In 1842, Mexico hands California to the United States with the signing of the treaty.
The Homestead Act of 1862 encourages American settlers to come to Otay. Small farming and ranching families settle in Otay. As many as 28 families live in the Otay Valley in 1900. Wheat, barley, corn, tomatoes and beans are cultivated. The population gradually decreases because of drought conditions and the Great Depression of 1929. By the late 1930s, only 4 or 5 families remained.
La Punta Salt Works begins production in 1870 at the Southeast area of the San Diego Bay. In 1911, now owned by the Western Salt Company, expand their facility. The salt marsh and intertidal mudflats are eliminated and taken over by evaporation ponds. The 1916 flood severely damages the facility. In 1999, the Salt Works is incorporated into the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
The Montgomery family had a fruit farm in Otay in the 1880's. In 1883, John J. Montgomery designed and manned the first controlled flight in aviation history on the gently-sloping hills of Otay! With the help of his brother, John made history by successfully flying this design 600 feet. Today, a 90 foot wing stands as a memorial of that historic event.
Babcock, founder of the Hotel Del Coronado, purchases the Otay and Janal Ranches in the late 1880's. Builds a hunting lodge. Hosted many hunters at the lodge. With no quota limits, the quail population dramatically decreased. Babcock dies in 1922 and passes the property to real estate developer Rube Harrison. Sells the ranch to Stephen Birch in 1936.
Stephen Birch was an highly successful businessman who made his fortune in copper-mining in Alaska. He purchases Otay Ranch in 1936. He aquires more tracts of land, about 29,000 acres. Most of the land is farmed, growing lima beans, hay, grain, barley and wheat. Also raises cattle, such as hereford, black angus and Santa Gertrudis. Makes a good profit. Uses part of the Otay property for his hobbies, including growing orchids and bird hunting. Builds an unusual barn to support his hobby.
Because of the scarcity of quail, Birch decides to build a hatchery for quails. With his vast wealth, he spares no expense. He learns that quail chicks tend to crowd into corners. They instinctively pile into corners for warmth and safety. Those on the bottom get smothered and injured. He designs his hatchery barn with no sharp corners, protecting the chicks from piling on top of each other. His hatchery is almost ready to go, but then his new venture comes to an abrupt stop in 1937.
It is learned that Birch obtained his eggs from a state or federal agency. A lawsuit is brought against him claiming that if his enterprise is funded by a state or federal agency, then the public has equal access to the property. He envisioned the 10,000 acre hunting property for himself and his private guests, but now he had to allow people he did not know to hunt on his land. He refused this and shut down the hunting operation. He dies in 1940. The abandoned bird ranch stands to this day, but is dilapitated. It is near a gravel road about a half mile east of Heritage Road.
Daughter of Stephen Birch, Mary, has a great love of art, nature and horses. Mary Birch Patrick lives in a 35 acre ranch in Rancho del Otay, raising Palomino horses. She was also a pilot and raised Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. She supported the U.S. Olympic Equestrian team, the San Diego Opera Guild, the San Diego Symphony, the San Diego Zoological Society, the Fine Arts Society, the Aerospace Museum and the Cuyamaca Club. In 1968, she donated land to the Chula Vista Community Hospital Complex. In 1983, she deeded 353 acres along Otay Valley Road to Jaginco Corporation (Jack Daniels, Gin and Coors). The died in 1983 at the age of 66.
John Helm and Jim Williams grow tomatoes on 70 acres in the Otay river valley from 1961-1976.