History of the Soboba Rd. Estudillo Mansion
For anyone interested in the history of the Soboba Road Estudillo property, I have been researching hard copy stuff, newspapers, government records, pictures, etc. I am still putting my notes together and filling in blanks
The land was Luisueno land before it belonged to Estudillo or the mission (San Luis Rey) There was a village very close to the property.
Jose A Estudillo died while fighting a forest fire in the mountains as a forest ranger, on 1901. His wife died in Riverside in 1926
Don Jose's grandson died on the property and is listed as buried on estate (in San Jacinto). He was 8 mo.s old
Still looking for the date the family sold the property.
I believe someone owned it briefly before the Althouses bought it. I think the answer may be in my notes, if not I will find it. I have to make a trip to the county accessors since I have book, page, and tract, along with a name.
John and Tillie Althouse bought the house in the twenties. Their only child was finishing college, so she remained in LA in the family home until she graduated and married. She also was a school teacher. She stated to a woman I interviewed, that as long as she remembered the mansion has always used as storage.
Margaret Althouse Van Luven was that only child. She resided in the house closest to the mansion. She was still there in 1987. She became quite ill and, as it turns out, Wolgang Dietzel was a relative of her's. Quite possibly her only living relative, as she had no children. This is how Wolfgang and Charlotte ended up in possession of the property. As much as I hate to admit it, the property now belongs to the city.
There was a worker killed on property in Oct '71, in a terrible farm accident. I have been in touch with this family and out of respect for them I promised not to publish anything without running it by them first.
I have learned much much more and am on the trail of more information. This property has fascinated me since I first heard of it. I finally entered the property alone the other day. When I am satisfied that I have accurate information, covering enough area, I will publish an article and will inform you of it and where to find it. I think this is one of the hidden treasures we all hope to find someday.
JA Estudillo Estate, AKA John Althouse Property
From the very beginning it was odd. Nothing fit where it should. Research was (and is) next to impossible online and time-consuming in the real world. There are no lengthy articles or notes. What is here has been lovingly pieced together using bits and pieces found in official government records (census, county assessor, sheriff records, etc), newspaper articles of the day, obituaries gleaned from period newspapers, speaking to persons who have a connection to the property, or knew past property owners, etc. I don't claim this to be a complete history, but it is as accurate as my careful and lengthy research can provide. As I turn up new facts I will add them via the blog. Also check the blog for other items of local interest. Here is our story...
It was an early summer day and my daughter had come to visit. My daughter and I have a common love of freelance photography, and were out looking for interesting, and preferably old and abandon places to photograph when we were given a tip that there was a place that fit our needs perfectly.... If it was still there.
It was the twin to the much more famous Francisco Estudillo mansion, at the Francisco Estudillo Heritage Park on 7th St. in San Jacinto, California. The abandoned twin was used for salvage parts to restore the house in town. We were told that the road into the property was taken out, and that the property had been sold to a contractor, who planned to level the buildings and orchard and build condos, but had run out of money before he could proceed.
The property had long been slated to be cleared and all buildings destroyed. The Press Enterprise presented an article in 2005 which stated the property was to be cleared immediately to make room for multifamily housing. After much research we decided to pay a visit.
When we located it, and stepped back into the past, we found the mansion and surrounding ranch had been long forgotten and allowed to fall to ruin. There was evidence of long gone homeless persons, partiers, and such, but nothing recent. Even the lost and abandon had abandon this land. There was no sign of human presence for several years. The land had an eerie feel about it, and the buildings certainly didn't feel right. There were many things that were odd, out of place, or just plain mysterious. The more we look into the property, either by physically being there and investigating, or by off property research, the weirder it gets.
I won't go much into the Estudillo family history because it is well covered in many books and webpages. I'll present to you a brief history of land and how the ranch came to be. We will mostly cover the lives of the people who resided here and points of interest.
For millennia this property was the home of the indigenous people, who had villages along the various hot springs This is significant since the hot springs was a part of Don Jose's claim, and it was also owned by the Althouse family, who owned the property for the longest period of time. The land was then claimed by the Spanish Missions, and after the Mexico gained it's independence from Spain, fell under the jurisdiction of Mexico, and was eventually granted to JA Estudillo Sr, and was subsequently passed to his children.
