First, however, the story begins with
Norma Harloes family and their time in the Huasna.
Dont you love the serendipitous
nature of things that happen to us in the course of following
our bliss? Years ago, reading about the Harloe Adobe in According to Madge, I
became fascinated with the idea that it just might be the oldest adobe in the county -
especially the oldest that still stands. In
time, I met Norma Harloe and learned more
about the adobe and her family history from her. Charles Porter, a cousin of Normas, had
told me that she had never been to the adobe that she could recall but that her older
brother Leo had written his masters
thesis at USC on their great grandfather, Isaac J.
Sparks, who obtained his Huasna Mexican land grant from the Governor of California in
1843. It appears the Huasna Adobe was designated as an historical
landmark and in 1949 a bronze plaque was placed inside the house commemorating the event.
In part, the inscription
CASA DEL RANCHO HUASNA
Living Room built about 1831
Addition built by Captain Marcus Harloe
Rancho granted to Isaac J. Sparks
Pioneer American Sea Otter Hunter
Trapper and Merchant of Santa Barbara
December 8, 1843
By Governo Manuel Micheltorena
Patent granted Janauary 23, 1879
The Governor had granted his Yankee friend five
leagues, including all of the Huasna Creek Valley, a major portion of the Huasna River
Valley, part of the Alamo Creek Valley, and ranges of hills between them all, the richest
soils in the area. When finally surveyed and
patented in 1872-73, it totaled 22,152.99 acres.
Like all grantees of the day, Mr.
Sparks was to abide by the requirements of the day for such a privilege, to wit: to become naturalized as a Mexican citizen, join
the Catholic church, and marry a Mexican senorita. He
married Maria de las Remedios Josefa Eayrs.
The Sparks never actually lived at
Rancho Huasna, preferring instead to be closer to his business holdings in Santa Barbara. However, the ranch was stocked with cattle and
sheep and its operation was entrusted to Englishman John
Price who later acquired the Pismo Mexican
grant from Sparks. The story goes that Mr.
Sparks had previously won that land grant in an historic poker game with stakes that
included the Huasna and Pismo ranchos, the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, and other vast
Meanwhile, on a hill on the Rancho
Huasna, the thick-walled adobe hacienda still stands, its construction attributed to
either Sparks cattle partner, George Stone,
or to an earlier trapper named Mason in 1831. At this time, the adobe probably consisted of one
or two rooms with a fireplace and a gently gabled sod roof.
Shortly before his death in 1867, Isaac Sparks divided the ranch among two of his
three daughters. Flora, Normas paternal grandmother, acquired
the portion upon which the adobe stood. Rosa, Charles Porters great grandmother,
received the neighboring portion. Daughter
Sally inherited his Santa Barbara holdings.
later married Irish sea captain Marcus Harloe
and although she and her husband preferred to live in San Francisco most of the time, they
added a couple of rooms to the adobe, eventually moving to the rancho in 1875. The rancho became the center of settlement activity
during the end of the 19th century. Flora Sparks Harloe sold off parts of the rancho,
the Township of Huasna was plotted out, and a
schoolhouse built. At this time, the Huasna Adobe served as the local post office. The mail was brought to the Harloe rancho and stacked on the kitchen table. People would come to the adobe and sort through the
stacks to find their own mail and that of their neighbors!
Captain and Mrs. Harloe had a taste for luxurious living and
lavish entertainment. The best water in the
area was available from springs on the ranch and Indians were employed in the kitchen. Excellent meals on well appointed table settings
were served to their friends from up and down the coast of California.
The Harloes moved back to San Francisco around 1905
and the captain died shortly after. Around
1914, Hamilton and Myrna Parks bought the ranch sight unseen! Mr. Parks needed to move west for his health,
intending to live in Los Angeles and commute to Rancho Huasna to run its enterprises. Mr. Parks hired Hurman Ruedi to operate the ranch. By this time, the old adobe was in disrepair so a
new tin roof appeared, as well as concrete porches all around and tongue-and-groove
flooring placed in the attic to allow for storage.
In 1937, Mr. and Mrs. Roger W. Jessup, bought the ranch. Mr. Jessup was a Los Angeles county supervisor and
well-known dairyman. The Jessups were good to
the old Adobe, but the restoration practices of the day were cruder than today. The adobe is now hidden behind a plaster and
In 1982, Gregory J. MacDougall of the Architecture Depatment, California Polytechnic State
University, San Luis Obispo, CA, conducted a Physical and Historical Investigation
on the Rancho Huasna Adobe. His writings
ended up on my kitchen counter in a pile of information given to Jean Hubbard by an early docent who was moving out
of the area. She gave the pile to me and I let it sit for a few weeks.
One day Norma once again expressed
frustration about her inability to see the adobe of her heritage. The current owners of the Rancho Huasna and its
historical adobe, In & Out Burgers, Inc.,
have never responded to inquiries made on her behalf for visiting.
hours of my phone conversation with Norma, I began to clean off the pile of resource
materials on my bar and found the MacDougall treatise for the restoration of the Huasna
A few weeks ago, four of our members
went to a workshop in SLO conducted by the head of the California State Department of Historical Preservation. Jim Bergman,
Vivian Krug, Chuck Fellows and Gary Scherquist have brought back information that will
allow Norma to continue to learn more about the adobe and what custodial responsibilities
exist regarding its upkeep and maintenance.
See what I mean about serendipity and
following your bliss?
Going to School in the Huasna
By Clara Ruedi Madsen
The first nine years of my life were
spent on the Parks Ranch (formerly known as the Jessup Ranch) in the Huasna. The one-room schoolhouse was 2 miles from the
Adobe, where our family lived.
I walked to school down a winding
buggy road, through open fields, where the cattle grazed.
Often, on the hillside, deer and other wildlife could be seen. It was not rare to see snakes slithering down the road on a warm day.
On such a day, as I wandered home from
school, I noticed ahead, lying across the road, something very large. Thinking it was a large stick, I ran quickly to
pick it up! But, lo and behold, it was
the biggest and longest snake I had ever seen!
Also it had swallowed a rodent and it
was bulging in the middle. I ran home as fast
as I could, leaving the snake to go his own merry way.
In relating this story to my children,
there was always some doubt on their part as to the truth of it. But later in life, they realized it could be true
as my buggy road was five feet wide and not the width of todays modern highways!
Clara was born on the Rancho Huasna in 1916.
She started school there in 1922.
The Rest of the Story
Charles Porter, descended of Mr. Sparks daughter Rosa, continues to ranch his familys portion
of the Sparks Mexican Land Grant today. This
would mean that the Sparks family has been ranching on the same land since 1843,
with Charles being the latest of an unbroken line. Few
among us can say that!
You will be able to see the physical
evidence of the Porter history this June
during our Annual Charter Day Barbeque which
will be held on the Porter Ranch in the Huasna. Do not miss it!
You will be witnessing history of an unbroken line revolving around life on
an early Californio Rancho!
Note: Charles contribution to the South
County Historical Society has been unique and meaningful.
He has served on the Board of Directors for many years and currently serves
as the SCHS Property Manager. This position is
no small job when our society is responsible for seven old buildings - five of whom are