An Olivenhain homesteader’s ranch that dates from 1886 definitely ought to be a state and federal historic site, the state Historical Resources Commission decided Thursday, Nov. 7.
Commissioners said the number of aging wooden buildings on the 10-acre Bumann Ranch property off Fortuna Ranch Road were impressive, and the owners’ 45-page application for historic status was both informative and amusing.
“We loved hearing a period of (historic) significance ended because a horse died,” state historic preservation officer Julianne Polanco said.
She was referring to the death of ‘Mollie’ -- one of two horses that pulled the plough, harvester and other farm equipment, allowing the ranch to operate on horse power until the 1960s.
Commissioner Alan Hess said the photographs of the many old buildings on the site, including the original homesteader’s shanty and several barns built in the 1800s, showed why historic preservation is so important.
“(I was) really stunned that something like that still existed,” he said.
Contacted via phone as they drove home from the state commission meeting in San Bernardino, ranch owners Richard and Adeline “Twink” Bumann said they were “super excited” by the commission’s decision.
Twink called it a “very historic day for the ranch,” and Richard said he thought his dad, grandfather and uncles were looking down from above and beaming about the new recognition their beloved property has received.
“Hopefully, this will help preserve the ranch for generations to come,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know of any other place like it in San Diego County.
Richard’s grandfather, Herman Friedrich Bumann, established the ranch. A German immigrant, he first lived within the Olivenhain colony settlement, a collection of one-room shanties and other buildings. However, he soon acquired his own 160-acre homestead property along Escondido Creek. His original 10-foot-by-12-foot shanty where he lived for six years still exists on the property.
Herman satisfied his government homesteading requirements in 1892, then built a ranch house the following year and married San Diego resident Emma Marie Junker. She would ultimately give birth to 12 healthy children, a family fact sheet states.
The family raised cattle, poultry and pigs, with much of their income coming from egg sales, the state historic registry application states. They also kept bees, produced wine and grew a number of crops, including potatoes, beans, barley and wheat.
The original ranch house and the bunk house where the children slept are no longer standing, but a living room and bedroom dating from 1912 do exist today, as do several barns built in the late 1800s.
Herman Bumann worked the ranch until his death in 1926. After his wife Emma died in 1936, the then-480-acre property was divided between their 12 children. Herman’s second son, called Herman Charles, ended up with the ranch buildings and continued to work the property until the 1960s using the two horses, the state application notes.
Richard and Twink now live at the ranch and are active in the Olivenhain Town Council, which owns the Olivenhain colonists’ Meeting Hall and produces many community events. After Thursday’s state commission meeting, they planned to grab a fast-food meal and rush home, they said.
They needed to get back quickly because they were booked that afternoon to help set up the tables and other equipment for the annual Olivenhain Holiday Crafts Fair, which is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the meeting hall on Rancho Santa Fe Road.
— Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune