dating from the 1840s, and documentation of trusts created by Stephen Birch, Sr.
    B) The Birch Foundation subseries contains foundation annual reports, some tax information and letters requesting contributions from 1970 through 1983.
    The MAHRAPO FARMS series contains information on the Birch family farm in New Jersey. Mahrapo Farms was where the Birch family lived, as well as operating a cattle breeding operation. Papers in this series document the cattle operation, breeders shows, cattle sales, employee housing, and business papers.
    The ORGANIZATIONS series contains mainly correspondence between the ranch and organizations with which it worked, from community organizations, state and federal organizations and agricultural organizations, including the American Hereford Association, Associated Farmers of San Diego County, California Farm Bureau Federation, Civil Defense and Disaster Organization, San Diego County, and the United States Department of Agriculture.
    The SUBJECT FILES series contains files such as fire fighting instructions, inventory of products and rationing information, bulletins, and newsletters.
    The MAPS series includes maps and drawings of Otay Ranch, including building blueprints, maps of cultivated areas that specify what crops were planted where and how much land was used for that crop, drawings of road surveys, subdivision plans, land being developed by the cities of Chula Vista and National City, and maps of the San Diego area. One notable document is a sheet entitled "Birch Lineage (1619-1934)", a Birch family tree and plans of the Birch ancestors' family farms in England.
    This series contains brittle and acidic original documents that were removed from their original file and replaced with a photocopy. The documents are in box and file order.

    Processing Information note

    There is no box 175.



    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Birch, Mary Patrick
    Birch, Stephen, 1872-1940
    Otay Ranch.
    Ranches -- California -- San Diego