Olivenhain (pronounced Oh-LEE-ven-hine) is one of five communities in the City of Encinitas. Today, Olivenhain stretches from San Elijo Lagoon in the south, along both sides of Manchester Avenue and Rancho Santa Fe Road, out past the northern reach of Lone Jack Road. With winding two-lane roads, rail fences, and trails for horses, bicycles, and pedestrians, Olivenhain has a rural atmosphere greatly prized by residents. The “Dark Skies” policy, which limits outdoor lighting, allows us all an unparalleled view of the evening sky. In 1986, Olivenhain joined with Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Leucadia, New Encinitas, and Old Encinitas to incorporate as the City of Encinitas. But our community with the German name has an interesting history and heritage. Read on to discover more about Olivenhain past and present.
Rancho Las Encinitas
By the early 1800’s, California was a vast, sparsely inhabited territory of Mexico. Andreas Antonio Ybarra made a formal request to the Mexican government that he be awarded a land grant of the 4,431 acre rancho called “Los Encinitos”. The land grant was awarded on July 3, 1842. Ybarra constructed an adobe house on the northeast corner of his rancho where he and his wife lived for 18 years. In 1848, when California became part of the United States, Ybarra filed claim with the United State board of Land Commissions. His claim to the rancho was confirmed and accepted, but the spelling was changed to “Las Encinitas.” In 1860, Ybarra sold his land to two San Diego merchants, J.R. Mannasse and Marcus Schiller, for $3,000 (68¢ per acre). Mannasse and Schiller converted the adobe ranch house into a stage coach station which serviced the Seeley-Wright Stage Coach Line.
Today, Stage Coach Park in Carlsbad contains the remains of the walls of the adobe home on the hill above the tennis courts. The remaining wall fragments have been enclosed to prevent further damage by the environment or vandals.
Mannasse and Schiller encountered financial difficulties and lost the rancho to foreclosure in 1800. The rancho was sold first to James Courier for $5,000. Three months later, two brothers, Warren and Frank Kimball purchased the rancho for $5,225 ($1.18 per acre).
The Kimball brothers owned vast parcels of land in National City, Chula Vista, and Jamul. They planned to resell the rancho to a “Colony”, a homogenous group of immigrants who would purchase and settle on a large parcel of land. The Kimball brothers advertised for four years, and in the spring of 1884, received a response from Theodore Pinther of Denver, Colorado, who was willing to put together a German Colony.
The Colony was begun May 21, 1884 with the first seven members — Theodore Pinther, Joseph Ullrich, Louis Denk, Otto Pinther, Lina Pinther, Johann Bumann, and Paul Glave. Each member paid an initiation fee, a membership fee, and monthly dues. A member in good standing would be entitled to a five acre parcel of cultivated land, a house of moderate size built on their property, and the use of all colony-owned property such as horse teams, wagons, and fruit processing machinery.
By June 1, membership had increased to 20 members. In accepting new members, the colony wanted honest, hard-working people. People of any nationality would be accepted if they could speak fluent German. Gamblers and people of questionable character were not tolerated, nor were lawyers, pawnbrokers, and insurance agents. The name “Olivenhain” which means olive grove was chosen to name the colony.
In October, 1884, on a trip to San Diego to view different properties for the Colony of Olivenhain, Theodore Pinther and Conrad Stroebel purchased Rancho Las Encinitas with the Colony’s money, but without their prior approval or knowledge, for $66,500 ($15 per acre) plus interest.
On October 31, 1884, sixty-seven Olivenhain colonists boarded the train in Denver and headed west. Food, water and shelter were almost nonexistent for the newcomers. The only buildings on Rancho Las Encinitas were the adobe buildings that Ybarra constructed and lived in years earlier. These three buildings would now house 67 men, women and children until their homes were built.
Hundreds of acres of brush-covered soil was cleared and plowed, and construction of homes, roads, and the colony-owned farm began. The official land distribution began in January, 1885. After a number of parcels had been distributed, housing construction began.
The standard Colony house was either 16′ x 24′ or 14′ x 28′, divided into two or three rooms. If the colonist wanted a larger house, additional money was paid to the colony. Besides the standard house, there was also the economy model, the shanty. The cost of a shanty was considerably less than the standard house and credit allowances were given to those colonists that requested them. Shanties were also built for colonists who had not yet paid enough money into the colony and thereby were not entitled to a house. For these reasons, shanties totaled approximately 80 percent of all dwellings constructed.
