Over 150 Years of History
Historical records of Edna Valley can be traced back to the 1840s when the Corral de Piedra land grant was awarded to Jose Maria Villavicencia by the Mexican government. In the 1860s, the Steele brothers purchased part of the valley from Villavicencia. George, Isaac and Edgar Steele were the first to establish the dairy industry in Edna Valley. In 1887, a widower with 3 small children by the name of Lynford Maxwell became the postmaster here on the property. He set up the post office building that doubled as Tipton’s Butcher Shop. Maxwell eventually purchased more acreage from the Steele Brothers and made plans to develop a town named “Maxwellton”. Allegedly, the United States postal authorities rejected the name because it was too lengthy. Some historians presume Maxwell then chose Edna in honor of one of his daughters or granddaughters. At the time, Edna was a popular name, so the origin of the namesake still remains a mystery today.
Other theories of the town’s namesake may have come from Edgar Steele’s prized brown mare named Edna, or a German Nun, Sister Edna, who courageously broke up brawls among the cattlemen in the town’s saloons. The name may have been attributed to a woman who provided her services in the “Crib”.
Maxwell never lived to see his plans come to fruition. He declared bankruptcy and deeded the land to his son, Eugene. Lynford Maxwell passed away one year after Italian-Swiss immigrant John Tognazzini arrived to the township.
John Tognazzini, was born in Someo, Switzerland in 1854. After many years of hard work and saving his earnings, he eventually purchased 126 acres of land near Edna Valley. In 1871, he began his journey in Northern California working for various ranchers in the area. He worked in Sonoma county in the dairy industry. He eventually worked his way down to Cayucos then to Guadalupe until 1892. He moved back to Switzerland for a short 2 year stint and married Ricilla Ferrari on April 25, 1892. He then brought his new bride back to Santa Barbara county to continue his work in the dairy industry. He leased land, bought stock and for six years remained there. He sold out and moved to San Luis Obispo county in 1899 where he settled and built their homes and the two story Edna Building. In 1900, he first opened up a general merchandise store which soon burned down with a loss of over $5,000 dollars. Despite the disaster, he opened up the now standing Two story Tin Building. It served as a general merchandise store, dance hall and post office.
Around 1948, a colorful character, Dan Dugan opened up an antique store in the tin building with a passion for bottles. The children thought he was scary. People around here still speak of him to this day. The Wendt and Ahearn families purchased the property as an investment from the Tognazzini family. They along with other investors built several homes on Maxwellton St.
Many talented artisans occupied the buildings throughout the property’s history, too many to mention. There are a few artists worth noting, however. Sometime in the late 70s (the hippie days), a colorful, dashing and vivacious painter by the name of Frederick Holley made his way to Edna all the way from Amsterdam due to a chance meeting with Pattea’s brother Del. All the townspeople adored him as he often entertained, painted and performed on the stage upstairs in the tin building. He played the Samba by the light of the full moon. His legendary car, “the Blue Rose” a beautiful blue Packard could be seen sitting beneath the infamous pepper tree, a signal to friends he was home. Pattea and her family visited Edna often. The adults gathered upstairs in the tin building while the children played out on the property running amuck.
Then in the 80s a talented watercolorist, Tracy Taylor, settled in Edna. She made her painting studio in the Tin Building while living in the home behind Suite Edna. She was very popular in the community as well. She taught art classes for adults and children as she raised 5 children of her own. After another unfortunate fire on the property, Tracy and her children moved on in the 90s.
In 2000 Pattea Torrence and her husband purchased the property. They worked to restore the buildings and grooming the grounds creating it to what Old Edna is now today. It seemed that fate was on their side as it was very difficult to purchase the property from the Wendt and Ahearn families. Old Mr. Ahearn had a rough exterior. He wore his hole torn gloves while driving his old rusty truck around the property. He was truly a force to be reckoned with. The truth is he was a kind man. Dear Ms. Sybil Wendt had a soft spot in her heart for Pattea and talked all the partners into selling the property to her.
In January of 2019, Nancy and Craig Stoller purchased the property, Now owning both the MacGregor Vineyard and the Old Edna Townsite is a dream come true for the Stoller Family.