History of Ancient Oaks Farm
Known early history
The Farm, and House
Ancient Oaks Farm, or Ancient Oaks for short, was thus named by the current proprietor Bruce Damer on August 8, 1998, was the original base for a farm established in the Bear Creek Valley near Boulder Creek California at the end of the 19th Century (*see note below). Originally called "Ancient Oaks", the farm raised chickens and livestock as well as vegetables and fruits. Ancient Oaks provided water to Boulder Creek from its copiously productive well. In the 1950s, Ancient Oaks was divided into parcels and sold (by Gooch). Through the 1970s and early 1980s houses were built on these parcels and thus the area became the Ancient Oaks community. Today, the original barn and one of the farm's original (and smaller) houses rests on the Ancient Oaks Farm's 5 acre parcel.
*The actual date of the founding of the farm and original frame of the house is unknown although Joe Kriz says it was in the 1890s. Evidence for this kind of age can be seen in the old growth redwood beams (known as "skids") that formed the initial foundation of the house. These skids were no doubt milled from the old growth redwoods cut on the property (which show succesor rings today). As the great quake of 1906 caused a heavy logging of this area for redwood for use as scaffolding and construction materials for the rebuilding of San Francsico, it is likely that this old growth was cut before '06. More research is pending at our local historical society. County records show that the house was 75 years old in 1998, placing its original age at 1923. Joe did note that the houses burnt down frequently due to their wood stoves and so the frame of the house could go back further.
The barn (shown above in its earliest pictures above and in more recent photos below) is a wonderful structure and very well preserved and upgraded. Also built out of old grown redwood this structure was extended in the 70s and possibly 80s.
The original Ancient Oaks property is a wonderful south facing hillside with springs throughout keeping the water table high and the ground fertile. Giant oaks mix with giant redwoods in a rare combination. When the Kriz family came into the property in the late 1960s there was a wash with a rainy season creek runing down past the back of the house and barn. The Kriz' shaped the land, creating terraces with retaining walls and roadways throughout. The photos below show the land before these terraces.
Shaping the property
The Kriz family used heavy equipment to build terraces, roadways and they put in well built retaining walls decorated with wonderful mosaics. Frequent mini-disasters such as trees down as in the photos below, kept them busy, as it does us today. These years saw a reduction in the ancient oak trees due to fall-overs, and disease, while the redwoods and smaller oaks took over the hillsides.
Aerial and Satellite Images
Records from 1940s to 1990s: Ray, Gooch, Kriz
These families have had stewardship of Ancient Oaks since the 1940s. Some excerpts from the County of Santa Cruz records are just about the only history we have from this time.
Bud Tomlin's recounting of the Ray family: 1940s-50s
Bud Tomlin is the retired fire chief of Boulder Creek. I spoke with him in June 2002 about his recollections of the Ray family who lived at Ancient Oaks Ranch in the 1940s and 1950s and possibly earlier. He recalls that Mrs. Ray used to come into the meat market (the red and white butchers) located where the present Boulder Creek Brewery is located. Mrs Ray would bring in eggs to sell through the shop, which is consistent with our understanding that the ranch had a major chicken operation in sheds. We still find the butane pipes used to heat the chicken coups in the winter.
Bud also recalled that Mr. Ray worked nights in the San Lorenzo valley driving his car around "rattling doors" for businesses. In other words, Mr. Ray provided security services.
Bud graduated in 1950 and was then working in the meat market and later started a garbage collection business. Bud then went into the service and came out about 4 years later. That was in about 1957 when he says that Mr. Ray tried to interest him in buying the property, then about 50 acres, for about $50,000, a lot of money at the time. Bud was not interested. He sensed that the Ray's were trying to unload the property and move on. This is consistent with Joe Kriz's story that the former owners of the property were forced by a change of county law to cease their chicken operation, whereupon they attempted to stay afloat by growing and pressing apples. That having failed to sustain the family they opted to sell the farm.
As far as Bud can remember the Ray's had no children.