The colonists began to dig wells. Time and time again, the new wells they were boring came up dry. Only a few wells in the San Elijo flood plain basin and a few ravines produced any water, and what little water was in them was alkaline and brackish. The colonists finally realized the awful truth — the land lacked sufficient water!
This added to a growing cloud of suspicion on Theodore Pinther’s honesty and integrity. Things really heated up once the colonists were told by adjoining landowners that the $15 per acre they had paid for Rancho Las Encinitas was an outlandish price for unimproved land and the land was actually only worth a fraction of that. Rumor circulated that Pinther and Stroebel were receiving a commission from the sellers, and soon a heated investigation was underway.
Because the original sales contract was written in English, the colonists had relied on Pinther to translate its content for them. They now demanded a German translation. Shocked by the contents, a special meeting was quickly assembled and the contract was read to all members. The contract was such that the colonists could lose their land, houses, and improvements if for any reason the remainder of the colony land failed to develop.
The investigation committee met with the Kimball brothers who admitted that Pinther was to receive a $10,000 commission and a house in National City. Theodore Pinther was kidnapped by angered colonists and held captive at a secluded location until he confessed that he had intended to cheat the colonists from the very beginning. Fearing more attacks on his life he left Colony Olivenhain forever. Conrad Stroebel denied knowledge of Pinther’s deception, but Colony members believed he had actively participated and he was “encouraged” to leave.
With Theodore Pinther now gone, the German colonists demanded a new sales contract from the Kimball brothers. After much haggling and through formal arbitration, the colonists agreed to purchase 441-7/8 acres at $15 per acre and the new sales contract was finalized on July 8, 1885. This is now considered the founding date for Colony Olivenhain. The damaging effects from all the trouble took its toll on the colony. The size of the land had been reduced to one tenth of its original size, so could now accommodate only a few more members. The colonists had lost faith in the organization and considered it was more trouble than it was worth. Soon, a few members began to leave the colony, and before long, more than 80% of the colonists had abandoned their land. Some colonists, including the Wiegands, Bumanns, Resecks, and Koehns homesteaded land to the northeast of the colony land.
Although physically removed, the homesteaders were within a short distance of the colony and remained socially involved with the remaining colonists. Reseck Ranch was homesteaded near the termination of Lone Jack Road. After Bernard Reseck sold the homestead in 1909, the ranch was renamed Lone Jack Ranch. Since the only destination of the road at the time was the Lone Jack Ranch, it became known as Lone Jack Road.
By January, 1887, most of the colony farms were abandoned. By mid 1887, the population stabilized at about 80 people, and in December, 1887, the mortgage on the colony land was paid. Once the remaining colonists obtained warrant deeds for their land, dependence on and commitment to the colony system began to decline. The number of Colony meetings declined down to one or two a year, with the final meeting on November 15, 1897. No later reference to the organization called Colony Olivenhain is found.
The Community of Olivenhain
The abolishment of the colony does not imply that Olivenhain history ended. A healthier and more permanent community evolved. Day to day life was typical of a farming community. Over time, there were five stores, three blacksmith shops, two schools, and two meeting halls to supplement the stable farming community.
The first school was opened in Theodore Pinther’s abandoned house in 1886. A larger one-room school house was opened in 1888 which was used as a school for 54 years. The standard education included up through eighth grade. Student who wanted a high school diploma completed their education in Oceanside or San Diego.
From 1889 to 1935 the enrollment at the Olivenhain School averaged twenty students. Then in the late 1930’s the number of students sharply dropped to nine. The decline continued, the Olivenhain School was closed in the spring of 1942 and the children were transferred to the Encinitas School District.
In 1887, a copper deposit was discovered near the termination of Lone Jack Road. A mine was developed by the Encinitas Copper Company and sporadically produced a low grade of copper ore until 1917. The shafts have since been blasted closed for safety, and evidence of the mine remains primarily in the street name Copper Crest Drive. At least four open pit clay mines were profitably worked from the early 1920’s to 1940. These mines produced many tons of clay and shale which was processed into firebrick, stoneware, and pottery.
