Middle Ranch, Santa Catalina Island

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Middle Ranch, Santa Catalina Island, c. 1892
Middle Ranch, Santa Catalina Island, 1920s
Middle Ranch, Santa Catalina Island, 1930s

Middle Ranch, Santa Catalina Island, located in Middle Canyon, was one of several early sheep shearing stations on the island. Crews traveled from the mainland twice a year to shear the sheep. Middle Ranch was the headquarters of a sheep operation run by Mauer Cattle Company, who leased grazing rights from 1917-1924 from the Santa Catalina Island Company. In 1923, a long- standing problem of lack of fresh water was eased considerably by the construction of the Thompson Dam, which created a reservoir in Middle Canyon. Old homes were used by the sheepherders and later by the Banning family as a ranch home.

MIDDLE RANCH: “An extensive group of buildings and broad, gently rolling, cultivated fields through which flows a brook of size; clear and rippling it affords a home for considerable masses of Watercress and its banks, bordered by willows, a shady place for a number of species rare elsewhere. Middle Ranch creek bed is a rich collecting field throughout its length. The upper right hand branch and the upper end of the main channel contain water through the summer. Then follows three or more miles of perfectly dry creek bed which is deeply cut through the rich soil of the gently sloping glade and through the pasture lands and cultivated fields of the ranch. The dry creek bed is even more interesting than the watered parts of the canyon. Below the ranch a flowing brook supports a luxuriant growth of trees and plants and is a favorite resort of the birds of the interior regions.” [Millspaugh & Nuttall Flora of Santa Catalina Island (1923)].



In the News~

June 12, 1895 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. There are numerous side trips to be taken from Avalon, which are full of interest. One of these is the tour of Middle Ranch, which is located some nine miles from Avalon, and is reached via the horse, mule or burro-back route. Quite a large party made the trip yesterday, every animal available on the island being engaged for the occasion. Every rod of the distance is interesting… Middle Ranch is located centrally, as compared with the length of the island, but lies considerably to the west of the central point of its width.”


March 8, 1896 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. …Within a week the wild flowers will be blooming in profusion, and it is then that the popularity of trips to the interior of the island will be at its height. Already an Alpine tavern has been established at Middle Ranch, nine miles from Avalon, where hunters can find accommodations to remain overnight. A string of burros, mules, ponies and horse are at the disposal of pleasure-seekers…”


July 19, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. G. H. Humphries and Fred Burgess spent yesterday in the vicinity of Middle Ranch, shooting wild goats. They got six, one of them having a specially fine spread of horns.”


January 29, 1902 [LAT]: “Captain F. P. Whitley, owner of the yacht Nellie, which plied about the waters between San Pedro and Santa Catalina Island, and one of the best known men on the coast, died at his residence in this city yesterday. Forty-eight years ago, when he was but 6 years old, Captain Whitley came from Ensenada with his parents, and landed on the island, which ever since has been his home… His homestead on the island was known as Middle Ranch, near the Eagle’s Nest, on the road from Avalon to the Isthmus. There both his father and mother died, and during the illness from which he died yesterday he expressed a desire to die in the ranch house which had witnessed the departure from earth of his parents...”


March 28, 1902 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. F. H. Lowe of the Banning Company, who has been quite ill and confined to his home at Pasadena for some months past, is sufficiently improved to be out again, and with his wife and youngest son, went up to the Isthmus this morning where expects to remain for a month or two for further recuperation.”


January 28, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. M. E. Rafert, Ed Winfield and George W. Thompson have been guests of F. H. Lowe at Middle Ranch for a few days.”


February 6, 1904 [LAT]: “On Catalina Island the rainfall Thursday night appears to have been lighter than on the mainland. At Avalon it registered .55 of an inch. F. H. Lowe of Middle Ranch on Catalina Island says that the rain will be the salvation of the sheep interests there, provided the fall for the month amounts to the average for the past ten years.”


March 22, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Middle Ranch, which gets up the freakiest brand of weather in these parts, freezing when such things are unknown in other parts of the island, scored another freak Saturday night. While a copius shower fell at the Isthmus and at all points, between here and there, Middle Ranch had not a drop of rain.”


April 12, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Mrs. F. H. Lowe and son Kenneth are visitors at Middle Ranch.”


April 20, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. A welcome rain fell last evening, amounting to .44 of an inch. The rain was not general over the island, none falling last evening at Middle Ranch, and only a shower this morning.”


April 30, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. C. A. Bryant, proprietor of the stage line, gave a picnic to a party of friends yesterday taking them to he Isthmus on one of his stages. The start was made at 8 o’clock, a perfect day favoring the excursionists. Arriving at Middle Ranch the party was met by Frank H. Lowe, with an impromptu lunch. After an hour’s stop the journey was continued over the new portion of the road…”


June 13, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Warrior came over last evening with a party of Southern Pacific railroad men… The night was spent at Hotel Metropole, and this morning the party went by stage to the Isthmus, stopping at Middle Ranch for luncheon.”


June 16, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Howard J. Schoder and wife came over yesterday for a sojourn at Hotel Metropole. This morning they began their vacation by taking horses and riding over to Middle Ranch.”


August 10, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. C. A. Bryant, proprietor of the Catalina Stage Company, took a bunch of the youth and beauty of Avalon to Middle Ranch this morning, and he was so discriminating in his selection that his stage has never before carried in one load so many handsome young ladies. They were the guests of F. H. Lowe at lunch at Middle Ranch, returning late in the day.”


August 21, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Friends of Captain William Banning have a surprise in store for him this evening. It is to take place at Middle Ranch. He is to give a barbecue there and it is planned for him to fall into their hands without warning. As a testimonial of their esteem they will present him with an elegant gold watch…”


November 28, 1906 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Middle Ranch telephones down that four inches of hail fell there this morning and the thermometer has dropped to 50 degrees here as the result.”


July 17, 1910 [LAT]: “…Far from the ‘Three Brothers’ at Middle Ranch, which lies in a long canyon near the central part of Catalina, the sheep are yielding up their fleecy coats, and 10,000 have already been sheared this season. Here you must catch your sheep before you can shear him, and the biggest business of all is the rounding up of scattered flocks and stragglers. The sheep will do anything to escape his pursuers, and playing ‘possom is a favorite trick, so that the was of the sheep herder is hard…”


July 22, 1911 [LAT]: “Superintendent N. W. Zimmer and Officer William Fullerton of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have been traveling in the interior of Santa Catalina Island for two days, looking into sensational charges which have been made against the owners of the island, of cruel treatment of sheep, principally throughy overstocking the range and thereby causing inevitable starvation of a portion. The officers have worked very quietly, and slipped away to Los Angeles on the afternoon boat today. They witnessed the sheep shearing now in progress at Middle Ranch, the ranch headquarters of the Banning Company on the island, and carefully investigated the handling of the animals under the mechanical clippers. Charges of cruelty in this connection had been made, along with the charges of overstocking. The complaintants, who were visitors to the island and took it upon themselves to investigate its affairs, charges that there were at least 50,000 sheep on the island, where only 20,000 could find sustenance. The company has maintained that there are approximately only 20,000… Mr. Splittensdderfer, in charge at Middle Ranch, was found conscientious and able…”


April 14, 1914 [TI/Avalon]: “Dr. Charles F. Holder of Pasadena and P. V. Reyes spent three days at Middle Ranch. Pete took several pictures for the illustrations of a new book which is to be published shortly by Dr. Holder, and many new scenes have been taken.”


September 29, 1914 [TI/Avalon]: “The members of the Mary Williams Club had a very pleasant outing to Middle Ranch last Wednesday. They had lunch in the club house, and speak highly of the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Ragosa to entertain them while at the ranch.”


October 27, 1914 [TI/Avalon]: “Mr. and Mrs. Jake Albert and daughter Esther, spent the weekend at Middle Ranch.”


December 26, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “Considerable improvements are being made at Middle Ranch. Among them, a new dam is under construction, for the purpose of diverting storm water.”


April 3, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Mr. T. E. Young, an experienced ranch man, has charge of Middle Ranch.”


November 27, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Catalina can grow some vegetables! The other day Pete Lubetich visited Middle Ranch and while there secured a turnip for his ‘meatless dinner’ Tuesday. It weighed seven pounds and ten ounces, was perfectly sound and was served Tuesday at the Bristol Cafe.”


December 11, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Mr. E. J. Amar, from Middle Ranch, was an Avalon visitor Sunday.”


December 18, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “…Middle Ranch is the starting point for the quail hunter… At the ranch there are several hundred acres of level, tillable soil, and a fruit orchard and truck garden. The buildings consist of the ranch house, extensive barns and individual rooms which the Banning Company has provided for its friends; also a spacious clubhouse. Here, beside the massive fireplace, the chilly evenings may be spent most pleasantly in little games of ‘draw’ or ‘stud’ — big fish stories are barred — or a quail picking contest is pulled off, when the picking is good…”


January 1, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “John E. Maurer of the Maurer Cattle Company was a Middle Ranch visitor last week.”


January 1, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “According to reports from Middle Ranch, the 5000 sheep which were placed on the island a few months ago are growing very rapidly, and it is expected that the shearing season next March will prove a record one—both as to quality and quantity of wool.”


March 12, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “Middle Ranch — Ten miles in the interior, the only cultivated land on the island, and headquarters for the men looking after the sheep on the island.”


March 12, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “Goat Harbor — Formerly a favorite landing place for wild goat hunters, as the hills and valleys in this vicinity abounded in goats. Here, also, was the first trail across the island to Middle Ranch, and the lumber for the first buildings erected there was packed from this point across the hills on the backs of burros.”


April 2, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “J. R. Maurer and wife of the Maurer Cattle Company, were at Middle Ranch for a few days last week.”


April 9, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “Mr. E. J. Amar of Middle Ranch has brought his wife and family over to spend a few weeks at the ranch house.”


July 18, 1935 [TI/Avalon]; May 28, 1936 [TI/Avalon]: “Middle Ranch — ten miles from Avalon. Visited by the Catalina Motor Tours stages en route from Avalon to the Isthmus. Three hundred acres of this property is under cultivation for fruits and vegetables used at the Hotel St. Catherine. Middle Ranch is also the location for a 150,000,000 gallon reservoir and pumping plant which supplies Avalon with domestic water. Middle Ranch was formerly the center of much social activity in the days when trips to the interior of the island were made by horse-drawn stages.”