Hihn About the Santa Cruz Railroad


Home | Family Trees | Bios | Letters | Docs  

The following interview of Frederick Augustus Hihn, about his Santa Cruz Railroad, was not contained in my compilation (A Researcher's Digest on F. A. Hihn and his Santa Cruz Rail Road Company .... 1997).

I think it is quite revealing of F. A.'s perspective on the economics of his railroad, and the Transcript reporter's estimation of this man who "reads a person through and through at a glance." The reporter found himself "surprised to find Mr. Hihn not a nervous, irritable sort of man, but an affable, genial, pleasant gentleman, who, though a cool, dispassionate, quiet-appearing man ..."
Stanley D. Stevens

1878 Jan 12
Source:Watsonville Transcript via The Santa Cruz Sentinel1878 Jan 124:4-5
Like nearly every railroad that has received a subsidy the Santa Cruz road is descried by many, who, before it was built, were warm friends of the scheme. Some wanted the road because they expected from it advantages which did not result. Some have taken offense at the course of the corporation in matters where they were concerned. Some probably have ample grounds for complaint, for "corporations have no souls." But we imagine a good deal of this cross-grained feeling toward the railroad is the result of jealously [sic] and disappointment over the rapid growth of Santa Cruz which has been brought about by the railroad and which has left Watsonville away behind. The increased population has given Santa Cruz the power to out-vote Watsonville - a power which she has not been slow to use on various occasions in a very hoggish manner - and Watsonville growls at the railroad for this state of affairs, instead of setting vigorously to work to try to outgrow her successful rival. Having heard a good deal of the anti-railroad side of the question a Transcript reporter one Monday evening called on F. A. Hihn, President of the Santa Cruz railroad, at his residence in Santa Cruz, to ascertain

On the condition and prospects of the road, its present and prospective effect upon this town and valley, etc. The reporter was surprised to find Mr. Hihn not a nervous, irritable sort of man, but an affable, genial, pleasant gentleman, who, though a cool, dispassionate, quiet-appearing man, reads a person through and through at a glance. His eye suggested the adage that "still waters run deep." He is evidently a good man for a friend but an undesirable enemy. His active brain is backed by a physique that is rarely excelled, and it is no wonder that he is able to successfully preside over so many interests and constantly add to his influence and his ducats. "Mr. Hihn," said the reporter, "I called to learn something about the Santa Cruz railroad. There are, I suppose you know, a good many people in and around Watsonville who entertain a hostile feeling toward the road."

Mr. Hihn - I know there are, and with very little reason. Those who used to haul produce to Santa Cruz have lost their employment, but the farmers are the gainers. Formerly $5 per ton was paid for hauling Pajaro Valley produce to Santa Cruz. Now the railroad carries it for $1.50. There is another gain to the farmer: A good deal of

Before the road was built the Watsonville merchants bought the produce which came here. Of course they had to make a profit. Now the farmer can ship direct, so to this extent the road detracts from the business of the Watsonville merchants. But if the merchants lose a little that the farmer may gain a good deal they ought not to complain. The merchants live off the farmers, and they ought not to find fault at what benefits the class off whom they live. The effect of the road is felt in the lumber business also, for a good deal of lumber is shipped to Pajaro from along the line.

R. - Do you mean that these shipments of lumber interfere with Ford & Sanborn's lumber business?

Mr. H. - No ; Ford & Sanborn are the gainers, for they ship the lumber themselves and the road saves them the expense of hauling. It unfavorably effects only the teamsters. But in the lumber business the road is really a benefit to your valley. The exhaustion of the forests that now supply that section with lumber, firewood and fencing material is only a question of a few year's time, and then the railroad will bring those articles at small cost.

R. - I have observed that a great amount of grain was sent to Santa Cruz over your road this Fall. Is it all consumed here?

Mr. H. - Yes, and as much more. As much produce is brought here by water as by rail. Potatoes are sent here from Lompoc in large quantities and grain from ports all along the coast.

R. - Does the road pay now?

Mr. H. - No. Some feel sore because the road got a subsidy. Why, they were all in favor of a subsidy at first. When I was elected it was upon this issue. A bill was passed granting the road $8,000 per mile, but Governor Haight vetoed it because he was opposed to all special subsidies. The subsidy finally [was] granted but $6,000 per mile. The stockholders put $210,000 into the enterprise, and they would sell out for $100,000 to-day.

R. - Is the stock for sale at that figure?

Mr. H. - Yes ; every share of it.

R. - But you expect the road will pay sometime, don't you?

Mr. H. - Most assuredly ; it went into operation in June, 1875. You could not expect it to do much the first year. Then came this dry season. Though losing money at present we are keeping the property in good condition.

R. - Yes ; I observed that the track, rolling stock and buildings are kept in first-class order. You did a heavy freight business during harvest, did you not?

Mr. H. - Yes ; mostly beets carried to

R. - Is that factory a success?

Mr. H. - It is. They first thought they could do best to raise their own beets, but failed. To raise beets successfully one must understand the business. He must have the right seed and soil ; he must have the soil in proper condition and plant at the right time. The company failed to make it pay and was disposed to give it up. A few gentlemen, including Dr. Flint and myself, thought the Pajaro Valley could furnish the beets. I was at the meeting of the company in San Francisco when it was proposed to abandon the enterprise. I urged them to try the Pajaro Valley plan. We put the freight down to $1 per ton and the company decided to try it another year. On my way home I met a farmer on the train who agreed to furnish 60 tons. At Watsonville I saw Mr. Knapp and he contracted to furnish the balance.

R. - Are not beets a very exhaustive crop?

Mr. H. - I think, on the contrary, that they improve the land. They penetrate down deep - probably three feet - and stir up the hardpan and make it lighter and make it warmer, also bringing up moisture and plant food from deep down. Of course it will not do to raise them continuously on the same ground, any more than it would any other crop, but in rotation with other crops. The running of the factory has demonstrated that beet sugar can be made at a profit, and in time factories in your valley will follow. All this results from the railroad, for without the road the factory would have closed down last year. - Transcript.

Notes by the Transcriber:
1. I think the opening paragraph adequately describes the rivalry between Watsonville and Santa Cruz, a rivalry that was not exclusively nor necessarily directed at Hihn's railroad.

2. The Pajaro Valley and Watsonville are often used interchangeably. The Pajaro River is the boundary line between Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Watsonville is adjacent to the river, in Santa Cruz County. Pajaro Junction, Monterey County, was the terminus of the Santa Cruz Railroad where it connected with the S. P. broad gauge.

3. Ford & Sanborn = Charles Ford and Lucius Sanborn = Ford's Department Store & they were also major stockholders in:

Watsonville Mill and Lumber Company, file 97

Directors: Shares:
Charles Ford 60
Lucius Sanborn 60
John B. Brown 60
James S. Halsted 60
Alvin Sanborn 80

"The Capitol stock of said corporation shall be One hundred and sixty thousand dollars, and divided into three hundred and twenty shares of Five hundred dollars each."

Loma Prieta Lumber Company, file 116

Charles Ford Watsonville
Alvin Sanborn Watsonville
John T. Porter Watsonville
J. A. Linscott Watsonville
W.P. Dougherty San Jose
A. C. Bassett Menlo Park
Lucius Sanborn San Francisco
N. T. Smith San Francisco
Thomas B. Bishop San Francisco


Names of Subscribers Number of Shares/Amount
John T. Porter 800 / $80,000
W.P. Dougherty 800 / $80,000
Thomas B. Bishop 800 / $80,000
A. C. Bassett 500 / $50,000
N. T. Smith 500 / $50,000
Alvin Sanborn 400 / $40,000
Lucius Sanborn 400 / $40,000
Charles Ford 400 / $40,000
J. A. Linscott 400 / $40,000

4. Lompoc, California -- many Santa Cruz pioneers founded (1875) and settled Lompoc as a temperance colony. Commerce between the two towns continued for decades.

5. F. A. Hihn was an Assemblyman in the California Legislature's 18th Session, 1869-1870, representing Santa Cruz County.

6. Governor Haight = Henry H. Haight, Democrat, elected September 4, 1867; inaugurated December 5, 1867. Died at San Francisco, September 2, 1878. Elected member of the second Consitutional Convention, California.

7. The Soquel Sugar Factory was erected on land at today's Capitola (Soquel being the area's name before Hihn founded Camp Capitola, about 1869). It was owned by the Western Beet Sugar Company. Claus Spreckels was a stockholder in WBSC, as well as Hihn's Santa Cruz Railroad Co.

8. Dr. Flint = Dr. Thomas Flint of the Flint Bixby and Company, sheep ranch, horses, cattle, etc., Monterey County, Los Angeles, Long Beach's Signal Hill, etc. Thomas Flint, a Republican, was a California Senator, representing Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz counties in the 21st and 22nd Sessions of the Legislature (1875-1878).

9. Knapp = Charles Knapp, a 37 year-old Trader, native of Maine. Resident of the Pajaro Township. Registered on Oct. 1, 1868. Moved to San Francisco, April 8, 1879.