Three Families of Tres Ojos de Agua

Although many people over the centuries have used the land and water of this former Mexican rancho, three will be highlighted here: the family of the original grantee, Italian sailor Nicholas Dodero; the family of west coast financier and executive, Charles Caldwell Moore, who built a grand estate on the property; and the family of computer science Professor Harry D. Huskey, whose son Doug and his wife Anna live and farm there today.

The Dodero’s

In 1827, Nicholas Dodero, 23, left his ship in San Francisco and was sent to Monterey. Two years later he was living in San Jose. In 1832 he married Josefa Higuerra at the Mission Santa Clara. Four of their nine childen were born in San Jose. Nicolas became a naturalized citizen of Mexico over the hill at the Villa de Branciforte in 1840 and became a merchant and money lender. In 1844 Governor Michaeltorena granted him the Rancho Tres Ojos de Agua and after the American acquisition of California the U.S. government confirmed his title in 1866.
Nicholas and Josefa had nine children but only the boys received an education. Nicholas himself got into trouble over his money lending and in 1857 he was jailed for beating his wife. In later years he suffered from delusions and was confined at Stockton Hospital from 1857 until his death at age 64 in 1866. His widow Josefa, born in 1810 in California, lived until 1883. The year before that she parceled out most of the property to her children, retaining a homestead of 20 acres.

The Moore’s

Over the years the smaller parcels of the former rancho passed through many hands, but larger portions came into the possession of the families of Nelson A. Bixby, Henry Meyrick, and Charles Caldwell Moore. Moore was born in New York but spent part of his youth in Soquel. His parents had an interest in the Porter Tannery in Porter Gulch. His personal career grew from a $50-a-month job as an apprentice in a San Francisco machine shop when he was recognized as a mechanical genius. He married the daughter of a Los Angeles millionaire, L.M. Breed, became a director of Babcock and Wilcox, manufacturers of steam boilers, and directed the building of most of the large power plants on the West Coast and in Hawaii. C.C. Moore acquired the Tres Ojos property from Meyrick, and set out to create a palatial estate there. He stocked its stream with trout and ponds with colorful carp, created a waterfall with rocks, and entertained 30 or 40 guests every weekend from June to October.
The old house that came with the property was removed to the rear of the estate, and Moore built a new, large rustic house and a spacious Casino, designed by Julia Morgan, for entertaining. He became president of the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco and hosted at his Santa Cruz estate such notables as William Jennings Bryan, during whose visit a redwood tree was planted and dedicated to Peace.

The original C. C. Moore Casino

The Huskey’s

C.C. Moore’s fine estate passed to the Rittenhouse family, divided between a brother and sister. In 1966, Berkeley professor Harry D. Huskey took a sabbatical leave, spending half the time at MIT in the home of linguist Noam Chomsky and half at the new campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz. Harry thought it was like having a university in a national park and asked to be transferred there. From the Rittenhouse sister he acquired a five-acre parcel of the former Rancho Tres Ojos de Agua, including the casino remodeled into a quite livable house. Harry made his own additions to its architecture.
Several years later, after the death of his wife, Velma, Harry sold the southern part of the estate to Maynard Manson, and the north to his son, Harry Douglas Huskey, Jr. (Doug), then an executive at Seagate, and his wife, the former Anna Haulenbeek. They raised their children Jacob and Noelle there and now farm it as well.

– Richard A Dwyer

Rancho Tres Ojos de Agua – Three Eyes of Water


Tres Ojos de Agua (the three eyes of the water) was named for the three springs in the upper westside of Santa Cruz, California: the spring at the Kalkar quarry at the upper end of Spring Street, the spring at Messiah Lutheran Church and the spring at Westlake pond.

This site has been created as a community resource to highlight stories from the early history of Santa Cruz, especially the upper west-side neighborhood. The original Rancho Tres Ojos de Agua consisted of 176 acres in a triangle shape. The point of the triangle is at Mission Hill Junior High School, the eastern border stretches to Harvey West Park and the Western border stretches up Laurent and Spring Streets to a point just below Coolidge drive on the UCSC campus.

Tres Ojos de Agua Farm & Garden

View of the farm house from the garden.

Tres Ojos de Agua is a one acre farm located in Santa Cruz on Highland Ave near UCSC and Spring St. The land has been in the family since 1967 and was the neighbor to the Cowell Ranch in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This land has been called Tres Ojos de Agua (Three Eyes of Water or Three Springs) since 1844, when it was one of the original Spanish land grants in Santa Cruz. The Italian settlers were fortunate to find three year round springs to water their 200 acre ranch and now our 1 acre garden. We are in our third year since resurrecting the old farm and continuing the rich agricultural heritage of this land. Currently we are growing flowers, including several varieties of sunflowers and Provence Lavender. We are blessed with a rich dark sandy clay loam soil, clean abundant water and the patience for starting a small farm within the city limits of Santa Cruz. We are non-certified organic and use no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers on our products.