When Jose Antonio Estudillo, Sr. died in 1852, he left to Francisco and Jose Antonio, Jr., as well as his son Salvador, the portions his Mexican Land Grant which cover the valley here. The brothers lived in an adobe when they arrived here. Francisco built his home on 7th St. in 1885, and Jose built his home in 1886.
The home in town was dressed up with gingerbread trim and a wrap-around porch, while the county home was decorated less elaborately, sans gingerbread trim and with only a front porch. They were both equipped with indoor kitchens, including wood-burning cook stoves.
Francisco, who built the house in town, is more well known and much has been written about him. There is even a committee dedicated to the genealogy of his descendents and the restoration of his home. But that's not why we're here.
Don Jose A. Estudillo, Jr. and family
Little is known about this part of the Estudillo family, and less is known about Don Jose.
Jose Antonio Estudillo was the older brother of Fransisco. Don Jose met and married Adelaide, his wife, in San Diego. The UA Census for 1880 shows the family residing in San Jacinto, and lists his wife as Adelaide Holland, (a mulatto woman from Georgia), sons, Miguel and Louis, daughters, Estephania (who later when by Estelle, and married Harry Mitchell), Guadalupe (who went by Pele), and Hattie, boarder Fred Rubado and servant Felipe.
Don Jose raised cattle and olives on his 4000 acres. His claim included a hot springs, hillside, and valley flatland. This ranch is now reduced to 24 acres and is currently for sale in the high $400,000's. He seems to have happily raise his family and ran his ranch during the years he had left on the face of this earth. A mere 15 years after building his dream home he died while fighting a forest fire while serving as a Forest Ranger in July, 1901.
The San Jacinto census for 1890 has been lost, and the family does not appear in the 1900 census, but in the 1910 census Adelaide is listed as Don Jose's widow.
Now, the thing that had me confused for quite some time is this: I was presented with questions about his Indian wife, who some said was the daughter of a chief, and also said she had a house in Castile Canyon. Well, since the house would be on reservation property, (if it is still standing) ,and the rez has controlled access, I was unable to verify there was a historic house belonging to this woman some say was named Rosario.
I exercised all of my resources, including running her name through the government database which you can access at the Hemet Library in the Heritage Room. I spoke with a woman who dated the great grandson of Don Jose many, many years ago, and spoke often with the boy's grandmother, Estephania, who was now going by Estelle, or Grandma Estelle. There was never any mention of any half brothers or sisters, or of another marriage. I believe given the well documented relationship of Adelaide and Jose, who married in 1868, this is at best a romantic tale with no basis in fact. There is always the possibility that there was an illicit relationship, but no proof exists that I can find. There is only one mention in a book of old pictures, beside an old picture of the mansion, that he was married to an Indian woman who was the daughter of a chief.
Don Jose's oldest son Miguel became an assemblyman, and in June of 1906 had to return from Sacramento, because his 8 month old son (identified only as M) had died from an illness. The records at the Heritage Room state that the infant was buried on the estate. These records also indicate that one of Don Jose's brothers, Jose Guadalupe is also be buried on the estate.
This all actually makes sense once you know that, although Fransisco's home was lost to foreclosure, the widow and children of Don Jose kept the ranch in the family, and traveled between San Diego, Riverside, and San Jacinto, using the ranch and the grand old house as a family gathering place, giving it the distinction of the Estudillo Estate. This was the final piece of the original land grant remaining in the family, and so it remained until 1919 when it was purchased by Grace Zuber and Mr. R.H. Gibson. They purchased 10 of the 12 lots on June 18, 1919. It appears that they purchased it as a real estate investment, rather than for the ranch or the grand home. They also own partial interest in the Soboba Hot Springs along with a group of businessmen and women.
Adelaide went to her final reward in October of 1924 in Riverside, while surrounded by her children.
