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Friday, March 20, 2015

Vega & Eaton

USGS Map from 1915 showing Vega Station and Rancho Vega.
Rancho Vega del Río del Pájaro ("Meadow along the River of the Bird") stretched from the foothills outside of the town of Pajaro and the foothills west of Aromas, with the Pajaro River to the north and more hills to the south. On April 17, 1820, Antonio María Castro was granted the rancho by the Spanish government as one of its last land grants in the area. It was confirmed in June 1833 by José Figueroa. Castro, thus, was one of the earliest settlers in the Pajaro Valley. Like many other early settlers, Castro had been a military officer who retired to the area in 1809, after which he rose in prominence in the region as a alternate elector for Alta California.

Following the American annexation of California, Juan Miguel Anzar attempted to claim the grant on behalf of his wife, María Antonia Castro, although he died before the grant was approved. His widow died in 1855 and her second husband, Frederick A. McDougal, and her four children by Anzar fought to gain the 4,310 acres, which was finally rewarded to them in January 1864.

Rancho Vega del Río del Pájaro land grant map, c. 1850. (Bancroft Library)
When the Southern Pacific Railroad passed through the Coast Range and its foothills between Gilroy and the town of Pajaro in 1871, it passed directly through the center of the Vega Ranch. McDougal and his step-children were able to negotiate as part of the right-of-way agreement a freight and passenger flag-stop on their property which was listed under the name "Vega". The area around Vega and in the hills to the southwest evolved slowly into a small settlement of mostly farmers that used the freight platform at Vega station to ship out their goods. Vega School was located to the northeast of the railroad station along the county road that later became San Juan Road (G11).

The stop was never large and the platform likely disappeared in the early 1900s. A freight spur was installed at the station at around this time measuring approximately 650 feet. Whether there was ever a physical station structure at Vega is unknown, though it seems unlikely considering the flag-stop nature of the stop. A shelter may have existed there. The name Vega stuck around into the 1940s when it suddenly and inexplicably became "Eaton", though the nature of the stop did not change. The new name may have been a reference to Orrin O. Eaton, a local landowner who held a favorable reputation in Monterey County for helping to introduce lettuce to the county in 1917. He also may have owned part of Rancho Vega in the 1950s. Eaton station remained on Southern Pacific timetables as an "Additional Stop" into the 1980s and perhaps as late as 1996, when the railroad company was merged into the Union Pacific.

At the station site today, double tracks still pass in front of the station site and a small assembly area for the local farms still occupies the site of the spur and platform. Railroads no longer stop at Vega and the local community is now considered a ghost town by Monterey County. The school closed its doors in 1950, leaving the schoolhouse, designed by William Henry Weeks, abandoned.

Official Railroad Information:
Vega was registered as a industrial and passenger flag-stop and spur, 97.1 miles from San Francisco via Gilroy and San José. The station sat on the double-track between Watsonville Junction and Logan. Sometime around World War II, the station was renamed Eaton. The spur was still listed in 1951 as capable of holding 13 cars, giving it an estimated length of 650 feet. As with Vega, Eaton was not listed in timetables but rather sat as an additional stop in a separate table.

Agency books list Vega as a class-A freight stop with a platform located on the right side of the tracks, as oriented from San Francisco. No other services were listed and no depot structure was noted.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36˚N 53' 51.506", 121˚W 41' 26.905"

Vega's station was located on the west side of San Miguel Canyon Road. The actual Vega community was slightly to the south along Vega Road in a short hilly section of land.

Citations & Credits:

2 comments:

  1. The photograph above is of the school built at Carpenteria and Blohm in downtown Aromas in 1925. This Weeks-designed building is still there, in use as a library and market. From 1925 until a new school was built in downtown Aromas, it was called Vega School. However it should not be confused with the one-room country school on San Juan Road, which was also called Vega, and served local farm children in the 1870s and 1880s.

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    1. Thanks for the information. I've removed the offending photo and you are certainly correct. I actually was just at that building a few days ago! I now have a few photos of the Vega station area but I'm still not positive what the station was used for.

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