by Lynn P. Kirst
he property is blessed with natural artesian wells, which no doubt
drew Chumash natives as a freshwater source. The natural water
features provided the property’s name: Rancho Las Fuentes, romantically
translated as “Ranch of the Flowing Springs.” Its recorded history begins
in August 1769, when Gaspar de Portolá arrived in present-day Santa
Barbara, claiming the land for the Spanish Crown. And thus it belonged
to the King of Spain until Mexico gained its independence,
transferring the Spanish lands to its newly formed
Mexican Republic proclaimed in 1822.
Birnam Wood Before the Golf Club
Few golfers hitting balls across the greens and fairways of BirnamWood Golf Club realize what a storied property they are traversing.
The clubhouse, which most people know was converted from a lemon packing house, is the remaining centerpiece of a former rancho with a colorful story.
Most of the names and faces associated with its past – Spanish, American, Polish, French, English, Scottish – have been obscured by the passing decades,
but their historic links are still worthy of remembering.
In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, negotiated to end the Mexican-
American War of 1846-48, Mexico ceded all land north of the Rio Grande
to the United States. So in 1848, the “Town of Santa Barbara” gained
ownership of the property, through a patent granted by the American
government confirming the title to the town.
A decade passed before its first American settlers, Newton and Catherine
Mackey Coates, bought Las Fuentes Ranch. Hardy pioneers, they had
traveled from Missouri to California in a covered wagon. They may
have lived on the ranch for a short time