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Rindge and Adamson Family Papers
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Collection Details
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  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Biographical note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Processing Information note

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.
    Title: Rindge and Adamson Family Papers next hit
    Identifier/Call Number: 0034
    Physical Description: 1.83 Linear Feet (3 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1891-1967
    Abstract: The Rindge and Adamson family have a long history in Malibu, California, dating back to 1892 when Frederick and May K. Rindge purchased the 13,300-acre Spanish land grant, Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit, also known as Malibu Rancho, from Matthew Keller. In 1915, their daughter, Rhoda Agatha, married Merritt Adamson, the superintendent of the ranch, and together, they helped manage the family business. The collection contains correspondence, business papers, financial records, photographs, newspaper clipping, and ephemera from the various family members and spans from 1891 to 1967.
    Physical Location: Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Advance notice required for access.

    Conditions Governing Use

    Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

    Preferred Citation

    [Box/folder# or item name], previous hit Rindge and Adamson family papers next hit , Collection no. 34, Malibu Historical Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries, Pepperdine University.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    The collection was given to Pepperdine University by Grant Adamson in several installments during 2010.

    Biographical note

    Frederick Hastings Rindge was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Samuel B. Rindge (1820-1883) and Clarissa Harrington (1822-1885) on December 21, 1857. Frederick was the fourth of six children and the only child to make it to adulthood. Frederick attended Harvard University and graduated in 1879. He spent the next few years traveling around Europe and America and working at a Boston Commission House. In 1883, his father died, and in 1885, his mother passed away, leaving Frederick his father's estate worth $3 million.
    On May 27, 1887, Frederick married Rhoda May Knight (more commonly referred to as May K. Rindge) of Trenton, Michigan. That same year, the couple moved to Los Angeles, California. Together, they had three children: Samuel Knight Rindge (1888-1968), Frederick Hastings Rindge, Jr. (1890-1952), and Rhoda Agatha Rindge (1893-1962).
    In 1892, Frederick and May K. purchased the 13,300-acre Spanish land grant, Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit, also known as Malibu Rancho, from Matthew Keller. Frederick was very happy with his purchase and between 1889 and 1902 he wrote several books, including Happy Days in Southern California, which recounts his experience living on the Malibu Ranch.
    The Rindges had many outsiders interested in using their land. In 1904, the Southern Pacific Railroad applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission to build tracks linking the Long Wharf in Santa Monica with their northern tracks in Santa Barbara. The proposed connection went right through the Rindges' Malibu ranch. When Frederick learned of Southern Pacific's intentions, he planned to build a private railroad on his property to keep the railroad company out. The Rindges were able to do so because of a law that prevented the duplication of an existing railroad line. However, before construction began, Frederick died, leaving his wife to carry out his plans. She did, and 15 miles of tracks were erected.
    Following her husband's death in 1905, May K. incorporated and organized the Marblehead Land Company to manage her husband's holdings and the needs of Malibu. In 1907, May K. began her battle with the state and county to keep a highway off of her property. She became famous for her battle with the authorities. However, she eventually lost the battle and the county obtained a right-of-way through her property. In June 1929, the Roosevelt Highway (now the Pacific Coast Highway) opened.
    On November 18, 1915, May K. and Frederick's daughter, Rhoda Agatha, married Merritt Huntley Adamson (1888-1949), who worked as the Superintendent on the Malibu Ranch. Merritt was a native Californian who graduated from USC Law School before he took the position on the Malibu Ranch. Following the marriage, the pair established the Adohr Stock Farms, which grew to be one of the largest producers of milk in the world.
    As a source of water for irrigation of cultivated farm land on the Malibu Ranch, the Marblehead Land Company built the Malibu dam, completing the project in 1932. When completed, the impounding reservoir at the dam had a capacity of 575 acre feet.
    In 1929, construction on what is today known as the Adamson house began. The family would spend summers in the house until 1937. At that time, it became the family's permanent residence.
    During the Depression era, Marblehead Land Company fell on tough times. Although they had several projects in the works, the company signed a voluntary petition for bankruptcy in 1936. During this period of reorganization, Marblehead created Malibu Water Company in 1938 as a public utility water company to oversee water system operations in the area it had previously served. Merritt served as the president of Malibu Water Company for a number of years.
    In 1941, May K. started construction on a 50-room house on the property. Unfortunately, she died in 1941 before it was completed, and the Franciscan Order purchased it in 1942, along with 26 acres of land. Today, the house and property are known as the Serra Retreat.
    Just a few short years later, Merritt passed away in 1949 leaving Rhoda Agatha to manage the family business. Together they had three children: Merritt Jr., Sylvia, and Rhoda-May. Rhoda Agatha stayed active with both the Marblehead Land Company and Adohr farms until she passed away in April 1962. Merritt Jr. intended to enter the family business. He graduated from the University California, Davis with a degree in animal husbandry. However, in 1966, the Adamsons sold Adohr Farms to Southland Corp, due to the high cost of raising cattle.
    Merritt Jr., Sylvia, and Rhoda-May decided to focus their interests on real estate development for the land. In 1967, they formed Adamson Cos. to oversee the family business. In 1968, Adamson Cos. gave 138 acres of Rancho Malibu land to Pepperdine University. The school, which was then based in Los Angeles, moved to Malibu in 1972. Other developments followed, including construction on a mobile home park, condominiums, and state parks.
    In 1966, the State of California filed an eminent domain lawsuit seeking to turn the Adamson House into beach parking. The state won the lawsuit and purchased the property from the Adamson family for $2.69 million, a valuation set forth by the court. However, after much encouragement by the community of Malibu, the house was deemed a California Historical Landmark in 1985 and was later opened to the public as a museum.

    Scope and Content

    The collection includes materials accumulated by the previous hit Rindge and Adamson families of Malibu, California. The collection contains correspondence, business papers , financial records, photographs, newspaper clippings, and ephemera from the various family members and spans from 1891 to 1967.


    The collection was given to Pepperdine University by Grant Adamson over a period of time. Each donation was turned into a series and added to the collection. The series are: 1. Malibu Real Estate and Railroad; 2. Malibu Ranch; 3. Pacific Coast Highway (Roosevelt Highway) Road Battle; 4. Malibu Water Company.

    Related Archival Materials

    Frederick Hastings Rindge Collection, Cambridge Historical Commission.

    Processing Information note

    The collection was arranged and described by Katie Richardson and Catie Golitzin, February 2012.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Financial records
    Receipts (financial records)
    Road construction -- California -- Malibu
    Railroads -- California, Southern -- Design and construction
    Railroad tracks -- California -- History
    Ranches -- California -- History
    Malibu (Calif.) -- History
    Malibu Dam (Calif.)
    Ranching -- California -- History
    Pacific Coast Highway
    Dam construction -- California -- Los Angeles County
    California Highway 1 (Calif.)
    Irrigation -- California -- Malibu
    Malibu Water Company
    Gross, R.F.
    Adamson, Merritt, Jr.
    Leason F. Pomeroy & Associates
    Adamson family
    Rindge family
    Adamson, Merritt
    Rindge, Frederick H.
    Southern Pacific Railroad Company -- History
    Rindge, Rhoda May
    Marblehead Land Company
    Rindge Adamson, Rhoda Agatha