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FLINT Brothers

The Fate of the Flint Properties

Rancho Nacimiento

As mentioned elsewhere, George B. Flint sold Rancho Nacimiento to an A F Benton, who then sold it to the Baron von Schroeder.1 In 1901 Rancho Nacimiento was considered as the site of a military base2 and the next year the accompanying map was drawn to show how it might be laid out for such a use.

1902 Army Map of Rancho Nacimiento

    Source: University of Texas at Arlington Library Map Collection.

An Army Corps of Engineers Map of Rancho Nacimiento Showing Plans to Convert It to a Military Base. Drawn by Lt Col William Henry Heuer (1843–1925) in 1902.

However, the plans were shelved and the ranch remained in private hands.3 In 1910 Baron von Schroeder returned to Germany, where, despite his advanced age (mid-60s), he earned a second iron cross fighting on the German side in World War I. Before he left, he sold the ranch to Isaias W. Hellman, a prominent California financier.4

I W Hellman arrived in California in 1859 as an impecunious Jewish immigrant from Germany. Starting with a small dry-goods store, he soon founded Los Angeles’s Farmers and Merchants Bank, that city’s first successful bank. Later in San Francisco, he transformed Wells Fargo into one of the west’s biggest financial institutions. He was president or director of seventeen banks. He lent money to the discoverer of California’s huge oil reserves, helped start the University of Southern California and was a regent of the University of California. He controlled the California wine industry for almost 20 years. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, Hellman calmed the financial markets to help the city rise from the ashes.5

I W Hellman Dinkelspiel (2008), frontispiece.

Isaias Wolf Hellman (1842–1920).

E J Wright CCMH (2005), p 18.

Eli Joseph Wright (1881–1973).

“Isaias also took extended trips to his thirty-five-thousand-acre Nacimiento Ranch near Paso Robles. It reminded him of his early days in California, and he tried to recreate that bucolic splendor by planting wheat and stocking the ranch with cattle. . . .
“Nacimiento was a place Isaias could indulge in his passion for horses. Years earlier, while still living in Los Angeles, he had raised thoroughbreds . . . Now he made an effort to attend the annual rodeo at Paso Robles. He also enjoyed bringing down [his son] Marco’s two oldest sons, Warren and Frederick, to ride in the oak-studded hills.”6

Under Hellman’s ownership the ranch profitably produced cattle, mules, horses, hogs, wheat, barley and alfalfa.7

I. W. Hellman died in 1920. For the next 20 years Rancho Nacimiento was part of an estate.8 During that time Eli Wright was ranch foreman. He and his family lived in the ranch house that had been built by Robert Flint until it was torn down in 1928. When Wright was a teenager, he had worked for George Flint, never dreaming that one day he would be running the entire operation.9

Ranch House of Robert Flint Being Torn Down CCMH (2005), p 15.

The ranch house built by Robert Flint in the 1970s as it was being torn down in 1928. The woman on the right is Ida Hortense (Kingery) Wright (1889–1976), Eli's wife.10.

Camp Roberts Mud CCMH (2005), p 27.

Camp Roberts Was a "Sea of Mud" During Its Construction.

At the outbreak of the Second World War it was again decided that Rancho Nacimiento would be a good site for a military installation and this time the plans were implemented. It was a grandson of Isaias Hellman, Edward Hellman Heller, who sold the ranch to the government and handled the transition period.11 The Hellman Estate retained 450 acres for grazing cattle. First called “Camp Nacimiento Replacement Training Center”, the base was renamed Camp Roberts in honor of a World War I tank driver, 19-year-old Corporal Harold Roberts of San Francisco. Roberts’ tank had slipped into a water-filled shell crater in the Montrebeau Forest in France and he shoved his gunner out, but failed to make it himself and drowned.12

Camp Roberts Gate

                           CCMH (2005), p 34.

Camp Roberts Main Gate.

