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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

  • Descriptive Summary

    Languages: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: Otay Ranch Records
    Creator: Otay Ranch (San Diego, Calif.)
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0500
    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 document the history of San Diego county through the administrative, economic, financial, employment and agricultural records 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.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1999

    Preferred Citation

    Otay Ranch Records, MSS 500. 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, document 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.

    Processing Information

    There is no box 175. The collection includes boxes with numbers 161-165, but the contents are not described in the finding aid.


    BULK OF COLLECTION IS STORED OFF-SITE. ALLOW ONE WEEK FOR RETRIEVAL OF MATERIALS. Oversize materials (map case and flat box) are stored on-site and do not need to be requested in advance.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Ranches -- California -- San Diego
    Birch, Mary Patrick -- Archives
    Birch, Stephen -- Archives
    Otay Ranch (San Diego, Calif.) -- Archives