Guide to the Steele Family Collection (1851 – 1971)

Overview +


Collection Number



This collection was assembled by Catherine Baumgarten Steele and Wilfred H. Steele.  It was donated to the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History on an unknown date.


Number of Containers:  Two (2) Boxes
Linear Feet:  1.0 Linear Feet


Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, Archives
705 Front Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060


The Steele Family Collection consists of photographs, ephemera, correspondence, newspaper clippings and photocopied research materials pertaining to the Steele family genealogy, the land in California, and their dairy and farming business.  The bulk of the Collection is secondary source information with only a few original documents.  The Steele Family came to California and purchased a ranch in San Mateo County at Point Año Nuevo near Pescadero in 1855.  There they developed a successful dairy business, and expanded their holdings to include a ranch in San Luis Obispo.  John Steele was the first Steele to come to America from England, settling in Massachusetts in 1631, and was one of the original founders of Hartford Connecticut.  Generations later, descendents of John Steele emigrated to New York, Ohio, and California.  General Frederick Steele told his brothers about the wonders of California.  Brothers Isaac Chapman (I.C.), George B. and Edgar Willis (E.W.) Steele, and their cousin Rensselaer Steele settled in California with their families and became prominent figures in the history of San Mateo, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz Counties.  This Collection contains information pertaining primarily to the California Steeles.  The information was compiled and collected by descendents of the Steele Family, Wilfred H. Steele and Catherine Steele, in an effort to publish a comprehensive family history and genealogy, two copies and a draft of which are included in the collection.

Associated Material

1. Steele Ranch Records 1855-1973, Stanford University, Available from the Online Archive of California.  The collection is a compilation of ranch papers from the Steele Ranches of San Mateo County, California. The papers include financial papers, legal papers, photographs, maps, miscellaneous background notes written by Mrs. Catherine Steele. The collection covers over 100 years of ranching in California.

2. General Frederick Steele Papers 1845-1964 (inclusive) 1862-1868 (bulk), Stanford University, Available from the Online Archive of California.  The collection contains correspondence and papers of General Frederick Steele, as well as maps, copy books, clippings and notes written by Mrs. Catherine Steele.

 3. Año Nuevo State Reserve Collection, University California Santa Cruz.  Includes 13 motion picture reels (16 mm), ca. 325 slides, 11 audio cassettes, clippings, maps, photographs, publications, unpublished articles and papers, and correspondence related to the Año Nuevo State Reserve and other areas of the north coast region of Santa Cruz County, California. The materials represent the work of Catherine B. Steele as well as Burney J. Le Boeuf and come chiefly from the period 1951-1980.


The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, Santa Cruz, CA

Preferred Citation

The Steele Family Collection, The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, Santa Cruz, CA

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the head of Archives at MAH.  Researchers may be responsible for obtaining copyright permission to use material not produced by museum personnel.

Process By

A. Dunning and J. Durant

Date Completed


Scope +

The Steele Family Collection contains research materials and papers, photographs, correspondence, original butter wrappers, and newspaper clippings related to the history of the Steele Family.  The research materials were collected during the 1960s by Catherine Steele and Wilfred H. Steele.  Many are photocopies of documents and information published in other sources that contributed to the completion of their own family history in 1971.  Though the Steele Family lived in New York, Connecticut, and Ohio, much of the information in this collection focuses on the members of the Steele family that resided in California, specifically in Pescadero, San Mateo, and San Luis Obispo Counties.

History +

John Steele (1591-1664), son of Sir Richard Steele, was the first of the Steele family in America.  He immigrated to Massachusetts from England in 1631.  He went on to become one of the founders of Hartford Connecticut.  His descendents continued to emigrate to New York, Ohio, and California.

The first member of the family to come to California in 1849 was General Frederick Steele (1819-1868), a West Point graduate and hero of the Mexican and Civil Wars.  In 1853 he returned to Ohio and told his brothers of the opportunities in California, convincing them to make the journey and settle there with their families.

George Steele (1825-1901) and Rensselaer Steele (1808-1886), his cousin and brother-in-law, came in 1855 settling in Petaluma in Sonoma County.  They were followed a year later by Edgar Willis (E.W.) Steele (1830-1896), his parents, Nathaniel Steele III and Dameras Steele, and the family of Rensselaer.  In 1857 Isaac Chapman (I.C.) Steele (1820-1903) and his family arrived.  The family supported themselves through farming and various odd jobs.  In 1857 George, Rensselaer, E.W. and I.C. leased ranch land in Point Reyes and began their work in the dairy industry.  The brothers quickly began shipping cheese, via boat, to sell in San Francisco and formed the Steele Brothers’ Firm.