What is now Camp Roberts, of 42,540 acres, was acquired by leasing seven adjoining ranches in 1940, with the finalization of purchase taking place in 1943. The Nacimiento Ranch and the Porter-Sesnon Ranch made up the largest portions of the land that would become Camp Nacimiento Replacement Training Center.13

The facility was constructed at breakneck speed, starting in November 1941, and using 35,000,000 board feet of lumber, 100 carloads of sheetrock, and 30,600 gallons of paint. Construction proceeded despite extraordinary amounts of torrential rain. Between December and the next April, 39 inches fell, more than double the usual amount, and turned the soil into mud to a depth of four to six feet. Nonetheless, 741 buildings, 188 miles of roads and streets, and all other needed facilities were created. The bad weather caused construction costs to increase from ten million to sixteen million dollars. A senator from Missouri named Harry S Truman made a name for himself by investigating the “enormous cost overruns” involved in the construction of Camp Roberts. Troops began to arrive in March 1942 and by summer, Camp Roberts had become one of the largest training centers in the world.14

More than half a million troops from all branches of the military have trained at Camp Roberts during WWII and the Korean, Vietnam and Middle Eastern conflicts.15

Pirney's Farm

Some years ago my 3d cousin, Lloyd Blinn, wrote me that the Flint farm had been turned into a gravel pit. Thus I assumed that Pirney’s (and his father’s) farm and orchard had been obliterated by the giant Byron Gravel Pit, from which sand and gravel aggregates have been mined to a depth of more than 200 feet.16 But the following would seem to contradict the occurrence of such a fate:

“. . . In 1891, the city of London bought the Flint farm as part of London's waterworks system and the developing Springbank Park. Thus the cottages [built by Robert G Flint Sr] became, and remain, picturesque landmarks within the park landscape. . . .”17

Rancho San Juan

Of the Flint properties this ranch has had perhaps the happiest history subsequent to the Flints. It is still, or rather, again, a large cattle ranch. After Henry Wreden’s death in 1931, the 57,175-acre cattle ranch remained an undivided estate among his heirs until 1942, when the six Wreden heirs divided the ranch into six portions, equal in value.18 Eventually, one by one, the six tracts were sold and subdivided. In 1998, a century after Flint ownership ended, John and Brenda Stephenson, principals of a biotechnology firm in Santa Cruz, purchased an 8300-acre parcel of land that included the original Rancho San Juan headquarters and its original adobe homestead. Since then the Stephensons have acquired a substantial additional amount of the original San Juan Ranch until they now own 44,000 acres. It is their desire to reassemble Rancho San Juan in its entirety. They wish to continue the spread’s rich history of livestock production. They are doing so by raising performance quarter horses and a hybrid strain of cattle based on an old Bavarian breed of draft and slaughter cattle—gelbvieh or “German yellow” cattle. (Actually, gelbvieh cattle come in a variety of colors.)19

Rancho San Juan San Juan (ws).

Rancho San Juan Today


1 Ohles (1997), p 131; CCMH (2005), p 13.

2 Ohles (1997), p 132–133; CCMH (2005), p 13.

3 Ohles (1997), p 133.

4 Ohles (1997), p 131.

5 Dinkelspiel (2008), jacket blurb and introduction.

6 Dinkelspiel (2008), p 309–310.

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7 Ohles (1997), p 132.

8 Ibid, p 133.

9 Ibid; CCMH (2005), p 13, 18.

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10 CCMH (2005), p 15; Ohles (1997), p 113.

11 Ohles (1997), p 132.

12 CCMH (2005), p 2 (frontispiece), p 13; Ohles (1997), p 134–136.

13 Ohles (1997), p 134–135.

14 CCMH (2005), p 21.

15 CCMH (2005), back cover, p 61, 107.

16 Byron, Ontario, a Wikipedia article; Picture of gravel pit.

17 Tausky (2005), p 10.

18 Ohles (1997), p 257.

19 San Juan (ws).

Background pattern from Absolute Background Textures .