History

The first documented settler of the ranch was a man named Lucio Castro, in 1862. Oral history postulates that Castro worked for a cattle ranching company when most of Southern California was suffering from a serious drought in the early 1860′s. Ranch’s grazing land and, most critically, sufficient water sustained their cattle throughout the drought.

Castro and his family built a water delivery system to supply his stock and irrigate a vineyard, and olive grove, citrus, deciduous fruit trees, legumes and alfalfa.

The Ranch was purchased on June 20, 1881 for $2300 in gold coins by Victoria Pedorena de Magee, the matriarch of a prominent early California family. The property for more than 60 years was known as “The Condor’s Nest” (for the large California bird of prey, which inhabited the mountains of northeast San Diego County, until the early years of this century).

The history of this ranch, and the water story associated with it is detailed and colorful and was mentioned in The San Diego Union, where it was said:

“Three hundred acres of excellent orange land in the “no frost” belt, and at least six miners’ inches of water in the driest time of the year.” (December 27, 1881)

“Dona Victoria Magee is improving her lovely rancho. It is a charming vision of waving grain and vineyards.” (April 20, 1884)

“Mrs. Victoria Magee is improving her fine Rancho at Pala on the slope of Smith Mountain. For irrigating facilities, quality of land, and picturesque scenery, Rancho is unequalled in Southern California.” (April 26, 1885)

The Ranch was also the setting for a Hollywood “wild-west” movie and Ed Ainsworth’s historical novel, EAGLES FLY WEST, as well as some of Ainsworth’s other books and stories, including CALIFORNIA JUBILEE.

 Old Magee Ranch is not open to the public apart from tour time.