Friday, November 27, 2009

In Walter Knott's Footsteps: Shandon

The Knott's long experiment in the Mojave proved a failure. Walter took other jobs nearby, including one as a carpenter in a short-lived scheme to revive a silver mine at Calico. (More on Calico later.) But it was clear that they needed a new start -- And that start appeared in the form of a job in Shandon, California, near Paso Robles. Walter was allowed to use a strip of land to raise fruits and vegetables for the ranch hands, and could sell anything they didn't eat. It turned out he had a lot left to take to market. Combined with income from Cordelia's new business making candy for nearby shops, they were soon solvent again.
The strip of land Walter farmed in Shandon is shown below. It lay between the Estrella River and the home of the ranch owner, which is shown above in its current (vacant) state.
On their feet once again, they were prepared when, in 1920, Walter's cousin Jim Preston suggested they move south and partner with him to start a berry farm near Buena Park. Indeed, without the time they spent in Shandon, there would have been no Preston & Knott's Berry Place (later known as Knott's Berry Farm).
The photo below shows the Shandon property from another angle. It took Katie and me a good deal of time tracking around Shandon to find this location when we visited last year. My research had only turned up a few sketchy descriptions of the property. Luckily, the guys at the local San Luis Obispo County Fire Station pointed us to a knowledgeable local rancher who in turn led us to the entrance of the Red Cedar Vinyard, where we found the ranch house.
Of course, the Knotts didn't live in the big adobe ranch house. They undoubtedly lived "in town." I never did figure out an address for them. The photo below shows the local United Methodist Church and gives you an idea of the kind of town we're talking about,... Small. Rural. A little bit charming around the edges. There are about 1,000 residents living there today. The ones I met were friendly and helpful.
Old-timers in town still remember the Knotts fondly, and recall being treated with the utmost hospitality when they later visited their old neighbors in Buena Park.


outsidetheberm said...

Nice! You've done better in your explorations of Shandon than I have.

It's a neat little town - and land there is still relatively cheap!

Thanks, Chris.

Let's Talk Knott's said...

I am really enjoying your walking in Walter Knott's footsteps series. Excellent work!

Anonymous said...

This is so interesting for me to see. Even though I grew up there and knew a little of the Knotts history with the berry farm, I wasn't aware of the earlier days. Thanks for sharing.

Chris Merritt said...

Chris - excellent work. It's amazing to see current day pictures after seeing the few that have survived from those early days.