Adobe Owners: 1845-1918


William Dunn

Felipe was older and married. Nothing is known of his wife, but he had a daughter, Maria La Garcia. She married William Dunn, an American soldier on August 22, 1851. After Dunn’s enlistment ended, he had decided to stay in the area and raise cattle. The original D brand associated with the Rancho was from his name.  

Jesus Machado

 On April 10, 1852 Dunn deeded the property to Jesus Machado for $3,000. 


Machado began the long and expensive process to register the property, and took out several mortgages as a result. He built the first two rooms, made from Adobe bricks, that exists today. He was from a well known family that owned other land grants. This was during the Gold Rush and he made a lot of money selling cattle to miners.


At that time, the structure had and over lapping thatched roof and a dirt floor pounded flat with rugs covering the dirt. The walls are 3 feet thick. The rooms were mostly used as bedrooms and living quarters. Cooking was done outside. He created the first irrigation system by damming the Buena Vista Creek, creating a reservoir, and dug wells. Machado was married and had two sons born on the ranch.

 In 1854, Machado had so many mortgages and the land became in dispute with other owners.  

Lorenzo Soto


Ownership was settled by the US District Court with the owner determined to be Lorenzo Soto, who also owned the Vallecitos de San Marcos Rancho. He achieved great wealth from the gold rush and also owned land from San Luis Obisbo to Old Town SD. He moved into the Machado home and added two more rooms, fashioned similar to the the original rooms already built, and in Spanish style had them at a right angle to the other rooms. The opening was the entrance for visitors. By 1860, he had a nice orchard and owned a lot of cattle. During his ownership he married Maria, who was his second wife and 22 years his junior. He had children from his first marriage and a daughter with Maria.


Maria became a widow at age 25 and moved to another one of his homes. Soto must have known about his upcoming demise as he sold his animals to Cave Couts Jr. (another cattleman) for $1, although they were worth several thousand and took out a mortgage transferring all of his property. The estate entered probate and land was divided by his widow and children. 



Ysidora Bandini & Cave Couts, Jr. (1866-1876)

Maria Antonia Couts & Chalmers Scott (1876-1891)

Ysidora Couts & George Fuller (1981-1919)

Maria Soto sold the property to Cave Johnson Couts in 1866. 

This is where it gets interesting....


Couts was married to Ysidora Bandini whose family owned Rancho Guajome, and they acquired land including a share of Rancho Los Vallicitos de San Marcos. They received Guajome as a wedding gift in 1851. His cattle herd jumped to several thousand. They became very influential, wealthy and lived the life of a similar to a southern gentleman or a Don of the Spanish or Mexican period. His daughter, Maria Antonia married a family lawyer and friend Chalmers Scott. Couts died before the nuptials and his widow Ysidora, continued the family’s influence. As a wedding gift, and in keeping with her father’s wishes Maria and her new husband received RBV in 1876. They had 10 children.  Scott persuaded Maria to give the railway company land for the rails which included 50 feet on either side of the tracks. In return, Scott demanded that “Vista” be the site of a station or stopping place. Maria gave birth to 3 of their 4 children during their stay. Scott and Couts Jr wanted the railway to come through the land, and persuaded Maria to give 50 feet either side of the tracks in exchange for “Vista” to become a stopping point. A station was built, restaurant and eventually a post office. The Scotts witnessed the building of the Santa Fe railroad tracks between Oceanside and Vista completed in 1887. By this time, a city had been planned next to the railway station, as businesses and the population increased. In 1888, the first post office was opened and the postmaster John A Frazier gave the city its name when he registered the name Vista to the US Post Office Dept. in DC. All went well for Scotts until squatters began settling during one of Scott’s lengthy absence. In 1881, they gave notice for the squatters to vacate but they argued the boundaries of the original land grant. This ensued years of legal disputes with US General Land Office ordering the Rancho to be surveyed for exact boundaries. The Scotts took out several mortgages, giving several parcels to other Couts family members. The disputes were ongoing from 1882 – 1897. In 1891, The Scotts had enough and transferred the land to Maria’s younger sister – Ysidora Couts Gray.

