Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Otay Ranch Records
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 500
Mandeville Special Collections Library
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
Language of Material:
103.8 Linear feet
(127 archives boxes, 49 record cartons, 5 map case folders and 3 flat boxes)
Date (inclusive): 1927 - 1989
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.
Documents related to payroll, located in the FINANCIAL series, are restricted.
Otay Ranch Records, MSS 500. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
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
SERIES 1: ADMINISTRATIVE
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
SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE
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.
SERIES 3: AGRICULTURE
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.
SERIES 4: LIVESTOCK
The ranch was involved in buying, selling and breeding cattle. This series documents the purchases and sales of cattle and
horses by the ranch.
SERIES 5: LABOR
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
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.
SERIES 6: PROPERTY
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
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.
SERIES 7: EQUIPMENT
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.
SERIES 8: FINANCIAL
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.
SERIES 9: INSURANCE
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.
SERIES 10: BIRCH FOUNDATION
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.
SERIES 11: MAHRAPO FARMS
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.
SERIE 12: ORGANIZATIONS
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.
SERIES 13: SUBJECT FILES
The SUBJECT FILES series contains files such as fire fighting instructions, inventory of products and rationing information,
bulletins, and newsletters.
SERIES 14: MAPS
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.
SERIES 15: ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES
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.
THE BULK OF THE COLLECTION IS STORED OFF-SITE: ALLOW ONE WEEK FOR RETRIEVAL OF MATERIALS.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Birch, Mary Patrick
Birch, Stephen, 1872-1940
Ranches -- California -- San Diego