Contra Costa County











     Within the limits of California few estates approximate the dimensions of Los Meganos rancho, better known as the Dr. John Marsh ranch, which contains thirteen thousand three hundred and sixteen acres, and stretches over an area of six miles from north to south and four miles from east to west.  With its broad fields of wheat and barley as level as the sea, it forms one of the picturesque features of the landscape not to be seen outside of the San Joaquin valley.  With the exception of a comparatively small acreage at the foothills devoted to pasture, the entire tract is under grain, being divided into sections which are rented to thirty-six men with families.  Competent judges assert that no ranch in the state excels Los Meganos in the quality of its wheat.  When tilled to its best advantage and under favorable circumstances the yield is enormous, bring to the owners a large dividend upon the investment.

     The superintendent of this vast property, Robert G. Dean, was born seven miles east of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess county, N.Y., September 8, 1831, and through his parents, Jonathan M. and Helen (Barker) Dean, traced his lineage to pioneer New England ancestry of Revolutionary fame.  In 1836 he was taken by his parents to the then undeveloped regions of Michigan.  His father, after investigating the present site of Chicago, decided that a city could never be built in such a swamp, so returned to Michigan and settled in Michigan City, where he passed the remainder of his days.  At the age of nineteen years Mr. Dean left home for California via the Straits of Magellan on the schooner Francisco, Captain Mayo commanding, and landed in San Francisco January 22, 1850.  After a brief sojourn in Stockton he went to Mariposa county and the southern mines, but in the fall of 1851 left the mines and joined an uncle, Seneca Dean, in the San Joaquin valley.  On this uncle's large cattle ranch he proved an efficient aid.  One of his tasks was the cutting of a crop of native hay that grew in abundance and had been pastured by thousands of elk, antelope and deer.  About this time, in 1858, his uncle decided to take a fine herd of cattle and horses to Salt Lake and there trade them for sore-footers, as the cattle were called that had been driven across the plains.  On this expedition he accompanied his uncle.  When they reached Nevada the Comstock mine excitement was at its height; prices for all supplies were remarkable high, and they availed themselves of the opportunity to sell out at an excellent profit.

     Immediately afterward Mr. Dean went to Lake valley in Eldorado county, and pre-empted a tract of land afterward known as Mack's Station.  Cutting lumber, he built a cabin on the road followed by emigrants from the east.  However, about the time his house was finished, and he had settled down to business, Mr. Mack appeared and claimed that the land belonged to him.  Finally he agreed to pay $3,500 for the improvements Mr. Dean had made, so the latter sold out, and then hired to Mr. Mack at $100 per month, his work being to take charge of a station house for the accommodation of emigrants.  After three months he joined his uncle, Seneca Dean, and William W. Latham, in the building of the Lake House at the south end of Lake Tahoe.  This house, being on the great stage line of toll roads, proved a source of profit until the building of railroads furnished a more rapid means of transit.  They then sold the place and the uncle went to Washington, D.C., where he spent the remainder of his life.

     After his marriage in 1864 to Miss Jerusha H. Martin, a native of East Poultney, Vt., and a well known teacher in the schools of San Francisco, Mr. Dean followed various occupations, including school-teaching and conducting a general store.  In 1870 he settled on a quarter-section of land near Ironhouse Landing, Contra Costa county, and this property he improved and made his home until 1880.  During the latter year he built a warehouse at Brentwood, Contra Costa county, with a capacity of thirty-five hundred tons.  For a time he conducted the business with Messrs. Fish and Blum, but then sold to other parties, and eventually the property was acquired by the California Wharf & Warehouse Company, Mr. Dean being retained as superintendent of the warehouse.  In addition he superintends the company's large warehouse at Byron, Contra Costa county, where R. Vanderhoof acts as his assistant.  At the same time he has charge of Los Meganos rancho.  His many activities indicate versatility of mind as well as unusual enterprise.  In the buying and selling of grain he has been brought into contact with a majority of the people in this part of the state and in this way has not only gained a wide circle of acquaintances, but by reason of his honorable dealings in every transaction has gained the confidence and respect of his associates.  Necessarily his attention is given largely to the management of his interests and those of the company he represents, and he has had little leisure for participation in politics or fraternal organizations, in the latter having membership only in the Odd Fellows' Lodge of Antioch, of which he is Past Grand, and the Independent Order of Foresters of Brentwood.  He has been actively identified with the Grange movement in California, and was organizing deputy of Contra Costa county, and instituted the Alhambra and Walnut Creek Granges, and other institutions of the State Grange.  Through the long period of his residence in California, embracing more than half a century, he has witnessed the growth of the state from its infancy to its present high condition of improvement.  The great west has no champion more loyal than he, and particularly is he devoted to that portion of the country in which he has been identified for so many years, and which has been the scene of his successful labors.





Transcribed 8-4-15  Marilyn R. Pankey.

ญญญญSource: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 721-722. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

2015  Marilyn R. Pankey.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library