The Rancho Punta de Año Nuevo originally in Santa Cruz County was leased, with the option to buy a portion of the land, to the Steele Brothers in 1862, by Clark and Coburn.  Isaac and Rensselaer immediately began construction on what would become Green Oaks and Cascade Ranch on the land that extended from Gazos Creek to the Santa Cruz County line adjacent to what is currently Año Nuevo State Reserve.  The Steele brothers set up five dairies: Pocket Dairy at Pebble Beach Hill; Dairy in Whitehouse Canyon; Green Oaks run by I.C. (the house is now on the National Register of Historic Places of San Mateo County); Cascade run by Rensselaer; and Cloverdale run by E.W.  The dairies main product was cheese, but in the dry season they produced butter.

In 1866 the original lease was up and Clark and Coburn retained control of Pocket Dairy and Cloverdale.  The brothers were able to purchase 7,060 acres, the land from Gazos Creek to the Santa Cruz County line.  Rensselaer remained at Cascade; he later divided his land between his children, Ella and Rensselaer Junior.  Meanwhile the three brothers purchased land in San Luis Obispo.  After legal troubles, much of that land had to be sold, but George and E.W. continued to reside in San Luis Obispo; while Isaac remained at Green Oaks setting up Finney Dairy on his property which was converted to grain in 1875.

I.C. was one of the founders of the Granger’s Bank in San Francisco and was on their Board of Directors.  The Bank eventually failed and I.C. lost a significant investment.  He was also a Master of the State Grange, one of the first directors of the Granger’s Business association, and supervisor of San Mateo County.  He married his cousin, the sister of Rensselaer, Hulda Emeline Steele (1826-1896) and together they had three children Fred N., Effie N., and George H.  In the 1890s he split his remaining land between his three children.  Fred received Green Oaks, George received Año Nuevo Rancho, and Effie received New Years Point Ranch, and continued the dairying business, focusing on butter production.  The Finney Dairy was given to, S.J. Finney, the husband of his sister-in-law, Mary B Steele (sister of Rensselaer and widow of Osman N. Steele, I.C.’s brother, a deputy sheriff shot during anti-rent riots in New York).

Edgar Willis Steele had one son, E.W. Jr., with Emma A. Smith.  He was an incorporator of the San Luis Obispo Water Company and of the Bank of San Luis Obispo and was president of that organization.  He also held the seat of Director of the Granger’s Business Association and a member of the order of Patrons of Husbandry as well as a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Chosen Friends, and the Knights of Honor.  He remained in San Luis Obispo until his death.

George Steele was part of the Steele Brother’s Firm, but remained in Marin County as a practicing lawyer.  He served as the County’s Judge from 1863-1866.  He was elected to the convention that framed the California Constitution, and served on the Judiciary Committee and the committee on Corporations.  After several defeats he was elected as the Republican candidate for State Senator from 1884-1888 from the San Luis District.  He lived on his Ranch in San Luis until his death.

Catherine Baumgarten, married William Steele, the grandson of I.C. Steele and together with Wilfred H. Steele (Another Grandson of I.C. and cousin of William) the two conducted research into the Steele Family History.  Catherine continued to live at Green Oaks Ranch after the death of her husband in 1956, and began efforts to carry out his dying wish to have part of the ranch preserved as a historical site.  Wilfred lived in San Jose and worked for Ford Motor Company.  Their research followed the family origins back to Sir Richard Steele and lead them to Dehli in Delaware County, New York and Hartford, Connecticut.  Catherine gift-deeded the land of Green Oaks to the San Mateo County in 1967 and donated the original papers of General Frederick Steele to the Library at Stanford.


