MS 44 Olivenhain Colony Records

Summary Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection
Olivenhain Colony.
Olivenhain Colony Records
MS 44
Date [inclusive]
0.5 Linear feet (1 box)
Language of Materials
German English
This collection contains meeting minutes, correspondence, and other records of the Olivenhain Colony, a utopian farming community located in Encinitas, California in 1880s-1890s.

Preferred Citation

Olivenhain Colony Records, MS 44, San Diego History Center Document Archives, San Diego, CA.

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Biographical / Historical Notes

The utopian colony of Olivenhain was officially formed May 21, 1884. The first seven members were Theodore Pinther, Joseph Ullrich, Louis Denk, Otto Pinther, Lina Pinther, Johann Bumann, and Paul Glave. Each member paid an initiation fee, a membership fee, and monthly dues, and was entitled to a five-acre parcel of cultivated land, a moderately sized house built on their property, and the use of all colony-owned property such as horse teams, wagons, and fruit processing machinery. New members could be any nationality, but were required to speak fluent German.

The name “Olivenhain” was chosen at the June 15, 1884 meeting, and meant “olive grove.” In October 1884, Theodore Pinther and Conrad Stroebel purchased Rancho Las Encinitas from the Kimball Brothers with the Colony’s money (though not their prior approval) for $66,500 ($15 per acre) plus interest, and by the end of the month 67 colonists had left Denver to populate the property. Initially, only a few adobe buildings existed on the land, which housed the colonists until they could build their own homes. Housing construction began after land distribution in January 1885, and consisted of two main types of homes: 2 or 3 room houses (16’x24’ or 14’x28’) or more economically priced shanties for colonists who had not yet paid enough money to earn a house. Approximately 80 percent of homes were shanties.

Colonists soon discovered the land lacked sufficient water, as the San Elijo flood basin failed to produce usable wells. Personal conflicts began to emerge with Theodore Pinther, who was neglecting to work his required 30 days of physical labor, and the colonists soon discovered from adjoining landowners that their land was worth only a fraction of what they were paying for it. They demanded a German translation of the contract from Pinther, who had negotiated the terms in English, and discovered that the title to the rancho was to be conveyed to the Colony in pieces, and the first deed only covered a small portion of the land they were actively settling.

The investigation committee met with the Kimball Brothers and discovered that Pinther was to receive a $10,000 commission and a house in National City. On May 9, 1885, the colonists kidnapped Pinther and held him captive at a secluded location for several days. He confessed that he had intended to cheat them from the beginning, and fearing for his life he fled the colony. Conrad Stroebel denied knowing of the plot, but colonists did not believe him and drove him out as well. Louis York was sworn in as the new president, and the colonists went through a formal arbitration process to craft a new sales contract from the Kimball Brothers. It was finalized on July 8, 1885, for 441 acres at $15 per acre.

By January 1887 most of the colony farms were abandoned. The population stabilized at 80 people and in December 1887 the mortgage on the land was paid. Despite this, commitment to the colony system soon declined, and the final meeting was recorded on November 15, 1897. Though there are no further references to Colony Olivenhain, the local farming community stabilized well into the 1920s.

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Scope and Content

This collection contains meeting minutes, correspondence, and other records of the Olivenhain Colony, a utopian farming community located in Encinitas, California in 1880s-1890s. Other records include abstracts of title, accounting records, and newspaper articles. The materials cover the founding of the colony in 1884, and the daily operations and difficulties faced by the colonists. A register lists the people involved in the colonizing attempt.

This collection consists of photocopies of the original materials. The records are in German, with English translations provided. An itemized list of correspondence is available in the inventory folder.

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This collection is arranged chronologically and by material type.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection February 9, 2017

1649 El Prado, Suite 3
San Diego, CA, 92101

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession #820312.

Processing Information

Processed by David Casteñada in August 2002 and Samantha Mills in February 2017.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Kimball Brothers.

Geographic Name(s)

  • Encinitas (Calif.)
  • Olivenhain (Encinitas, Calif.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Pinther, Theodore
  • Stroebel, Conrad


  • Utopias

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The 1884 meeting minutes were translated into English between February and November of 1973 by Mrs. Gisela Scharfel, Mrs. Ruth Bumann, Mrs. Hermine B. Schäfer, Mrs. Irene Engelsberger, and Mr. Richard Bumann. Letters that were originally in English were copied and typed by Mrs. Ruth Bumann between December 1972 and February 1973. The remaining German letters were translated into English by Mr. Wolfram Schützendübel and typed by Mr. Richard Bumann between May and June of 1973.

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Collection Inventory

Meeting Minutes (German), 1884 May 28 – 1884 December 31 1:1
Meeting Minutes (English translation), 1884 May 28 – 1884 December 31 1:2
Meeting Minutes (German), 1885 January 1 – 1885 August 30 1:3
Meeting Minutes (English translation), 1885 January 1 – 1885 August 30 1:4
Meeting Minutes (German), 1886 January 2 – 1897 November 15 1:5
Meeting Minutes (English translation), 1886 January 2 – 1897 November 15 1:6
Abstract of Title, 1842-1902 1:7
Correspondence, 1885 January 3 – 1885 October 19


Transcribed copies of letters regarding land matters, rebuilding colony’s reputation, employment and living opportunities, tax matters, and hiring a teacher for the colony.

Correspondence, 1885 January 27 – 1885 May 18


Transcribed and translated copies of entries in a letter press book. Subjects include lumber, membership information, deed information, by-laws, construction, growth and opportunities, well machinery, dues paid, taxes, complaints, and issues regarding building supplies.

Accounting Records, 1884-1889 1:10
Colonists, 1884-1900


Charts listing colonists and their dates of arrival, first and last entries in record books, property owned, and other comments as applicable.

Newspaper Articles, 1884-1889 1:12

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