Ysidora had divorced earlier and was married to George Fuller, a prominent attorney. Six years later, when the dispute was ended, the Couts were awarded 1,109 acres and the rest to various settlers. Family wrangling ensued between Ysidora and Couts Jr. regarding the property awarded to the Couts family with that legal process finally ending in 1903. In the end, Ysidora and Couts Jr each received one fourth of the property, and rest to various family members. The Fullers enjoyed their time at the Adobe and had done considerable upkeep. 

The Fullers tore down an old kitchen and put a breezeway in its place. Parallel to the original structure they built a modern kitchen, pantry and dining room making the structure a U shape. This part of the structure is not Adobe, but board and batten. The hacienda now consisted of 12 rooms, and 4,189 sq. ft.

Adobe Owners: 1919-Today


Jack & Helen Knight


The Knights purchased the Adobe in 1919. Helen was an heiress for Mary McKinney Gold Mine in CO. They did extensive remodeling, strengthened walls and roof, updated kitchen made a bathroom by enclosing a breezeway. A boiler and radiators for heat were installed in each room. They wanted the Rancho to be the social center of Vista. Hosted several parties for the newly formed Chamber of Commerce and in 1925 gave land to the city to establish Wildwood Park. 


Because they hosted so many guests, they built a guest house with 3 bedrooms and baths, and a kitchen, with walkways connecting the Adobe. Following Helen’s death, Knight remarried and then sold the property in 1931.

Harry Pollard & Margarita Fisher


Harry and Margarita Fisher purchased the property in 1931. Margarita was a famous silent film movie star and Harold a producer for MGM and owned Pollard Pictures. They filmed several movies together. Some with socially controversial topics.

Pollards invested $150,000 to upgrade the interior including tiles from Mexico and Italy. Bathroom was remolded with two sinks – unusual for that day. Heavy doors were installed to join the rooms together.  Expensive furnishings, Spanish tapestries, silver crosses, brass and gold plated pieces, and items gleaned from churches throughout Europe decorated their home. Repaired the roof with shingles, repaired damaged adobe bricks with concrete, and professional landscaping including a badminton court. A three car garage housed their luxury vehicles. They weren’t there long when Harry died in 1934, but Margarita remained until 1951. She had another home built in Vista in the Adobe style but could no longer keep up the maintenance. She became active in Vista society and became the founding director for the Vista Rancheros Historical Society.

Margarita died in Encinitas in 1975.

Frederick Reid

Frederick Reid and his wife purchased te Adobe in 1951.  He was a petroleum geologists and partner of the Golden Nugget Casino. During their 6 years at the Adobe they modernized it and used as a summer home.

Dr. & Mrs. Walter Weil

Dr. Weil was a local ophthalmologist.  They lived in the Adobe from 1957-1972.

Rudd & Sally Schoeffel

The last private owners of the Adobe were Rudd & Sally Schoeffel. They owned the property from 1972 to 1989. They had previously renovated a Cliff May home in Point Loma and fell in love with the Adobe. They decided to move to Vista and raise their four children there. The pool in the back (no longer visible) was used by the local YMCA for swimming lessons.  

While at the Adobe, the Schoefflel's bought the bricks for the driveway from the Alcohol Beverage Control in Salt Lake City where an old building was being demolished.  

They also built a little house for Mr. Schoeffel's parents in 1980 keeping in line with the old adobe style. It has a modern kitchen, bathrooms, and even a fireplace! Today, this building is the Gallery and is home to monthly art shows featuring local artists. 

City of Vista

The Schoeffel's offered to sell the Adobe to the City of Vista in 1989.  The city council began hearings and voted to approve escrow on July 10, 1989 buying it for $1 million.  After the purchase, a core of volunteers built a museum from scratch. It was proposed to use the property as a wedding venue, and other events, for most of the income to offset maintenance costs.