Glen Annie Road

Road's Namesake Left Behind a Mystery

<b>HOLLISTERS AT HOME:</b> When his sister, Lucy Brown (left), and wife, Hannah Annie James Hollister, both claimed dominion over his home, W. W. Hollister built his wife a larger home at Glen Annie Ranch.
Courtesy Photo

Glen Annie Road is named after the Goleta Valley ranch of William Welles Hollister. Hollister christened the ranch in honor of his wife, Hannah Annie James Hollister. The couple’s union was at times tumultuous, and when Annie left the ranch in 1890, she left behind a mystery that remains unsolved to this day.

Annie James was born in San Francisco in 1841. She met Hollister in the early 1860s. Hollister was building his empire that would eventually make him one of the wealthiest ranchers in the state. Hollister often visited San Francisco to conduct business with two of his partners, Albert and Thomas Dibblee.

According to one of their children, Annie did not actively pursue Hollister, and he was intrigued by her modest, demure approach. They married June 1, 1862. The groom was 45; the bride, 21. The couple then headed for Hollister’s ranch in San Benito County.

Waiting for them was Hollister’s sister and business partner, Lucy Brown, a widow going on 15 years. She acted as the manager of the Hollister household and had no intention of relinquishing the position. The feud between the two women simmered and, at times, boiled over into open conflict.

The first of six children arrived in 1863, but W.W. Hollister had little interest in being a father to his offspring. He was more interested in business, politics, and civic affairs. For Annie, grief often went hand in hand with motherhood. The firstborn, Jeanne, had a hip deformity that affected her all her life. A son born in 1872 died at age 9 months from an accidental head injury. Another son would perish in the Spanish-American War.

The Hollisters moved to the ranch in Tecolote Canyon in 1869. Over the years, Hollister created at the ranch a horticultural and agricultural showplace. He also became one of Santa Barbara’s leading entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

Tension between Lucy and Annie worsened until Annie delivered an ultimatum: Either Lucy had to go, or she would leave. Caught between two strong-willed women, Hollister hatched an unusual plan. He built a second, larger house for his wife further up the canyon. The “Upper Ranch” became the Hollisters’ social center, while Lucy looked after ranch business at the lower house.

Her husband’s penchant for womanizing was a source of pain and humiliation for Annie. Tongues wagged about the affairs, and in one case, a question of paternity ended up in court.

Additionally, a legal cloud hung over Glen Annie. There was the possibility that Hollister’s purchase of the ranch was illegal by violating the terms of Nicholas Den’s will; Den had been the previous owner. The Den heirs decided to sue.

Hollister determined to fight. The case dragged through the courts for 14 years. It was not settled until 1890, four years after Hollister’s death, when the state Supreme Court found for the Den heirs.

Annie was ordered to leave. Initially, she resisted, but then bowed to the inevitable. A short time after she stepped off the porch for the last time, the upper house burst into flame and was consumed, along with its contents. Arson was, of course, strongly suspected. Did Annie Hollister burn the house down to keep it out of other hands? A definitive answer remains elusive.

Annie Hollister lived out the rest of her life in a small home on West Carrillo Street, where the city’s Tree of Light is located. She died in 1909 and was laid to rest in Santa Barbara Cemetery next to her husband of 24 years.


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