Gooch: late 1950s to late 1960s
We postulate that the Ray's found a buyer in Mr. Gooch, in the late 50s. Gooch subdivided the original ranch around 1958-59. Bud recalls that the building on the left (the parcel on which we now live) was a "small cabin" and that the Ray's lived in the house on the right, now owned by Gordon and Diana Candee. Our house, as indicated by the county records below, seemed to be variously rebuilt (in 1960), rented and unoccupied and in a state of disrepair throughout most of the 1960s. As a fireman in that period Bud recalls coming up to extinguish a small fire in the late 1960s or early 1970s when the Kriz family lived here. Indeed our electrician found evidence of an old fire in the attic some years back.
The Kriz Era: 1969(?)-1998
Joe and Donna Kriz acquired the property from Gooch in 1969 or 1970 and set about making extensive upgrades and repairs. They lived in the barn while Joe and Donna extensively remodeled the house. Donna vividly recalled to me the amount of rat droppings under the kitchen counter when they first bought the property. The Kriz's had 6 children and all of them worked on the continuous projects around the farm (neighbors recall them working every weekend on something). Joe and Donna raised over 300 hogs, cows, peacocks, chickens and kept and even bred horses, boarding up to 17 at one time. Joe bulldozed the property, changing the landscape, creating a pasture, and shifting watercourses. In this way he terraced the land and with the whole family built a whole set of retaining walls. Donna inlaid many marvelous mosaics which can be seen in these early pictures I took from 1998.
The entire family worked to dig out a basement under the house when Joe jacked it up by hand. The covered porch and lean-to were turned into extensions and the house significantly upgraded. An overhang was added to the front to protect the house from the weather. We note that with only one bathroom it must have been a challenge to raise such a large family.
Kriz family events at Ancient Oaks
Sally Kriz' wedding was held at Ancient Oaks in 1988 and her high school graduation celebration happened in 1983. Both of these events (and another daughter's wedding) inspired a big push to terrace and landscape. The stage was built for Sally's 1983 high school graduation to host a band. As Sally reports, her wedding was a marvelous success hosting a large crowd. A white wedding arch and gazebo were built and used for this event. The gazebo (pictured above) was destroyed when a tree later fell on it (as often happens here). Later on, we also chose to hold weddings here.
Joe remodeled and added rooms onto the barn to support his children's hobbies including: a dark room, a dance studio, horse stalls, and a project to convert a Model A Ford car to run on electricity. A greenhouse was built for one of his sons.
In the early 90s Joe's job was eliminated as part of the aerospace downsizing and the family started to explore their options and bought land up near Mount Shasta. They felt that the neighborhood was becoming too crowded.
Joe continued to practice as a farrier (horseshoeing) until they departed on August 7, 1998, handing me the keys. Joe said that hey felt that he would not need to look back, indicating to me that he felt comfortable with his choice of who he left the property in the care of. Joe's word and handshake were his bond. My words to him that I would build on the hard work that he, Donna and their family put in, is my bond.
You can see my reports to the Kriz family as some of the hard work that we are putting in to build on his legacy.
Excerpts from the County of Santa Cruz records
Full County Records
Records from 1990s-2000s: Damer/Brandt Era
You can see the May-June 1998 Images from when Bruce Damer was making his offer to acquire Ancient Oaks. Also please see the recent and current events here at Ancient Oaks under the tutelage of Bruce Damer and Galen Brandt. The Ancient Oaks homepage and About Ancient Oaks contains extensive coverage of life at Ancient Oaks including all four seasons in the gardens extensively improved by the current caretakers (see below).
The Digibarn Computer Museum
Other Recent Ancient Oaks Farm News
Reports to the Kriz Family
You can see my reports to the Kriz family as some of the hard work that we are putting in to improve the property and build on the Kriz family's earlier legacy.
Neighbor's web sites
Frank and Joyce Robbins, our immediate neighbors and also residents of a parcel of the original Ancient Oaks Farm (which they call Ancient Oaks Ranch), also maintain a website, called www.ancient-oaks.com.
Recent community improvement projects
You can see more about the community through our attempts to maintain the Ancient Oaks Way Community Road.
Back to Ancient Oaks Farm pages
Click here to contact Bruce or send comments on this website.
[ home | news | projects | photos | art | pen | voice | vid | contact | search ]
(cc) 1996- Bruce Damer... want to use something from this site? See rights granted under my Creative Commons license and contact me.