The history of the area occupied by Casa Dos Rios and the surrounding area goes back centuries. About 1,000 indigenous people seasonally inhabited the approximately 50 acre area surrounded by Uvas Creek, Little Arthur Creek and the hill to the North as well as the area just to the East of Uvas Creek (named for the native wild grapes growing in the in the creekbed). Evidence indicates that the site was inhabited as early as 3,000 years ago.The people would have lived well off the land with fresh year-round water, Steelhead Trout, berries, nuts and game found up Redwood Valley and in the surrounding Santa Cruz Mountains.
It is assumed that the people moved down into the Coyote Valley during times of low bug infestation in order to plant and harvest crops of root plants and to hunt the wildlife there. Controlled burns might have been used as a tool for increasing visibility in order to increase hunting success and allow crops to flourish.
This also would have prevented massive fires from occurring, as the underbrush would have been kept at a minimum. Remains of the village include a refuse dump which is located at the Northeast corner of the intersection of Little Arthur and Uvas Creeks. The remains of the dump, referred to as midden, consists of biological material from village life.
By 1796 most indigenous peoples were taken from local areas to the Spanish missions such as the ones in Santa Cruz and Monterey (Mission San Juan Bautista and Mission San Jose were not yet built). The removals were often brutal, with some shot in the effort. Those that made it to the missions were made to talk nothing but Spanish and to practice nothing but Catholicism. Those that were caught practicing the old ways were shot. Many died of diseases that were brought with the settlers. The missionaries noted that the the people that lived in the area of Casa Dos Rios referred to themselves as “th tac” or “chitac”, so they called them the “Chitactac” people. The Chitactac are now known as the Amah Mutsun tribe of the Ohlone Indians. Over time, many Amah Mutsun relocated to San Juan Bautista, which is currently home to about 600 Amah Mutsun.
In 1828 El Rancho Solis (pronounced Soh-leece) was formed, following California’s independence from Spain. It contained 8,875 acres and covered hill and dale between Gilroy and Mt. Madonna, including the area associated with Casa Dos Rios. The name Solis may have come from Juan Diaz de Solis, co-discoverer of the Amazon; from Antonio Solis y Ribadeneyra, poet and historian; or perhaps from Juaquin Solis, who was sentenced to “Upper California” for serious crimes. In 1829 Juaquin Solis led an uprising in Monterey against the Mexican Government. He was stripped of all his possessions and returned to Mexico, penniless. He died a few years later, destitute. Whichever Solis was the true occupant of the land, the land was only held by Solis for 18 months.
In 1834, El Rancho Solis was granted to Mariano Castro by Governor Figueroa. In 1843 Alfred Chappell purchased El Rancho Solis.
John Hicks Adams purchased El Rancho Solis in 1853. In 1856 he donated a small portion of the land (on the east side of Uvas Creek and adjacent to Casa Dos Rios) for the one-room Adams School. It was attended by local children and the children of migrant workers, making it one of the first “integrated” schools in the county. It was also used as a community center. In 1953, the Adams Schoolhouse burned to the ground , while the bathroom was saved. Adams was elected Sheriff of Santa Clara County in 1863 and moved to San Jose. He held this position for three successive terms until March, 1876. During his terms, he was made famous by his capture of the notorious outlaw, Vasquez. Sometime after he left for his duties, El Rancho Solis was broken up into smaller parcels.
Around 1905, it is rumored that Italians took ownership of the land around Casa Dos Rios and up the Redwood Valley and grapes for the San Francisco wine market. The story is that they missed Italy and started to ship olive trees over on the ships along with the Chianti grape vines. They planted these trees up and down Redwood Valley, surrounding their plantings of grapevines. These 100+ year old trees still exist on many properties in the area, including Casa Dos Rios.
On May 12, 1919 Anna Luisa White purchased the 53.2 acres of land which approximates the location of the original Amah Mutsun village and includes Casa Dos Rios. Sometime after this, a man named Mr. Clark purchased the land and was known to grow Cherignon (a filler grape), Grenache, and Mission grapes (used for sacramental wine during the prohibition) on the land. At this point, it is not certain whether he planted these grapes or whether these were grapes planted by the rumored Italians in prior years.
In 1966, 13 years after the Adams School burned down, the previous school site property was turned into a roadside rest stop on Watsonville Rd., with the original bathrooms from the school being renovated.
Around 1978, Pasadena real estate developer Ray Freschi purchased the 53.2 acres mentioned above for recreational purposes after stopping and chatting with Mr. Clark while he was working the vineyard. He already owned a 450 acre ranch on Redwood Retreat Road which he had purchased with a business associate in the 1960's. The ranch was used for family and business getaways. He was enchanted with the old vineyard (estimated to have been planted around 1900) and the creeks on the land. He built a large barn complete with double electronic doors and housed his large collection of 15 antique carriages and wagons along with two matched Percherons and a foursome of matched Welsh Lobs. A caretaker also lived on the property. Mr. Freschi threw parties where guests would be carried in the carriages and wagons around the property. Mr. Freschi contacted a professor at either San Jose State or Stanford University (can't recall which) to report findings of indian artifacts on the property. This led to restrictions on the use of several acres of land.
Mr. Larry J. Willard purchased the 53.2 acres in December, 1981, and signed into effect with the County of Santa Clara a Prehistoric and Historic Archaeological Preserve on the property. Some of this preserve is on Casa Dos Rios property. In November, 1993, in preparation for selling the land, which he divided into 7 pieces, Willard established the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions for “Le Vignoble Estates”, which he named the property. Casa Dos Rios is a part of “Le Vignoble Estates”. The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions contains an interesting paragraph which encourages the use of native trees and shrubs in landscaping and prohibits invasive species, requiring homeowners to control or eliminate exotic weeds.
