A brief history of the Pittenger Farm House, located just south of the Fallbrook Historical Museum at 260 Rocky Crest Road.
The Historical House is a significant part of Fallbrook’s history because of its association with the families: Pittengers, Davies and Griffins. The land on which the house stands has a history of its own, associated with the Picos and the Neffs.
The United States government owned this piece of land from the time of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (made in 1848, after the war with Mexico was over), until the late 1870s. It was owned by the Pico family, having been granted to them by the Mexican government 15 years before the war as part of the Rancho Santa Margarita. The U.S. under the terms of the treaty, guaranteed it to them, but the U.S. Land Commission had to survey and approve the boundaries. This process was completed in the 1870s, but the Pico’s were not allowed all of the land they claimed. When they moved the fence of the Santa Margarita Ranch back to the boundary allowed, a strip of land was opened to the public and could be claimed under the homestead laws. Young Millard Neff filed with the Land Office for 80 acres of this land. Millard had come from Yolo County (near Sacramento) with his parents in 1874. His father, a blacksmith, had filed a homestead claim on 160 acres of land in the “dry uplands” of the Fallbrook District.
Millard’s father built a house and developed the land. The Neff family watered their orchard and garden from Los Jilgueros Creek, which crossed their land. For cash crops, they kept bees and raised grain. Later, Millard’s father helped build the first schoolhouse in the Fallbrook District (where today’s Reche Community Clubhouse is located).
Millard’s father died before completing the homestead requirements, and Millard’s mother, Matilda Neff, filed for the land in her own name. In 1880, Millard turned 18 and applied for 80 aces of the adjacent land. To speed the process, he filed under the Preemption Homestead Act, which reduced his residency requirement from five years to six months plus payment of $1.25 per acre. He fulfilled the requirements of residence in September 1883.
The year 1885 was an eventful one for Fallbrook residents. The town of Fallbrook was surveyed and laid out into town lots, a store and hotel were built and Millard’s older brother started Fallbrook’s first newspaper. Both a church and a temperance lodge were organized, and Millard sold his homestead for $2,100 ($26.25 per acre) and got married.
By 1887, Fallbrook was sharing in the Southern California’s economic boom created by the completion of the railroad and the subsequent rate war. A new 40 room hotel and Methodist church were under construction and the Fallbrook Water and Power Company was surveying and suing to obtain the rights to build an aqueduct and dam on the Santa Margarita River.
By 1890, when Reverend William Pittenger brought his family to Fallbrook, the boom had ended, and Pittenger purchased 20 acres of the former homestead for $60 per acre. On his new ranch, he built a country place for his family. They also had a home in town, located across Fig Street from the Methodist Church. (The house still exists and will soon become part of the Alzheimer Day Care Center). Having a home in town was a necessity, for Pittenger served as pastor of the Methodist Church from 1893 to 1896, and 1898 to 1899.
Rev. Pittenger was especially interested in Fallbrook schools because of his own children. In Fallbrook, in addition to an infant son, he and his wife, Winnie, had two daughters of an age to attend the elementary school, which was, located a block away from church. They also had two teenage daughters and a son away at school, for Fallbrook had no high school. Pittenger helped organize the high school district, and served as president of the school board.
Pittenger was also known nationally, having been awarded one of the first Congressional Medals of Honor by President Lincoln, for having served with Andrews’ Raiders during the Civil War exploit known as “the great locomotive chase.” He not only participated in the action, but he wrote books about it.
While living in Fallbrook in 1891, Pittenger traveled to the National Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee to deliver the closing prayer at the unveiling ceremony of a monument to the Andrews’ Raiders. Pittenger’s lectures on his new book drew large audiences in Fallbrook and elsewhere.
Rev. Pittenger died in 1904, but Winnie lived in Fallbrook through the 1920s. She sold the ranch in 1910 and moved permanently to her residence near the church.
Winnie’s youngest daughter, Mary married newspaper promoter, Raymond Wayman. Mary managed the Wayman Real Estate office when it was located in the Ellis Hotel. In the 1920s they developed the Winterwarm area, proposing a new town of south Fallbrook. Their son, Jim Wayman (now deceased) remembered hearing his mother and grandmother speak of the happy hours spend in this old Pittenger house.
In 1918, Elizabeth F. Davies and her husband B. C. Davies, a Los Angeles doctor, purchased the ranch and the Historical House for $17,000. In the late 1920s, Dr. Davies served on the board of the Fallbrook Irrigation District, and later helped organize the first Rotary Club in Fallbrook. He doctored many Fallbrook residents.
In 1946, John and Marion Griffin, who developed the property as the Rocky Crest Ranch, and raised a family here, purchased the Historical House. Their heirs sold it to the Fallbrook Historical Society in 1981.