neighborhoods of san jose

History of Pierce Ranch

Barn with fence.Hay barn at the Pierce Dairy, 2006.

250 acres tucked against the foothills on the northern edge of the New Almaden mines, on McAbee Road, in the Almaden valley.  McAbee creek runs through the property’s southern edge.  This area was sparsely settled during the Spanish and Mexican period in San José, being several miles from the pueblo center.  After California joined the union, surveys of San José designated this land as “Pueblo Tract II,” meaning that the land belonged to the city of San José rather than to an individual.  This designation allowed the city to sell pueblo tracts on the open market. 

In the 1930’s, the land was owned by Dr. Mark F. Hopkins of San José, who used it as a country retreat.  Dr. Hopkins kept horses and used the site as a base for hunting expeditions. 

In 1911, Dr. Hopkins treated a young patient, Tony Pierce, for appendicitis.  Tony’s parents, Anton and Mary, were Portuguese immigrants and farmed in East San José.

White milking building.Pierce Dairy Complex, 2006.

In the early 1940’s, Tony Pierce attempted to dry farm on the doctor’s land.  The parcel was not suitable for dry farming but Tony and his wife Mary saw the potential for a dairy ranch.  They acquired the land in 1947 and started to develop a commercial herd.  The Pierce family built several new barns for milking and hay storage, bunkhouses for the dairy workers, and a new home for themselves.  Children Elaine, Marie, Tony, Joseph and William grew up on the ranch.

The Pierces operated a typical small dairy ranch.  Raw bulk milk was shipped from the dairy to distribution sites for processing.  The herd was gradually increased over the years, reaching a high of 600 head.  The Pierce Ranch, being unusually large, could support this large herd and keep the ranch competitive with larger enterprises. 

Two houses on a street.New homes at Pierce Ranch, 2007.

By the end of the 1970’s, change at the ranch was inevitable.  The prevalence of fortified feed in the dairy industry required a considerable capital investment.  No longer could the small dairy farmer just graze his cattle on what the land provided.  Suburbanization of the Almaden Valley approached the ranch slowly but surely.  The Pierce sons also decided to move to their own land rather than take over the family homestead.  Beginning in 1975, Pierce Ranch’s 250 acres began to be subdivided for housing and the herd was reduced.  In 1974 Pierce Ranch ceased dairy operations.