There are three types of petroglyphs at the former Adams School site; concentric circles, cupules and Pect Curvilinear Nucleated’s (or PCN’s). Both concentric circles and cupules are found worldwide. Concentric circles are a type of petroglyph which is formed by pecking or abrading circles within circles on a large rock using a stone tool. Sometimes they have a central cupule. They are the most common type of petroglyph at the school site (occurring on 10-12 boulders) and are considered significant because they are the most southerly occurrence of the pecked style. Many of those at the park can only be seen in certain lighting. The Adams School site is also the only Coastal Range site where concentric circles are the only style on the stones. They can also be found on sites in Marin County and San Benito County along with others styles. Painted concentric circles are found at sites to the South at Hunter-Ligget Military Reservation and in the Chumash Areas of Kern, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. In Europe, concentric circles are referred to as cup and ring. Cupules are small 1-2” round carved dips in the boulders. Always smooth on the edges, they are found on two boulders at the school site. In other locations, they have been identified as used in both fertility and weather control. PCN’s are an oval shaped stone bowl with an egg shape in relief in the center of the bowl. Currently, there is no ethnoglyphic evidence indicating that anyone alive remembers the exact purpose for the petroglyphs that are found at the school site. Unfortunately, carbon dating of petroglyphs is impossible, as they were created using stone on stone, a method that, unlike rock paintings (known as pictographs), does not leave biological traces with which to date them. In the early 1980’s, students Evelyn Newman and Bob Mark were introduced to the former school site during an art history class given by Dr. John Hestor. They confirmed the existence of two styles of rock art, concentric circles and cupules.
In the late 1980’s graffiti appeared in volume on the large stones at the Adams School site, the result of gang tagging wars. A combined effort spearheaded by Newman and Mark began to transform this archeological site into the park it is today. This combined effort included Native Americans, park planners, archaeologists, rock art conservation specialists and community volunteers.
In the late 1990’s the Santa Clara Valley Parks Department hired Jannie Loubser, a rock art conservator from Georgia, who trained volunteers in the removal of graffiti around the rock art sites. Prior to the park’s opening, Donna Gillette, the county archeologist and others spent months scouring the boulders with tiny tools to remove painted on and carved-in graffiti, which covered the boulders (this effort is ongoing). Also, Chris Carson, a park interpreter, was hired to develop an interpretive program for the park.
Prior to the one year long construction of the park, an archaeological excavation at the Adams School site was led by archaeologists Robert Cartier of Archaeological Resource Management and John Holman of Pacific Legacy. Irene Zwierlein of the Amah Mutsun and Rosemary Cambra of the Muwekma tribelets of the Ohlone Indians were consulted during the project. Several burials were recovered during excavations. The reburial ceremonies were performed under the direction of Irene Zwierlein. In addition, many other artifacts were recovered, including tools, arrowheads and shell beads.
In September, 1998, Chitactac-Adams Heritage County Park was established at the former Adams School site. The purpose of the park is to preserve the former village site of an early Amah Mutsun Ohlone Indian tribe. Such items as petroglyphs, bedrock mortars, PCN’s, cupules, slides (where children may have slid from the top to the bottom of the large rocks) and a birthing chamber remain as evidence of the people that came before. Bedrock mortars (BRMs) are a round or oval “bowl” in a boulder used for grinding Acorns and other edibles and medicines by rubbing a “pestle” in the hole, similar to a mortar and pestle. When there is a low spot on one edge for water drainage, it is known as the “tail”.
One stone that had many petroglyphs on it was located in the creekbed. One winter, it rolled far downstream. Officials were worried about losing the stone and airlifted it to the Mount Madonna Ranger Station, where it was vandalized. In response, officials airlifted the stone to Villa Mira Monte (a historic Morgan Hill residence) where a truck backed up into it. Finally, it was airlifted to its’ final resting place back at the park, where it is the centerpiece of the interpretive hut. I bet that stone could qualify for many frequent flyer miles!
In May, 1998, Robert and Evelyn Klein purchased the land that is now known as Casa Dos Rios. Evelyn is a well-known painter. In 2000, the Kleins completed the Spanish-style house designed by Gary Moore and planted the cabernet sauvignon vineyard. They named the property ‘La Vina’. Robert died unexpectedly in January, 2004.
In June, 2004, Greg and Jean Myers purchased La Vina from Evelyn Klein and changed the name to Casa Dos Rios, meaning ‘house of two rivers’. For the next two years, Jean supervised the eco-friendly interior remodel of the house and the construction of the separate garage structure by Gilroy contractor, Dolan Development. Greg, Jean and their daughter Rebecca moved from Sunnyvale, CA to Casa Dos Rios in April, 2006. On July 15, 2004, county archeologist Donna Gillette confirmed the existence of 8-10 bedrock mortars found earlier by Jean Myers near Little Arthur Creek. These were not counted or listed in earlier maps generated by the County. Later in 2004 Jean located an additional 6 bedrock mortars near Little Arthur Creek.
In December, 2005, Jean Myers supervised the beginning of the hardscaping phase of the Native Garden which was done by Jensen Corporation. This was completed in late 2006 and the softscaping phase was begun by Modern Landscaping in December, 2006. The softscaping phase was completed in June, 2007 and included the House, Upper Riparian, Horseshoe Court, Entry and Border Gardens.
Please contact us with any corrections or additions to this history.