Little can be found about Don Jose. Even Margaret Althouse Van Luven, the second generation of the Althouse family to own the ranch, spent years researching, trying to find more information on his life. She had a large collection of material, books, etc., on early Southern California history which she accrued while researching the elusive Don Jose.
John and Tillie Althouse, who owned several confectionaries in the LA area, took over the operation of the Soboba Hot Springs in 1919. They tried to run it from a distance, counting on a manager, but that did not work out well for them. They puchased the Estudillo property in 1921-1924 from some of the people they purcheased the hot springs from.
their only child, Margaret, stay in LA, finished college, worked as a school teacher, and then married Mr. Van Luven and moved to the ranch in the early 30s. Margaret speaks of the Mansion having always been used for storage, however, I have read articles from the 40s speaking of the grand mansion that the Althouse's owned.
There are 2 newer homes on the property, that are constructed much in the way of the newer cabins at the hot springs that were constructed in 1928. One has a kitchen and several other rooms, while the other has 2 rooms, 2 bathrooms, and a fireplace (in the room we have dubbed the red room)
There is conflicting information as to which home Margaret lived in. Perhaps She lived in the Kitchen free house until her parents passed, and then moved into the larger house with the kitchen.
Most of what I have been able to find out about John and Tillie refers to the hot springs, which they sold in 1946-1949. They liked to party and were considered among the movers and shakers of the valley. They had many friends who would come to their ranch or go to the Curry ranch to party, including an illustrator for Disney. Not much of note happened while john and Tillie worked the land. the Olive Grove was still in production, and remained so until about 2006.
After John and Tillie left - I don't know when they passed on, or if they passed in their sleep on the ranch - Margaret took over the running of the property. Once again, with Margaret's hubby, don't know when or where he went. Much to find out still.
With Margaret running the property, there were several incidents with the tractors, which can easily be given to the terrain which is uneven and hilly. There was a tragic accident though, that took the life of a good Christian married man who was the father of 5 children, and the sole support of his family. He was hauling manure and the back wheel of the tractor slipped off the 5 foot embankment close to the main house. The tractor rolled and he was pinned under the equipment on the back of the tractor for several hours. No one knows how long he laid there, or how quickly he died, but they do know it was several hours before he was found. He is buried at the Santa Fe Menlo Cemetery
What seem odd here, to me and to his family, is that Margaret only made one brief phone call to say she was sorry, but never attended the funeral or even offered any temporary help to the family, such as help with funeral expenses, housing, food, etc. An Uncle was called at his job and he was the one to provide the information to the family that Enrique had died.
The spot where he died has such peaceful feeling, it's hard to believe that such a tragic accident happened on that spot.
As Margaret grew older and was all alone (she had no children), someone managed to get their hands on her money, and the state got involved. They determined that she must have someone stay with her is she was to remain home. Apparently the only living relative they could find was Wolfgang Dietzel. He came to stay with her. I believe, and some of those who knew Margaret and Wolfgang have said, Margaret had moved to the larger house with the kitchen, and Wolfgang stayed in the smaller house. The Mansion has been out of play for a very long time, as it is used for storage.
Wolfgang was a large, intimidating man. If he had made money on his former property investments, it was gone now. He knew he stood to inherit the ranch and the money she had inherited from her father. He neglected and abused Margaret, thinking that he was in the clear, but the people in town knew it, but they had no proof and a healthy fear of Wolfgang. Margaret was finally moved to a rest home in San Diego, and Wolfgang came into his own.
Wolfgang was not well liked anywhere in this valley. He was a verbal bully as well as an abuser.
We know not what happened to Wolfgang. We know that until this year, for several years the property was listed with the assessor as belonging to Charlotte, which was his wife's name, but could possibly be one of his 3 daughters' as well.
The land listed as sold 3 times in as many years, but keeps coming back to Charlotte. She dutifully paid fines for back taxes and for public nuscience since she refused to fence it. The property now belongs to the city, but no one seems to know what the plans for it are.
There has been much tragedy and sorrow here, and much happiness as well. We hope that it will be preserved, but only God knows what will happen.