Alongside Mount Hermon Road near its junction with Graham Hill Road in Felton, it is immediately apparent that there is a large meadow to the west, a meadow often frequented by horses.
The area was originally wooded until the Kent Brothers cut down all the redwood trees in the 1880s. When finished, the Kents parceled out the land, selling it to Ida Rountree, among others.
Horses only became associated with the property in 1906 when Phebe Mason Rideout, heir to the vast Rideout banking firm, purchased the property from Rountree for an amazing $5.
Rideout immediately began turning the property into a dude ranch with its boundaries sandwiched between the top of the hill and the San Lorenzo River. For the next 30 years, Rideout taught interested parties how to ride and love horses.
To the west of the ranch, situated between the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks to Boulder Creek and the river, a property developer built the Bonny Brae residential subdivision in 1912 along what would become San Lorenzo Way.
A railroad stop was installed for the subdivision and it was conveniently placed right outside Rideout’s ranch, inadvertently providing her ranch with direct railroad access. A new bridge was also installed across the San Lorenzo River to connect the subdivision with Highway 9. The bridge still stands there today.
A lack of passenger and freight traffic along the railroad led to the Boulder Creek Branch’s closure in 1934, while illness forced Rideout to sell her ranch.
George Knight eventually purchased it in March 1937, renaming the property Rose Acres Dude Ranch and Riding Stables. While Rideout had limited patronage to her ranch, Knight turned it into a more formalized riding school, continuing a tradition he had begun in Watsonville a decade earlier.
Knight ran the school for at least two decades until finally selling it to the Hewlett-Packard Corporation, who turned it into the Rohn Oak Camp, a private company retreat. In 1969, Hewlett-Packard sold it to a Christian group under the advice of Lee Zumwalt, a local Felton resident and member of the Christian community group. The camp incorporated as the Daybreak Christian Camp in April 1970. It has been operating at the site ever since, purchasing the meadow beside Mount Hermon Road in September 2000.
- Derek Whaley is a local historian specializing in the railroading past of Santa Cruz County. For more information, visit his website at http://www.SantaCruzTrains.com/.