Friday, July 18, 2014


Yellowbank Station according to an Ocean Shore Railroad
survey map from 1912. (UC Santa Cruz)
The railroad tracks in the area between Laguna Creek and Liddell Creek hug the ocean quite closely in parts. But no place was closer than the site of the Yellowbank dairy. The dairy was nestled on the bluff above Respini Creek, which was later renamed Yellow Bank Creek, on property of the old Rancho Arroyo de la Laguna. As mentioned in the article on Lagos, Rancho Laguna was originally granted to a certain Mexican settler named Gil Sanchez and then sold to the Williams brothers, early pioneers of the Davenport area. The later name of the creek was due to the yellow (and, to a lesser extent, blue) cliffs made of a certain type of mudstone and sandstone fusion unique to the area (indeed, unique to the world). The beach and the outlet of the so-named creek were also slightly yellowed during certain times of the year because of this sediment.

A Swissman named Jeremiah Respini (after which the creek originally took its name) purchased a part of the Rancho Laguna—probably from the Williams brothers in the early 1880s—and built a small dairy there. Over the next twenty-odd years, it was enlarged to become the Yellow Bank Creek Dairy, a not insignificant operation along the north coast. In 1901, the property of Respini and a neighbor, Louis Moretti, were joined together in a formal incorporation, thus founding the Coast Land & Dairy Company. The company included five separate dairies with around 800 cattle while also growing hay. Their products were sold mostly in San Francisco.

For fifteen years the company thrived under Respini's and Moretti's leadership. The company helped build the town of Davenport and it provided many of the jobs for the non-cement employees. In 1912, they sold a portion of the land to the City of Santa Cruz to provide water to the city (it still provides the city with roughly 20% of its water). But World War I began in 1914 and the two men, who were both Swiss, realized that they had to leave. Swiss men were not allowed to serve in any foreign military, and neither had apparently renounced their Swiss citizenship. Moretti, the senior of the partners, moved with his family in 1915. Respini and others moved soon after. Thus the company found itself with most of its leadership in Switzerland and the property being managed by local supervisors.

The Coast Line Railroad, when it passed through the area in 1906, ignored Yellow Banks, seeking instead to gain the advantage at Davenport. But the Ocean Shore set up a small flag-stop there—named "Yellowbank"—8.9 miles north of Santa Cruz, for waiting passengers and, possibly, waiting boxcars. A freight platform was installed on the west side of the double tracks, though no siding or spur were present. Two picnic stops were also located on the grounds, one at Team Beach and the other at Yellow Bank Beach, both serving passengers wishing to take a dip in the ocean along the windswept cliffs of the North Coast. Most of the Coast Dairies' products were shipped over this line through to the closure of the route in 1920. After this date, products were shipped via auto truck.

The dairies thrived through the 1920s but declined as the Great Depression coupled with stricter health code laws made it increasingly difficult to produce dairy products along the North Coast. The company continued to struggle for the next eighty years under distant Swiss leadership. Various attempts to make money off the land—from oil wells, to a power plant, to the UCSC campus, to a housing development—failed and then state laws came in making it even more difficult to dispose of the land. In 1996, it was finally sold to Bryan Sweeney of the Nevada & Pacific Coast Land Company, but it cost him more than he could chew. Various organizations, working together, freed him of his burden and the entire property became the core component of the new Coast Dairies State Park, one of the newest state parks in the system and one that has yet to be fully developed.

As a footnote, the large bisected beach at the mouth of Yellow Bank Creek was historically known as Yellow Bank Beach. At some point in the 1970s, visitors to the beach noticed on the stripped walls of the cliffs the visage of a black (or blue) cat. In all truth, this image probably appeared in one of the mudstone veins that named the beach to begin with. Nevertheless, the old name was quickly discontinued and the name was rechristened "Panther Beach".


  • "Coast Dairies Property: A Land Use History", Coast Dairies Long-Term Resource Protection and Use Plan: Draft Exiting Conditions Report for the Coast Dairies Property, Section 1.0. <> (Accessed 18 July 2014).
  • Donald Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
  • Gary Griggs, "Our Ocean Backyard: Yellow Bank Beach", Santa Cruz Sentinel, 6 September 2013 <> (Accessed 18 July 2014).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Derek for answering a longstanding question I had, not being a Santa Cruz County
    resident. I never knew what the "panther" in Panther Beach referred to. However, more
    importantly, I continue to be so pleased with the work you have put into regarding all
    of these obscure stations on the Ocean Shore Southern Division! Just fascinating! Keep up
    the good work!


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