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HISTORY OF CAL POLY
STORY BY CRISTINA SIERRA
(Originally published in OPUS, no.28 (Spring 1978) p.30-33.
From an Arabian horse ranch to part of the University of California to Army property and finally to part of the California State Polytechnic University, the land on which Cal Poly sits has this diverse background, known by very few on campus and in the community.
Will Keith Kellogg started his own company in 1906 in Battle Creek, Mich. and found instant success with Corn Flakes. In the book "The Kellogg Arabian Ranch - The First Fifty Years," by Mary Jane Parkinson, Kellogg is described as "a man in a hurry." He was concerned about his career. He was restless; driven by energy and ambition barely controlled.
In the early 1920s W.K. Kellogg made the trip to the Pomona Valley to visit a niece. It was at this time that he became captivated by the area and decided he would choose a site in California for his Arabian horse ranch.
Why Kellogg's interest in Arabian horses? A legend disclosed in Horace B. Powell's biography of Kellogg seems to be the accepted explanation. When Kellogg was a young boy his family owned an old horse named Spot. This horse became a fast friend and playmate to the Kellogg children. The older children used to clutch the horse's girth below and ride underside and upside down. One day a neighbor watching the children asked them, "Don't you know that horse is an Arabian?"
This statement by the neighbor led Kellogg to believe that an Arabian horse should not be treated in the way they played with Spot. When Kellogg's father sold Spot, Kellogg was heartbroken and vowed that someday he would own a whole stable of Arabian steeds.
At the time Kellogg initiated plans for the horse ranch, his attitude was illustrated in his statement, "I do not expect to ever make any money out of these Arabs, but I expect to have some good times with them."
According to Parkinson, Kellogg chose Pomona as the site for his Arabian horses after some serious land looking from Ventura to Pomona.
Local legend says that as the choice of the ranch site was narrowed, Pomona was selected on a flip of a coin. Kellogg and one of the leaders of his church made a trip from Pomona to Santa Barbara to choose the site. One day they stopped the car on a dusty road where Kellogg threw a penny into the air saying, "Heads, it's Pomona; tails, it's Santa Barbara." Heads it must have been.
In May of 1925 the front page of the Pomona Progress announced that Kellogg had purchased 377 acres of land from Cecil George, Spadra rancher and son-in-law of Louis Phillips, the first Anglo in the Pomona Valley.
Development plans for the property, according to the Pomona Progress, included establishment of a stud of Arabian horses. Part of the estate was to be planted in walnut trees, while extensive foliage was to transform almost the entire acreage into a veritable paradise.
In April 1930, Kellogg purchased an additional 425 acres adjoining the ranch. The total acreage of the ranch became slightly over 800 acres.
The Kellogg ranch became famous all over the world for its Arabian horses. At one time Rudolf Valentino came to the ranch requesting to ride one of the horses in a few scenes of one of his movies.
Almost from the time Kellogg purchased the ranch in 1925 he began work on plans toward a trust or some type of arrangement which would insure perpetuation of the ranch and horse program.
Professor Gordon H. True of the University of California was aware of Kellogg's intentions and in April, 1926 he wrote Kellogg a letter suggesting the ranch be turned over to the university to breed Arabian horses.
True's efforts proved profitable when in March, 1931 Kellogg's attorney prepared a trust instrument specifying conditions under which the ranch could become part of the University of California.
A few modifications were made to the arrangement by the request of the Board of Regents of the University of California.
Once again the Pomona Progress Bulletin disclosed major news to the public regarding the Kellogg ranch. On April 16, 1932, the paper stated that the ranch was to be turned over to the University of California and was to be under the management of the college of agriculture.
In addition to the land, Kellogg donated $600,000 to the university to perpetuate goals of the ranch and the breeding program. The official presentation of the ranch and endowment fund was made in May, 1932, an occasion that brought thousands of people to the ranch. Movie star Will Rogers was the master of ceremonies at the event.
Kellogg had been suffering from poor health, including deteriorating eyesight but continued to make visits to the ranch. He had kept possession of the large mansion on the ranch.
