Bio-Pen Pictures

            It is only in the last few years that the great advantages of the Uvas Valley have been receiving general attention, but what has been done there of late indicates what it is capable of.  There is probably not a ranch in Santa Clara County, of anything like similar size, which shows to such an extent the progress of improvements as that of D. C. Riddell.  This ranch, containing 865 acres, has a beautiful and picturesque location, and its natural beauties have been so enhanced by art that it seems almost as if perfection had here been reached.  Two hundred acres of this is plateau land, and to this Mr. Riddell has devoted his attention, principally.  The land belonging to the ranch stretches from the table land up and over the hills, which lend a charming background to the view of the place, looking from the road.  This hill land is used for grazing, into which he is gradually drifting, but merely as a side issue.  All of the valley land is used either for fruit, hay, or pasture.  In hay-raising he does not trust to the volunteer crop, but sows each year, and the result is a fine quality and quantity, either of wheat or barley hay.  Wheat, however, seems to be preferable to barley here.  It averages from one to three tons per acre, the adobe land especially yielding very heavily.  Notwithstanding the diversity of its possible uses, however, Mr. Riddell regards this land as too valuable to be used for anything else than fruit, in future, and he is rapidly carrying out his plan, already matured, for making of the available land one vast fruit farm.  He first turned his attention to fruit culture in 1882, setting out in that year twenty-five acres.  The trees were planted forty feet apart, or forty-eight trees to the acre, and are now in a very thrifty condition.  He has since duplicated the number of trees on this tract, putting in the additional ones in such a way as to give the greatest possible space between.  In the winter of 1888-89 he will inaugurate a system of planting twenty acres to fruit each year, until the grand total of the orchard reaches 150 acres, and nearly all of this vast acreage will be devoted to stone fruits, his observation being that they do better on the red land than seed fruits.  His trees now set out are the picture of health.  They are divided between Bartlett pears, plums, apricots, and French prunes.  All these have been successful in the true sense of the word, but the odds are slightly in favor of apricots and French prunes and plums, as regards abundance of yield.

            Mr. Riddell is not devoting any attention to vines, other than grapes for table use, nor is it his intention to do so.  It is not, however, on account of their being an uncertain crop, as the land is especially well adapted to the culture of the grape.  Not the least noticeable improvement on the place is the handsome residence, which was erected in 1882, at a cost of not less than $10,000.  The work and arrangement is in admirable taste.  All told, the amounts invested in bringing the place to its present condition, have been rather over than under $20,000, but they show what capital, intelligently directed, can do for a location of such natural beauty.

            Mr. Riddell is a native of Pennsylvania, born at Erie; his boyhood days were spent there, at Pittsburg, and in Ohio.  In June, 1855, he came to California as the employe of the great firm of Drexel, Sather & Church.  In 1857 ill health compelled him to leave San Francisco, consequently he severed his connection with this firm to engage in stock-raising, and later in mining at Silver Mountain, Alpine County.  In 1861, in company with his brother, Speer Riddell, he bought the ranch where he at present resides, and was engaged in the cattle business until 1864, exclusively, when he removed from this county to Tulare County.  In 1869 he returned to Gilroy, and was agent for the Wells-Fargo Express Company until 1879, when he removed to San Francisco.

            In 1870, Mr. Riddell wedded Miss Philinda Dorland, of Gilroy.  Three children have been born to this union, viz.:  Philinda D., DeWitt Speer, and Elizabeth D., who died at the age of one year.

            In 1881 he returned to the ranch to make it his permanent abode, and then commenced to lay his plans for improvement,

            Mr. Riddell was largely interested in the borax industry in San Bernardino County, but disposed of his interests there.  He has the most approved appliances for measuring the rainfall, and from his books of record the following tabular statement of rainfall, on his plan, for six years is taken:--

1882-83                                             16.35 inches

1883-84                       35.42 inches

1884-85                       21.07 inches

1885-86                       32.13 inches

1886-87                       17.31 inches

1887-88                       23.90 inches

            Average           24.36 inches


Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.

Pg. 393-394

Transcribed by Kathy Sedler

Proofread by Betty Vickroy




 Bio= Pen Pictuers\

            Speer Riddell was also a native of Erie, Pennsylvania, but came to California in 1852, locating at San Francisco, devoting his time to banking, holding the position of paying teller originally for Drexel, Sather & Church, afterward for twelve years for John Parrott, and after the retirement of Mr. Parrott filled the same position in the London and San Francisco Bank, Limited, until 1883, when he resigned to take the presidency of the San Bernardino Borax Mining Company, which he held until his sudden death, in October, 1884, at the age of fifty-four years.  He was widely known in the city and in this county, and universally respected for his integrity, ability, and kindliness of heart.  By close attention to business, and the exercise of most excellent judgment, Mr. Riddell was rewarded by the accumulation of a fortune that permitted of the indulgence of his taste for the country, and found much pleasure in thus assisting his brother, D. C. Riddell, (above)  to develop a property in a manner that redounds to their credit.


Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.

Pg. 394

Transcribed by Kathy Sedler

Proofread by Betty Vickroy



SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight