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History
 

Where It All Began

 
The Vargas Cattle Ranch was founded in 1907 by Antonio Francisco Vargas
 
Antonio emigrated to the United States, from the Azores Islands of Portugal. Antonio and his three brothers (Francisco, Manuel and Joseph), arrived in the United States at different times, with Antonio arriving last (in Boston, MA) in 1891. Antonio quickly headed out to California where he met up with his brothers and other extended family members. For the next ten years, the Vargas brothers worked hard as sharecroppers on such East Bay farms and ranches as the Curtner Ranch (now the suburb of Warm Springs) and the Patterson Ranch (now the Ardenwood Farm).
 
While marrying and raising young children, the Vargas brothers begin spending their life savings on their own farms and ranches. In 1907, Antonio bought approximately 100 acres of pasture land in the hills east of the town of Mission San Jose, situated on County Road 1619. At about the same time, Manuel purchased a ranch on the same road. Aerial view of the Vargas Ranch
 
 

Business Expansion

 
In 1912, Antonio purchased a 486-acre parcel on Morrison Canyon Road - about one mile from his home. At about the same time, Manuel purchased the ajoining 589-acre parcel. Cattle-raising operations now could expand greatly with the ability to rotate the livestock to alternate pastures when grazing had depleted the wild oat hay, indigenous to these hills. These disparate sites also made operations more complex, and it wasn't unusual to see the family driving herds of cattle up Vargas Road and Morrison Canyon Road. Barn located at the Vargas Upper Ranch
 
In 1937, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company purchased a right-of-way to run overhead high-voltage lines that would extend north to serve a new steel mill being built in the town of Niles. This deal cuminated with a name change for the road that the Vargas families had resided on for the past thirty years - Vargas Road was born.
 
 

Raising a Family

 
In 1913, Antonio married Emma Elvira Telles. The house that the family lived in was built by Antonio in 1912, and presented to his wife as a wedding present. Antonio and Emma Vargas on their Wedding Day
 
Emma gave birth to two sons, Abel and his younger brother John. Abel and John were born in the family home that still stands today. Tragically, John was stricken with Diptheria and died at the age of 6. Abel and John Vargas
 
Antonio ran the ranch with Abel at his side. Abel attended Mission San Jose schools, graduating from Washington High School in 1931. While Abel's classmates went off to serve their country in World War II, Abel was given a dispensation to remain at home and raise cattle for the US Beef Industry, which was one of the many resources that kept the nation strong.
 
As Abel was becoming a young man, his father Antonio grew sick and could no longer handle the business of the ranch. Abel pressed on and ran operations, often running as many as 150 head of cattle. Antonio Francisco Vargas passed away in 1951. Although the family was grieving for their loss, the ranch business needed to continue, and cattle were sold at the Stockton Livestock Market twice a year. These operations demanded quarterly cattle roundups where neighboring ranchers came to help with this demanding physical work. Abel Vargas with his Dodge Weapons Carrier
 
 

A New Generation of Vargas'

 
Abel married Pearl Anderson in 1952, and they raised six children: Charlene, Pamela, Abel Anthony Jr. (Tony), John, Michele (Miki) and Paul. With this growing family, Abel knew that the only way to make ends meet was to get a second job. For most of his working life, Abel Vargas was by day a union construction laborer (working on construction projects all over the San Francisco Bay Area) and by nights and weekends a cattle rancher. Abel and Pearl Vargas on their Wedding Day
 
 

Ranching Operations

 
All of the children were expected to work on the ranch, and there were always plenty of chores. As with all cattle ranches, there was a never-ending need for oat hay. Abel and his children worked during the haymaking season, tilling, sowing, and discing the soil. After the oat hay was mature, the family set to work on cutting the hay with their small Ford tractor (which did just about everything else on the ranch too!). Next came raking the hay into windrows. After that, Abel contracted his cousin, Joseph (Bud) Telles, to come up and bale the hay using his Massey Ferguson hay baler pulled by his Caterpillar tractor. After the bales dried in the sun for one month, the family set to work bringing the bales into the two barns for storage. The Vargas Home - Center of Ranching Operations
 
During the cold, wet winter months, the family would go to the pastures once a day to feed the hay bales to the hungry cattle. Most years, both barns became practically empty by the time the indigenous wild oat hay became tall enough for the cattle to graze again. In lean years, where farming yields were small, Abel went into debt buying hay bales from Central Valley farmers.
 
 

Abel Takes A Hobby

 
In 1960, Abel became interested in radio communications. He obtained an FCC license for the new Citizen's Band service. Abel was granted the callsign KLA-1600. As years went by, Abel met many many wonderful people that were CB operators - on the air, and attending SF Bay Area CB Coffee Breaks (socials).
Abel's QSL card provided courtesy of Carl Costa (W6KGO)
Abel's QSL Card with his callsign KLA-1600
 
Abel had a few friends that were Amateur Radio operators, and he was always in awe of their knowledge and the amazing things that Hams would do with their radios. In 1965, Abel invited a group of local Amateurs to setup Field Day operations on the Morrison Canyon Road property. The Field Day camp contained six or more tents, with many strange-looking antennas spread all over. John Vargas remembers the following...

"I was just a small boy, but I distinctly remember being led into the tent of an operator wearing headphones, and he was in intense concentration. I remember later hearing that this operator had just made contact with another operator in South Africa. This singular event held a lasting impression in my mind about Amateur Radio."

"I'll never know why my Dad never became an Amateur Radio operator, but I think he may have nudged me a little bit in this direction."
 
One thing is clear - Abel Vargas loved radio communications, and his passion for it continued well into the 1970s. With his simple 5-watt, 23-channel Cobra base rig and his vertical antenna atop a 30-foot tower, Abel made contacts all over the United States. The four walls of his simple bedroom were covered with QSL cards. John describes the mystique radio held in his mind as follows...

"I remember as a child, marveling at the strange and wonderful places that Dad had visited, virtually. I wished that I could one day go to those places just like my Dad did."
 
 

The Future of the Vargas Ranch

 
Abel Vargas passed away in 1988, and is survived by his wife, Pearl, and his children, Charlene, Pam, Tony, John and Miki. L-R: Miki Whitfield, Tony Vargas, Pam Lopez and John Vargas
 
All of the Vargas children have raised their own families, and Abel would be proud to know that he has eleven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Abel's grandkids after painting the Vargas family home
 
The cattle-raising tradition continues at the Vargas Ranch. Tony continues to raise a small herd of cattle on the ranch, while the Vieux Family (lifelong neighbors and friends) lease the property for grazing throughout the year.
 
John resides in the suburbs of Fremont. Pam lives in the Central Valley. Charlene lives in Georgia. Tony and Miki both still reside in homes located on the 100-acre parcel. In 1992, the 486-acre parcel was sold by Pearl to the East Bay Regional Park District. One day this land will become part of the Vargas Plateau Regional Park. Native American grinding rock located on Vargas Upper Ranch
 
 
The legacy of Antonio Francisco Vargas is alive and well, here on the Vargas Plateau!
 
 
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