Kellogg returned to the ranch in May 1936 only to discover it in poor condition. Fences were down and weeds were up. Unhappy with the state of affairs on the ranch, he called it "a disgrace to the name Kellogg." Kellogg felt that the University of California had failed to accomplish the goal for which the ranch was donated, that of creating a school of animal husbandry.
Almost immediately after returning from his stay on the ranch Kellogg contacted the university personnel and his attorney who had helped with the transfer of the ranch to the university. Kellogg had attorneys investigate the possibility of redeeding the ranch back to him or turning it over to The California Institute of Technology. Kellogg's interest in Cal Tech dated back to 1931 when he endowed the W.K. Kellogg Radiation Laboratory to the institution.
Kellogg's attempts to reclaim ownership of the ranch seemed futile as the Board of Regents of the university were unwilling to give up the land.
During this period Kellogg continued to lose his eyesight. Late in January, 1940, he had surgery on his eyes to help slow down the glaucoma. His blindness was nearly total.
In July, 1941 Kellogg received a copy of the letter written to the Board of Regents from the US Army expressing an interest in the Arabian horses for a small Arabian stud at Fort Reno.
Kellogg responded personally to the US Army by allowing them to take three of his own horses. Soon after he went to work on a proposal whereby the ranch would be turned over to the Remount branch of the US Army.
Meetings, offers and counter offers marked the negotiations in Kellogg's attempt to get the university to turn the ranch over to the Army.
1943 brought another change of ownership of the ranch. On March 15, the president of the Kellogg Corporation wired Kellogg that the Board of Regents of the university had decided to give the ranch to the Army. The official transfer of ownership took place in October.
In November of that year the Kellogg Foundation gave the W.C. O'Connor Company of Los Angeles right to sell at public auction, all of the furnishings and draperies now contained in the Main Home on the W.K. Kellogg Ranch.
Donald Pflueger, history professor at Cal Poly recalls: "Because of the high quality of the furniture, it all went at very high prices - or so it seemed to my mother and myself and we came home empty-handed."
The ranch seemed to be in good hands until July 1948 when it was transferred over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture soon lost interest in the Army program at the ranch because of a lack of funds. Under these circumstances a decision was made to sell all the horses, equipment and land
Kellogg, then 88 years old, was quoted by newspaper reporters as being "greatly hurt" by the decision to sell the ranch. He had not been consulted about the decision but had learned about it from the press.
Requests were made to the Department of Agriculture for the land by Mount San Antonio College. The University of California even tried to reclaim the land.
However, the strongest plea was made by Julian A McPhee, President of California State Polytechnic College at San Luis Obispo. He said the college needed a campus that could offer a curriculum covering all phases of agriculture and horticulture.
In the meantime, someone was needed to take care of the ranch while a decision on the ownership was being made. In December, the Kellogg Foundation entered into an agreement with the Department of Agriculture to ensure operation of the ranch until the final decision of the disposition of the land could be made.
A decision was finally made in 1949. On June 4, President Harry S, Truman signed a bill that transferred the ranch and all personal property back to the Kellogg Foundation.
Kellogg wasted no time putting his plans into action In July the Foundation transferred ownership of the ranch to the State of California and on November 1, California State Polytechnic College officially took over the operation of the land. The ranch was to become part of the San Dimas branch of the College.
The San Dimas branch of Cal Poly had been previously owned by Charles B. Voorhis, one of the early executives of General Motors. He purchased the 157-acre ranch in March, 1927 to found a school for underprivileged boys. This school operated until 1936 when Voorhis offered to donate the school to another worthwhile cause. The ranch was transferred in 1938 by great efforts of Cal Poly President McPhee and became known as the Voorhis Unit of Cal Poly.
Thus ends the story of the beginnings of Cal Poly Pomona. Today Cal Poly covers about 1,196 acres of land with schools ranging from English and Modern Languages to Ornamental Horticulture. We are, however, constantly reminded of the past by realizing Kellogg's dream - a permanent home for the Arabian horses.
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