John Vonderlin: The Dobbels of Purisima (Part I)

Story by John Vonderlin

Email John: [email protected]

Hi June,
As you mentioned in your Henry Dobbel postings on HMBM, Purissima seemed to rise and fall with Mr. Dobbel’s fate. I’ve gathered a pile of short newspaper articles about Henry and the rest of his family, that give us insight into that rise and fall, and what was going on in Purissima during its heyday.
The following obituary, for John Dobbel, one of Henry’s sons, contains a lot of information about his family. It was in the June 16th, 1902 issue of “The San Francisco Call.” It reads:
DOBBEL — In Purissima, San Mateo County, June 35, 1902, John C,  beloved son of the
late Henry and Margaret Dobbel. and brother of Henry, August A.. William F. and Charles H. Dobbel and Mrs. R. Rohde and Mrs. H. Kluver, a native of Mount Eden, Cal., age 43 years and 17 days.
Friends and acquaintances are respect-fully invited to attend the funeral services
Tuesday, at 1:30 o’clock, at the residence of George Shoults.
Interment Purissima Cemetery.”
This next article is from the August 31, 1868, issue of  the “Sacramento Daily Union.” In a column titled,  “By the Atlantic Cable,” it was mentioned that:
“John Purcell has sold his rancho on the Purissima, near Half-moon bay, in this county tor the sum of $32,000. The ranch contains 907 acres of as fine farming land as there is on this coast. Henry Dobbel of Alameda county is the purchaser. We understand that Purcell has purchased the property of Peter Wolfe at San Mateo, paying therefor the sum of $6,000.”
This next article is mysterious at this time, but as it may be relevant to the movement of the Dobbels to Purissima. After they bought. the huge ranch described above, just three months later this advertisement appeared. What Mr. Dobbel’s connection to J. H. Moyer or Frederick Von Roenn is, I don’t know at this time.
It appeared in the December 24, 1868, issue of “The Daily Alta,” under the Public Auctions heading.
“OLNEY & CO., BROADWAY, In the city of Oakland, Alameda County, all the right, title, interest and estate of the said decedent at the time of his death, and all the right, title and interest that the estate has by operation of law or otherwise acquired other than or in addition to that of the said decedent at the time of his death, in and to all those certain lots of land situate in the said city of Oakland, and described as follows, to wit: Lot number twenty-six (26) in Block number fifty-four (54). as laid down on the Kellersberger Map of Oakland. Also, lots numbers twenty- four (21), twenty-five (25) and twenty-six (16), in Block number sixty-fix (60), as laid down on said map; together with the improvements thereon. TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF SALE-Cash, ten per cent, of the purchase money to be paid to the Auctioneer on the day of sale; balance on confirmation of sale by said Probate Court. Deed at expense of purchaser. FREDERICK VON ROENN, HENRY DOBBEL, Executors of the estate of J. H.. Moyer, deceased. de24-td”
Within a few years this article appeared in the May 5th, 1877, issue the “Pacific Rural Press.” This was a brilliant strategy on Mr. Dobbel’s part, choosing to grow a valuable niche crop, well-suited to the ecosystem of his new coastal ranch.
“SAN MATEO. Canary Seed.— People’s Journal, April 28: H. Dobbel, of Purissima, has an immense crop of canary seed, nearly 100 acres growing. It looks very promising. This is a valuable crop when the seed can be protected from the birds. On the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers the attempt to raise it is seriously embarrassed by the millions of small birds, chiefly blackbirds, that prey upon it. On the coast, exemption from this difficulty will in time lead to its extensive cultivation.”
To understand how far Mr. Dobbel’s forward thinking was, and how long it took for others to follow this path, consider this Internet blurb about Canary Seed.
“Canary seed (Phalaris canariensis), or annual canary grass, is a major component of feed mixtures for caged and wild birds. It is native to southern Europe and the Middle East. In North America, commercial production of Canary seed started in the U.S. after World War II and was concentrated in Minnesota and North Dakota.”
Mr. Dobbel was also astute enough to know a good Rice Burner when he saw one. He bought two of them, and probably got a free subscription of the PRP, for his testimonial in the April 19th, 1884, issue of the “Pacific Rural Press.”
“Am satisfied the Rice Straw Burning Engine is the best in the market. Have had two of them, and would not take any other make as a gift, as long as I can use the Rice.
H. Dobbel”
But Mr. Dobbel  had bigger plans then bird seed, or straw burning, as this short mention in the “Sacramento Daily Union,” issue from  May 25th, 1885, relates. In the ‘Pacific Coast Items” column it states:
“Borers on the Dobbel oil ranch, above Pescadero, have just completed one well, having struck oil at a depth of 500 feet, and they are preparing to sink another one near by.”
“Alas, while “Black Gold,” was seemingly burning brightly in his economic dreams, a dark fog shrouded his family’s lives when his wife died just three months later. The September 6, 1885, issue of “The Daily Alta,” in the Obituary column, published:
“In Purissima, San Mateo county, September 3, Margaretha L., wife of Henry Dobbel, aged 58 years, 11 months and 24 days. Funeral to-day, at 2 P. M. from her late residence.”
Still, little more then a year later this article in the Sept. 11, 1886, issue of “The Daily Alta” announced the incorporation of the:  Confidence Oil Company  Object, to prospect for, and deal in Petroleum. Capital stock, $250,000 at 10,000 shares. Directors: Justin Gates, J.D. Bodwell, Henry Dobbel, W.H. Davis, and H.B. Mayhew.”
That was a particularly busy day as the same issue of the newspaper announced:
“The Purissima Water Company  Object, to supply the inhabitants of the village of purissima, San Mateo County, with water. Directors: Henry Doble, (sic) John Hutts, Geo. Shoults, John Campbell, R. Rhode. Capital $70,000 in 700 shares.”
Despite all these ambituous plans, or perhaps because of, a sad notice headlined FOR SALE, TO CLOSE AN ESTATE,

appeared just four years later in the “San Francisco Call’s”  May 24, 1890, issue. Henry died the next year, two days after Christmas. More on this soon. Enjoy John
The Following Property, Situated in San Mateo County, Near Halfmoon Bay : RANCH of 577 acres, fenced and cross-fenced, well watered, fine barns, etc.; 273 acres level, balance rolling lands: 70 acres in wheat, 109 acres in barley, 20 acres in hay, 23 acres in potatoes and 85 acres in peas; fully stocked and equipped.
FOR SALE 10  …..And A  RANCH of 159 acres, adjoining the town of Halfmoon Bay: 69 acres level and balance rolling land; good dweillng-house and outhouses and large barn.  And A large general merchandise store, completely stocked, having a good steady trade. “….And 300 HEAD HORNED STOCK and a THRASHING MACHINE and a complete, and large quantity of farming tools of every description. For particulars and terms apply immediately to JOHN A. WALL, Attorney-at-Law, Rooms 10, 11 and 13, 220 Sansome St., X Or WILLIAM and AUGUST DOBBEL, Halfmoon Bay. San Mateo County,


All rights reserved. For more information about this system, pleas
For particulars and terms apply immediately to JOHN A. WALL, Attornoy-in-Law, Rooms 10, 11 and 13, 220 Sansome St.,  Or WILLIAM and AUGUST DOBBEL, Halfmoon Bay. San Mateo County