1631    John Steele immigrates to Massachusetts

1849    General Frederick Steele visits California

1855    George and Rensselaer come to California (Petaluma, Sonoma County)

1856    E.W. Steele, Nathaniel Steele III, Dameras Steele, and Rensselaer’s family move   to California

1857    I.C. Steele and family move to California

1857    George, Rensselaer, E.W. and I.C. lease land in Point Reyes; form Steele Brothers Firm; Start dairy business

1862    Lease land on Rancho Punta de Año Nuevo; set up five dairies

1866    Original lease up; brothers purchased 7,060 acres of the land from Gazos Creek to the Santa Cruz County line and continued with dairying and farming

1967    Green Oaks Ranch gifted to San Mateo County by Catherine Baumgarten Steele


Steele, C. B. and Steele, W. H. (1971). The Steeles of Point Año Nuevo:  Their ancestry and kinships. 

Steele, G. H. (1948).  The Steeles of California and their forbearers.

Cunningham, A.  (1967).  Historic old ranch offered to SM County as park.  Palo Alto Times, July 12, 1967.

Arrangement +

This collection is organized into 7 series as follows:

Series I. Photographs, 1854-1971

Subseries A: Green Oaks Ranch, 1854-1971
Subseries B: Research, 1970-1971

Series II: Clippings, 1951-1979

Subseries A: Green Oaks Ranch, 1967-1979
Subseries B: Año Nuevo, 1963-1964
Subseries C: Pescadero – Williamson Store, 1951-1971

Series III: Research Correspondence, 1970-1971

Series IV: Family Research – Individual Family Members

Subseries A: Sir Richard Steele, 1859
Subseries B: John B. Steele, 1866
Subseries C: Major General Frederick Steele, 1864-1971
Subseries D: I.C. Steele, 1893-1904
Subseries E: George B. Steele, 1874-1894
Subseries F: E.W. Steele, 1883
Subseries G: Mary (Steele) Finney and Hulda Emeline Steele, 1874-1881
Subseries H: George H. Steele, 1875-1904

Series V: Genealogies and Publications, 1859-1971

Series VI: Año Nuevo Creamery Butter Wrappers, n.d

Series VII: Captain O.N. Steele’s March (sheet music), 1902

Contents +


Two (2) folders

 Series Scope and Content Summary

This series contains photographs, slides, and ephemera that relate to the history of Green Oaks Ranch and the Steele Family land, as well as the family history research conducted by Wilfred and Catherine.

This series is divided into two subseries.

Subseries I.A  Green Oaks Ranch
Subseries I.B  Research

SUBSERIES I.A.  Green Oaks Ranch (1854 – 1971)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries consists of fourteen photographs from Catherine Baumgarten Steele that depict the Ranch land, structures, and life on the ranch in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  These photographs are accompanied by a list of notes corresponding to each image.  Other photographs include one of the house on a holiday card, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, a plaque celebrating Green Oak Ranch’s membership in the One Hundred Year Club, two saddles, and an aerial view of the property [located in Box #2 (OS)].  This subseries also contains photocopies of a sketch of the house, and a real estate flyer advertising the sale of a portion of the land that once belonged to the Steeles.

Box ID#: Folder #

SUBSERIES I.B.  Research (1970 – 1971)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries contains photographs from Wilfred and Catherine’s research efforts.  Including prints with original slides of the Founders Memorial in Hartford Connecticut, the Masonic Apron, and a drawing of the family coat of arms.

Box ID#: Folder #


One (1) folder

 Series Scope and Content Summary

 This series contains newspaper, newsletter, and journal clippings related to Green Oaks Ranch, Año Nuevo State Reserve, and Pescadero.

 This series is divided into three subseries.

Subseries II.A  Green Oaks Ranch
Subseries II.B  Año Nuevo State Reserve
Subseries II.C  Pescadero – Williamson Store

 SUBSERIES II.A.  Green Oaks Ranch (1967 – 1979)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries contains six articles from local newspapers.  The articles discuss Steele family history, the gifting of the Ranch to San Mateo County, and a lecture by UCSC Graduate student John Selby about the family and the ranch.

Box ID#: Folder #

SUBSERIES II.B.  Año Nuevo (1963 – 1964)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries contains two articles on the state and preservation of the Año Nuevo State Reserve during 1963 and 1964.  The 1963 article from The San Francisco Examiner, Pictorial Living is located in Box #2.

 Box ID#: Folder #

 SUBSERIES II.C.  Pescadero – Williamson Store (1951 – 1971)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries contains 2 articles and a historical journal that discuss Pescadero history and the Williamson store which was run, in part, by a Steele relative.