Modern conveniences were slow to arrive in Olivenhain. The first rural mail delivery began in 1910. Telephone service was extended from Encinitas in 1938, and electricity came to Olivenhain in about 1946. The Olivenhain Municipal Water District was formally established in 1959 and dedicated in 1961, marking the end of reliance on wells and cisterns as the only source of water. Lone Jack Road was finally paved in the early 1970’s.
Many of the people that remained after 1887 would remain a lifetime. Their descendants would populate and farm the Olivenhain valley until the present day. The names of some of the original colonists and settlers are recognizable today in Bumann Road, Cole Ranch Road, Teten Way, and Wiegand Street.
The shanty was moved to the Meeting Hall property December 9, 1979. This shanty is ten years older than the Meeting Hall and is the last known survivor of many such shanties which were constructed during the Colony era. The small one room shanty, which measures 12’x14′, was built in 1885 by the colonists for Charles Lickert who selected Colony block number 50 located west of Rancho Santa Fe Road between 9th and 10th streets. Charles Lickert was a young bachelor and also a very religious person. He not only lived in his shanty, but he also used it as a church and held Sunday School classes as well as church services. Charles moved to San Diego in about 1890.
When Marie Emilie Bumann married Frederick William Wiro in 1916, they lived on the original Wiro home site, located west of Rancho Santa Fe Road and Lone Jack Road. Marie recalled that the shanty had already been moved to the Wiro Ranch in 1916.
The shanty was used as a storage shed until 1917 when Marie’s father-in-law, Wilhelm Wiro, came to stay with them and moved into the shanty. In 1919, a front window was added, along with a new door and interior paneling. Wilhelm lived in the shanty until his death in 1927, after which time the shanty was again used as a storage shed.
Around 1950, the original sawn cedar shingle roof was replaced with an aluminum roof. The shanty has remained virtually unchanged since that time. In 1979, Marie Wiro sold her property to Dan Wiegand, and the shanty was moved to the Meeting Hall property.
The Germania Hotel
On May 3, 1982, The Hotel was moved to the Town Hall Block property. This was the largest and most expensive home constructed in the Colony. The Hotel was built for Herman Baecht in 1885 at what is now the south end of Seventh Street. The Herman Baecht family was one of the original Olivenhain families arriving in 1884. Mr. Baecht anticipated using his house as a hotel and named it the Germania Hotel, but in the beginning it housed the 12-member family quite comfortably. It was later called “The Hotel” when Mrs. Baecht took in roomers. It has two rooms on the first floor with seven bedrooms on the second floor.On May 3, 1982, The Hotel was moved to the Town Hall Block property.
Although many of the original settlers spent their first evenings in Olivenhain in Mrs. Baecht’s hotel, it was little used as a hotel because it was off both the stage and the railroad routes and had little access to water. A number of colony families lived there including the Guntners, the Wallensteins, the Coles, and Miss Winters, one of the teachers.
When Dan Wiegand purchased the property in 1982, the Hotel was moved to the Town Hall property. The Hotel was the victim of vandalism almost from the moment it was settled near the Town Hall. It was spray painted on the inside, window boards were torn off, and mattresses were frequently found inside, indicating that homeless people were using it as a place to sleep. It was then boarded up until a restoration effort was re-initiated in 2004, supported by the generosity of members and grants from the Mizel Family Trust and other benefactors. Today, the Hotel is in the final stages of full historic restoration for the use of the community.
Olivenhain Today and Tomorrow
Thanks to our low-density zoning, there are approximately 1500 homes within the Community of Olivenhain today. The Encinitas General Plan projects a total of 1616 homes when available lots have been built.
Wiro Park, Little Oaks Park, and Sun Vista Park are the only developed parks within Olivenhain. Little Oaks Park on Lone Jack Road is a horse park complete with picnic tables, parking for horse trailers, and a riding ring. It provides access to the trails within Olivenhain. Wiro Park is a small community park on 11th Avenue west of Rancho Santa Fe Road. It has picnic tables, barbeque grills, and a small playground. Sun Vista Park is community park at the southwest corner of Rancho Santa Fe Road and Avenida La Posta.