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Friday, July 15, 2016

Stations: Canfield

Location of Canfield (bottom-right corner) in relation to Chittenden, 1891.
Survey map conducted by Vic. T. & Harry W. McCray.
[UCSC Digital Collections]
The San Juan Pacific Railway had few patrons along its eight-mile route. The purpose of the railroad was always first-and-foremost to cater to the San Juan Portland Cement Company, so all other customers were secondary to that goal. Nonetheless, the property of the Canfield family, located south of the bend of the route as it turned toward San Juan Bautista, was the railroad's first customer.

In February 1887, Samuel Russel and William Walton Canfield purchased from J.B. Doane a quarter section of ranch land in the Gabilan foothills region near the confluence of the San Benito River into the Pajaro River. Samuel and William were brothers, two sons of Robert Finley Canfield and Ruth Halsey Walton. William moved to California in 1849, presumably during the Gold Rush, and became a farmer. His brother joined him at some unknown later date. Very little is known about their cattle ranch or its success over the years. Both Canfields were active with the Central Coast Counties Improvement Association between 1903 and 1906, with Samuel serving as president in the first two years and William serving as vice president in the subsequent years. The organisation was one of a number that supported the expansion of railroading into the peripheries of the Central Coast, to places such as Davenport and San Juan. As such, it is unsurprising to discover in 1907 the route of the San Juan Pacific Railway skirting the north-east edge of the Canfield property as it worked its way south.

Canfield – the name appropriately given to the stop located on the Canfields' ranch – became the site of the first siding build along the San Juan Pacific line. The railroad built a 600-foot track there so the local ranchers and farmers could load hay and stock, and unload general merchandise for their small, rural businesses. Additionally, for the first year or so, Canfield served as an official stop for passenger trains, allowing an easy means for locals to travel to Santa Cruz, San José, or San Francisco for business or vacation. In that first years the stop was catered to three times a day in either direction. It is unknown how frequently the stop was used by passengers or freight customers.

The financial collapse in late 1907 spelled the eventual end of all services along the San Juan Pacific line, while damage from winter storms crippled it. When the route reopened in 1916 as the California Central Railroad, Canfield was not included on the roster. Although the tracks continued past the property until the final dismantling of the route in early 1938, the Canfields could no longer call on passing trains and, presumably, their siding was removed or left to decay.

The fate of the Canfield family is also not entirely known. Samuel married Alice Marion Butler in June 1903. Samuel and Alice moved to San Francisco later in life where he predeceased her. Alice lived until October 1972, dying at the age of 97.  William Canfield remained active in San Benito County to 1919, at least. He was responsible for a short-lived campground installed at Pinnacles National Monument. Nothing is known about his spouse or his date of death, but he did have at least one son who died in 1964. The Canfield brothers have no known relationship with the Canfields of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Official Railroad Information:
Canfield only appeared on official timetables in 1907 and 1908. On these tables, it was noted as 5.5 miles from San Juan Junction, the official end-of-track, which made it 4.5 miles from Chittenden. However, these very clean measurements were entirely off. In reality, Chittenden was only 2.3 miles away along the right-of-way, confirming that the length of the line was 8.0 miles, not the 10.0 the railroad advertised it as.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.875˚N, 121.554˚W

The site of Canfield can be found along the San Juan Highway directly across from its intersection with San Justo Road. The site itself is unmarked but the stop would have been located near the intersection of Anzar Road and San Justo Road. Indeed, everything along San Juan Highway on the west, from the south side of Anzar Road to the southern end of the Berkley Operations and Earthbound Farm complex (on the east side of the road) constituted the Canfield property. Their western boundary was the hillsides. Nothing remains of their ranch now except agricultural fields.

Citations & Credits:
  • Daily Independent Journal (San Rafael), 10/05/1972.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Hollister Free Lance, 02/18/1887.
  • Robertson, Donald B. Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: Vol 4: California.  Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers, 1998.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel Evening Sentinel, 1903 – 1913.

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