Box ID#: Folder #


One (1) folder

Series Scope and Content Summary

Throughout their research efforts, Catherine and Wilfred contacted many librarians and masons in California, Wyoming, New York and Connecticut, in an effort to gather information about the Steele family history and share their findings.  This series contains these letters as well as letters written by Wilfred to his children about the progress of his research.  The letters are arranged chronologically.

Box ID#: Folder#


One (1) folder

 Series Scope and Content Summary

This series contains primary and secondary source information on individual Steele family members collected as research materials by Catherine and Wilfred.  The information is divided into subseries by individual family member, chronologically.

This series is divided into eight subseries.

Subseries IV.A  Sir Richard Steele
Subseries IV.B  John B. Steele
Subseries IV.C  Major General Frederick Steele
Subseries IV.D  I.C. Steele
Subseries IV.E  George B. Steele
Subseries IV.F  E.W. Steele
Subseries IV.G  Mary (Steele) Finney and Hulda Emeline Steele
Subseries IV.H  George H. Steele

SUBSERIES IV.A.  Sir Richard Steele (1859)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries contains three photocopies of a reproduction of a painting depicting Sir Richard Steele and his children.

Box ID#: Folder #

SUBSERIES IV.B.  John B. Steele (1866)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries contains two photocopies of a tribute to John B. Steele upon his death in 1866.

Box ID#: Folder #

SUBSERIES IV.C.  Major General Frederick Steele (1864 – 1971)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries contains a newspaper clipping, an invitation, and exhibition guide to the General Frederick Steele Papers exhibit at the Stanford Library.  It also contains a photocopy of an envelope and letter addressed to the General as well as photocopies of biographical information from three different sources.

Box ID#: Folder #

SUBSERIES IV.D.  I.C. Steele (1893 – 1904)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries contains two copies of old lithographs depicting I.C. Steele, a photocopy of biographical information and photocopies of Grangers Bank Association business papers and correspondence.

Box ID#: Folder #

SUBSERIES IV.E.  George B. Steele (1874 – 1894)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries contains photocopies of biographical information on George B. Steele as well as photocopies of a Masonic announcement, a letter from George to one of his brothers, discussing politics, and a letter to George from his sister Effie, updating him on various family happenings.

Box ID#: Folder #

SUBSERIES IV.F.  E.W. Steele (1883)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries contains a photocopy from the History of San Luis Obispo County of E.W. Steele’s biography including a portrait of him.

Box ID#: Folder #

SUBSERIES IV.G.  Mary (Steele) Finney and Hulda Emeline Steele (1874 – 1881)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This subseries contains a photocopy of a Grange obituary for Hulda Emeline Steele.  This series also contains two original letters, one to Hulda from Mary and one to Mary from her deceased husband S.J. Finney.

Box ID#: Folder #

SUBSERIES IV.H.  George H. Steele (1875 – 1904)

Subseries Scope and Content Summary

This series contains two photocopies: one of a third grade report card and another of a biographical sketch of George H. Steele.

Box ID#: Folder #


One (1) folder

Series Scope and Content Summary

This series contains items used as research materials for Catherine and Wilfred as well as the family history that resulted from their research.  There are photocopies of large portions of the two editions (1859 and 1862) of Steele Family: A Genealogical History of John and George Steele by Daniel Steele Durrie.  The series contains a family history report done by George H. Steele as part of a college class in 1948.  Also in this series is a draft as well as two published copies of the 1971 family history compiled by Catherine and Wilfred.  The series also contains photocopies of information used in recreating the Steele family coat of arms.  Additional publications in the series (found in box #2) include: Laws of the United States relating to Internal Revenue (1866), Resources of San Luis Obispo County (1875), Chapters in the History of Delaware County New York (1949), San Mateo County-Its Story (1967), and Delaware County History Vol 4 no. 1 (1970).

Box ID#: Folder #


One (1) folder

Series Scope and Content Summary

This series contains 10 original butter wrappers from the G.H. Steele Año Nuevo Creamery.

Box ID#: Folder #


One (1) folder

Series Scope and Content Summary

This series contains the original sheet music as well as a photograph of the cover of Captain O.N. Steele’s March.

Box ID#: Folder #


One (1) Box

Series Scope and Content Summary

This series contains various ephemera collected by the Steele Family.  The ephemera includes a booklet of laws related to Internal Revenue dated August 1, 1866.  A couple of pamphlets/books about the history of Delaware County, New York.

Box ID#: Folder #