Question: Can you tell me about Patrick Kinevan and his stagecoach stop? — Louise Turne Irish-born Patrick Kinevan was, for more than 30 years, a familiar sight to stagecoach passengers in Santa Barbara County. His Summit House was a stop for those stages plying their way over San Marcos Pass and few were the visitors who would forget the delicious meals served up by Patrick’s wife Nora.
Pat Kinevan was born in 1837 and as a young man worked as a coal miner in Ireland. The horrific potato famine, which devastated the country, began in the mid-1840s and, like so many of his fellow countrymen, a teen-aged Kinevandecided to forsake his homeland and set sail for the U.S. in the early 1850s. He worked for a time on the East Coast and then, responding to his wanderlust, he became a cowboy, driving cattleon the famous Chisholm Trail. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Kinevan enlisted on the Union side and served as a lieutenant in the army of General George Meade, who is best known as the victor at Gettysburg.
After the war, Kinevan stayed on in the cavalry and was involved in several skirmishes with Indians down in Texas. In one clash he was caught by a Comanche arrow, whose head remained embedded in his shoulder for the rest of his life, causing pain from which he would never escape.
In the late 1860s, Kinevan made his way to California. While riding on the stagecoach out of San Diego, he was informed that there was a position opening up for a stagecoach station agent on the new Santa Ynez Turnpike Road in Santa Barbara County. Kinevan applied for and got the job. Originally the station was adjacent to Chalk Rock, near today’s Lake Cachuma, but was soon moved to the west side of San Jose Creek, just south of the San Marcos Pass summit. In 1870, Kinevan married Nora Mangan. The couple would have 10 children, eight of whom would survive into adulthood.
Kinevan’s main responsibilities were twofold. He supervised the change of horse teams when the stage pulled in and saw to the horses’ care, and he was to collect the tolls at the bridge that crossed San Jose Creek. The tolls were supposed to help pay off the road and to hopefully enrich stockholders. This part of Kinevan’s duties could prove difficult, because it was not uncommon for ranchers to run their livestock quickly across the bridge, foiling Kinevan’s attempts to get an accurate head count. With cattle herds often numbering in the hundreds and the toll being 25 cents a head, disputes could involve some substantial amounts of money. Kinevan had a 160-acre homestead at the station and his land soon blossomed with vegetables, fruit trees, grain fields, and pasture land. Over the years his wife and then his adult children obtained more property and the Kinevan ranch spread soon grew to some 640 acres. Nora utilized the farm-fresh resources of the ranch to create her famous meals.
The toll road became a public thoroughfare in 1898 and the stagecoach era came to a close in 1901. Still, the family stayed on to run the ranch. With the death of Patrick in 1912 and of Nora seven years later, it fell to later generations of Kinevans to keep the place up. Granddaughter Lois Jean Kinevan was overseeing the place when, in September 1972, the historic Summit House burned to the ground; the fire was caused by the carelessness of some tenants at the house. With the destruction of the house and its contents went the Kinevans’ dreams of transforming their family home into a museum, which would have been a fitting tribute to Patrick and Nora Kinevan and the bygone stagecoach era in Santa Barbara County.
Michael Redmon, director of research at the Santa Barbara Historical Society, will answer your questions about Santa Barbara’s history. Write him c/o The Independent, 122 West Figueroa St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101.