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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Pioneer Family Established Rustic Homestead in Trancas Canyon

•  Early Settlers Encountered Unremitting Wildfires and Floods and the Woes of a Faltering Gold Mine

BY BILL KOENEKER

It was the turn of the century, when Freeman Miles Kincaid was shown some land in Trancas Canyon with a good spring, but better yet the rugged coastal canyon was part of the U.S. Government’s homestead lands and was available if he was willing to work the land and settle on it.
Up until recently, not much was known about the many homesteaders who tried to make a go of it in the Santa Monica Mountains.
However, the National Park Service, which owns thousands of acres in the Santa Monicas, has begun a quite thorough study of some of these hardy people through inspection of government archives and the compilation of oral histories.
The Kincaid family is one such story, whose history has been kept alive by family members. This is a brief version of their own story.
Still a place name on many maps of the west Malibu area, the Kincaid Ranch was born as a 160-acre homestead certified by the feds in 1905.
And the ranchlands grew as Freeman Kincaid or his family members acquired thousands of acres of Trancas Canyon land with brothers, sisters and other family members acquiring or homesteading lands in Encinal Canyon as well.
Kincaid, along with his wife Theresia Grace Valerie, settled on a ridge near a productive spring that overlooks the ocean and is now near what is currently the top of Trancas Canyon Road.
The southern most boundary of the homestead was just mere feet away from the boundary line of the Rancho Malibu owned at that time by the Frederick Ridge family.
Later, Kincaid would become involved in a lawsuit filed by other settlers and homesteaders to secure a legal easement through the Rindge’s coastal property to access Santa Monica or Oxnard.
For many years, the Kincaids and other area families gained access to their mountain land from the north via Ventura Road, currently the 101 freeway.
Like most pioneer families, the Kincaids suffered the hardships of the environment. The first ramshackle cabin was said to have been pummeled to the ground by the fierce Santa Ana winds that easily blow over 90 miles per hour, raking the exposed ridgetop.
In 1935, the house that replaced the cabin burned to the ground during a fierce firestorm, according to news accounts and the family’s recollections.
Family members maintain they would not have made it if it was not for the good graces of May Rindge, who provided them with a place to stay in a line shack owned by the Rindges located near a grove of sycamores still standing today behind the now empty Trancas market.
The late Evelyn Kincaid Lippincott, daughter to Freeman, recalled how the destruction of the 1935 fire “nearly broke my dad’s heart.”
The family rebuilt in 1936 and that house still stands today, having survived the fires of 1956 and 1978.
Kincaid was an educated man, whose father Eugenio owned land in what is today downtown Los Angeles and is credited by some as having planted one of the first orange groves in an area near what is now Pico and Figueroa.
Freeman Kincaid felt equally at home either raising cattle and horses or growing roses.
He also wrote a book of poetry, as well as leading such notable personalities as actor Joel McCrea and director Frank Capra on deer hunting expeditions in the canyon.
The story goes that Kincaid was working at the post office in Hollywood and made no secret of his wish to find a place to start his new family.
The Mason family, who had settled acreage in Arroyo Sequit, was instrumental in showing Kincaid where there was government land for homesteading and a fine spring to raise a family and plant crops.
It was Kincaid’s first introduction to Trancas Canyon, a rugged coastal canyon where there was plenty of game, the steelhead ran in the stream and there was apparently no one else to make a claim.
In what became a big chapter in the family’s life was the discovery of gold on the Kincaid property.
A newspaper account of the find screams headlines that there was gold found in the hills.
A mine was built into the side of a hill, but the expected largesse promised by the original assay of gold flour never materialized.
A vast network of land claims, purchases and land swaps left the Kincaid name on the deeds of thousands of acres of land in Trancas Canyon dwindled as the failed mine ended up costing a fortune rather than producing one.
By the time both parents had died, the land was divided for each sibling to get a piece of the ranch albeit 14- or 15-acre parcels.
Freeman, Jr., Alvin, Evelyn and Joe shared in owning a small piece of the canyon they grew up in.
All of those children have passed away except Alvin, who sold his parcel, and the Kincaid name exists only on title reports and in the photos and memories of their descendants.
Freeman Jr. might have said it best when he uttered the words, “If I knew we were making history, I would have paid more attention.”

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