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Frederick Rindge, Jr. Stockton’s Malibu Connection

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Young professionals have always played a major role in the development of Stockton and San Joaquin County. Youthful enthusiasm in the workplace often leads to new ideas, innovations and approaches to problem solving. One of the most important young professionals in San Joaquin County’s history, Frederick Hasting’s Rindge, Jr., helped industrialize the Delta, made major investments in the infrastructure of Central Valley agribusiness, and lived a highflying lifestyle while doing it.

First, a short history lesson. the Rindge family of Cambridge, Massachusetts, operated a textiles and banking empire under the leadership of Samuel Baker Rindge and were known as one of the fabled Boston Brahmins, or wealthy Bostonian families known to control local economic life. In 1887, one of Samuel Rindge’s sons, Frederick Hastings Rindge, moved to California. In 1892, he purchased the 13,300-acre Rancho Topanga Malibu and invested heavily in local businesses, founding Conservative Life Insurance Company, now Pacific Life, having a lucrative salary as vice president of Union Oil Company and serving as a director of Southern California Edison Company. Rindge died in 1905 and left his assets to May K. Rindge, who ambitiously launched the Marblehead Land Company and began developing the town of Malibu.

May Rindge had mostly frozen her youngest son, Frederick Rindge Jr., out of the family business. In 1916, at the age of 26, Rindge Jr. visited Stockton for the first time and made several investments in George Shima’s farming operation before heading back to Los Angeles. While here, he joined the Stockton Golf & Country Club. Over the next few months, he would travel back and forth between Stockton and Los Angeles numerous times, building a relationship with local investor Lee Phillips, before deciding to move to Northern California permanently. In 1917, Rindge organized the Rindge Land & Navigation Company, purchasing 18 Holt 75 tractors to allow for efficient reclamation and operation of his farm. Despite attracting heavy criticism for his initial investment from the local press, his innovative approach won out, and by 1918 his use of tractors in the Delta was being trumpeted by the Record and by Holt Brothers Manufacturing as a major success. He attracted investors from all over the United States to buy land in the Delta and was eventually named to the board of the Farm Owners and Operators Association, a predecessor to the Farm Bureau, along with Greenlaw H. Grupe, John Tone, Stephen Sanguinetti and many other notables. That year, he chaired a subcommittee dedicated to organizing the first San Joaquin County Farm Bureau and began consulting for several early packing companies in the Delta.

Rindge would continue to make large amounts of money in the California Delta and by 1924 had set records for spud production, or tonnage of potatoes produced. He married local beauty queen Elyse Cavagnaro; they had multiple children and the family eventually moved into the historic Spreckles Mansion in San Francisco. His company is perhaps best known today for having reclaimed the eponymously named Rindge Tract. By the age of 40, Rindge was one of the wealthiest people in Northern California and controlled 45,000 acres of land in San Joaquin, Calaveras, Sacramento and Contra Costa Counties. He was an investor in many important firms in the area, including Spreckles Sugar and several large asparagus packing plants. Rindge is also known in some circles for having been a major ally of the Japanese community, having been a close friend of early business partner George Shima, and having supported many Japanese farmers who were subjected to California’s Alien Land Laws.

The Rindge family still exists today, with investments throughout the United States. Frederick Jr. passed away in 1952 and left a large family. His son continued to operate the farming empire until it was eventually sold off. As young professionals go, few have made their mark in Stockton the way Rindge did, and it’s interesting to know about Stockton’s ties to Southern California and the
East Coast.