The founder of Rancho La Patera, William Whitney Stow, was legal counsel for the Southern Pacific Railroad and an influential political figure at the state level when he served as Speaker of the Assembly. Among his most notable achievements was the creation of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
In 1871 W.W. Stow purchased 1,100 acres of fertile Goleta Valley land for $28,600 for his son, Sherman. Early wells dug on the ranch showed an average topsoil depth of 33 feet. Rich soil, a temperate climate, and an irrigation system enabled the newcomers to create orchards and gardens of the sort that made Southern California the envy of the world. The first orchards of almond and walnut trees were laid out in 1873, and in 1875 3,000 lemon trees were planted in the first commercial planting in California. Sherman Stow, a founding member of the Johnston Fruit Company, and his wife Ida had six children and began their life on one of California’s most lovely historic ranches.
Later, during the tenure of Sherman’s son, Edgar Stow (1915-1949) the ranch was expanded. Edgar played a leading role in helping to expand the area’s citrus industry, as well as developing a disease resistant variety of lemon that subsequently was cultivated statewide.
The ranch stayed in the Stow (and later Van Horne) family until the 1960s. A portion of the property, La Patera Rancho, still operates as one of Goleta Valley’s most productive ranches.
Saving The Ranch
In the 1960s, a large portion of the ranch was sold for development. Local citizens, the Stow family, and Goleta Valley Historical Society successfully campaigned for the County of Santa Barbara to preserve Rancho La Patera. Today, in partnership with the City of Goleta, the Society is the steward of the Stow House, the gardens, the ranch area, and other historic structures of Rancho La Patera.
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