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Friday, May 19, 2017

Stations: Struve

1913-1914 US Geological Survey map showing Struve.
Like many of the sugar beet-farming families along the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad, the Struves were actually residents of Santa Cruz County but operated a beet plot in Monterey County. Hans Christian Struve, a natives of Denmark came to California via a long voyage from Denmark to China and then to San Francisco, after which he spent years in the mines of the gold country. Following a few more years harvesting lumber near Redwood City, Hans settled in San José briefly and then moved to Pajaro, where he first encountered the bountiful valley. He returned to Denmark in 1865 to marry Cecilia Marie Storm, and the two of them then returned to California and settled on the the Roche Ranch near Watsonville. Four surviving children were quickly born to them, including Peter, Henry, Edward, and Christina.

The Struves quickly became prominent members of Watsonville society, running a general store in town for a number of years and testing various new farming methods on their property. Their property was a mixed farm, ranch, and dairy. Peter, being the eldest, began working with his father from an early age and in the late 1880s purchased a small farm of his own in the Salinas Valley on a small portion of Rancho Rincón de las Salinas—a virtual island in the middle of the Salinas River near its outlet into the Monterey Bay. This 2,220-acre rancho dated to 1833 and was granted to Cristina Delgado. On this property, Peter began growing sugar beets, probably at the instigation of Claus Spreckels. When the Pajaro Valley Railroad passed through the area in 1890, a special spur was extended out to the island which required a short bridge to cross the narrow river channel. US Geological Survey maps from 1913 and 1914 show that this spur exited to the north, giving credence to the idea that it was built prior to the construction of the Spreckels beet refinery outside Salinas. The stop, simply named Struve, was located roughly 13.1 miles from Watsonville Depot and 14.1 from Spreckels. In addition to the spur, the stop also included a wye, probably due to the location of the stop being roughly half-way down the line.

It is unclear when the Salinas Valley farm stopped producing beets but Peter himself moved back to his family home in Watsonville in 1900 when his father retired (Hans died in 1908). Peter himself continued to operate the farm until 1920, when he too retired. Peter leased all his property that year and moved to a small home in downtown Watsonville, where he died in 1925. It seems likely that the Salinas Valley farm, although the spur remained in place until at least 1914, probably ceased its beet operations no later than 1920 and probably many years earlier. The track was removed no later than 1930, when the Southern Pacific Railroad removed all the track of the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad line.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.752˚N, 121.778˚W

The titular ring in Rancho Rincon de las Salinas is mostly dried up now and can be crossed on simple footbridges. The site of Struve Station, once located off Molera Road near its junction with State Route 1, is long gone with no trace of the stop remaining. The right-of-way has been plowed over for agricultural fields, while the farm itself, although still in use, shows no evidence of any century-old relics.

Citations & Credits:
  • History of Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, California : cradle of California's history and romance : dating from the planting of the cross of Christendom upon the shores of Monterey Bay by Fr. Junipero Serra, and those intrepid adventurers who accompanied him, down to the present day. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1925.

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